Some years ago I was told by an astrologer in India that I would get through a difficult patch in my life if I chanted regularly the Prayers of Gajendra. These prayers are to be found in the eighth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, in the section known, appropriately enough, as Gajendra Mokshana or ‘Gajendra’s Liberation.’
Gajendra was an elephant and his struggles with a crocodile in the water are analogous to our struggles with our earthly attachments. After much bloody struggling, crocodile firmly gripping his leg, Gajendra comes to the point of desperation, then surrender, and offers his famous prayers to the Lord. Even though he doesn’t really know who that Lord is, still the Lord hears his prayers and appears to him, relieving Gajendra of all his problems.
One of the many shrines within this 8th century temple is dedicated to this story, and the Lord can be worshipped here, exactly as He appeared to the elephant. He flies to him on the back of his winged carrier Garuda, and in this particular temple Lord Vishnu is known as Varadaraja – the ‘King of all givers of boons.’
Gajendra is often depicted with a pink lotus flower in his trunk, raised to the sky as he offers his desperate prayers. So I thought it would be good for the whole family to recite some of the prayers of Gajendra before that shrine – and we did. After I offered my own pink lotus flower (conveniently available just outside the temple) we sat there in the early morning and chanted together.
The Parthasarathi temple in Chennai (Madras) was built in the Pallava dynasty period by King Narasimhavarman in the AD 700s and has many shrines within its precincts. There is a beautiful Rama, Varaha, and a stunning Narasimha. Of course the temple takes its name from the main deity: Lord Krishna in His role of the Charioteer of Arjuna. The Lord promised that He would not take up arms during the famous Battle of Kurukshetra, but He did drive the chariot each day, and cared for the injured horses at the close of the day. When Sri Krishna speaks His song to His friend Arjuna just before the battle begins, only a few were privileged to hear. Now the entire world hears and honours that immortal conversation.
It seemed a fitting place for us to begin our south India pilgrimage.
Below: Lord Krishna as the Charioteer of Arjuna