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Gaja Samhara Moorthy – Shiva As Gaja Samhara

Shiva as Gaja Samhara Moorthy is worshipped in certain temples in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu. Gaja means elephant. As Gaja Samhara Moorthy, Shiva kills the mad elephant. Symbolically the mad elephant represents, anger, ignorance and pride. Legend has it that the Sages who resided in Tharuvana ( forest) became arrogant of their knowledge and thought that the power of Shiva was the result of the Yajna performed by them.

To remove the ignorance of the Saints, Shiva appeared in the forest as a young bare-bodied sage. The women of the sages were attracted to the young man and they started making numerous mistakes in their daily duties. This affected the yajna and prayers of the Sages.

Bhagavan Vishnu then appeared as a beautiful damsel in the forest and the sages were enamored by her beauty and started following her. Soon the Sages lost their interest in yajna and got immersed in worldly matters.

They were taught the lesson that they are still slaves of their senses.

But soon they regained their senses and realized their folly. The sages became angry.

To avenge the humiliation, the sages created a ferocious elephant to attack Shiva. The mad elephant was easily overpowered and killed by Shiva. Thus he got the name Gaja Samhara Moorthy. Mahadev Shiva then covered his body with the elephant skin.

Sages who saw this divine event shed their pride and arrogance and took refuge in Shiva.

Symbolically, the elephant represents the demons of anger, ignorance, jealousy, greed and arrogance. When we take refuge in Shiva, he kills all these demons.

 Note – the same story is told is some Puranas differently. There the elephant is replaced by tiger.