The \u015ar\u012bmadbh\u0101gavata speaks of the elephant, Gajendra, as the epitome of surrender, and uses the episode of Gajendra\u2019s rescue from the grasp of a crocodile to exemplify Lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u as the ultimate refuge of devotees. This particular episode has captured the imagination of both artists and philosophers of the Bhakti school of thought alike. Who was Gajendra and why is this particular episode of the Bh\u0101gavata so significant? There was once a great king in the southern P\u0101\u1e47\u1e0dya kingdom, called Indradyumna. He was supremely devout, and dedicated himself to the religious observances of lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u. He retired to the peaks of the Malaya mount and resorted to penance there. One day, having completed his morning ablution, Indradyumna was engaged in worshipping lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u when sage Agastya arrived at his hermitage. Although Indradyumna was devout, he was yet guilty of arrogance. Driven by pride, he failed to receive the sage with the due hospitality and honor dictated by the scriptures. Incensed by the king\u2019s lack of humility and dedication to scriptural dictates, the sage cursed Indradyumna thus \u2013 \u201cYou have shown yourself to be dull (due to pride) like an elephant. I hence curse you to the life of an elephant.\u201d Indradyumna was soon born an elephant. He had no memory of his devout past as the P\u0101\u1e47\u1e0dya king. Once, he resorted to the ethereal lake neighboring the Trik\u016b\u1e6da mount, along with his herd of elephants. The mighty tusker put fear in the hearts of all the animals of the surrounding forest, as he marched towards the wondrous lake. Drawn by the fragrance of the lotus pond, the herd of elephants that was scorched in the heat, entered the pellucid waters. Gajendra sported in the water and drank to his heart\u2019s content, little aware of the danger that lurked. To his horror, Gajendra soon discovered that his foot was being tugged by something immensely more powerful than himself. It was a crocodile. The mighty elephant who was the head of the herd, struggled with all his strength to escape the grasp of the crocodile. He tugged with all his might, but to little avail. The herd of elephants, alarmed by the distress of their head, ascended the bank and tried to save Gajendra. In the tug-of-war that ensued between the crocodile and the tuskers, the crocodile had the upper hand. Dejected that their effort was worth little, the herd finally abandoned their head. Gajendra struggled on for a thousand years, endeavoring to release himself. Exhausted beyond measure, the elephant who identified himself with his physical body recognized that there was no escape. He became all too aware of his powerlessness. Births of devout worship came to his rescue at this desolate moment. Wisdom of past lives came streaming in. He recognized that surrender would redeem him. He recognized that the powerlessness he experienced was owing to his identity with the limited physical body. He recognized that with surrender would arrive strength, for the responsibility of protection would then lie with the absolutely powerful, Supreme. He cried aloud \u2013 \u092f\u0938\u094d\u092e\u093f\u0928\u094d\u0928\u093f\u0926\u0902 \u092f\u0924\u0936\u094d\u091a\u0947\u0926\u0902 \u092f\u0947\u0928\u0947\u0926\u0902 \u092f \u0907\u0926\u0902 \u0938\u094d\u0935\u092f\u092e\u094d\u0964 \u092f\u094b\u093d\u0938\u094d\u092e\u093e\u0924\u094d \u092a\u0930\u0938\u094d\u092e\u093e\u091a\u094d\u091a \u092a\u0930\u0938\u094d\u0924\u0902 \u092a\u094d\u0930\u092a\u0926\u094d\u092f\u0947 \u0938\u094d\u0935\u092f\u092e\u094d\u092d\u0941\u0935\u092e\u094d\u0965 yasminnida\u1e41 yata\u015bceda\u1e41 yeneda\u1e41 ya ida\u1e41 svayam| yo'sm\u0101t parasm\u0101cca parasta\u1e41 prapadye svayambhuvam|| He from whom this (creation) has evolved, He to whom this (creation) will return (to rest), He owing to whom this (creation) evolved, and He who verily is (this creation), to Him who transcends (creation), and is the self-born Supreme, I surrender. \u015ar\u012bmadbh\u0101gavatam, 8.3.3 He further pleaded, \u201cI have no desire to live on in this world, in the form of an elephant, deluded by the veil of m\u0101y\u0101. I do not seek to be released from the deathly grip of this crocodile. I seek to be liberated from this ignorance that restricts me from recognizing my true self. Time will rid man of the physical body, but not ignorance. It persists until your grace descends.\u201d \u2013 \u0907\u091a\u094d\u091b\u093e\u092e\u093f \u0915\u093e\u0932\u0947\u0928 \u0928 \u092f\u0938\u094d\u092f \u0935\u093f\u092a\u094d\u0932\u0935\u0903 \u0924\u0938\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0924\u094d\u092e\u0932\u094b\u0915\u093e\u0935\u0930\u0923\u0938\u094d\u092f \u092e\u094b\u0915\u094d\u0937\u092e\u094d\u0965 icch\u0101mi k\u0101lena na yasya viplava\u1e25 tasy\u0101tmalok\u0101vara\u1e47asya mok\u1e63am|| I desire to be liberated from that abysmal ignorance, which time alone cannot cut asunder. In a trice, the lordly elephant had transcended name and form. Not only had he forsaken identity with his own physical form, but had pledged allegiance to the Absolute Supreme who transcends name and form. In so doing, he wiped out the hold of creation that is bound by name and form. His surrender was absolute. It became the duty of the Supreme Entity called upon, to thus rush to the rescue of this devotee. The \u015ar\u012bmadbh\u0101gavata states, when the lordly elephant appealed thus to the Supreme who was beyond attributes, the celestials and other gods did not step forward. The Supreme being, Hari, hastened to the presence of the elephant amount his avian chariot, Garu\u1e0da. He released his formidable \u015audar\u015bana-cakra to slay the crocodile and save the elephant. Not only was the elephant rescued from the curse, but from ignorance, and hence rebirth. He was blessed to become one of the attendants of lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u at Vaiku\u1e47\u1e6dha. Having blessed the elephant thus, the lord declared, \u092f\u0947 \u092e\u0902 \u0938\u094d\u0924\u0941\u0935\u0928\u094d\u0924\u094d\u092f\u0928\u0947\u0928\u093e\u0919\u094d\u0917 \u092a\u094d\u0930\u0924\u093f\u092c\u0941\u0927\u094d\u092f \u0928\u093f\u0936\u093e\u0924\u094d\u092f\u092f\u0947\u0964 \u0924\u0947\u0937\u093e\u0902 \u092a\u094d\u0930\u093e\u0923\u093e\u0924\u094d\u092f\u092f\u0947 \u091a\u093e\u0939\u0902 \u0926\u0926\u093e\u092e\u093f \u0935\u093f\u092e\u0932\u093e\u0902 \u092e\u0924\u093f\u092e\u094d\u0965 ye ma\u1e41 stuvantyanen\u0101\u1e45ga pratibudhya ni\u015b\u0101tyaye| te\u1e63\u0101\u1e41 pr\u0101\u1e47\u0101tyaye c\u0101ha\u1e41 dad\u0101mi vimal\u0101\u1e41 matim|| I shall bless him, who shall extol me with this hymn (addressed to me by Gajendra, the lordly elephant) at night, with flawless understanding at the end of his life.