GAJENDRA MOKSHAM (From Narayaneeyam)
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1632) was the celebrated author of Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in Sanskrit verse which is a masterly summary of the main episodes in Srimad Bhagavatam. He was a scholar in the Sanskrit Language and its grammar on which he wrote his masterpiece Prakriya-sarvaswam which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini the grammarian.
Narayana Bhattathiri was born in a Namboodiri family of Kerala. He was a disciple of Achyuta Pisharati from whom he studied Sanskrit grammar. As a student he also studied the Rig Veda and Tarka Sastra (the science of logical reasoning and argument).
Bhattathiri was struck with paralysis when he was still young. The disease was painful and Ezhuthachan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana advised Bhattathiri “meen thottu koottuka” which in Malayalam meant ‘take fish as food’ or ‘start counting from fish’. It was obvious that the erudite Ezhuthachan would not have advised Bhattathiri, a Nambooiri brahmin, to eat fish since Namboodiri brahmins are staunch vegetarians. Bhattathiri figured out that the meaning of ‘start counting from fish’ was that he (Bhattathiri) should start recounting the incarnations of the Lord starting from the matsyavatara(incarnation as fish to redeem the Vedas from the asura named Hayagreeva) and go on upto the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Bhattathiri took the advise and wrote his Magnum Opus based on Srimad Bhagavatam which chronicles the many incarnations of Mahavishnu and expounds the highest philosophy of the Hindus embodied in the Upanishads. He dedicated his work to Lord Krishna, fondly called by devotees as Guruvayoorappan, at the temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala. The work consists of 100 dasakas each containing 10 verses. However, a few dasakas contain more than ten verses so that the total number of slokas is not 1000 but 1034.
Legend has it that Bhattathiri composed one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord and recited it before Him for His approval and the Lord did nod his head in agreement. The composition is directly addressed to the Lord telling him His own exploits and leelas. The refrain in the last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to remove his (Bhattathiri’s) ailments and sufferings. The Lord did cure Bhattathiri of his affliction by the time he completed Narayaneeyam and also revealed to him His captivating form which Bhattathiri has captured ecstatically in the 100th dasakam
Given below is a reproduction of Dasaka 26 from Narayaneeyam which summarise the episode of Gajendra Moksham narrated in detail in chapters 2-4 of the 8th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
स्त्वत्भक्तात्मा चन्दनाद्रौ कदाचित् ।
नैवागस्त्यं प्राप्तमातिथ्यकामम् ॥१॥
Indradyumna, king of Pandyakhanda and a devotee of yours, was, once upon a time, completely immersed in your service at Chandanadri and so did not notice that Agstya rishi had come there as a guest seeking hospitality.
स्तब्धात्मा त्वं हस्तिभूयं भजेति ।
शप्त्वाथैनं प्रत्यगात् सोऽपि लेभे
हस्तीन्द्रत्वं त्वत्स्मृतिव्यक्तिधन्यम् ॥२॥
Agastya became full of anger and, cursing the King saying ‘because of your indifference may you become an elephant’, left the place. Indradyumna was transformed into an elephant and became the king of the herd but was fortunate in retaining your remembrance even as an elephant.
क्रीडन् शैले यूथपोऽयं वशाभिः।
सर्वान् जन्तूनत्यवर्तिष्ठ शक्त्या
त्वद्भक्तानां कुत्र नोत्कर्षलाभः ॥३॥
The elephant, himself leader of the herd, engaged itself in playful activities with she-elephants in the valleys of Trikuta mountain situated at the centre of the milky ocean. It surpassed all animals in the forest in physical strength. Where is it that a devotee of yours cannot get the top position?
स्वेन स्थेम्ना दिव्यदेशत्वशक्त्या
सोऽयं खेदानप्रजानन् कदाचित् ।
यूथैस्सार्धं त्वत्प्रणुन्नोऽभिरेमे ॥४॥
The elephant, by his own power and the power of the divine place, led his life without encountering any problem whatsoever. Once, to escape the heat of the Sun, he entered a lake in the valley of the mountain along with his herd and, prompted by you O Lord!, engaged himself in water sports.
जग्राहैनं हस्तिनं पाददेशे
शान्त्यर्थं हि श्रान्तिदोऽसि स्वकानाम्॥५॥
A Gandharva named Huhu who had become an alligator (crocodile) by the curse of Rishi Devala was also living in the same lake. The alligator caught hold of the elephant by its leg. You create problems for your devotees only to bestow on them peace and happiness.
युद्ध्यन्तं तं वत्सराणां सहस्रम् ।
प्राप्ते कले त्वत्पदौकाग्र्यसिद्ध्यै
नक्राक्रान्तं हस्तिवर्यं व्यधास्त्वम् ॥६॥
By the power of his devotion to You the elephant fought with the alligator, without interruption, for a thousand years. Then, at an appropriate moment, You made the elephant succumb to the strength of the alligator in order to instil in him one-pointed devotion at your feet.
शुण्डोत्क्षिप्तैः पुण्डरीकैः समर्चन् ।
स्तोत्रश्रेष्ठं सोऽन्वगादीत् परात्मन् ॥७॥
In extreme distress the elephant recollected the bhatki (devotion) and gnana (spiritual knowledge) of his previous birth and, lifting up with his trunk lotus flowers from the lake, worshipped you chanting a hymn on the Absolute Brahman which he had practised in his earlier birth.
श्रुत्वा स्तोत्रं निर्गुणस्थं समस्तं
सर्वात्मा त्वं भूरिकारुण्यवेगात्
तार्क्ष्यारूढः प्रेक्षितोऽभूः पुरस्तात् ॥८॥
Listening to the hymn on Nirguna Brahman chanted by the elephant, Brahma, Siva and others excused themselves saying that they were not being called. Then You, the indwelling spirit in every being, moved by extreme compassion, manifested yourself before the elephant riding on Garuda.
हस्तीन्द्रं तं हस्तपद्मेन धृत्वा
चक्रेण त्वं नक्रवर्यं व्यदारीः ।
गन्धर्वेऽस्मिन् मुक्तशापे स हस्ती
त्वत्सारूप्यं प्राप्य देदीप्यते स्म ॥९॥
Lifting up the elephant with your lotus hands, you cut asunder the alligator with your disc. The Gandharva (who had become the alligator by the curse of Devala) was released from his curse and the elephant, taking on the same form as yours (saroopyam), shone in his splendour.
एतद्वृत्तं त्वां च मां च प्रगे यो
गायेत् सोऽयं भूयसे श्रेयसे स्यात् ।
इत्युक्त्वैनं तेन सार्द्धं गतस्त्वं
धिष्ण्यं विष्णो ! पाहि वातालयेश! ॥१०॥
O Vishnu, Lord of Gurvayur! saying “whosoever recites this story and thinks about you and me at daybreak will achieve great prosperity and happiness“, you repaired to your abode along with your devotee. Please save me (from my afflictions)