Hayagriva is an Avatar of Vishnu. He is not very popular amongst devotees in South Africa. He is revered as the God of knowledge and wisdom, with a human body and a horse’s head, white in color, representing purity, with white garments and seated on a white lotus.
OM VANISWARAYA VIDMAHE
HAYA GRIVAYA DHIMAHI, TANNO HAYAGRIVA PRACHODAYAT
Meaning: Om, Let me meditate on the God of learning, Oh, God who has a horse face, give me higher intellect, And let God Hayagreeva illuminate my mind.
His beauty can be described like crystals, like an auspicious brilliance that never decays and dulls. He is seen pulling the sun to and fro from the heavens every day, bringing light to darkness.
Symbolically, He represents the triumph of pure knowledge, guided by the hand of God, over the demonic forces of passion, ignorance and darkness.
THE ORIGIN OF HAYAGRIVA
Hayagriva is a very important deity to Vaishnavas (Devotees of Sriman Narayana). His blessings are sought when beginning study of both sacred and secular subjects. Special worship is conducted on the day of the full moon in August (Sravana-Paurnami) (His avatara-dina) and on Vijaya Dashami, the ninth day of the Navrathri festival.
A story in the Duruga Purana states that a devoted “Hayagriva” (Horse-headed man) after performing penance managed to obtain a boon from the Goddess Durga that He can only be killed by another “Hayagriva”. Being the only one of his kind, it instilled a sense of invincibility and superiority. He started harassing the Devas. When Brahma was fully absorbed in reciting the Vedas, the Hayagriva, slipped into his chamber and stole the Vedas. The Devas turned to Sriman Narayana for help.
Sriman Narayana proceeded to Vaikuntha to meditate in Padamaasna – a yoga posture with His head supported by the upper end of His taut bow. The Devas once again approached Sriman Narayana for help against Hayagriva but were unable to rouse Him from His meditation.
The Devas asked a swarm of termites to assist in waking Sriman Narayana by gnawing away at the string of the bow upon which He was resting. However, the snapping of the bow string produced such a resonant sound that the universe trembled, and the broken string lashed out with such force that Sriman Narayana’s head was severed from His body.
The Devas were mortified, and prayed to Goddess Durga for guidance. Durga Ma was pleased with their prayers and told the Devas that they need not fear, as no incident in this universe is without some purpose. She then told them of her boon to Hayagriva and asked them to attach the head of a horse to Sriman Narayana so that He in the guise of a “Hayagriva” could kill His foe.
The great Hayagriva having been formed in this way by the different saints and ascetics, assumes a great white horse’s head. The Veda’s made up His shape, His body built of all the great Gods; in the middle of His head was Shiva, in His heart was Brahma; the rays of sun were His mane, the sun and moon His eyes; the Vashu’s and Sādhya’s were His legs, in all His bones were the Gods.
Agni God of Fire was His tongue, the Goddess Satya His speech, while His knees were formed by the *Maruts and **Varuna. Having assumed this form, an awesome wonder to behold to the Gods, He vanquished the Demon Hayagriva, and cast down all the Asuras that followed him, with eyes that were red with anger.
In this form, Sriman Narayana was able to destroy the Hayagriva demon and thus named as Hayagriva the only one of His kind. This is seen as symbolizing the restoration of true knowledge when ignorance sought to enshroud it under the cover of darkness.
* Maruts are a troop of young warriors, devoted to Lord Indra. They are very violent and aggressive, described as armed with golden weapons i.e. lightning and thunderbolts, as having iron teeth and roaring like lions).
** Varuna is the God of the Ocean and represents Law and Order.