GAJARI is a manifestation of Lord Siva. He killed Gajasura an elephant demon. 'Ari' means enemy. Kamari, Kalari, Kajari or Gajari are all names of Lord Siva. He defeated Kama, Kala and Kajasura to get those names. Ganesha killed Gaja Mukha Asura. That means his opponent also had the elephant like face like Ganesha himself! Krishna killed an Asura called Mura. So Krishna is addressed as Murari.
GAJASURASAMHARA: Gajasura is a generic name of elephant demons who assume the form of an elephant. Gajari refers to Siva’s manifestation to kill Gajasura. Gajari means ‘Enemy of the Elephants’. Gajendra means the King of Elephants; Gajapathi means the Lord of the Elephants. Gajari means ‘enemy of elephants’. The form taken by the Lord to kill Gajasura is also called Gajasurasamhara.
This name is also found in the Vedic hymn Shri Rudram Chamakam, addressed to Rudra Shiva. Gajasurasamhara means ‘He who has skin as his garment’. In the Tamil devotional hymns, the Thevaram, Lord Siva is described as the One who wears elephant hide. The Shiva Sahasranama, thousand names of Siva, contains various reference to elephants; Gajaha, there means the Slater of Elephants.
THEME: The main theme of Gajasurasamhara Thandava according to Amshumadbhedagama, the Hindu iconography treatise, is Lord Siva dancing inside the skin of the slain demon Gajasura. This is said to be the most dynamic form of sculptures of Lord Siva conveying a vigorous Tandava. The Lord’s hair, the matted hair crown-jatamukuta is braided forming a garland of skulls circle around the head-jatamandala.
Sometimes the durddhura flowers adorn the head with snake and crescent moon. Rolling eyes and protruding fangs give a fearsome appearance. Mother Parvathi is also shown by the side of Siva, together with Ganesha, Nandi and Bhringi.
Samhara Murthi in this form, is shown with His right leg on the Gajadura demon. The lifted left leg suggests the Dance. This is the ‘utkutikasana’ posture. His hands are in suchihasta mudra- gesture to draw or point out attention the vismaya mudra. The arms also hold the elephant skin to show victory over the demon.
The Lord is shown with various attributes such as the trishula, a damaru, sword, kapala, pasha, deer, ankusha-goad, vajra-thunderbolt, gada-mace, khatavanga, tanka a chisel like weapon, bow, snake, elephant’s task and akshamala. The Lord in this rich form to kill Gajasura the demon is linked to three main mythologies.
PURANAS: The late of Gajasurasamhara is found in the Kurma Purana. Lord’s Siva’s visit to the Deodar Forest or the Darukavana and the final slaying of Gajasura is found in the Varaha Purana. (This has been posted before under the heading Gajara – Siva’s forms)
THE THILLAI SCHOOL: In all, Daruka forest became Thillaivanam with Thillai Ambala Nataraja thumping His feet to send out his Cosmic vibrations. He made a cremation ground out of Daruka Vanam with multitude of prakriti component under the watchful eyes of Shakti. Here all passions, names and forms were dissolved. There was only Pure Consciousness devoid of attachments. It was not the Daruka rishis alone that were taught a lesson.
Both gurus and disciples were also taught to free themselves from taints of illusion. The latter are told to pursue Siva-jnana and the purusharta goals. The former were taught that learning is a process from the womb to the tomb, for, it could be revealingly shocking for any guru to raise hands to claim that he or she has known all that is to know of the Cosmic Truths of Shiva Shakti. This renders all gurus as the Lord’s disciples also.
TEMPLE: There is a temple dedicated to Gajasurasamhara at Vazhuvur in Tamil Nadu. The chief icon is an eight-armed deity of Gajasurasamhara. Vazhuvur Temple is also one of the Atta-virattam temple, one of the eighth sites of Lord’s heroic acts. Gajari is also known as Matangari, the Enemy of the Elephant who dances vigorously in the flayed elephant hide of Gajasura.
Om Namah Shivaya.
(drafts Samhara Murti Series. Cf Tandava folder)
By Yogi Ananda Saraswathi