Varaha (Sanskrit: वराह, Varāha, 'boar') also known as Yajna-varaha ('sacrificial boar'), Varaha-deva ('Divine Boar'), Dharani-Varaha ('Boar that holds or maintains'), and Adivaraha ('the first boar'), is an avatar of the RigVedic god Vishnu. Stated in Puranic literature to be the embodiment of sacrifice in the form of a boar, Varaha is most commonly associated with the legend of lifting the Earth out of the Cosmic Ocean.
N. Aiyangar states that poets derived the term 'vara-aharta' from 'varaha', meaning 'the bringer of the good thing, viz. the beneficent rain water'. According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary:
'Varaha' is also the origin of the Proto-Indo-Iranian term uarāĵʰá, meaning 'boar', and is thus related to Avestan varāza, Kurdish beraz, Middle Persian warāz, and New Persian gorāz (گراز), all meaning 'wild boar'.
Recorded by the grammarian Yaska (circa 300 BCE), the Nirukta is one of the six Smriti Vedangas ('limbs of the Vedas') concerned with correct etymology and interpretation of the Vedas. The definition of 'Varaha' provided by Yaska in the Nirukta is:
Varahah means a cloud: it brings (√hr) the best means of livelihood. There is a Brahmana passage: Thou hast brought the best means of livelihood.
From afar he pierced the cloud by hurling his thunderbolt. [RigVeda 1.61.7]
This too is a Vedic quotation. This other (meaning of) varahah (boar) is derived from the same root also: he tears up the roots, or he tears up all the good roots.
Indra (slew) the ravening boar. [RigVeda 8.66.10]
This too is a Vedic quotation. The Angirases are called Varahas also:
The Lord of prayer, with the powerful Angirases. [RigVeda 10.67.7]
Moreover, these groups of atmospheric gods are called varahavah also:
. [RigVeda 1.88.5]
In relation to the Nirukta, according to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary:
In respect to the relationship between the boar, clouds, rain, and sacrifice, the Bhagavad Gita elaborates that living beings live on food grains produced by rain, and that rain is produced by sacrifice (yajna). S.G. Nigal states that etymologically, the term 'yajna' is derived from 'Yaj meaning devapuja-sangatikarana danesu', i.e. worship (devapuja), unity or good relationships with others (sangatikarana), and charity (dana/danesu). P. Olive agrees, stating that the five daily duties of sacrifice of a married householder, as stated by texts such as the Shatapatha Brahmana (11.5.6) are:
A. A. Macdonell notes in the Vedic Index that the term 'sūkara' (Sanskrit सूकर), meaning 'wild boar', is also used in the Rig Veda (e.g. 7.55.4) and Atharva Veda (e.g. 2.27.2). Aiyangar adds that 'sukara', in relation to the Bhagavata Purana, means 'the animal that makes a peculiar nasal sound in respiration, and so our Sukara is born in the Yogin's nasal breath'. In the Bhagavata Purana, Varaha emerged by flying out of the nose of Brahma.
Throughout the Puranas, Varaha is explicitly stated to be the embodiment of yajna (vedic sacrifice), particularly as the upholder of the Earth. Roshen Dalal describes an example of this exoteric symbolism from the VIshnu Purana:
His feet represent the Vedas (scriptures). His tusks represent sacrificial stakes. His teeth are offerings. His mouth is the altar, tongue is the sacrificial fire. The hair on his head denotes the sacrificial grass. The eyes represent the day and the night. The head represents the seat of all. The mane represents the hymns of the Vedas. His nostrils are the oblation. His joints represent the various ceremonies. The ears are said to indicate rites (voluntary and obligatory).
Iniquity: H.H. Wilson states the legend of Varaha lifting the earth was 'probably at first an allegorical representation of the extrication of the world from a deluge of iniquity, by the rites of religion', although acknowledging that geologists may see it as an allusion to the occurrence of the deluge or even the existence of 'lacustrine mammalia in the early periods of the earth'.
Agriculture: Bahadur and Bhusan state the 'mythology of the boar incarnation of Narayana relates to the realisation of tillage being one of the best means of raising corn from the land. The Aryan Rishis noticed that when the earth was turned by the boar with its tusk, the seed which fell on it germinated more quickly... This is what occurs in the hymn of Sita in the Rig Veda'.
J. Roy states the legend of Varaha is an allegorical representation of natural phenomena, linked with Zoroastrianism ('Verethraghna, the god of victory, is said to have assumed the form of a boar') and Germanic mythology ('the pig is connected with storms'), and that 'the roots of this allegory may go back to... the beginning of agriculture', adding 'the boar [as a rain cloud] kills hot summer or drought, represented by Hiranyaksa'.  G.J.C. Bois adds that in Jersey Folklore, the 'boar also had associations with the storm', adding in Europe, the boar is also associated with the wind.
Astronomy: J. Roy also states there is an astronomical interpretation, relating to when 'the sun became united with Orion [Varaha] at the vernal equinox...[which] commenced the yearly sacrifice'. F.M. Muller concurs, noting that Grimm mentions 'boar-throng' as a name of Orion, 'the star that betokens storm'. Aiyangar also suggests that the 'quadrangle of Orion being the celestial alter, it may be that the three stars of the Belt located in the middle of it are fancied to be the three footprints left by the sun when passing over it'. The vernal (March) equinox also marks the onset of spring, and is celebrated in Indian culture as the Holi festival (the spring festival of colours), stated in the article as 'the triumph of good over evil'.
Soma Ritual: N. Aiyangar states that 'Sacrifice-Vishnu the Varaha represents the Sutya Sacrifice', in which the preparation of the Soma beverage takes place, which is 'likened to the rain cloud varaha... vara-ahas, excellent day ['vara' means 'excellent'... and] vara-aharta, the bringer of boons. Sacrifice Vishnu himself is the boon, the wealth, obtained'. He also adds the Aitareya Brahmana (I.13; relating to the RigVeda) states that 'vara' means 'the sacrificial ground devayajana'.
Hindu cosmology: According to the Pancha Bhoota (five elements of Hindu cosmology), the element Air (Vayu) is from Space/Ether (Dyaus), Fire (Agni) is from Air, Water (Varuna) is from Fire, and Earth (Bhumi) is from Water. Relating to Varaha lifting the Earth out of the cosmic ocean (particularly in legends depicting the process of creation at the beginning of a new Kalpa), all material creation (i.e. Earth) emerges from Water.
7 As soon as, at libations of his mother, great Viṣṇu had drunk up the draught, he plundered.
The dainty cates, the cooked mess; but One stronger transfixed the wild boar, shooting through the mountain.
Macdonell states the myth of Varaha has its origin in two passages of the RigVeda (1.61.7 and 8.66.10), adding 'their purport is that Vishnu having drunk Soma and being urged by Indra, carried off hundred buffaloes and brew of milk belonging to the boar (= Vritra [given in RigVeda 1.121.11]) while Indra shooting across the (cloud) mountain slew the fierce (emusara) boar'. Roy disagrees, stating 'None of these references [in the Rig Veda] points in any way to the myth of Vishnu's rescuing the earth from waters in the shape of a boar. The origin of the idea... can be found for the first time in the Taittiriya Samhita [relating to the Black Yajur Veda]'.
Notably, Macdonell's assertion that Vritra is the name of the boar in the RigVeda is incorrect as it is contradicted by the Shatapatha Brahmana (1.6.3; relating to the White Yajur Veda). In this account, after Indra destroyed Visvarûpa, the three-headed son of Tvashtri, Vritra - a serpent (i.e. not a boar) - was created to destroy Indra. Indra cut Vritra in two, the Soma half becoming the moon, and the Asurya (demonic) half entering into the stomachs of living beings as Vritra 'was a consumer of food'.
