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  • Varaha is the avatar of Vishnu in the shape of a boar. In the 10 main avatars of Vishnu, Dashavatara, Varaha is at number 3. When the evil spirit Hiranyaksha stole the earth (typified as the goddess Bhudevi) and hid in the ancient waters, Vishnu acted as Varaha to save her. Varaha killed the evil spirit and recovered the Earth and replaced Bhudevi to her original place in the universe.
  • Varaha might be shown completely in an anthropomorphic form or as a boar with a human body and boar's head. The earth, Bhudevi, his spouse, is often shown as a young lady, picked up by Varaha. The earth might also be shown as a mass of land.
  • Like 2 avatars of Vishnu - Kurma (turtle) and Matsya (fish), the 3rd avatar Varaha is shown either anthropomorphically or in zoomorphic shape as an animal. Varaha has a human body and an animal (boar) head. The portrait of the anthropomorphic Varaha is like the 4th avatar Narasimha.
  • In the zoomorphic shape, Varaha is often shown as a free-standing giant boar. The earth, represented as the goddess Bhudevi, sticks to one of Varaha's tusks. Usually the giant is embellished by small figures of goddesses and gods and other world creatures showing throughout his body, which denote the whole of creation. These types of sculptures are found in Apasadh, Jhansi, Gwalior, Badoh and Muradpur.
  • In the anthropomorphic shape, Varaha usually has a formal boar face, just like the zoomorphic models. The nose might be smaller. The size and position of the tusks might also be changed. Generally the eyes, cheeks and ears are based on human ones.
  • Varaha has four arms, two of which grip a lotus or a sword or one of them makes the gesture of blessing, a sword, and a gada (mace), while the other two hold shankha (conch) and Sudarshana chakra. Varaha might be shown with all attributes of Vishnu in his four hands: the lotus, the gada, the shankha and the Sudarshana chakra. Often Varaha is depicted in a heroic pose and with a muscular physique. He is often shown successfully coming out from the ocean as he saves the earth.
  • In Indian sculpture the earth might be shown as the goddess Bhudevi. In the icon Bhudevi is often depicted as a small figure. She might be seated on Varaha's shoulder or on the corner of his folded elbow or dangling from one of Varaha's tusks and supports herself against the snout while lifted from the waters. Later Indian paintings show the whole earth or a part of it is lifted up by tusks of Varaha. The earth might be shown as an elaborate forest landscape with animals, birds, human beings, temples and buildings. The conquered evil spirit might be shown being killed in fighting by Varaha's snake gods and their snake goddesses and inhabitants of the underworld might be shown as swimming in the ocean with folded hands as a mark of dedication or trampled under Varaha's feet. Varaha might also be shown standing on a snake or other small creatures representing the cosmic waters.
  • Yajna Varaha and Pralaya Varaha are two popular iconographical forms of Varaha. Yajna Varaha shows Yajna is placed on a lion-throne and in the middle of his spouses Lakshmi and Bhudevi. Pralaya Varaha show lifting the earth and is dedicated to Bhudevi only. Varaha might be shown with Lakshmi alone also. In these types of statues, he might be shown same as Vishnu with regards to iconography with attributes of Vishnu. In such portrayals Lakshmi might be seated on his thigh.
  • The initial types of the Varaha myth are found in the Shatapatha Brahmana and the Taittiriya Aranyaka. They tell that the universe was full of prehistoric waters. The earth was confined in it. The god Prajapati in the form of varaha dives into the waters and brings out the earth. After that he marries the earth. Different Puranic scriptures including Vishnu Purana, the Vayu Purana, the Varaha Purana, the Padma Purana, the Devi Bhagavata Purana, the Bhagavata Purana and the Agni Purana tell the legend of Varaha with a few variations.
  • The gate-keepers of Vishnu's house are cursed by the 4 Kumaras who wander the world in the shape of children to be born as demons. On earth they are born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. The devil brothers are signs of evil and cause of chaos in the universe. Hiranyaksha and his younger brother gave a tough time to the residents of earth and later fought with gods. Hiranyaksha grasps the earth (typified as the goddess Bhudevi) and conceals her in the prehistoric waters. In some versions the earth cried loudly because she was kidnapped by the evil spirit. In other versions she assumes the shape of a cow.
  • In the Bhagavata Purana, Varaha appears like a small beast from the nose of Brahma, but soon begins to get bigger. Varaha's size increases to that of a huge mountain. The religious texts highlight his huge size. He is blazing like the sun and is as big as a mountain. His tusks are fearsome, sharp and white. His body is as big as the space between the sky and the earth. His roar is terrifying.
  • Varaha encounters Hiranyaksha in the ocean who hinders his path and challenges him for a fight. Varaha ignores the demon's threats and lifts the earth on his tusks. The two fight fiercely for one thousand years. Varaha kills the demon. Varaha places the earth in her original position.
  • Bhudevi, the earth goddess falls in love with Varaha. Vishnu marries Bhudevi in his Varaha form.
  • Varaha Purana, the scripture is thought to be narrated to Bhudevi by Vishnu as Varaha.
  • Some Shaiva Puranas narrate a story in which Varaha is defeated by the god Shiva, a strong sign of the clash between Shaivism and Vaishnavism both of which are Hindu religion’s sects.