Gajendra (The Elephant)
In Shrimad Bhagwad, King Parikshit asks Shri Shukdev muni– “My Lord! I want to hear the story of how did Lord Vishnu save ‘Gajendra’ the elephant from the clutches of ‘Grah’ the crocodile”.
Shri Shukdev muni said,
There was a mighty strong elephant named ‘Gajendra’ who lived happily with his wives and children on the mountains named Trikut. Once during the hot summer days, for fun and amusement Gajendra decided to take a bath in a nearby lake with his wives and children.
He plunged into the lake, drank water to his heart’s content, and showered the water with his trunk onto his wives and kids. Gajendra and his family were having a very nice time but were unaware of the impending danger.
As destiny would have it, a powerful crocodile named ‘Grah’ fiercely caught hold of Gajendra’s leg. Gajendra with all his power tried to free himself from the jaws of the crocodile. His wives and children also tried to pull him out in order save him. But the elephants could not succeed. With all the strength, the fight between Gajendra and Grah continued.
Let us understand its meaning
- The lake is this world,
- Gajendra is the soul,
- Grah is death,
- Trikut mountain is the physical body where the soul resides.
In this world, man enjoys and seeks pleasure with his family and children. But he forgets that death is nearby and bound to come. When death comes in the form of sickness, it affects the legs first. The strength in the legs starts diminishing (Grah caught hold of Gajendra’s leg).
Death in the form of illness grips a person; neither the near and dear ones nor anyone else can save him. Even the best hospital, the best doctor, ample number of prayers, does not help him anymore.
The fight for survival between the two continued for a month. Like a tug of war, at times Gajendra used to pull the crocodile out of the lake and at times crocodile used to pull back the elephant into the waters. Similarly, when man is on death bed, sometimes it seems that the medicines have affected him so well and he is about to recover. And the next moment his health turns out to deteriorate even more. Thus, the fight between life and death continues for around a month.
Now, realising that Gajendra was about to die, the herd of family members started leaving him alone. Similarly, on realising that a person is about to die, the family and relatives lose hope, start leaving him and are busy with their own jobs.
Sadguru tells us, “One who has remembered and loved God his whole life, only can remember him at the last moment and be saved from the cycles of birth and death. Do not get panicky, start chanting God’s name, pray to God to increase our love for Him so that He is in our remembrance always.”
Now, Gajendra was left all alone, there was no one to help him, no one to comfort him. He felt helpless and unsupported. He realised that except for God no one is there for him. (When the soul is perplexed by grief, misery and pain, it calls upon the Almighty. A lot of us make preparations for a journey from which one is meant to return; yet we make none for death!)
Nirbal ke bal Ram!!
With tears in his eyes, Gajendra plucked a lotus flower from the lake and called upon the Lord wholeheartedly. “Oh Lord! Only you…only you can help me now…no one else is there for me anymore”.
Gajendra surrendered unto the Lord. Due to his past life impression of bhakti and devotion, he started praying to the Lord fervently!
Lord Vishnu accepted the lotus and destroyed the crocodile with His Sudarshan chakra. Su-Darshan means the one who sees The Lord in everyone, everywhere is saved from the cycles of rebirth.
Gajendra, in his previous life was a great devotee called Indradyumna who was also a great king. One day, Agastya, a great sage came to visit the king. Indradyumna did not get up and receive the Sage with the respect that the latter expected. The enraged Agastya cursed the king to become an elephant in his next birth, as he sat heavy on his seat and did not rise to greet him.
The crocodile in its last life was a king called HuHu in the Gandharva planet. Once while enjoying himself in the waters, he pulled the leg of a sage. The enraged sage cursed the king to become a crocodile in his next life. The repentant HuHu asked for pardon. The Sage proclaimed that though he could not retrieve the curse, the crocodile would be liberated from the cycle of birth and death when Gajendra would be saved by the Lord God Himself.