There was an elephant called Gajendra. He was the king of elephants and when he moved the earth trembled. Th shrubs were stamped and the smaller animals fled when they heard him walk. Such was his presence.
One day Gajendra went to the Trikuta mountain with his entourage of wives and other elephants. Trikuta is a beautiful place with lots of rivers and lakes. In one of his valleys was a garden belonging to Varuna named Ritumat. This garden was full of flowers and fruit trees. In the midst of this garden was a beautiful lake with golden lotuses. To this lake, Gajendra came with his entourage to have his bath.
All of them had good fun frolicking in the water. All but Gajendra left the lake. He kept on spraying water with his trunk.
Suddenly a crocodile came up and caught one of his legs. In vain he tried to free himself up. But crocodile in water is mightier than an elephant. The friends and the wives looked on in horror but none could do anything.
The fight between Gajendra and the crocodile lasted for a 1000 long years. The friends and the wives had all gone away. Gajendra was getting weaker and weaker when suddenly he remembered the prayers he used to say in his previous life.
In his previous life Gajendra was a king named Indradyamuna. When he got old he took retirement and went to the forest for meditation. As a part of his austerity he took a vow of silence. There came one day a sage named Agastya. When Indradyamuna remained silent without greeting the rishi, he was angry and cursed him.
Gajendra plucked a golden lotus and started praying to Visnu. ( his beautiful prayers are given in the Shrimad Bhagvatam as Gajendra Moksam)
The crocodile in his previous life had been a Gandharva called as Hutu. One day while in water, just for fun he had pulled a leg of a muni named Devala. Devala muni had cursed him to be a crocodile. As soon as Shri Vishnu heard Gajendra’s prayers, he mounted his vehicle- Garuda and reached the lake. He took his chakra and chopped off the crocodiles neck thus awarding him salvation.
And then he asked Gajendra, “why did you take such a long time to call out for me” and then he summoned a golden aeroplane and took Gajendra with Him to His abode.
Picture courtesy: http://www.harekrsna.de
Glossary-muni, rishi means sage
Moksam means liberation