In the ocean of knowledge
Lord Brahma resides
On his lotus throne
Creating the world
He breathes in life
Lets loose the pearls
Of knowledge and wisdom
Embedded in the Vedas
The essence ready to unfold
As the worlds come alive
The Vedas gone
Stolen by the demons,
Madhu and Kaitabha...
The demons Madhu and Kaitabha are associated with Lord Vishnu and Brahma in many ways. They are known to have infamously stolen the Vedas while the worlds were being created. The vedas, the root of all knowledge, carrying the essence of living had to be retreaved from the Asuras(demons). Fearing greater loss, the Devas went to Devi who directed them towards Vishnu to retreave the Vedas. In pure whiteness, dressed in blue, Lord Vishnu descended onto the earth in the form of Hayagriva, human by nature but horse headed in form, to fight the demons and destroy them...
In Sakta tradition, Hayagriva is also the name of a demon who was the son of Kashyapa Prajapati. He did severe penance and won the favor of Goddess Durga, and asked for a boon that he should be killed only by another Hayagriva. This almost made him invincible and he began to harass the Devas. The Devas turned to Vishnu for aid, who despite a long struggle was unable to kill him. Vishnu returned to Vaikuntham and started severe penance in padmasana with his head supported by his bow. The Devas went back to request him again but were unable to shake him out of his meditation. They tried to break his deep conentration with the help of termites gnawing at the string of the bow, but the snapping of the bow resulted in the string lashing out with such force that Vishnu's head was severed from his body. It was now that Devi revealed the boon of the demon Hayagriva to the devas and told them to have Vishnu's head replaced with that of a pure white horse, making him another Hayagriva, in order to kill the demon...
Hayagriva is represented 4 armed, carrying Shanka and chakra in two hands, a rosary(aksha-mala) in the third and his fourth is in the vyakhya mudra. He is also found holding the vedas in some occasions. Hayagriva is associated with the purity of knowledge and is represented in the same way as Saraswati. White is a symbolism of purity that is depicted in the "white horse" face he adorns.
In Vaishnavite tradition, Vedanta Desika (born in 1317 A.D. in Thoopul near Kanchipuram) is considered to be the incarnation of the ghanta(bell) of the Lord of Thirupati. He was a child prodigee who had risen to the status of "Acharya" at the age of 27. On initiation into the realm of the Garuda mantra, Desikan went to Thiruvahindrapuram and began chanting. Pleased with his devotion, Garuda initiated him into the Hayagriva Mantra, encompassing all knowledge. Lord Hayagriva appeared to Desika and presented him an idol of Himself, hence all temples dedicated to Desika have an idol of Hayagriva installed near him. Thiruvahindrapuram has one of the most ancient temples dedicated to Hayagriva.
Interestingly far away in Assam, on the Manikuta Parvat(hill) in Hajo, near Kamakhya devi temple is the Hayagriva Madhav temple. It is also believed that Hayagriva composed the Vedas during the process of creation. A very ancient idol of Hayagriva is installed at this temple too. The interesting aspect of this temple is that it is highly regarded by buddist for they believe it contains an ancient relic of the Boddhisatva.
In another legend the Vaishnavite tradition in Orissa is brought to light. King Indradyumna of Orissa had a dream, where the Lord instructed him that a big tree would come floating in the sea and he would have to cut it into 7 pieces. 2 of these pieces have been brought to Kamarupa (the others were carved into Krishna Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra at the Jagannath Mandir Puri), one of which has been fashioned into the form of Hayagriva and the other as Madhava(Matsya). It is also believed that the Hayagriva avatar of Vishnu might have preceeded the Matsya avatar.
Last but not the least, Hayariva holds the same importance as Saraswati when it comes to imparting knowledge. Garuda had initiated Vedanta Desika into the Hayagriva Mantra as previously mentioned. It is a tradition even today for children to recite this mantra before they begin they daily studies.
Hayagriva Shlokam goes as follows:
Gyaananandamayam Devam | Nirmala Spadikakruthim ||
Aadaram Sarva Vidyanaam | Hayagreevam Upasmahe ||
Vidyaarambam begins with a prayer to Sri Hayagriva praising him as the presiding deity for all knowledge. May he grant us the power to imbibe this knowledge we seek with the recitation of this mantra.
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