1. The God declares the deities' generations, like Usana, proclaiming lofty wisdom.
With brilliant kin far-ruling, sanctifying, the wild boar, singing with his foot, advances.
4. Ye who were born the earliest of creation, Ants divine, may
I duly prepare for you this day the head of Makha on
the place of earth where the Gods sacrificed.
For Makha thee, thee for the head of Makha!
5 Only so large was it at first. Duly may I prepare for you
this day the head of Makha on earth's place where the
For Makha thee, thee for the head of Makha!
Aiyangar notes that Book 37, 'Mighty One, raising high earth, life-bestower, which to the Moon they lifted by oblations' may be the origin of the Earth being lifted by the boar (i.e. earth lifted by oblations / sacrifice). Verse 24.40 states that 'the boar is [sacrificially] for Indra'. The symbolism and import of Book 37 in relation to lifting the earth and to Varaha is explained in the article on Shatapatha Brahmana (e.g. the head of Makha is in reference to Vishnu being decapitated after becoming the 'most excellent' of the gods in 14.1.1, and the ritual in Book 37 is itself explained in 14.1.2). S. Ghose quotes from the Shatapatha Brahmana (22.214.171.124; explanation of Book 37), and states that 'the nucleus of the story of the god rescuing the earth in the boar-shape is found here':
Then (earth) torn up by a boar (he takes), with, 'Only thus large was she in the beginning,'--for, indeed, only so large was this earth in the beginning, of the size of a span. A boar, called Emûsha, raised her up, and he was her lord Prajapati: with that mate, his heart's delight, he thus supplies and completes him 1;--'may I this day compass for you Makha's head on the Earth's place of divine worship: for Makha thee! for Makha's head thee!' the import of this is the same as before.
A.B. Keith states that this 'boar, which is called Emusa from its epithet emusa, fierce, in the RigVeda, is stated...to have raised up the earth from the waters' in the Shatapatha / Catapatha Brahmana (relating to the Yajur Veda).
Now a boar, stealer of the good, keeps the wealth of the Asuras which is to be won beyond the seven hills. Him smite, if thou art he who smites in the stronghold. He [Indra] plucked out a bunch of Darbha grass, pierced the seven hills, and smote him. He said, 'Thou art called he who brings from the stronghold; bring him.' So the sacrifice bore off the sacrifice for them; in that they won the wealth of the Asuras which was to be won (védyam), that alone is the reason why the Vedi is so called. The Asuras  indeed at first owned the earth, the gods had so much as one seated can espy.
N. Aiyangar states that in the Taittiriya Samhita (relating to the Yajur Veda) 'Vishnu is Sacrifice as well as the aharta or bringer of Sacrifice for the gods. It is also clear that the Boar shot by Indra is Sacrifice'. This links to the term 'vara-aharta' as the 'bringer of the good thing'.
This was in the beginning the waters, the ocean. In it Prajapati becoming the wind moved. He saw her, and becoming a boar he seized her. Her, becoming Viçvakarma, he wiped. She extended, she became the earth, and hence the earth is called the earth (lit. 'the extended'). In her Prajapati made effort. He produced the gods, Vasus, Rudras, and Adityas.
Bibek Debroy states that Vayu (wind) has seven flows, one of which is called Varaha. Macdonell traces the development of the Varaha myth as follows in the following texts of the White and Black Yajur Veda, before becoming an avatar of Vishnu in post-Vedic literature (e.g. the itihāsa and Puranas):
The lord of creation practiced austerities, (wondering: 'How should this (universe) be?' He saw a lotus leaf standing and thought: 'This lotus must rest on something.' Assuming the shape of a boar, he dived beneath and found the earth. Breaking off a fragment, he rose to the surface and spread it on [the] lotus leaf. As he spread it, it became [abhut] something that is spread. Hence the earth [is] called 'that-which-became (Bhumi)'.
Supporting both the foolish and the weighty she bears the death both of the good and evil.
In friendly concord with the boar, Earth opens herself for the wild swine that roams the forest.
These references were noted by Macdonell in his Vedic Index, where he adds that the 'variant form of the word, 'Varahu', is not used except metaphorically for divinities [e.g. Rig Veda 1.88.5, 1.121.11]'.
bhūmirdhenurdharaṇī lokadhāriṇī uddhṛtāsi varāheṇa kṛṣṇena śatabāhunā
The earth [Bhumi] is the giver of happiness like the milk cow, the sustainer of life and support for all living beings. (Represented as such the earth is addressed:) Thou wert raised up by Kṛṣṇa in His incarnation of the boar having hundred hands.
As 'Krishna' also means 'black', the verse can also be interpreted as 'black boar' or 'raised up by the black boar', as stated by Daniélou and Eggeling in regards to the Taittirtya Aranyaka (albeit the latter incorrectly stating with 1,000 rather than 100 arms).
When the increase of population had been so frightful, the Earth oppressed with the excessive burden, sank down for a hundred yojanas. And suffering pain in all her limbs, and being deprived of her senses by excessive pressure, the earth in distress sought the protection of Narayana, the foremost of the gods... Vishnu said, 'Thou need not fear, O afflicted Earth, the bearer of all treasures. I shall act so that thou mayst be made light'...
...Having thus dismissed the Earth, who hath the mountains for her ear-rings, he suddenly became turned into a boar with one tusk, and of exceeding effulgence. Causing terror with his glowing red eyes and emitting fumes from his blazing lustre, he began to swell in magnitude in that region. O hero, then holding the earth with his single radiant tusk that being who pervadeth the Vedas, raised her up a hundred yojanas.
Bahadur and Bhusan state that the principal ancient methods of salvation were 'Decajajna' (Deva yajna; sacrifice to the gods) and 'Pitrijajna' (Pitri Yajna; sacrifice to ancestors) and that the mythology behind the Pitrijajna is given in the narration of Varaha in Book 12 (chapter CCCXLVI). In that chapter, Narada states to Nara-Narayana 'I wish to know, however, the reason why the Pitris in days of yore acquired the name of Pindas'; M. Ojha and E.E. Ramathan state that 'the vayu [air] that helps the formation of these pindas is called Varaha.'
In the Mahabharata, the legend of Varaha lifting the earth occurs after Vishnu takes over the functions of Yama. As there were consequently no deaths but the human race continued to increase 'by thousands even like unto a current of water', the Earth could not cope and sank down 100 yojanas (about 760 miles). After the Earth requested help from Vishnu, the boar avatar was manifested to raise the Earth back up with a single tusk to the bewilderment of the celestials (Book 3: CXLI). Other details in the Mahabharata include:
Having first spread some blades of Kusa grass, the deities and the Pitris (who were their children) placed three Pindas thereon and in this way worshipped each other. I [Narada] wish to know, however, the reason why the Pitris in days of yore acquired the name of Pindas...
[Nara-Narayana said: Varaha] saw that the three balls of mud, shaken off his tusk, had fallen towards the South. He then said unto himself 'These balls, shaken off my tusk, have fallen on the Earth towards the southern direction of her surface. Led by this, I declare that these should be known henceforth by the name of Pitris. Let these three that are of no particular shape, and that are only round, come to be regarded as Pitris in the world. Even thus do I create the eternal Pitris. I am the father, the grandfather, and the great grandfather, and I should be regarded as residing in these three Pindas. There is no one that is superior to me'.
