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Why Vishnu descended as Hayagriva?

Origin of Lord of wisdom

Today is the Jayanthi (birthday) of Lord Hayagriva. The Hayagriva means, in Sanskrit (हयग्रीव) ‘horse-necked one’, deity, the incarnation was to slay a danava (Asura) also named Hayagriva who had the neck of a horse and the body of a human. He was a descendant of Kashyapa, initiative generation from creation Srishti coming from Brahma. He is brilliant white in colour, with white garments and seated on a white lotus. Symbolically, the story represents the triumph of pure knowledge, guided by the hand of Divinity, over the demonic forces of passion and darkness. (Santhanam, Kanakavalli (9 January 2020) “Hayagriva – The Bestower of Knowledge“)

The Lord Hayagriva is worshipped as the god of knowledge and wisdom, in Shraavana month of full moon day, which is also birthday and Rakhee Poornima, festival. Hayagriva is listed as one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu in canto 10, chapter 40 of the Bhagavata Purana. In the text, Akrura‘s (Krishna’s Bhakth) prayer contains Hayagriva’s name when he had a vision while bathing in the Yamuna. 

Disciple of Ramanuja, thousand years before, great poet in Sanskrit, Vedanta Desika written dhyāna-śloka (meditative verse) on Hayagriva, the “Vedanta Desika’s Hayagriva Stotram (from Ramanuja.org/ Journal” source. ramanuja.org.)

jñānānandamayaṃ devaṃ nirmala sphaṭikākṛtim

ādhāraṃ sarva viddyānāṃ hayagrīvaṃ upāsmahe

Meaning: He has four hands, with one in the mode of bestowing knowledge; another holds books of wisdom, and the other two hold the Conch and Discus. His beauty, like fresh cut crystal, is an auspicious brilliance that never decays. May this Lord of speech who showers such cooling rays of grace on me may forever manifest in my heart!

Authors of Vaishnavs explain: “Hayagriva is depicted seated, most often with his right hand either blessing the supplicant or in the vyākhyā mudrā pose of teaching. The right hand also usually holds a akṣa-mālā (rosary), indicating his identification with meditative knowledge. His left hand holds a book, indicating his role as a teacher. His face is always serene and peaceful.

Hayagriva is one of the prominent deities in Vaikhanasas, Sri Vaishnavism, and the Dvaita Vedanta traditions. According to Vedanta Desika and other authors, origins about the worship of Hayagriva have been researched, some of the early evidences dates back to 2,000 BCE, when people worshipped the horse for its speed, strength, intelligence’.

Maha Bharata and Srimad Bhagavata

Mahabharata explained: During the period of creation, two demons Madhu and kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma, and Vishnu assumed the Hayagriva form to recover them. Yet another legend has it that during the creation, Vishnu compiled the Vedas in the Hayagriva form. The Mahabharata also features the legend of Hayagriva: “Having compassed the destruction of the two Asuras and restored the Vedas to Brahma, the Supreme Being dispelled the grief of Brahma. Aided then by Hari and assisted by the Vedas, Brahma created all the worlds with their mobile and immobile creatures. After this, Hari, granting unto the Grandsire intelligence of the foremost order relating to the Creation, disappeared there and then for going to the place he had come from. It was thus that Narayana, having assumed the form equipped with the horse-head, slew the two Danavas Madhu and Kaitabha (and disappeared from the sight of Brahma”. (From Mahabharata, Book 12, Chapter 348)

(Below: Lord Hayagriva, the affiliation with Vaishnavisam, abode of Vaikuntha)

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Hayagreeva.jpgIt is believed that the Hayagriva idol handed down from Vedanta Desika, Parakala Mutt, Mysuru of Karnataka.  The legend explains that Ramanuja brought from Kashmir when travelled to north Himalayas for researching Vaishnavis books.  Sri Sharada Peeth – abode of Goddess of Knowledge – Saraswati or Sharada, which now lies in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir just a few Kilometers away from Line-of-Control (LoC).

Adi Shankaracharya And Sri Ramanujacharya

Author Anantha Murali, in article “Kashmir: Fountain Head Of India Spirituality,(https://kreately.in/kashmir-fountain-head-of-indic-spirituality/ November 28, 2022), wrote:

https://kreately.in/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RamanujaSharadaPeethEdited-224x300.jpg“The great spiritual masters of Vedanta philosophy schools of Advaita and  Vishishtadvaita, Adi Shankracharya and Sri Ramanujacharya have travelled all they way from Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively to this Shrine to establish their philosophical doctrine. It is believed that the Sri Ramanujacharya who lived approximately 1000 years ago came to Sharada Peeth by foot along with  his disciples in search of Bodhayana Vritti  a detailed  commentary on Brahma sutras by great sage Bodhayana as the sole manuscript of this work existed only here in the great Library of Sharada Peeth…. Similarly, the idol of Lord Hayagreeva which was gifted by Goddess Sharada Devi to Sri Ramanujacharya and is today being worshiped at Parakala Matha of Mysuru”.

 (Above: Sri Ramanujacharya at Sri Sharada Peeth receiving the idol of Lord Hayagreeva)

Below: Sri Lakshmi Hayagreeva – Pradhaana archa moorthy (Main Deity) of Sri Parakaala mutt. The same vigraham was gifted to Swami Ramanujacharya by Devi Saraswathi in Kashmir & being worshipped for more than 1000yrs It is collected from various sources, including authors by Anantha Murali quoted and a part of Wikipedia.)

Hayagriva can see in at the Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam. A Dvaita philosopher named Vadirajatirtha will recite this Shloka.

naḥ hayagrīvat paraṃ aṣṭi maṅgalam
naḥ hayagrīvat paraṃ aṣṭi pāvanam
naḥ hayagrīvat paraṃ aṣṭi daivatam
naḥ hayagrīvam praṇipatya siddhati

(31st August is Hayagriva’s jayanti)

Madabhushi Sridhar, 31 August, 2023

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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