hese bodies—subject to birth, death, old age, and disease—cover the eternal soul. And so, ignorant of his real identity, the soul remains in the material world lifetime after lifetime. Forgetful of his spiritual selfhood, he remains attracted to material life (to house, country, society, family, bank balance, and so on). Continually he thinks, “I am this body, and everything related to this body is mine.” This conception of life is extremely difficult to surmount, unless (like Gajendra) the soul realizes, aham brahmasmi—”I am a spirit”—and surrenders to the Supreme Spirit, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At that moment he regains his spiritual enlightenment.
Seeing Gajendra’s awkward position, the Supreme Lord (in His four-armed form as Visnu) flew toward the mountain lake on the back of His great winged carrier, Garuda. Gajendra was still caught in the jaws of the crocodile and was feeling acute pain. But he was relieved to see the Lord wielding His disc and other weapons and coming in the sky to rescue him. So with great difficulty due to his painful condition, he took a lotus flower in his trunk, raised it high, and prayed, “O my Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.”
The Lord got down from Garuda’s back and pulled Gajendra and the crocodile out of the water. Then He released His disc and cut the crocodile’s head from his body. All the demigods and sages who had gathered there praised this act and showered flowers upon the Lord and Gajendra.
In their previous lives, both Gajendra and the crocodile had been kings. The crocodile had been King Huhu, of the Gandharva planet. But once, while reveling in the water with a group of celestial women, he had somehow pulled the leg of the sage Devala. At this the sage became furious and cursed King Huhu to become a crocodile. Despondent, the king begged pardon from the sage, who gave him the benediction that he would be freed at the very moment when the Supreme Lord delivered Gajendra. So as soon as the Lord cut off the crocodile’s head, the soul left that body and regained the beautiful form of the demigod King Huhu. After offering prayers to Krsna, King Huhu returned at once to the Gandharva planet.
In his previous life Gajendra had been Indradyumna, a great devotee of Lord Krsna and the king of a South Indian region called Pandya. When Indradyumna retired from his kingdom and family life, he went to the Malaya Hills, where he lived in a small cottage asrama and practiced spiritual disciplines. He let his hair grow in matted locks and engaged in continual austerities. Once, while observing a vow of silence, he became fully absorbed in the ecstasy of love of Godhead.
Just then the great sage Agastya arrived, along with his disciples. But King Indradyumna was so absorbed in meditation that he did not even notice the sage, what to speak of offering him a proper reception. Angered at this breach of etiquette, Agastya cursed the king.
“This King Indradyumna is not at all gentle,” said Agastya. “Being low and uneducated, he has insulted me. May he therefore enter the region of darkness and receive the dull, dumb body of an elephant.”