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The Liberation of the Elephant King - Shri Gajendra

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

A long time ago, Trikuta mountain with three peaks of gold, silver, and iron was visible from the Himalayas. At the base of the mountain, there was a charming lake where celestial women would often play. One day, Gajendra, an elephant who was the king of a large herd, arrived at the lake to bathe along with some other elephants. As they entered the water, there was a lot of commotion, attracting a powerful crocodile who clamped its jaws onto Gajendra's leg. Despite his best efforts, Gajendra was unable to free himself, and even the other elephants were unable to help him as the crocodile's grip was too strong.

This battle between the elephants and the crocodile lasted a thousand years.

The devas were amazed by the ongoing battle and came to witness it. Eventually, Gajendra became fatigued and realized that despite having the support of numerous elephants and being a powerful king, he was unable to break free from the crocodile's grasp. He concluded that the Lord must have sent this adversary and decided to pray to the almighty for his release. As he had developed the habit of praying in his previous life, he began to offer praises to the Lord in the following manner:

‘That Brahman, the formless, who yet assumes infinite forms and performs astounding deeds—to Him the Lord of all, my salutations! He who is self-luminous consciousness, the witness of all, the Supreme Self, the One beyond the grasp of mind, words, and every kind of mental mode—to Him my salutations!’

Out of nowhere, the supreme deity, the master of all gods and the rider of Garuda, Sri Hari, suddenly manifested before Gajendra. As he saw Narayana perched atop Garuda, holding the conch, discus, mace, and lotus in his four hands, the elephant king gently plucked another lotus with his trunk and offered it to the Lord. With the remaining strength left in him after battling the crocodile for a millennium, he uttered a few words: "O Narayana, O Lord, I bow to Thee."

Delighted with the offering, the Lord disembarked from Garuda and walked into the water. He then used his Sudarshana Chakra to tear open the jaws of the crocodile, rescuing the elephant king.

Coincidentally, this crocodile was previously a gandharva, a heavenly musician, who had been cursed by the sage Devala Muni to be reborn as a crocodile. However, at the touch of Sri Hari, the curse was lifted, and he regained his original form. Expressing his gratitude to the Lord, the gandharva prostrated before him, sang his praises, and then ascended back to heaven.

In his previous life, the elephant king had been King Indradyumna, who governed the Pandya region. The king was deeply devoted to the Lord and was once engrossed in silent spiritual practices at an ashram located on Mount Malaya. Unexpectedly, Agastya Muni arrived at the ashram with many of his followers. Due to his vow of silence, the king was unable to greet his guests with the proper etiquette, which infuriated Agastya. The sage believed that "one who disrespects one's guests is nothing but a dunderhead" and consequently cursed the king to become an elephant. Following the curse, the king accepted it as God's will.

After being cursed by Agastya, the king was reborn as an elephant and forgot about his past life until he became entangled in the crocodile's grip. However, the Lord's infinite mercy enabled him to be freed, and he was accepted as one of Sri Hari's attendants and transported to his divine abode.

Read the next part on the churning of the ocean at

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