I. Theodor states that sacrifice - yajna - is a central theme of the Bhagavad Gita, whereby the 'whole world is bound by action save for action that has sacrifice as its aim'. He adds that sacrifice in the Gita - following dharmic principles and dedicating all to God (i.e. Bhakti to Krishna/Vishnu) - is transcendental and for the good of all, and therefore differs from the karmic or fruitive ritualistic sacrifices of the Vedas, intended for personal worldly enjoyment. Relevant details in the Bhagavad Gita - part of the Mahabharata - include Krishna stating:
The Vishnu Sahasranamam (1,000 names of Vishnu) is from the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata (Book 13, Chapter CXLIX/149 in the Ganguli translation; CXXXV/135 in other translations). It is also published separately for prayer rituals. Relevant names and their meanings from the Vishnu Sahasranamam include:
P. Terry and S. Ghose state that the Harivamsa, an accompaniment to the Mahabharata composed around the same time as the Puranas, 'lists the boar as one of the six past incarnations' of Krishna. Roy adds the account of Varaha in the Harivamsa is similar to the Vishnu, Matsya, and Bhagavata Puranas.
In the Harivamsa, the universe was created in the shape of a golden egg with water covering everything. The Earth was 'thick set with mountains' wherever the water dropped, causing her to sink under the weight into the region underneath towards Rastala. Eulogised and asked by the Earth to raise Her, Narayana thought of His sacrificial boar form - 10 yojanas in length, 100 in height, and 'a dark-blue cloud in hue' - and raised her with His tusks. He then divided the Earth (Bhavishya Parva: XXX). After battles between the devas and asuras, Vishnu later incarnated as Varaha a second time to destroy the asura-King, 'Hiranyaksha the holder of the club', with his discus (Bhavishya Parva: XXXV). Having defeated Hiranyaksha, 'Hari released Purandara [Indra] and all the celestials' that were captured by the defeated asuras, and tells them they must 'behave impartially towards the good and the wicked.' (Bhavishya Parva: XXXVI)
M. Prasad states some aspects of the Varaha-Katha (story) are in the Ramayana. Of the two versions attributed to Valmiki given below, the first states Brahma incarnated as Varaha to lift the earth from the cosmic ocean (CX). The second states Narayana incarnated as Varaha, albeit without reference to lifting the earth (119). The Adhyatma Ramayana mentions Varaha lifting the earth and states Varaha killed Hiranyakashipu, not Hiraṇyākṣa as stated in the Mahabharata (X.48; Hiranyakashipu was killed by the Narasimha avatar in other scriptures while Hiraṇyākṣa is otherwise stated to have been killed by the Varaha avatar).
Water was everywhere. The earth was constructed therein. Then sprang the self-create[d] Brahma along with all the celestials. Having become a boar, he raised up the earth, and along with his sons of subdued souls created everything.
When the earth had gone down the nether regions, at the time of the universal dissolution, this scion of the Baghu race, assumed the form of a boar and balanced it on the point of his tusk.
Hiranyakashipu, who was greatly addicted to evil, was killed by the great being in the form of a boar when he bore up the earth in a certain place.
Roy notes that regarding Varaha, 'the puranic description may be treated as an excellent piece of poetic work... which does not represent a tradition of primitive animal worship or totenism.' He also notes the various Puranas describe the Vedic and sacrificial attributes of the Boar incarnation 'in almost the same words', a fact also noted by translator G.V.Tagare, and the translator(s) of the Vayu Purana.
In his commentary of the Bhagavata Purana, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada notes that the 'word rasāyām is sometimes interpreted to mean Rasatala, the lowest planetary system', but that according to Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, in the context of the Earth sinking or submerged in the cosmic ocean before it is lifted by Varaha, this is incorrect; rather, in this context, rasāyām means 'within the water'. 'Rasa' does also mean 'water', and 'ayam' means 'this' or 'this one' (i.e. 'rasāyām' can mean 'this one water').
Visnu being praised by the celestials (who had) gone (to him), (he) assumed the form as Yajnavaraha (boar). Having killed that demon [Hiranyaksa] along with the (other) demons (he made the earth) devoid of thorns (difficulties).
In the Agni Purana, a brief account of Varaha ('Yajnavaraha') killing Hiranyaksa and other asuras to relieve the earth's burden is given (4.2). Varaha is stated to be the third avatar of Vishnu (276.11), and Varahi, 'the shakti [feminine form] of Vishnu in the form of a boar' is mentioned (146.1). Focusing on temple construction, prayer, and worship, other details include:
He was personally the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu and was therefore transcendental, yet because He had the body of a hog, He searched after the earth by smell. His tusks were fearful, and He glanced over the devotee-brāhmaṇas engaged in offering prayers. Thus He entered the water.
Dalal states that Varaha emerging from the nostrils of Brahma in the Bhagavata Purana 'thus connects the earlier legends of Brahma as a boar, with Vishnu's incarnation as Varaha'. Two accounts of Varaha are given. In the first, after Manu, the first human being, asks his father Brahma to lift the submerged Earth out of the Garbhodaka Ocean. Pondering on the matter, Brahma concludes 'It is best to let the Almighty Lord direct us' before 'a small form of a boar came out of his nostril... the creature was not more than the upper portion of the thumb'. As the boar grows in size to gigantic proportions and the sages of Janaloka chant from the Vedas, Brahma releases it is Vishnu. Diving into the ocean, Varaha 'found the limits of the ocean, although it is unlimited', lifted the earth, and 'immediately killed the demon [Hiranyaksa], although he tried to fight with the Lord'. Assuming a 'bluish complexion like that of a tamala tree', the Vedic and sacrificial attributes of Varaha are given by the sages ('Your four legs are four kinds of fruitive activities [cātuḥ-hotram]... Your tongue is a plate of sacrifice [Srak]...') who also state the Earth is his Wife (3.13).
Several chapters are dedicated to the second account. Diti, 'very apprehensive of trouble to the gods from the children in her womb', gave birth to the asuras Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa after 100 years of pregnancy. The birth of these demons caused 'many natural disturbances, all very fearful and wonderful' in the three worlds and the younger brother, Hiranyaksa, 'took a club on his shoulder and travelled all over the universe with a fighting spirit just to satisfy Hiranyakasipu'. After defeating all the gods and confronting Varuna for battle in the ocean, Hiranyaksa is told that Vishnu 'can give satisfaction in battle to you' (3.17). Told by Narada where to find Him, The asura confronts and insults Varaha as He lifts the Earth, telling Him 'You cannot take it from my presence and not be hurt by me'. Varaha places the Earth back on the ocean and is asked by Brahma to kill the demon (3.18). Varaha and Hiranyaksa then battle, and after being toyed with, the demon is ultimately killed with a strike 'in the root of the ear, even as Indra, the lord of the Maruts, hit the demon Vrtra' (3.19). Other details include:
Formerly, the term 'Nara' was given by me to the waters. They are my perpetual resort. Hence, I am called Narayana. I am Narayana. I am the permanent unchanging, source of origin, the dispenser of destiny and the annihilator of all living beings. O excellent brahmin [Markandeya], I am Visnu, I am Brahma, I am Indra too. I am king Vaisravana [Kubera] and Yama the Lord of Ghosts. O excellent brahmin, I am Siva, Soma, and Patriarch Kasyapa [sage and husband of Diti]. I am the creator and dispenser of destiny and I am sacrifice too...
O brahmin, formerly, this earth was about to sink under water. Assuming the form of a boar, it was lifted up by me with my strength.
The Brahma Purana contains multiple legends relating to Varaha, the third of which - involving the Raksasa called Sindhusena - is noted by M. L. Varadpande in his account of the mythology of Varaha. In the first account, having slept in the waters, Vishnu 'assumed the form of a Boar... Yajnavaraha (the Boar of the sacrificial form) appeared thus', before a description of his Vedic and sacrificial attributes are given ('The Vedas constituted his face. Sacrificial posts were his legs. Sacrifice was his tooth... He was a Yogin in the form of a great sacrifice'). Seeing the Earth submerged, Varaha 'dived into the vast sheet of water and lifted the Earth by means of his curved fang, with a desire for the welfare of the worlds' (104.3-36).
