Hayagriva, also spelt Hayagreeva is an Avatar of Sri Vishnu with a horse’s head and a bright white human body. He is worshipped as “Gnanaswaroopa”, embodiment of all growth, knowledge and spiritual wisdom.
It is assumed that our sages and seers have derived their spiritual ideas and extraordinary powers through the grace of Lord Hayagreeva. It is believed that Lalitha sahasranama, the thousand names of Mother Lalithambika, were taught by him to Agasthya Maharshi.
Mahanavami of Navarathri and Sravan-Pournami are considered special days for worshiping the deity.
There are many stories about this unique avatar of Sri Maha Vishnu.
Story Version 1:
Sri Vishnu revealed the Vedas to Brahma at the time of creation. Realizing the power of these Vedas, two demons named Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma and hid them in the bottom of the ocean. When Brahma sought Sri Vishnu’s help in recovering the sacred texts, Sri Vishnu took the Hayagreeva Avatar and killed the two demons, and brought the Vedas back to Brahma.
Story Version 2:
Found at Devi Bhagwat Purana. A demon named Hayagriva with a horse face, son of Kasyapa Prajapati, performed severe penance and obtained a blessing from the goddess Durga, who could only be killed by another “Hayagriva” and no one else. After getting this boon, he became arrogant and began to wreak havoc on Devaloka.
As always, the unhappy Devas turned to Sri Vishnu to free themselves from the devilish and cruel demon. But the blessing proved to be too powerful even for Sri Vishnu, since it was given for nothing less than the Supreme Goddess.
Even after a long and fierce battle, the Hayagriva demon remained invincible, but the battle fell in Vishnu and he went to Vaikunta to recover and restore his power and strength. It is said that he was sitting in Padmasana, his head on the floor. upper end of his bow stretched and was absorbed in deep meditation (Yoganidra).
The Devas wanted Him to resume the battle but but none could arouse Vishnu from His yoganidra.So,Brahma thought of a plan .He created termites that would gnaw at the bowstring and when the string broke , the resonant sound created, would surely wake up the Lord.
The Devas wanted the battle to restart, but no one could evoke Sri Vishnu out of his yoganidra. Then Brahma thought of a plan. He created termites that would gnaw at the bow string and when the rope breaks, the resonant sound will surely wake up the Lord.
The rope broke with the tremendous sound that resonated throughout the universe, but because of the force with which it broke, Sri Vishnu’s head separated from his body and fell into Lavan Sagar . Brama’s plan failed and caused total disaster. The Devas were distressed and dismayed at the calamity.
His only hope now was to invoke the mother goddess, who had always protected them in case of urgent need, again and again. Then they prayed and asked for help.
Delighted with their prayers, she assured them that this incident had a divine purpose. Sri Visnu would regain his form once this goal is reached.
She asked them to attach the head of a horse to Sri Vishnu’s neck, which would later become a “Hayagreeva” and, therefore, a position to kill the demon.
As a result, Brahma attached the head of a white horse to Sri Vishnu’s body and the revived Vishnu destroyed the demon. Later, he resumed his usual form.
The incarnation, Hayagreeva, was, however, worshipped and revered as the personification of all knowledge (Jnananandmayam devam), speaking, vidya (education) – of all kinds (adhaaram sarva vidyanam) – a victory, the brilliance of wisdom on the darkness of ignorance and the supremacy of the divine over the demonic.
Sri Hayagriva Slokam:
“Jnananand mayam devam nirmala sphatikakriteem
Adhaaram sarvavidyanaam hayagreevam upasmahe.”