Vishnu’s third incarnation as half-boar, half-human finds a place in a
multitude of Indian textual and oral traditions. While popularly, he is associated
with the story of Hiranyaksh and the salvaging of Bhudevi, earth-goddess,
Varaha in the Puranic traditions is an embodiment of the Prama-Brahma (the
primordial god, different from Brahma the creator).
Brahmanda Purana, one of the oldest Puranic texts tells us that Narayana (one who lies in primordial waters, a name used for Brahma and Vishnu), on seeing that the goddess earth was sunken in the waters, took the form of an animal who enjoys playing in the water- the boar, and emerged from the great sea carrying Bhudevi on his tusks or hand. In his Varaha incarnation, Vishnu materializes as the protector of the earth when annihilation strikes, thus the iconography of him carrying Bhudevi is often addressed as Pralaya Varaha (pralaya means total destruction in Hindu theology, imagined as a great, all-engulfing flood).
Varaha idol is a representation of the Vaishnava incarnation as Pralaya-Varaha,
victoriously transporting Bhudevi on his hand, in the confrontational alidha posture
(with one leg straight and the other slightly bent). He has a dark complexion,
a feature mentioned in many texts that talk about the magnificent fear Varaha
instils in the hearts of evil-doers with his storm cloud-like dark figure. Sri
Varaha is adorned with exquisite jewellery and Kiritamukuta, a characteristic
feature of Vishnu. He is four-armed and carries a conch and discus in two of
his hands. On his main left hand sits Bhudevi, his consort, and counterpart,
consequently known as Varahi. A
small triangle on the right chest of Varaha, known as the Srivatsa, is a symbol
for the goddess Lakshmi. Thus, appearing here as Varaha, Vishnu is accompanied
by both Bhudevi and Sridevi (Lakshmi). A small Naga (snake) figure below his
left leg is a representative of the creatures of the underworld, who thank the
great preserver for being the restorer of balance.
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