In the second, Vyasa narrates the story of Varaha, who 'uplifted the manes [or Pitrs, souls of ancestors] who were drowned in the waters of Koka river, by performing Sraddha [Pitri Yajna; sacrifice to ancestors] for their sake'. Between the Treta and Dvapara Yugas, the manes were cursed by the Moon-god Soma to 'fall off from your Yoga, [and] be confounded' due to their sexual desire for his daughter, Kala (also called Urja Svadha and Koka). As the world was then deprived of manes for thousands of years, 'the asuras, yutudhanas, and raksasas became powerful' and fell upon the Pitrs, who escaped by hiding in the Koka river, not recognising this was the Moon's daughter. Distressed, the manes 'sang songs of praise in favour of Vishnu', resulting in the manifestation of Varaha who 'brought the manes [up] to the Earth'. At Kokamukha, Varaha performs Sraddha for them and grants boons, before stating that Koka will be born as the daughter of Daksa called Svadha, and that He (as Varaha) would remain in the Koka river (110).
In the third, the Devas, after defeat by the 'Raksasa well known by the name of Sindhusena', approach Vishnu 'the Purana Purusa' (primeval male) and tell him of 'the entire destruction of sacrifice'. Vishnu states that in the Boar form with 'the conch, discus and mace in hands I shall go to the nether region and bring the holy sacrifice after killing the leading demons'. Varaha destroys the Raksasas and Danavas in Rasatala, and 'holding the great sacrifice in his mouth... came out of Rasatala by the same path whereby Visnu had entered it'. After Hari places the sacrifice held in his mouth in front of the Devas, thereafter 'the sacred ladel is called the most important part of sacrifice. Its form became that of a Boar for another reason' (Gautami-Mahatmya, 9). Other details include:
He [Narayana] remembered the form of a Boar that is suitable for the aquatic sports. It was invisible unto all living beings. It is the nature of speech termed Brahman... It resembled the dark cloud in complexion. It had a rumbling sound like that of the clouds... Assuming this inimitable form of a boar, Hari entered the nether worlds for uplifting the earth.
The conclusion of the Diksa ([religious] initiation) and Isti (sacrifice) were his curved fangs, the Kratu (sacrifice) was his tooth. The Juhu (the crescent-shaped wooden ladle) was his mouth; the fire was his tongue; the Darbha grasses were his hairs, the Brahma (one of the four Rtviks employed at a Soma sacrifice or vedic knowledge of great penance) was his head. The Vedas were his shoulders... he was the master of Yoga with Sakina for his heart; he was the lord full of Śrāddha (faith) and Sattva (good quality)...
G.V.Tagare notes that the Vedic and sacrificial attributes of Varaha given in the Brahmanda Purana (part 1, 5.16-23) is used in other Puranas as well as 'Smrti works, Tantra works and even Sankara adopted it'. In this first account, Narayana wakes in the waters, and 'knowing that the great (universe) had gone deep into that vast expanse of water, he thought of uplifting the earth with steadiness of composure... in the beginnings of Kalpas as before'. Remembering 'the form of a Boar that is suitable for the aquatic sports' - 10 Yojanas wide, 100 in length, and resembling a 'dark cloud, in complexion' - He dived into the ocean. A description of His aforementioned Vedic and sacrificial attributes is then given before 'that Prajapati' finds, lifts, and divides up the earth, including mountains that 'had been burnt in the previous Sarga (period of creation) by the Samvartaka fire (i.e. fire of destruction at the time of universal annihilation)'. This happens at the beginning of every Kalpa (Part 1, 5).
In the second account, similar to that of Prajapati in the Yajur Veda, waking at the beginning of creation 'in that vast expanse of water, Brahma became wind and moved about (in that ocean)'. To find and lift the submerged earth, Brahma then 'assumed the truthful form of a boar as remembered in the beginnings of previous Kalpas'. After entering into the ocean, He 'lifted up the earth and placed it again along with its child'. The mountains in the previous age had melted due to the Samvartaka fire at the end of the last Kalpa, and as Varaha divided the earth, 'Wherever the (molten rocks) were split there arose a mountain. They are called Acalas (not-moving or immobile)... [and] Parvatas because they had Parvans (or joints)' (Part 1, 7.1-11). Other details include:
In the second Kalpa, that is, Varaha, Vishnu in the form of a boar raised from the infernal region the earth on the verge of destruction.
J. Dowson notes that in the Brahmavaivarta Purana, 'the story of Brahma-varaha is repeatedly told'. Two different accounts are given. In the first, the saint Sauti narrates 'how the world was created at each Kalpa.... In the second Kalpa, that is, Varaha, Vishu in the form of a boar raised from the infernal region the earth on the verge of destruction' (Brahma Khanda: V.12-17; 5.12-17). In the second, Narayana narrates, similarly to the account of Prajapati in the Yajur Veda, that after killing 'Hiranyaksa and other demons, [He] released the Earth from the Patala and placed her on the waters as a leaf of a lotus on the surface of the ocean'. Vasundhara, the Earth and wife of Varaha, then 'begat upon her [from Varaha] a son named Mangala, the father of Ghantesa' (Prakriti-Khanda: VIII.21-26; 8.21-26). Other details include:
At the end of the Kalpa, in the form of Rudra [Shiva] he destroys the universe. At the time of creation Brahma takes up the physical form of a boar and by means of curved teeth lifts up the earth, learning that it is submerged in water.
Lord Vishnu became a hog and took the earth out of waters. He slew Hiranyaksa, protected the pious and established rule of law over the earth.
S. Ramaswami notes that the (letter 'Bhuh') mantra for Varaha in the Garuda Purana (Part 1: 11.36) is detailed in texts such as the Yoga Yajnavalkya, amongst others. The legend of Varaha is only briefly mentioned, as shown in the above quotes. Other details include:
The creator then, knowing by inference that within the water lay the earth, and desirous of raising it up got himself ready. While sporting in water, he assumed a radiant shape of a boar, invincible even by mind by others, having speech as his essence and named as Brahman.
The Kurma Purana contains two legends of Varaha. In the first, after sleeping in the primeval waters for 1,000 Yugas, the 'creator then knowing by inference that within the water lay the earth... assumed a radiant shape of a boar, invincible even by mind by others, having speech as his essence and named as Brahman'. Entering the Nether region and raising the Earth 'with his tusk', Hari is glorified by the residents of Janaloka such as the sage Sanaka, before placing it back on the vast waters, levelling it, and fixing 'all the mountains which had been consumed at the destruction of the previous creation' (Part 1: 6.1-25).
In the second, Hiranyakasipu is first killed by the Narasimha avatar (contrary to the sequence in other literature) and 'Hiranyaksa, nervous with fright, fled away leaving the child Prahlada [son of Hiranyakasipu] there'. Hiranyaksa later begets Andhaka as his son, defeats the gods, and carries the Earth to the nether region. The gods relate their troubles, and 'Narayana then pondered over the means of killing him, and assumed the figure of a white boar having the entire divinity within' to do so before lifting the Earth 'with his tooth at the commencement of the Kalpa'. Prahlada ascended the throne but after being cursed by an ascetic Brahmana, remembered 'the killing of his father [and] cherished anger against Hari'. Prahlada was vanquished and later 'sought shelter unto Hari' while Andhaka inherited the asura kingdom (Part 1: 15.69-87). Other details include:
Seeing the earth submerged in water all round he thought "What form shall I adopy to lift up this Earth?" He adopted the form of a boar as befitting the sport in water. The form was unassailable to all living beings. It had speech and was actually "Brahman" itself. He entered the nether words in that form for lifting up the earth...
For the welfare of the worlds, the lord lifted up the earth by means of his curved fangs, the earth, that had submerged and got embedded in the nether worlds.
In the Linga Purana, Hiranyaksa, leader of the Daityas 'comparable to Kala the destroyer' (and father of Andhaka), bound the Earth and held it prisoner in the Nether regions. The devas 'including Brahma were oppressed, struck and bound' by the demon, and asked Vishnu for help. Vishnu 'assumed the form of Yajnavaraha as at the time of the manifestation of the Linga [and with] the tip of his curved fangs he killed Hiranyaksa... The boar looked like a heap of blue collyrium'. Then, 'as in the beginnings of kalpas before, he entered the Nether regions and brought the earth out of the ocean and made her seated on his lap'. After being eulogised by the devas (including Prajapati) and returning to the Ocean of Milk, Varaha's curved fangs that had fallen as He returned were picked up and worn by Shiva as an ornament (Part 1: 94). Other details include:
As of old, at the commencement of the previous Kalpas he had assumed the bodies of [a] fish and tortoise, similarly now he assumed another body - that of a boar... having assumed the luminous form composed of Vedic sacrifices [he] entered into the waters, and recovering the earth from the nether regions posited it upon the waters.
In the Markandeya Purana it is stated that Vishnu 'Formerly assuming the form of a boar, and dividing the water with the projection of the mouth, it, with one tooth, raised up the earth like a lotus' (IV.54; 4.54); this account is repeated later with the implication the same avatars are incarnated cyclically (i.e. repeatedly; XLVII.7-9; 47.7-9).
In a second legend, during a battle between the Matrikas (Mother Goddesses) and the asuras, 'Hari assumed the peerless form of Yagna-Varaha, took the form of the boar and attended there in a terrific shape'. This battle included the feminine form or Shakti of Vishnu (Vaishnavi, riding Garuda) and the feminine form of the Narasimha avatar (Narasimhi; LXXXVIII; 88). Other details include:
Arjuna, I shall relate to you all about the Varaha manifestation of the wonderful Krishna. Hear the most interesting history of Varaha as sung in the Vedas. Hear attentively how He raised the earth from the oceans assuming the form of a boar and lifting the Earth on His tusks.
In the Matsya Purana, at the beginning of the Kalpa, Vishnu 'ripped open' the cosmic egg to create the lokas. Then 'thousands of mountains sprang up' and the Earth, unable to bear the weight and losing her energy, sank down. Hearing the prayers of the Earth 'greatly oppressed by the demons and Rakshasas', Vishnu 'manifested Himself as a boar that He might enjoy playing in the waters'. 100 yojanas in length and 200 in height, a description of His Vedic and sacrificial qualities are given ('having the Vedas for His feet, the sacrificial posts for His tusks...') before raising up the earth from Rasatala on His tusk for 'the welfare of all' (CCXLVIII; 248). Other details include:
O great boar, just as the earth that was formerly sunk into the waters had been lifted up from the nether-worlds, so also you rescue me from the ocean of misery. O Krsna, the forms of your limbs (your ancillary forms) that bestow boons have been eulogised by me.
In the Narada Purana, it is only briefly mentioned that Varaha 'With his pointed and curved fang, the Infinite Being lifted the earth from the ocean, and stabilised this entire universe' (Part 1: 2.38). It is later also briefly mentioned that Varaha 'lifted up the Earth after striking down Hiranyaksa' (Part 5: 69.22B-24). Other details include:
The Vedas are at your feet, your tusk is the tying post, sacrifices are in your fangs, and the sacred texts in your mouth. Your tongue is fire, your hair the sacred darbha grass. O lord, you alone are the sacrificial man...
O you lotus-eyed one, unlimited self, lift up this earth that is plunged (in the ocean). You are enhanced with energy, O lord Govinda. Lift you this earth for the well-being (of the world); bring about the good of the world.
The Padma Purana contains multiple legends and versions of legends relating to Varaha. In the first, Brahma 'who had slept at night, at the end of the bygone Kalpa', woke, saw the earth 'plunged in the flood of water... and comprehending up the form of Visnu in order to carry off the Earth... resorted to the form of Vedic Sacrifice.' After plunging into the waters down to the Nether region, Varaha is eulogised by and lifts the Earth with a fang, rising like 'a great blue mountain'. Eulogised by sages describing his Vedic and sacrificial nature ('The Vedas are your feet, your tusk is the tying post...'), Varaha flattens and divides the Earth (Part 1: 3.25b-52a).
In the second, manifesting at Pushkara Lake, a description of the Vedic and sacrificial nature of Varaha is first given ('feet in the form of the Vedas, fangs in the form of tying posts...'). Varaha agrees to protect Brahma's sacrifice and to destroy any evil that obstructs it. Both the gods and the asuras, 'Having heard the words of Vishnu of a truthful vow', participate in the sacrifice together as auspicious signs appear throughout existence (Part 1: 16.54-89).
In the third, the demon-king Hiranyaksa, 'who was invincible to the gods and the demons', defeats the gods single-handedly in a battle before they 'went, along with Indra, to Visnu the protector, to seek his succor'. Vishnu battles Hiranyaksa for a 'hundred divine years' and decapitates jeering demons with his discus. Hiranyaksa grows in size 'like Vamana', seizes the three worlds in his mouth, and enters the nether region. Vishnu follows him in the form of a boar and lifts 'the earth, the support of the people, on his two fangs' while insulted by Hiranyaksa. After 'Depositing his power in to the earth' to make it steady, Varaha battles Hiranyaksa again, killing him with his discus before being eulogised by the gods (Part 2: 75).
In the fourth, receiving a boon from Brahma for his penances, the immortal Hiranyaksa 'occupied the three worlds.' Narayana, 'who was enjoying his sleep at the end of a Yuga in the Milky Ocean' is woken and asked for help by the gods, sages, and others led by Brahma. Vishnu first kills Hiranyakasipu as Narasimha and then Hiranyaksa and other demons as Varaha before lifting the earth. The demon-brothers' mother, Diti, is left 'oppressed by grief' and 'tormented by the bereavement of her sons'. Diti later gave birth to another demon, Bala (Part 3: 23.3-20).
In the fifth - continuing from the fourth - during a battle between armies of the Devas (e.g. Yama and Indra) and the asuras (e.g. Bala and Jalandhara), 'Hari, with the body (i.e. in the form) of a boar moved with a desire to kill the army of the demons, after he had speedily come from heaven'. Indra kills Bala, but is defeated by Jalandhara and forced to run away. Vishnu (seemingly back in His original form) kills the demon army blocking Him from fighting Jalandhara, who goes to and back from the Ocean of Milk. After Vishnu is struck down by Jalandhara, Lakshmi interrupts the fight and Jalandhara is granted a boon; Vishnu agrees to stay with Lakshmi at the abode of Jalandhara's father, Shiva (Part 7: 5.61-67).
In the sixth, Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu 'were with Visnu (as his doorkeepers) named Jaya and Vijaya' but having 'prevented the greatest meditating sages' from seeing Vishnu, were cursed. Given the choice by Vishnu, the doorkeepers chose three existences as His enemy rather than sixteen as His 'sinless devotees'. Incarnated as Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu, the sons of Diti, they took the Earth to the Nether realm, causing the gods to seek 'the shelter of Narayana, Vishnu'. Taking the 'Boar-form, existing everywhere and having no beginning, middle or end' Varaha kills Hiranyaksa and then lifts the Earth with one fang to the praise of the gods. The Nrisimha form later kills Hiranyakasipu (Part 9: 237). Other details include:
Then the gods, sages, and the Siddhas propitiated Visnu of infinite vigour in the form of a Boar that constituted all sacrifices and all beings and was terrific in form... With his Sudarsana dazzling like a crore of suns he chopped off the burning head of Hiranyaksa and reduced the wicked Daityas to ashes. He was then delighted to crown his son Andhaka as the king of Daityas.
