This is in continuation to the last Sunday’s post on Gajendra’s Prayer
The best part of the episode of Gajendra in my view is not the prayer itself, but the response to the prayer by Lord Vishnu. At that time as Pothanamatya describes in a descriptive poem about what Lord Vishnu was immersed in,
అల వైకుంఠపురంబులో నగరిలో నా మూల సౌధంబు దా
పల మందారవనాంతరామృత సరః ప్రాంతేందు కాంతోపలో
త్పల పర్యంక రమావినోది యగు నాపన్నప్రసన్నుండు వి
హ్వల నాగేంద్రము పాహిపాహి యనఁ గుయ్యాలించి సంరంభియై
Vishnu was delighting in the company of Rama (Lakshmi) in the gardens of the principal mansion of the city of Vaikuntha, beside a lake of nectar on a bed of flowers. This was when he heard the pleas of Gajendra. Pothanamatya uses the adjective Apanna-prasanna (The one who can delight those in distress) and ends the poem indicating his sense of urgency with the word Samrambhi (One filled with extreme eagerness)
His response to the prayer is filled with an urgency to save the one calling out to him. Here, Pothanamatya unleashes his narrative best, slightly departing from Vyasa’s narrative in the Samskrita Bhagavatam.
సిరికిం జెప్పఁడు; శంఖ చక్ర యుగముం జేదోయి సంధింపఁ; డే
పరివారంబునుఁ జీరఁ” డభ్రగపతిం బన్నింపఁ” డాకర్ణికాం
తర ధమ్మిల్లముఁ జక్క నొత్తఁడు; వివాదప్రోత్థితశ్రీకుచో
పరిచేలాంచలమైన వీడఁడు గజప్రాణావనోత్సాహియై.
In his eagerness to save the elephant, He does not stop to tell Sri (Lakshmi, about Gajendra’s plight) He does not even take up his Shankha and Chakra, He does not call out to his retinue, nor does he summon his vehicle, Garuda, He does not even stop to set right his hair which had fallen over his ears He does not even leave the garment of Lakshmi which he had caught in the middle of a romantic interaction, thus forcing her to follow him.
తనవెంటన్ సిరి; లచ్చివెంట నవరోధవ్రాతమున్; దాని వె
న్కనుఁ బక్షీంద్రుఁడు; వాని పొంతను ధనుఃకౌమోదకీ శంఖ చ
క్రనికాయంబును; నారదుండు; ధ్వజినీకాంతుండు రా వచ్చి రొ
య్యన వైకుంఠపురంబునం గలుగువా రాబాలగోపాలమున్.
This alarming way of his leaving Vaikuntha leaves everyone unsettled and they all follow him with Lakshmi only speculating what could have caused her spouse to leave in the middle of their union, as she hurried along with him. The women folk attending to her follow the couple. Garuda hurries to his side and his weapons, the Shankha, the chakra and the Gada follow him to be available at his invocation. Behind them Narada and Vishvaksena followed. An unprecedented spectacle of an exodus of the whole Vaikuntha with none of them knowing about the reason!
Thus the Supreme Lord makes every cosmic being follow him only to find that the cause of all the disturbance were an elephant and a crocodile!
One can’t help admiring the style of Pothanamatya for striving to show how the Supreme Lord is deserving of the prayers of Gajendra and not the other way round! In literary magnitude, Vishnu’s response, his rushing to the Trikuta Lake and his act of saving Gajendra took almost equal number of verses as the prayer of Gajendra itself! The heartening highlight of the episode of Gajendra is the God’s eagerness matching with that of his devotee, thus hinting the inseparable relationship between both.
The literary lovers of Telugu can also observe that the chandassu used by Potanamatya for these poems is called Mattebhamu (literally translating to an ‘intoxicated elephant’), suiting the context beautifully. This was pointed out by @Vamsee9002 in one of our #Kavitvamu twitter chats.
Gajendra Moksham as an episode made its presence felt in popular folklore and in the lives of philosophers and reformers.
As an anecdote goes, a humorous conversation is believed to have happened between the Mughal emperor, Akbar and his favourite minister Birbal regarding this episode of Bhagavata. Akbar laughed at the urgency shown by Vishnu saying the God could have easily sent one of his guard, servants or his weapons to kill the reptile. Akbar found it laughable that the Supreme Lord rushes in such a (almost embarrassing) manner to save a mere elephant from a mere crocodile.
Birbal responded after a while by throwing a heavy stone into the Yamuna and spreading the scare that the emperor’s only son had fallen into the river. A distraught Akbar is believed to have rushed and jumped into the river to save his child from Yamuna’s currents. After he was pulled to safety, Birbal puts the emperor’s question back to him that Akbar could have ordered any of his guards who were better swimmers. Akbar then is said to have realized the intensity of compassion and love Lord Vishnu bore towards his devotees as something similar to that of a caring parent and not that of a powerful ruler.
It is also widely believed that Bharat Ratna. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya chanted Gajendra Moksham as he was immersed in the challenging project of building the famed Benares Hindu University.
My introduction to Gajendra moksham began as a bed time tale from my grandparents and my interest increased by my parents reading out the verses of Bhagavatam. One can’t help appreciating the magnetic effect Bhakti can have whether or not one chooses to tread the path.
I had earlier written about Pothana here.
For the full Telugu version of Vishnu’s arrival, please refer here.
My last post had also got an interesting suggestion from a friend about studying the social and cultural fabric that influenced this 13th Century version of Bhagavatam. A bit of pondering led me to a new discovery. Shall write more about it as time permits.