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Dr. C. Sivaramamurthy

Srimad Bhagavata is a bhakti scripture par excellence which enjoys universal popularity.
Conceived in a moment of inspiration, invoked by the blessings of all-graceful Lord
Narayana, Srimad Bhagavatam is truely unique in its beauty, charm, diction, philosophy
and hold on human minds. During the ceremonial or festivity knoown as Srimad
Bhagavata Sapthaham, the whole purana is read within a period of seven days with great

An extraordinary galaxy of devotees are exhibited in such a manner in this purana that
they steal over the heart and exercise a haunting charm. Ajamila, the sinner redeemed by
the Lord's name, those child devotees Prahalada and Dhruva, the poor friend Kuchela, the
starving king Rantideva -- such narrations are many. Equally important is the story of the
tusker who was saved from the crocodile by Vishnu who rushed to save this devotee. He
is the Lord of mercy; His Kshirasagara (Milky ocean) is Karuna Sagara (Ocean of

Gajendra Moksham is one of the most famous exploits of Vishnu in Srimad Bhagavatam.
A recitation of this episode early in the morning has great immortal powers like the
recitation of the sacred hymn Sri Vishnu Sahasranama. There is no disaster from which,
the mighty and the compassionate Lord would not protect the devotees, that with faith
and devotion remember His feet as their refuge.

Sri Parasara Bhattar in his famous commentary on Sri Vishnu Sahasranama popularly
known as 'Bhagavatguna Darpana' faithfully reflects the greatness and grandeur of the
Lord's traits. He has classified the names beginning from 'Sabdasahah' (912) to
'Ruchirangadah' (945) as Gajendra Moksha.

The episode in Srimad Bhagavatam is narrated here along with Sri Bhattar's commentary
on these Namas.

Let Lord Varada one who confers boons who is more famous as Karivarada protect us all.

The Elephant and the Crocodile

Once a lordly elephant, leader of a herd, inhabiting that mountainous forest, roamed with
his retinue of female ones, breaking through trees, bamboo clusters and clumps of cane.
By the mere odour of animal, even lions and tigers not to talk of the elephants, hyenas,
rhinos, pythons, sarabhas, yaks, wolves, boars, bisons, bears, porcupines, baboons,
jackals, monkeys, all ran away in fear, while the weaker ones like the deer and the hares
moved about joyously by the protective presence of that very animal. (20-22).
Oppressed by the heat of summer, dripping ichor and swarmed by bees settled on it for its
sheer taste, tormented by thirst, accompanied by the whole herd of bull and female
elephants and the young ones, almost causing tremors in the mountain by their weight, he
smelt from afar the lotus pollen-filled breeze on the lake, and with eyes tremulous in a
state of rut, speedily approached the vicinity of the lake. (23-24). Plunging into it, he
drank to his heart's content the immaculate, sweet ambrosial water, flavoured by the
pollen of the golden lotuses, lilies, sucking it with his trunk and freely showering on
himself, and with his fatigue gone, equally offering mouthfuls and a liberal sprinkle of
bath to his retinue of cubs and female elephants like a loving householder, unaware in his
self importance of impending peril (25-26).

There, Oh king! as ill luck would have it, a powerful crocodile fiercely caught his leg,
and the elephant, accidentally so caught unaware, himself of immense strength,
accordingly tugged his best. The cow - elephant and other chicken hearted ones seeing
their leader in distress, just pulled forcibly, trumpeted in sorrow, unable to extricate him
by pulling him holding from the rear. (27-28).

As the noble elephant and the crocodile so fought one pulling in and the other out, a
thousand years elapsed, both yet alive and alert to the amazement of even the celestials

Then by the long passage of time the strength of the elephant both mental and physical as
well as his energy slowly ebbed; and as the strength of the one pulled into the water
diminished, that of the aquatic animal increased. Thus when the elephant was in a sad
situation and despaired of his life, unable ever so long to free himself, thought of an idea.
Those of my ilk cannot save me, how can the female ones help? Caught by the noose of
Providence in the shape of the crocodile I shall seek Him the ultimate refuge. I seek
refuge of the Lord that protects the scared seeking His refuge, for refuge from the
powerful serpent of Death that pursues ever so swiftly, but yet itself runs away in utter
fear of the Lord. (30-33).

