Vrindavan 2016.07.20 (VT): Shri Ranganath Mandir celebrated the “Gajendra Moksha Lila” on Tuesday. This festival is celebrated every year in the 19thcentury South Indian temple. This pastime of Bhagwan Rangnath is an enactment of the story of Shrimad Bhagvatam, when Lord Vishnu saved an elephant from a crocodile.
The Gajagrah Leela began at 6 p.m. on the ‘Pushkarini’ located inside the temple campus. The local devotees thronged in the temple campus to witness the great ‘Purnaic event’. In this event Lord Vishnu came down to the earth to protect the elephant who was His devotee.
In the course of the festival Thakur Rangmannar came out of the temple on a golden chariot and reached the Pushkarini (pond), where the enactment of the pastime was being performed.
The scene was well set: a 3-ft tall wooden elephant and a 4-ft long wooden crocodile were placed on the temple tank with the crocodile clutching on the right leg of the elephant. One could almost hear Gajendra’s loud shout for help, and tears rolled down the eyes of the devotees.
Seated at the four-pillar mandapa alongside the lotus tank, Rangnath listened to the sweet 30 minutes recital of the Gajendra Moksham Puranam by the priests. Following the recital of each verse, he explained the significance of this event and how Lord Narayana relieved Gajendra, who pleaded for the Lord’s support, and save him from the clutches of the crocodile.
As the priests recited the stanza relating to Lord Vishnu hurling his discus to kill the crocodile, a cracker bullet was shot at from near Thakur Rangnath that sped and struck the crocodile at a lightening pace, thus relieving the elephant from its clutches.
As the Puranic legend goes, there was once an elephant named Gajendra who lived in a garden. This garden was located on Mount Trikuta, the “Three- peaked mountain.”
Gajendra ruled over all the other elephants in the herd. On one hot day, he proceeded with his herd to a lake to cool off in its fresh waters. Suddenly a crocodile living in the lake attacked Gajendra and caught him by the leg. Gajendra tried for a long time to escape from the crocodile’s clutches. All his family, relatives and friends gathered around to help him, but in vain. The crocodile simply wouldn’t let go. When they realized that death had come close to Gajendra, they left him alone.
Gajendra trumpeted in pain and helplessness until he was hoarse.As the struggle was seemingly endless, as it is believed that the crocodile held Gajendra’s foot for over a thousand years, and when he had spent his last drop of energy, Gajendra called to Vishnu to save him, holding a lotus up in the air as an offering.
Hearing his devotee’s call and prayer, Lord Vishnu rushed to the scene. As Gajendra sighted the Lord coming, he lifted the lotus with his trunk. Seening this, the Lord was pleased and with his Sudarshana Chakra, separated the crocodile’s head from its body, and Gajendra prostrated himself before the Lord. Vishnu informed Gajendra that he, in one of his previous births, had been the celebrated King Indradryumna, a devotee of Vishnu, but due to his disrespect to the great Sage Agastya, he had been cursed to be reborn as an elephant.
Because Indradryumna had been a devotee, Lord Vishnu had him born as Gajendra and made him realize that there is something called Kaivalya which is beyond Swarga and Urdhva Loka the realm of gods. Indradyumna could attain Moksh finally when he (as Gajendra) left all his pride and doubt and totally surrendered himself to Vishnu.
Dr. Rajkumar Sood, the manager at the Rangji Mandir, said that this pastime is basd on the Hindu calendar dates, and is organized every year to remember the pastimes of Lord Rangmannar (South Indian name of Lord Vishnu).