“Gajendra Moksha” a prayer, addressed to Lord Vishnu by Gajendra, the King Elephant, is one of the most magnificent hymns of bhakti from the Bhagavat Mahapuran, embellished with the jnana and vairagya of the Upanishads. It is a legend from the 8th Skandha of Srimad Bhagavatam where Lord Vishnu comes down to earth to protect Gajendra (King Elephant) from the clutches of death of a Crocodile. The story runs as follows.
In one of the secluded valleys of Mount Trikota, which was surrounded by the Ocean of Milk and intersected by lakes and rivers of various sizes and shapes, there was a nice garden which belonged to Varuna, the Lord of the oceans.
Once a family of elephants, which inhabited the forest on the mountain, entered the garden led by their mammoth chief, Gajendra, and made it to a big lake in it to drink water and cool themselves. As soon as Gajendra dipped his feet in the lake, a crocodile clutched at one of his feet and started dragging him into the water. The cow-elephant and other fellow elephants seeing their leader in distress just pulled Gajendra forcibly. But they were unable to extricate him.
As the noble King elephant and the crocodile fought on, pulling in and out, a thousand years elapsed, both yet alive and alert to the amazement of even the celestials.
The long fierce tug-of-war left the unfortunate victim exhausted in body and spirit. When all hope of rescue faded away and death was staring at his face, Gajendra turned his thoughts to the Lord and recalled to his mind a hymn which he had learnt in his previous life as virtuous Pandya King and which he had forgotten in his present animal body.
He recalled that hymn now with great feeling, praising the Lord for his many mercies and ended with a prayer to Him to listen to his cry of distress and save him.
GAJENDRA’S PRAYERS OF SURRENDER TO LORD VISHNU
[Skandha 8 Chapter 3]
om namo bhagavate tasmai yata etac chid-atmakam
purushayadi-bijaya pareshayabhidhimahi -2
yasminn idam yatash chedam yenedam ya idam svayam
yo ‘smat parasmach cha paras tam prapadye svayambhuvam -3
I salute the Supreme, Omnipotent Lord, who is denoted by the mystical syllable OM, who forms the bodies as prakriti, and dwells in them as purusha, the Self-efficient Lord, from whom this universe emanates, and in whom it lives, who is verily the universe itself, yet beyond it as its unmanifest cause.
yah svatmanidam nija-mayayarpitam kvachid vibhatam kva cha tat tirohitam
aviddha-drik sakshy ubhayam tad ikshate sa atma-mula ‘vatu mam parat-paraha - 4
He is the unimpeded Awareness and the Witness of all, who by his own Maya (power) has established in Himself this universe, which is seen in its manifested condition and not-seen in its causal state by others, but is witnessed by Himself in both these conditions. He is the Self-conscious awareness, from whom all other centers of self-conscious awareness (Jivas) arise. I seek refuge in that Being, transcending all the highest human conceptions of Him.
kalena pancatvam iteshu kritsnasho lokeshu paleshu cha sarva-hetushu
tamas tadasid gahanam gabhiram yas tasya pare ‘bhivirajate vibhuhu - 5
When all the worlds and their illuminaries and protectors like Brahma had been dissolved or reduced to their primeval state by the power of Time and only the fathomless darkness or ignorance in the shape of the Unmanifest prevailed, at that time He, the Supreme Light of Consciousness shone undimmed over such darkness.
na yasya deva rishayah padam vidur jantuh punah ko ‘rhati gantum iritum
yatha natasyakritibhir vicheshtato duratyayanukramanah sa mavatu - 6
The spectators in a drama do not understand the identity of an actor because of his make up and diverse actions on the stage. So too, the Gods and the Sages do not comprehend Him, The Lord, who is disguised in His own Yoga Maya. How then an ordinary person, much less an animal like me, can understand or describe anything about His inscrutable ways? May that Lord, whom none knows, in truth and in reality, protect me!
didrikshavo yasya padam sumangalam vimukta-sanga munayah susadhavaha
charanty aloka-vratam avranam vane bhutatma-bhutah suhridah sa me gatihi. - 7
Let that Lord be my refuge, whom the sages, giving up all attachments for worldly attractions, wandering in the forests and performing incessant penances, search for.
na vidyate yasya cha janma karma va na nama-rupe guna-dosha eva va
tathapi lokapyaya-sambhavaya yaha sva-mayaya tany anukalam ricchati - 8
He who has neither birth nor actions to perform, neither name and form nor is subject to the Gunas of Prakriti, and yet assumes all these through His inherent power of Maya from time to time for the creation, preservation and dissolution of the universe - to that Supreme Being, I bow down !
tasmai namah pareshaya brahmane ‘nanta-shaktaye
arupayoru-rupaya nama ashcarya-karmane - 9
To Him, the Brahman, the formless, who, yet assumes infinite forms and performs amazing deeds, to that Supreme Being, I bow down!
nama atma-pradipaya sakshine paramatmane
namo giram viduraya manasash chetasam api.-10
I bow down to the Lord who cannot be reached by speech or by the mind or by diverse mental faculties and who remaining as a witness to all phenomena of the world, illumines it!
sattveno pratilabhyaya naishkarmyena vipashcita
namah kaivalya-nathaya nirvana-sukha-samvide -11
I bow down to the Lord who is attainable by a wise man through purity of mind, to the Lord who is the bestower of final beatitude, who is Wisdom and Bliss.
namah shantaya ghoraya mudhaya guna-dharmine
nirvisheshaya samyaya namo jnana-ghanaya cha -12
I bow down to the Lord who through assumption of three Gunas appears as calm and peaceful (due to absence of desire, greed, and anger), who is terrible (on account of destroying the wicked), who is devoid of all distinctions, who is without any modifications, remains same always and in all places and who is wisdom crystallized.