Here ends the second chapter.
The Lord Frees The Tusker

Sri Suka Spoke :
Having so resolved and with his mind at ease the elephant repeated the most noble
prayers he had learned in a previous birth. (1)

The Lord of elephants uttered :

(Note : The text of Srimad Bhagavatam here gives one of the most magnificent hymns
addressed to Vishnu as the Supreme one, the Almighty who is extolled in multiform in
the Upanishads, Ithihasas and in the various Puranas. Hence the relevant Sanskrit slokas
are also given here, with the English translation).

The Lord of the elephants uttered -- Salutation to that Lord from whom everything
sentient arises. To the Purusha the primordial seed, the Lord of all, I bow. I take shelter in
Him, in Whom is the entire universe, from Whom it all emanates. Who is Himself its
cause and Who is beyond all the utmost beyond. (2-3).

Hail to that Uttermost beyond all, rooted in Himself, in Whom by His own illusion He
holds the universe somewhere, illumines it somewhere else, and causes its disappearance
still elsewhere. Whose perception is undimmed and who looks on, both as the witness
and the witnessed. (4).
I adore the Lord that, when the entire universe is lost at the destined time, all the worlds,
the protectors of the worlds, the Lokpalas themselves, and all the causes of the world
have disappeared, when there is only one deep darkness all over, shines brilliant at one
end (5).

May that Lord protect me, Whose abode neither the celestials nor the seers know, nor any
other being can try to reach or attempt to describe Him, Who in His movements acts like
an actor impossible to be imitated. (6).

He is my refuge, to sight Whose most auspicious abode the seers long for, seers so gentle
and good, free from all shackles, identifying themselves with all living beings and with
the friendliest spirit towards all, try through penance in the forest, where there is peace,
and which is different from worldly life. (7).

I hail the Lord, for Whom there is no birth, no particular action to perform, no name or
fame, no merit or demerit, but who however creates Himself for the good of the world by
His own illusory power from time to time. (8)
Salutation to that Lord of lords, to the creator, to the infinitely powerful, to the formless,
for the multiform, for the most wonderful in action; salutation to that lamp that lights
itself, to the witness of all, to the spirit in all, to the one ever sofar away from verbal
description, unapproached even by mind or thought. (9-10).

Salutation to the Lord, that is obtained only by peace. complete renunciation of action,
and intellectual contemplation. Salutation to the Lord of Kaivalya, who alone knows the
joy of bliss, nirvana. Salutation to the peaceful one, to the terrific, to the idiotic, to the
one characterised by the highest qualities, to the unending, to the extraordinary, to the
impartial, to the wealthiest in true knowledge, to the one who knows the kshetra, proper
soil where the seed would thrive. The Lord of all, the witness, to the Purusha, to the one
emanating from Himself, to the original generator. Salutation to the one who sees the best
in all the senses, the cause of everything, who is described as the absent and the existent,
and ever shining (11-14).

Salutation again and again to the cause of everything, who is the cause of none and, who
is the wonderful cause of everything, who is the great ocean of all sacred texts; salutation
to the highest liberation and the ultimate of refuge; salutation to the fire of chit hidden in
the arani stick of the highest qualities, i.e. whose mind revels in chit when there is a
disturbance of balance of the gunas. Who is self-luminous, is free from Sastraic
regulations and actions thereunder. (15).

Salutation to the liberator from the noose for all creatures like us, the ever free, the most
compassionate, who merges in none, the great Lord that sees the ultimate from the mind
of every one in whom His spark is present, who is beyond the reach of those attached to
self, children, friends, home, wealth and companions, Who is free from qualities and
attachment, Who is contemplated mentally by those liberated from births, to the very
essence of supreme knowledge, by worshipping Whom those who desire Dharma, Artha,
Kama attain their desired goal. May that abundant one in mercy, That can by His blessing
give even a new body, arrange for my deliverence. Whom some that seek as refuge being
exclusively desire free, ask for nothing, but are immersed in the ocean of bliss, singing
His auspicious and wonderful exploits, that undiminishing highest creative force, reached
by mental meditation, the one beyond all sense perception, the tiniest and the farthest, the
endless, the very first, the completely complete one. (16-21).

Of Whom all the celestials starting with Brahma, the Veda, the world's mobile and
immobile and all that is created to be distinguished by name and form in essence and in
parts like the flames of the fire, like the rays of the Sun, often emanate with their own
light and from Whom come all the streams of qualities, intellect, mind, senses and the
bodies, the Lord who is neither celestial nor demonaic nor mortal or animal, neither
feminine nor masculine, nor either, Who is neither quality, action, who is neither
existence nor non-existence, who is just a denial of all and Who is without any
remainder, may He be victorious. I have no desire to live in the elephant form from inside
or outside. I desire deliverance through Him. Who is undestroyed by the passage of time
and Who envelopes the entire universe in Himself. (22-25).
I kneel and salute that creator of the universe, the universe itself Who is beyond the
universe, Who is the essence of the knowledge of the universe, Who is of the form of the
universe, unborn, the creator. (26).

