By Swami Harshananda
Gajendra-mokṣa literally means ‘liberation of the king of elephants’.
One of the most famous episodes in the mythological literature is the story of the liberation of Gajendra or the elephant king from the death grip of a crocodile.
Indradyumna, the king of the Pāṇḍyan country, once ignored the great sage Agastya. Hence the sage cursed him to be born as an elephant. Consequently he reincarnated as Gajendra, the king of the elephants in the region of the Trikuṭa parvata.
On a hot summer day, he went to lake along with all his tribe. At that time a crocodile caught his foot and started dragging him into the water.
All the heroic efforts of Gajendra and his herd to be freed from its clutches were fruitless. Eventually he started collapsing. While collapsing, he prayed to the Lord Viṣṇu intensely. The Lord arrived on his mount Garuḍa and discharged his famous weapon discus, the Sudarśana. Crocodile was thus killed and Gajendra was liberated.
Now this episode is well-known as ‘Gajendra-mokṣa’. It has supplied the core material for many devotional compositions depicting ‘ārta-bhakti’ or ‘devotion of the distressed’. The prayer of Gajendra is spread over 31 verses. It contains not only high philosophy of advaita but also extreme devotion. The ceremonial recitation of this section is common among the devotees of Viṣṇu. Moral of this section is that no disrespect should ever be shown to the devotees of the Lord.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore