In the Vishnu Purana, Varaha represents sacrifice, as the eternal upholder of Earth
We have often heard of temples being created out of the love and deep devotions humans have for their Lord. According to some legends, the Gods themselves have inspired humans to construct temples in their honour.
But rarely will one hear of a temple that is constructed to represent the bravery of the Gods. The Varaha temples are the embodiment of that bravery and love. They are one of the strongest examples of God’s undying love for the earth and its people and what He can do to protect it.
Varaha is the incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu in the form of a boar.
Varaha is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar and the third among the 10 listed avatars.
Varaha is the third of the ten listed avatars of Lord Vishnu. When the demon Hiranyaksha stole the earth (goddess Bhudevi) and hid her in the primordial waters, Vishnu appeared as Varaha to rescue her. He slew the demon and retrieved the earth from the ocean, lifting it on his tusks, and restored Bhudevi (earth) to her place in the universe.
Varaha may be depicted completely as a boar or in an anthropomorphic form, with a boar’s head and human body. His consort, Bhudevi, the earth, is often depicted as a young woman, lifted by Varaha. The earth may be depicted as a mass of land too.
In the Vishnu Purana, Varaha represents sacrifice, as the eternal upholder of the earth. His feet represent the scriptures, his tusks sacrificial stakes and his teeth are offerings. His mouth is the altar with tongue of sacrificial fire.
The hair on his head denotes the sacrificial grass. The eyes represent day and the night. His coarse hair represents sexual prowess, while the head represents the seat of the priest.
Thus, Varaha is the embodiment of the Supreme Being who brings order amidst chaos in the world by his sacrifice. Varaha symbolises the resurrection of the earth from the dissolution of the universe and the establishment of a new aeon.
TEMPLES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Varaha was originally described as a form of Brahma, but later on was recognised as the avatar of Vishnu. The earliest Varaha images are found in Mathura, dating to the 1st and 2nd century CE. Early sculptures of Varaha generally depict him in his boar form.
Anthropomorphic depictions of Varaha with human body and boar’s head became popular in the later period. Other early sculptures exist in the cave temples in Badami in Karnataka (6th century), Varaha in Mahabalipuram (7th century) and Ellora Caves (7th century).
In the Udayagiri Caves (Cave 5) in Madhya Pradesh, an image of Varaha rescuing the earth sculpted in sandstone (dated to 401-450 CE) is seen; and a zoomorphic image
from 8th century from Bago-Pathari is now with the Archeological Museum at Gwalior.
By the 7th century, images of Varaha were found in all regions of India and by the 10th century, temples dedicated to Varaha were established in Khajuraho (existent, but worship has ceased), Udaipur and Jhansi (now in ruins).
In the first millennium, the boar was worshipped as a symbol of virility. The Chalukya dynasty (543–753) was the first to adopt Varaha in their crest and minted coins.
The Gurjara-Pratihara king Mihira Bhoja (836–885 CE) assumed the title of Adi-varaha and also minted coins depicting the Varaha image. However, the boar and its relative the pig started being seen as polluting since the 12th century, due to Muslim influence on India. Muslims consider the pig and its meat unclean. This led to a decline in Varaha worship to a certain extent.
The Varaha temple in Hampi was built in the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. The temple complex is a rectangular area bounded by a wall. A huge entrance tower adorns one side of the complex.
Though damaged to a large extent, the entrance tower still reflects the beauty and grandeur that was once attached to it. The temple stands in the middle of the large compound.
The Varaha cave temple in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, is located on a hill. The entrance facade has four octagonal pillars and two octagonal shaped pilasters.
It is a small monolithic rock-cut temple with a canopy carved into the rock face of pink granite formations, dating from the 7th century.