I bow to Him, Whom as the Lord of yoga, the seers see within themselves in their heart,
with all actions stemmed by yoga and contemplating Him only by yoga. (27)

Salutation to you that are of the nature of overwhelming speed, power threefold, and of
the nature of all intellect and qualities, who protects those seeking refuge, Whose power
has no limit. Whose path is not reached by those uncontrolled in their senses, I seek Him;
Lord Bhagavan, who is not understood by one who identifies himself with his own self
and who is hampered by inordinate ego, That Lord whose glory is unsurpassed, I
approach. (28-29).
Thus, as the elephant prayed to the Lord who is indistinctive, the celestials headed by
Brahma, who had each his own distinction and ego in his own form, did not approach
him, as the prayer was to the all embracing One, when on the spot there appeared Hari,
who is of the form of all the celestials together, that Lord of the universe, having listened
to that hymn, addressed in great distress, and prayed to by all the denizens of heaven,
with the wheel as his weapon, speedily came riding Garuda, the very embodiment of the
Vedas, approaching the elephant. The elephant caught in the lake by that mighty
crocodile and in distress, sighting Hari on Garuda with the discus in His hand, raised up
to Him his trunk in salute with the lotus in it and with great difficulty uttered the words :
Narayana, Lord of all worlds; Salutation to you. (30-32).

The Lord seeing his distress, compassionately quickly dismounted and protected him
along with the crocodile in a trice. The Lord of the elephants was released from the
crocodile's mouth which was cut by the discus even as all the celestials looked on. (33).
The Lord said: For those who praise Me, reciting through this hymn waking up at the end
of the night, I give them the highest understanding at the end of their life.

Gajendra Moksham In Sri Vishnu Sahasranama
(Commentary of Parasara Bhattar)

The following 34 namas (912-945) refer to the Gajendra Moksha episode. (Most of the
quotations used by Bhattar to drive home the appropriateness of the namas are from the
Gajendra episode in Vishnu Dharma which are not given here for the sake of brevity.

912. Sabdasahah - He who takes heed of the indistinct cries of distress of bipeds and
quadrupeds even.

913. Sisirahv - He who rushed post-haste on hearing the sound of distress, 'Srutva cakra
gadadharah sannidhyam Kalpayamasa tasmin sarasi'. Immediately on hearing the
painful cry (of Gajendra), the Lord armed with the discus and the mace sped through at
supersonic speed and stood on the bank of the lake. (Painful cry to whom it was painful?
Was it for Gajendra? Or for the Lord? Obviously the latter who made a dash).

914. Sarvari Karah - He who had the lethal weapons in His hand when he went to the
rescue of Gajendra. The Lord had, in His hands, the five principal weapons Sankha
Chaka, Gada, Sarnga and Nandaki.

915. Akrurah - He who was not cruel. Far from being cruel towards the crocodile despite
the havoc wrought by it to Gajendra. He was of tender solicitude. Madhusudana, the Lord
of inscrutable ways, quickly took out not only the elephant which had been seized but
also the attacking crocodile from the waters of the lake, to ensure that the crocodile still
held the foot of the elephant before severing the head of the crocodile.

916. Pesalah - He who was charming even when His garlands, ornaments and raiments
were thrown into disarray due to the terrific speed with which He hurried down to the
trouble spot to rescue Gajendra (Sragbhusambara ramaniyah - pesalah).

917. Dakshah - He who moved promptly that very moment He heard the cry of the

918. Dakshinah - He who was courteous to the aged, comforting the elephant in distress
with soothing words even apologising in such terms as 'Fie upon me that I was far away
from you when you were engaged in a titanic struggle with the bloody crocodile'.
919. Kshaminam varah - The Foremost whose very presence made the situation bearable
for the elephant.

920. Vidvattamah - He gave yogic treatment to the elephant, healing it of its wounds by
His mere touch.

921. Vita bhayah - He who dispelled the fear of Gajendra that very moment He came in
his presence.

922. Punya Sravana Kirtanah - He who has imparted sanctity to the very narration and
listening to this episode of Gajendra's rescue by Him. "O, the best of Kurus, a person who
hears, thinks or talks about the episode of Gajendra's rescue by the Lord, is at once rid of
all his/her sins." (Vishnu Dharma)

923. Uttaranah - He who lifted up both the elephant and the crocodile from the lake.

924. Duskritiha - The slayer of the evil doer. Having brought both the elephant and the
crocodile on to the land. Madhava slew the crocodile with the discus.

