Varaha in art : some sculptural images

       The Hindu trinity represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva . One of the avatars of Vishnu is varaha or the boar. This avatar finds representations in Indian art. According to mythology  Varaha rescued the earth from deluge or from the bondage of the demon Hiranyaksa. Different texts give different accounts of the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu . In the Ramayana, It is mentioned that the boar form was Brahma who rescued earth but later it was attributed to Vishnu. According to the Agni Purana ,Hiranyaksa defeated the celestials and became their Lord, who then prayed to Vishnu. Vishnu then took the form of a boar  and killed the demon. The boar has a human body, carrying a gada(mace). Goddess Lakhsmi and a conch are resting on his elbow. As per the Bhagavata Purana the demon Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakashipu born as the sons of Sage Kashyapa and Diti(reborn Jaya and Vijaya,doorkeepers of Vishnu’s palace, Vaikuntha who were cursed by the Kumara sages as they would not allow them to enter). The demon Hiranyaksa  was in the process of raising the earth from the primordial waters and claimed the earth which was seen by  Vishnu  and in the fight that ensued the demon was killed. As per the Brahmanda Purana the earth is believed to have been rescued by Brahma after taking a boar form. He had a small body with dark complexion and a sharp white tusk which expanded greatly. This story is also repeated in Devi Bhagavata Purana, Kurma, Vishnu, Vayu, Matsya Purana. Either it is Brahma or Vishnu who becomes a boar.

        At Udaigiri in Madhya Pradesh in a rock cut temple of the Gupta period one can see Varaha lifting the earth from the oceans. Varaha is seen with a lotus garland which he is wearing, maybe of a thousand lotus flowers. And Bhudevi or Earth is on his left arm. The cosmic serpent Sesanaag is in front of Varaha. Garuda too is seen holding a serpent. The primeval ocean, Ekarnava is depicted as waves. Chandragupta Maurya identified a lot with Varaha as he freed his country from Saka rule. The sea god and the king can be seen worshipping Varaha.


Varaha at Udaigiri

By No machine-readable author provided. Clt13 assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

At Ellora in Maharashtra, the Kailasa temple has an impressive depiction of Varaha. Varaha can be seen holding a small Bhudevi in his left hand who seems to be in tribhanga posture who has her  arm on his snout. Adisesa is present along with other nagas. Varaha’s  left leg is on Adisesa .


Varaha at Ellora

By Sengai Podhuvan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

      At Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, there is a Varahamantapa. The Varaha in the mantapa is seen carrying Bhudevi by the lower right hand and holding her right leg by left hand. She is seated on his right thigh. The right foot of varaha is placed on Adisesa. Brahma is seen to the left and Shiva is to the right. 


Varaha at Mahabalipuram

By mountainamoeba – originally posted to Flickr as Varaha, CC BY 2.0,

      Varaha is depicted as one of the sculptures in the Hoysaleswara temple dedicated to Shiva built at Halebid in Karnataka  during rule of King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala dynasty in the twelfth century. Bhudevi is seen on left upper arm of Varaha and the demon Hiranayksa is at his feet.


Varaha at Hoysaleswara temple, Halebid.

By Philip Larson (originally posted to Flickr as DSC04724) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

     The Varaha image at Aihole in Karnataka is from the Durga temple complex built between 7th and 8th century by Chalukyan dynasty. Bhudevi is on the upper left arm of Varaha and adisesha is under his left foot.


Varaha at Aihole, Karnataka

By Ismoon (talk) 21:25, 5 June 2013 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

References :

  • Varaha in Indian art,culture and literature,Shanti Lal Nagar,Aryan Books International, New Delhi,1993

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh



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