In the Shiva Purana, two accounts are given. In the first, Hiranyaksa 'desired to obtain a son at the pressure of his wife who was envious at the sight of many sons of her husband's elder brother [Hiranyakashipu]'. After performing penance, Shiva appeared and gave his son, Andhaka, to Hiranyaksa, who then 'conquered all the gods and took the earth to Patala'. After being asked for help by the gods and sages, Vishnu took the form of a boar, split the earth with his snout to enter Patala, destroyed hundreds of Daityas and armies of Asuras, and beheaded Hiranyaksa with his discus. In this form He then lifted the earth 'by means of His fangs' before returning to His Abode (Part 2: Yuddha-Khanda: 42.28-49). Hiranyakasipu was enraged by death of his brother, and after being killed by the Nrisimha avatar, his son, Prahlada, became king of the Asuras (Part 2: Yuddha-Khanda: 43.4 and 43.32).
In the second account, 'when the previous Kalpa had ceased' and the Earth was submerged in the waters of dissolution, 'Brahma assumed the form of Visnu, [and] slept soundly in that vast expanse of water' (as Narayana, the meaning of which is explained in the same chapter). After waking, Brahma, 'desirous of uplifting the Earth, thought of the divine Boar', took that form, and 'entered the Nether worlds to lift up the earth'. A detailed description of His physical nature is given (e.g. 'lustre of a blue cloud') as He lifts and 'brought the Earth to its own place' to the rejoice of humanity (Part 4: Vayaviya Samhita: 11). Other details include:
"Om obeisance to Sri Varaha who lifted up Earth. Svaha." This Mantra should always be repeated by one who wishes to be liberated...
O Earth having the oceans for your robes, the devotee shall meditate upon me accompanied by you seated on my left thigh. I shall be meditated as having the lustre of a pure crystal mountain with eyes resembling the petals of red lotus, the face of a Boar, gentle appearance, four arms and the crown. There is the mark Srivatsa on the chest. In the lotus-like hands a conch and a discus are held (with one making) the mystic gesture of granting immunity from fear. I wear reddish yellow robes. I am bedecked in red ornaments. I am stationed on a lotus over the body of Sesa lying on the middle of the back of the divine Tortoise. After meditating thus the devotee shall always repeat the Mantra one hundred and eight times. He shall attain all desired objects. He will certainly attain salvation in the end.
In the Skanda Purana several legends are given, particularly in part four where Varaha is also a narrator. Similar to the Shiva Purana, there are several accounts of Brahma in the form of a Swan and Vishnu in the form of a Boar unsuccessfully attempting to find the top and bottom of Shiva's Linga, respectively (Part 3: Purvardha: 1.38-61a, 4.40-41, 5.42b-46; Arunacalamahatmya Uttarardha: 4.43b.47a, 11, 13.8-12; Part 8: Setu Mahatmya: 14.34). In one account, Brahma concludes that neither penances, pilgrimages, nor Vedic knowledge results in knowledge of Shiva, only grace (Part 3: Purvardha: 1.38-61a). In another account, unable to find the root of the Linga, Vishnu in the form of a boar was drowning in an ocean of sweat before the Linga lifted Him to safety (Part 3: Arunacalamahatmya Uttarardha: 11).
In part four, another account is that the Lord takes the form of a boar in the forest of Svamipuskarini, 'and grazed in the field of Syamaka grains every night'. During the day a forester by the name of Vasu sees footprints but could not find the boar. During the night he sees the boar and attempts to hunt it but Varaha disappears down into an anthill. As Vasu attempts to dig up the anthill he falls unconscious, and his devout son upon seeing this 'eulogized Lord Varaha (Boar). Thereby Hari became pleased'. Possessing Vasu, Varaha tells the son to instruct Emperor Tondaman to install a temple at the anthill and worship Him there. This is recounted to the emperor who agrees and does so (Part 4: Venkatacala Mahatmya: 10). As mentioned earlier, the anthill is mentioned in the Shatapatha Brahmana (Yajur Veda) account of the Boar.
Several accounts of Varaha lifting the earth are also given throughout the Purana. In part 4, at 'the end of the Night of the Creator, the Slayer of Madhu woke up', and suspecting that none but the Earth 'will be able to bear the burden of the flood (i.e. mass) of living beings', saw her frightened and 'flooded with a vast sheet of water' near Patala. Adopting the form of a boar 'identical with Yajna', His Vedic and sacrificial attributes are given ('the four Vedas were his four legs... The wooden ladle Sruk was his snout...') before entering into the ocean, where His 'curved teeth [tusks] resembling a Crescent Moon, he forcibly dispelled the dense darkness characterizing the close of the Kalpa'. Making the Cosmic Egg reverberate, Varaha dominates the Lord of Serpents, finds the trembling Earth, and placing Her 'on the tip of his curved teeth... rose up to the surface of the Ocean'. Eulogised by the sages in Janaloka, and thus married, the 'Earth shone as if her body was rendered wet due to the perspiration arising from intense love' before being placed 'in the midst of the waters of that Ocean'. Varaha then placed 'the Elephants of the Quarters, the King of Serpents and the Tortoise for giving her extra support' and gave his own Shakti (power) for additional support (Part 4: Venkatacala Mahatmya: 36).
Another account of Varaha lifting the Earth is given in part 12, about how the Sipra river became the daughter of Varaha. The doorkeepers of Vishnu called Jaya and Vijaya were cursed by the four Kumeras for forbidding their progress to see Vishnu, and consequently, in sequence, 'attained the rebirth in the womb of Tamasa nature as [first, the] extremely powerful [asuras] Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu, [second] as Daityas Kumbhakarna and Ravana... and [third] as Dantavaktra and Sisupala'. Vijaya, incarnated as Hiranyaksa, dominates all the worlds, defeats the gods, and steals their Yajnas. Due to his ruling as a despot, the 'entire earth became full of barbarians, painful and overwhelmed by many torments... The entire earth became dark and ignorant... [and] all the three worlds became defective and defiled'. The gods seek refuge with MahaVishnu, who incarnates as a boar 'divine and auspicious, comparable to Svetadvipa ('White continent')'. His Vedic and sacrificial attributes are given ('the curved teeth served the purpose of the Yupa (sacrificial post)... the feet are the Vedas... This yajnakaya (embodiment of Yajna) was highly skilful...'), before Hiranyaksa, after 'fighting many battles with great difficulty', is killed by Varaha. The Earth is then 'lifted by Varaha on his curved teeth (tusks) resembling the crescent moon. All the Danavas were killed. All those who remained when to Patala'. With many auspicious signs, Varaha becomes the bestower of all bliss and boons (Part 12: Avantiksetra Mahatmya: 52).
Numerous other condensed and variegated accounts of Varaha lifting the Earth are also given throughout (Part 2: 47.27-33; Part 5: Purusottama-Ksetra Mahatmya: 1.13, 30.112; Part 9: Dharmaranya Khanda: 14.16-21; Part 13: Caturasiti-Linga Mahatmya: 28.20-28; Part 15: Reva-Khanda: 151.8-17, 189, 193.25-35; Part 19: Prabhasa-Ksetra Mahatmya: 81.22; and Part 20: 354). Other details include:
May the foremost God, Varaha, dispel my foes; who is Krsna, Vishnu and the lord of gods; who is the enemy of the demon Kamsa; who killed (the demons) Mura, Naraka and Ravana (in his different incarnations); who, in his huge and extensive form, raised, like a clod of clay, by the tip of his tusk, the Earth encircled by oceans and full of mountains and rivers.