925. Punyah - He who sanctifies even us who recall the episode of Gajendra Moksha.

926. Dussvapna Nassanah - How does He purify us as stated in the previous name? It is
by cutting out the evil dreams. The passage in Vishnu Dharma 69 reads - mere
recollection of the episode of the Gajendra Moksha is potent enough to allay
(upasamayalam) the effects of bad dreams.

927. Viraha - He who exterminated the powerful adversary of Gajendra.

928. Raksanah - Bhagavan saved the elephant by gently placing His hand on it,
embracing it and addressing soothing words of solace.

929. Santah - He who exists (for His devotees) or He who grants the devotee's desires
(being the past participle of verb sanoti bestows) or He who increases the progency of the

930. Jivanah - He redeemed even the crocodile through its regeneration into its former
state as a Gandharva, duly rid of his curse. Huhu the Gandharva had been transformed as
a crocodile due to the curse of sage Devala. Later, when the crocodile got slain by the
Paramatma. He went back to swarga in the regenerated form (Vishnu Dharma 69).

931. Paryavashitah - He who enveloped Gajendra affectionately 'Pritiman
Pundarikaksha! Saranagatha vatsalah (Vishnu Dharma). The lotus eyed Lord is
affectionate towards those who seek refuge in Him.
932. Anantarupah - In such instances as this. He assumes innumerable forms at His
volition to suit the needs of the occasion such as fish for saving the Vedas, tortoise for
saving the Mantara mountain, Narasimha for saving Prahlada etc.

933. Anantasrih - He of interminable (unlimited) wealth all of which are meant to be
bestowed on His devotees, Gajendra attained a divine body and left for the supreme

934. Jitamanyuh - He who has conquered anger (keeping it under restraint, invoking it
only for the nonce to quell the enemies of the devotee). In this particular context, He kept
under restraint, His anger against the crocodile once the work was over.

935. Bhayapah - He who dispels the fear of the devotees. By virtue of His proverbial love
for His devotees, Janardana could always be relied upon by them, as their unfailing
saviour who would surely get rid of their fear (of Samsara). A true devotee has therefore
no reason to feel lonely and helpless.

936. Chaturasrah - He who is adept in fulfilling the desire of His devotees (like Gajendra
for whose rescue He dashed forth).

937. Gabhiratma - He of deep and profound nature. Even as He is easy of access to
devotees as above. He is hard to get for others like Brahma etc.

938. Vidisah - He who is out of reach in all directions to their words of entreaty (for those
as in previous nama 937).

939. Vyadisah - He who assigns duties to the respective functionaries in the divine
heirarchy as above.

940. Disah - He does not treat Brahma and other functionaries who function as His
subordinates in the governance of the sprawling universe with the same degree of
intimacy and affection shown by Him to Gajendra, but issues commands to them.

941. Anadih - Bhagavan places Himself unreservedly in the hands of His devotees even
though they are mere animals like Gajendra. He, however,, grants only fruits of lower
order to Brahma and others because they do not consider Him as their foremost.

942. Bhur bhuvah - If a person has the correct knowledge of his essential nature that he is
the servant of the Lord who is the Sole Master, then only he is said to exist. Bhur in the
real sense. For that person (bhu) Bhagavan becomes the abode (bhuvah). That is why He
assured Gajendra 'Nivasisyati mayyeva ata urdhvam na samsayah'. (Hereafter, you will
live in Me alone. There is no doubt about it).

943. Lakshmih - The wealth. He alone is the aggregate of all riches for His devotees.
Sarva Sampacca. My kingdom, my life and my happiness are all centered in you.
(Ramayana, Yuddha Kaanda 99.5). For the Pandavas. Lord Krishna was everything
(Krsnsrayah krsnabalah krsnanathasca pandavah).

944. Suvirah - He who possesses great valour. (it is by virtue of peerless valour, He
retrieves His devotees from downfall and resuscitates them).

945. Ruchirangadah - He who exhibits His lovely form (unto devotees like Gajendra).

Na te rupam ... etc. They form is not for Thee, nor Thy body, weapons and abode are for
Thee. Still Thou showest Thyself in the form of Purusha for the delectations of Thy
devotees (Jitante Stotram). By Himself He needs none of these. In short it looks as
though all that He does is only to regale His devotees, O, What a marvel !