Hayagriva is a celebrated incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is a unique divinity with a horse face and human body and is widely worshiped as the God of Knowledge and Wisdom. Hayagriva thus remains the rescuer of immense knowledge and divine wisdom, as represented by the Vedas. Hence, Hayagriva rightly remains the God of Knowledge and Wisdom. He is also considered the Guru of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning.
Here, let us learn in brief about what Puranas have to say about the Hayagriva Avatar and its greatness.
Scriptures have spoken about the great calamities that befall the universe at certain intervals of time, warranting periodic divine interventions. Vishnu is the Supreme God of Protection and Sustenance. And whenever such catastrophic events take place on earth, he incarnates in the world to destroy evil, protect the virtuous, and establish Dharma, the righteous order. Hayagriva is also one such Vishnu Avatar.
As per mythology, once demons Madhu and Kaidaba wrought havoc on the heavens and harassed the Devas, the celestial beings. They also forcibly took hold of the Vedas and hid them under the world below, out of reach of the heavenly beings. These Vedas are sacred texts which contain some of the most incredible wisdom ever known to humankind and are used by Brahma, the God of Creation, in his function of universal creation. And hence, their loss meant that Brahma could not carry out his creation activities, so essential for the very survival of the universe.
Unable to take on the Asuras himself, Brahma sought refuge in Vishnu, who volunteered to help out the Creator and the universe. He rushed to the netherworld immediately to rescue the Vedic texts. There is a belief that there he found the sacred work protected by the horse-faced knights of the Asuras, and so, Vishnu himself assumed the head of a horse while retaining his human body and challenged the knights and their masters, Madhu and Kaidaba.
‘Haya’ is the Sanskrit word for horse, and ‘Griva’ is the neck. Thus, Vishnu became Hayagriva, the God with the head of a horse. This horse-faced divinity is also called Haya Vadhana for the same reason. Hayagriva fought a fierce battle with the ferocious demons and their henchmen, slew them, retrieved the Vedas, and handed them over to Brahma so that he could continue his creation as required, smoothly.
It was Hayagriva who protected the Vedas, the repositories of immense knowledge and wisdom, rescued them from the clutches of the evil forces, and made them available to the world at large for the benefit of humanity. Hence, the world hails Hayagriva as the Supreme God of Knowledge and Wisdom.
Some scriptures also claim that Hayagriva’s fury continued unabated even after the annihilation of the demons. And it was left to Goddess Lakshmi, his dear consort, to pacify and cool him down. Lakshmi Hayagriva thus remains a symbol of grace and compassion. Hayagriva is a personification of ultimate wisdom, and Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth; together, Lakshmi Hayagriva can bestow devotees with much scholarship and wealth at the same time.
The holy texts praise Hayagriva as Gnyana Guru and the Guru of the Goddess of Learning Saraswati, herself. Some works also say that it was he who gave Lalita Sahasranama, the 1000 names of Goddess Parashakti, to the world through sage Agastya.
Hayagriva is a highly revered God, worshiped in many temples, especially in the Southern parts of the country.
Thiruvanthipuram (Thiruvaheendrapuram) Hayagriva Temple is perhaps the most famous one dedicated to this horse-faced Avatar. Here Hayagriva is housed on an exclusive shrine on top of a hill, where devotees can worship him in Yogic posture as Yoga Hayagriva. This temple, about 5 kms from the coastal town of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, is one among the 108 Divya Desams, regarded as the especially sacred abodes of Lord Vishnu.
Chetty Punyam Hayagriva temple is another famous place of worship for this God, located in Chetty Punyam village near Singaperumal Koil on the Chennai – Chengalpattu route, not far from Chennai city.
Further, apart from such Hayagriva temples dedicated exclusively to him, many Vishnu temples have also separate shrines for Hayagriva. These include the famous Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple, Soundarraja Perumal Temple in Thaadikombu village, Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Mylapore Chennai, Lakshmi Hayagriva Temple, Muthialpet, Puducherry, etc.
There is a firm belief that Hayagriva worship can help students excel in education and perform better in examinations. The Lord’s blessings can also improve intelligence, enhance skills and wisdom, and bestow people with wealth, welfare, and peace.