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Story of Sage Durvasa Cursing Airavata

Story of Sage Durvasa cursing Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, and the following redemption is from stories associated with the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

Sage Durvasa worshipped Shiva on the banks of Ganga. The single-minded devotion of the Sage was answered by Shiva in the form of a lotus.

The Sage decided to gift the flower to Indra, the king of Devas.

On the way to heaven, Sage Durvasa encountered Indra who was making a triumphant return atop his elephant Airavata. He gave the flower to Indra. The king of Devas did not know what to do with the flower so he placed it on one of the tusks of Airavata.

Soon the divine fragrance of lotus flower attracted the bees. The white elephant tossed his three heads and swatted the bees with his seven trunks. While trying to shoo away the flies, Airavata did not notice that the flower had fallen down. He accidentally trampled on the fallen lotus flower.

Sage Durvasa considered this as an insult and cursed Indra that he will soon lose his kingship over heaven. Airavata was cursed to be born on earth as an ordinary elephant.

Indra and Airavata asked for forgiveness and the Sage told Indra that he will get back his kingship after losing it to a mortal king. Airavata will get back his original form when he will be blessed by Lord Shiva.

Airavata fell to earth and roamed around as a wild elephant. As the hundred years neared completion, Airavata reached a forest filled with Kadamba Trees. He walked around the forest and soon discovered a radiant Shivling. The elephant stood mesmerized. A single tear drop fell from the elephant on the unimaginably beautiful Shivling.

Soon he was attracted to a nearby pond and he entered it. In a split of second, the wild elephant vanished and in his place stood the white Airavata in his former self with three heads, seven trunks and four tusks. The memory of the divine elephant was restored. He performed abhishekam of the Shivling with the water from the pond. The animals of the entire forest arrived there to witness Airavata performing abhishekam of the Shivling with his seven trunks.

Airavata then made a Shivling in the grove and it came to be known as Airavatesvara – the Lord of Airavata. He also made another Shivling and dedicated it to Indra – which is known as Indreswarar.

The divine elephant then returned to heaven to serve as the mount of Indra.