H.H. Wilson notes the Varaha Purana is 'is narrated by Vishnu as Varaha, or in the boar incarnation, to the personified Earth' and adds that as a religious manual occupied with forms of prayer and rules for devotional observances, unlike general Puranic literature, it contains no detailed genealogies and no account of the Manus. Of the two legends narrated, in the first, the Earth tells Vishnu (in the form of Varaha) that in 'each Kalpa (cosmic age) it is you who raise me up' and briefly recounts His previous incarnations as Matsya, Kurma, Nrsimha, Parasurama, Rama, and Vamana. After stating that as the Varaha incarnation 'you, again, with one of your tusks lifted up me, the Earth from the deep ocean when I was sinking down to the nether regions', the Earth asks several questions about the nature of creation, causing Varaha to laugh. Reminiscent of Yashoda looking into the mouth of boy-Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana, as Varaha laughs, the Earth sees the entire universe in His belly, and is fear-stricken of the 'boar dark like collyrium all over' (Part 1: 1.1-25).
In the second, 'a Brahmin in the line of Bhrgu' called Satyatapas was witnessed on the 'northern side of mount Himavan' accidentally cutting his finger with an axe, but instead of blood 'there were only ashes'. Having been told of this by the witnesses, Vishnu visited the Brahmin the form of a boar seeking refuge, followed by Indra in the form of a Hunter seeking to kill the boar. Asked by the hunter if he had seen the boar, Satyatapa was put in a dilemma as if he told the hunter, the boar would be killed, but if he did not, then the family of the hunter would starve. The Brahmin then exclaimed to the hunter: 'The eye is directed to see the moving objects and the tongue is directed to speak to the hunter. There is no eye now to see or the tongue to speak. Does the tongue really have the eye?' Pleased with this response, Vishnu and Indra showed their true forms and granted Satyatapas boons as a reward (Part 1: 98). Other details include:
Having thus assumed the form of a sacrificial Boar, the lord entered the waters. He, the lord of the subjects, got at the Earth covered with the waters. He approached and lifted it quickly. He diverted the waters of the oceans in the oceans and of the rivers in the rivers. The lord, for the welfare of the worlds, lifted with his curved fangs, the Earth that had gone deep into the nether world.
The translator(s) of the Vayu Purana note that its account of Brahma assuming the form of Vayu (wind) before assuming the form of Varaha originates from the Taittiriya Brahmana, a text related to the Yajur Veda, and that the Vedic and sacrificial description of Varaha 'is found in other Puranas also'. In this account, having slept in the Ekārṇava (universal deluge or 'ocean of cosmic waters') for a thousand yugas, 'Brahma, called Narayana' woke up 'due to the preponderance of Sattva... and he beheld that the world was a void'. Brahma assumed the form of Vayu, 'moved about in the water like a glow-worm at night during the rainy season', and 'as in the previous Kalpas for lifting up [the] earth' conceived of the divine and sacrificial form of Varaha, 'comfortable in sporting about in waters'. A description of His Vedic and sacrificial qualities are given ('The Vedas were his shoulders. He had the fragrance of sacrificial offering...') before He dives into the waters, lifts the Earth in His hands, and divides it 'as well as the four worlds, viz. Bhur and others' (Part 1: 6.10-33). A condensed version of this account is repeated later, adding 'He created another body [Varaha] which he recollected (as having been assumed) in the previous Kalpas' (8.3-10). Other details include:
J. Roy notes that in the Vishnu Purana, 'the Boar occupies the space between the heaven and earth: dyavaprthivyyoratulaprabhava yadantaram tat capusa tavaiva', which, as noted earlier, relates to the word 'Varaha' also meaning Madhyamika-devaganas, 'the deities of the middle region'. The legend is that at the end of the previous (Padma) Kalpa and commencement of the present Kalpa, 'Narayana, who is named Brahma... awoke from his night of sleep, and beheld the universe void'. Having the desire to raise the earth from the cosmic waters, as (similarly stated in the Markandeya Purana) 'in preceding Kalpas, he had assumed the shape of a fish or a tortoise, so, in this, he took the figure of a boar' and plunged into the ocean. Eulogised by the Earth, Varaha, who 'was of the dark colour of the lotus-leaves', uplifted it from the nether world on His tusks. Varaha is then eulogised by the sages of Janaloka, who describe His Vedic and sacrificial attributes ('thy feet are the Vedas; thy tusks are the stake to which the victim is bound [i.e. 'sacrificial stakes']...') before the Earth is placed back on the ocean, levelled, and divided 'into seven great portions or continents, as it was before' (Volume 6: Book 1: IV). Other details include:
J. Roy states that the 'Kalika Purana does not narrate the legend of Hiranyaksa, but introduces a new legend' whereby Varaha, following 'union with the goddess Earth [as Varahi]... three sons named Suvrtta ['virtuous'], Kanaka ['gold'], and Ghora ['awful'] were born'. This causes creation to suffer, so 'Visnu instructed Siva to kill the Boar by assuming the shape of a Sarabha, a mythical eight-footed animal'. During the fight, Narasimha is killed, from which Nara-Narayana is born. Varaha then 'requested Sarabha to construct implements of sacrifice... to kill him when he would became a burden to the earth'. U. Dev and Dalal concur.
The Vishnu Samhita (also called the Vishnu Smriti and 'The Institutes of Vishnu') is focused on Bhakti (devotion) and Puja (worship) of Vishnu. In this text, at the end of the night of Brahma, Vishnu awakes with a desire to create and 'knowing the earth to be under water, he, as in the cycle before, uplifted the earth, supported upon the auspicious [figure of the] boar, delighting to sport in the water'. The Vedic and sacrificial attributes of Varaha are then given (He 'had the Vedas for his four feet, the sacrificial stake for his tusk...') and desiring 'the well-being of the worlds' Varaha enters into the ocean, raises the earth 'with the tip of his tusk', and divides it. Afterwards, He creates the universe in His boar form, including the 'seven Patalas (nether regions) and seven worlds' and all the living beings within them (1.1-18). Other details include:
May your great sire defend the sons he loves
In the dread hour of battle; may Varaha,
All mighty and eternal, grant you fame,
And victory, and virtue, till you equal
The founder of your house;
Now harassed by barbarians, Earth repairs
For refuge to the bosom of true Royalty,
As erst, by strength divine upstaid,
she rode safe on the tusks of that celestial boar,
Who snatched her from the o'er incumbent floods,
And reared her green hills once again to heaven.
Like Vishnu's first two avatars – Matsya (fish) and Kurma (turtle) – the third avatar Varaha is depicted either in zoomorphic form as an animal (a wild boar), or anthropomorphically. The main difference in the anthropomorphic form portrayal is that the first two avatars are depicted with a torso of a man and the bottom half as animal, while Varaha has an animal (boar) head and a human body. The portrayal of the anthropomorphic Varaha is similar to the fourth avatar Narasimha (portrayed as a lion-headed man), who is the first avatar of Vishnu that is not completely animal.
In the zoomorphic form, Varaha is often depicted as a free-standing boar colossus, for example, the monolithic sculpture of Varaha in Khajuraho (c. 900-925) made in sandstone, is 2.6 metres (8 ft 6 in) long and 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) high. The sculpture may not resemble a boar realistically, and may have his features altered for stylistic purposes. The earth, personified as the goddess Bhudevi, clings to one of Varaha's tusks. Often the colossus is decorated by miniature figurines of gods and goddesses and other world creatures appearing all over his body, which signify the whole of creation. Such sculptures are found in Eran, Muradpur, Badoh, Gwalior, Jhansi and Apasadh.
In the anthropomorphic form, Varaha often has a stylized boar face, like the zoomorphic models. The snout may be shorter. The position and size of the tusks may also be altered. The ears, cheeks and eyes are generally based on human ones. Early sculptors in Udayagiri and Eran faced the issue of how to attach the boar head to the human body and did not show a human neck. However, in Badami, the problem was resolved by including a human neck. While some sculptures show a mane, it is dropped and replaced by a high conical crown – typical of Vishnu iconography – in others. Varaha sculptures generally look up to the right; there are very rare instances of left-facing Varaha depictions.
