Salvation to the King Elephant- Gajendra Moksha from the Bhagavat Mahapuran

“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.

  [Skandha 8 Chapter 3]

shri-ganjendra uvacha
  Gajendra said:

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.

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