Navagunjara-A Variant of Lord Krishna’s Omniscient Form
Navagunjara is a creature described in the story of the Mahabharata. It is an animal composed of nine different animals.
It is basically a form of Lord Vishnu. While the Pandavas were in Vanaprastha, Lord Vishnu appeared before Arjuna as Navagunjara.
Story of Navagunjara
While in Vanaprastha, Arjuna was doing austerities on a hill one day. Then a strange creature appeared in front of him. The animal had a head of a rooster and it stood on three legs those of an elephant, a tiger and a deer or a horse. The fourth limb of the creature was a raised human arm holding a lotus. The animal had the neck of a peacock, the back and hump of a bull, the waist of a lion and the tail of a snake. Seeing such a strange creature, Arjuna was first terrified. He took his bow and he was about to kill it. But when he saw it holding a lotus, he wondered what the creature was. Finally he realized that Navagunjara was an incarnation of Mahavishnu. Then he left his weapon bowing before Navagunjara.
Ultimate Reality of Navagunjara
Navagunjara is merely a mythological chatacter to the common people. But a true devotee can realize the ultimate reality of the character. It is the virat-rupa of Mahavishnu or Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna also showed Arjuna such a form when he (Arjuna) asked Him for His true form (BG:Chapter11). It was both glorious and terrifying form (Vishwaroop) of Lord Krishna and it is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the Mahabharata. So Navagunjara is not a common character; it is an omnipresent or a vast-form of Mahavishnu or Lord Krishna.
Navagujara Sculpture and Painting
Navagunjara sculpture has been merged with the Odisha culture in India since the ancient time. Navagunjara-Arjuna story is sculpted at the northern side of the Jagannatha Mandir, Puri. Navagunjara painting on playing cards and Patchitra is also a part of old Odisha culture.