Varaha has four arms, two of which hold the Sudarshana chakra (discus) and shankha (conch), while the other two hold a gada (mace), a sword, or a lotus or one of them makes the varadamudra (gesture of blessing). Varaha may be depicted with all of Vishnu'a attributes in his four hands: the Sudarshana chakra, the shankha, the gada and the lotus. Sometimes, Varaha may carry only two of Vishnu's attributes: a shankha and the gada personified as a female called Gadadevi. Varaha is often shown with a muscular physique and in a heroic pose. He is often depicted triumphantly emerging from the ocean as he rescues the earth.
The earth may be personified as the goddess Bhudevi in Indian sculpture. Bhudevi is often shown as a small figure in the icon. She may be seated on or dangling from one of Varaha's tusks, or is seated on the corner of his folded elbow or his shoulder and supports herself against the tusk or the snout, as being lifted from the waters. In later Indian paintings, the whole earth or a part of it is depicted lifted up by Varaha's tusks. In Mahabalipuram, a rare portrayal shows an affectionate Varaha looking down to Bhudevi, who he carries in his arms. The earth may be portrayed as a globe, a flat stretch of mountainous land or an elaborate forest landscape with buildings, temples, humans, birds and animals. The defeated demon may be depicted trampled under Varaha's feet or being killed in combat by Varaha's gada. Nagas (snake gods) and their consorts Naginis (snake goddesses), residents of the underworld, may be depicted as swimming in the ocean with hands folded as a mark of devotion. Varaha may be also depicted standing on a snake or other minor creatures, denoting the cosmic waters.
The Udayagiri Caves Varaha panel is an example of an elaborate depiction of Varaha legend. It presents the goddess earth as the dangling woman, the hero as the colossal giant. His success is cheered by a galaxy of the divine as well as human characters valued and revered in the 4th-century. Their iconography of individual characters is found in Hindu texts.
Two iconographical forms of Varaha are popular. Yajna Varaha – denoting yajna (sacrifice) – is seated on a lion-throne and flanked by Bhudevi and Lakshmi. As Pralaya Varaha – indicative of lifting the earth from the stage of the pralaya (the dissolution of the universe) – he is depicted only with Bhudevi. Varaha may be depicted with Lakshmi alone too. In such sculptures, he may be depicted identically to Vishnu in terms of iconography with Vishnu's attributes; the boar head identifying the icon as Varaha. Lakshmi may be seated on his thigh in such portrayals.
Varaha often features in the Dashavatara stele – where the ten major avatars of Vishnu are portrayed – sometimes surrounding Vishnu. In the Vaikuntha Vishnu (four-headed Vishnu) images, the boar is shown as the left head. Varaha's shakti (energy or consort) is the Matrika (mother goddess) Varahi, who is depicted with a boar head like the god.
The earliest Varaha images are found in Mathura, dating to the 1st and 2nd century CE. The Gupta era (4th–6th century) in Central India temples and archaeological sites have yielded a large number of Varaha sculptures and inscriptions. These include the anthropomorphic version in Udayagiri Caves and the zoomorphic version in Eran. Other early sculptures exist in the cave temples in Badami in Karnataka (6th century) and Varaha Cave Temple in Mahabalipuram (7th century); both in South India and Ellora Caves (7th century) in Western India. By the 7th century, images of Varaha were found in all regions of India. By the 10th century, temples dedicated to Varaha were established in Khajuraho (existent, but worship has ceased), Udaipur, Jhansi (now in ruins) etc.
The Chalukya dynasty (543–753) was the first dynasty to adopt Varaha in their crest and minted coins with Varaha on it. The Gurjara-Pratihara king Mihira Bhoja (836–885 CE) assumed the title of Adi-varaha and also minted coins depicting the Varaha image. Varaha was also adopted as a part of royal insignia by the Chola (4th century BCE–1279 CE) and Vijayanagara Empires (1336–1646 CE) of South India. In Karnataka, a zoomorphic image of Varaha is found in a carving on a pillar in Aihole, which is interpreted as the Vijayanagara emblem, as it is seen along with signs of a cross marked Sun, a disc and a conch.
The sculpture typically show the symbolic scene of the return of Varaha after he had successfully killed the oppressive demon Hiranyaksha, found and rescued goddess earth (Prithivi, Bhudevi), and the goddess is back safely. Whether in the zoomorphic form or the anthropomorphic form, the victorious hero Varaha is accompanied by sages and saints of Hinduism, all gods including Shiva and Brahma. This symbolizes that just warriors must protect the weak and the bearers of all forms of knowledge and that the gods approve of and cheer on the rescue.
Since the 12th century, due to Muslim influence and the Islamic view about the polluting pig, the boar has become associated with something dirty. This has led to some change in the attitude towards Varaha, though historically it was a symbol of potency and a royal icon depicting the admired protection of kingdom and dharma during the Chola and Vijayanagara rule.
The most prominent temple of Varaha is the Sri Varahaswami Temple in Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh. It is located on the shores of a temple pond, called the Swami Pushkarini, in Tirumala, near Tirupati; to the north of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple (another temple of Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara). The region is called Adi-Varaha Kshestra, the abode of Varaha. The legend of the place is as follows: at the end of Satya Yuga (the first in the cycle of four aeons; the present one is the fourth aeon), devotees of Varaha requested him to stay on earth, so Varaha ordered his mount Garuda to bring his divine garden Kridachala from his abode Vaikuntha to Venkata hills, Tirumala. Venkateswara is described as having taken the permission of Varaha to reside in these hills, where his chief temple, Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, stands. Hence, pilgrims are prescribed to worship Varaha first and then Venkateswara. In the Atri Samhita (Samurtarchanadhikara), Varaha is described to be worshipped in three forms here: Adi Varaha, Pralaya Varaha and Yajna Varaha. The image in the sanctum is of Adi Varaha.
Another important temple is the Bhuvarahaswami Temple in Srimushnam town, to the northeast of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. It was built in the late 16th century by Krishnappa II, a Thanjavur Nayak ruler. The image of Varaha is considered a swayambhu (self manifested) image, one of the eight self-manifested Swayamvyakta Vaishnava kshetras. An inscription in the prakaram (circumambulating passage around the main shrine) quoting from the legend of the Srimushna Mahatmaya (a local legend) mentions the piety one derives in observing festivals during the 12 months of the year when the sun enters a particular zodiacal sign. This temple is venerated by Hindus and Muslims alike. Both communities take the utsava murti (festival image) in procession in the annual temple festival in the Tamil month of Masi (February–March). The deity is credited with many miracles and called Varaha saheb by Muslims.
Varaha shrines are also included in Divya Desams (a list of 108 abodes of Vishnu). They include Adi Varaha Perumal shrine Tirukkalvanoor, located in the Kamakshi Amman Temple complex, Kanchipuram and Thiruvidandai, 15 km from Mahabalipuram.
In Muradpur in West Bengal, worship is offered to an in-situ 2.5-metre (8 ft 2 in) zoomorphic image of Varaha (8th century), one of the earliest known images of Varaha. A 7th century anthropomorphic Varaha image of Apasadh is still worshipped in a relatively modern temple. Other temples dedicated to Varaha are located across India in the states of Andhra Pradesh, in Haryana Pradesh at Baraha Kalan, and Lakhmi Varaha Temple, in Karnataka at Maravanthe and Kallahalli, in Kerala, in Madhya Pradesh, in Odisha at Yajna Varaha Temple and Lakhmi Varaha Temple, Aul, in Rajasthan at Pushkar, in Tamil Nadu and in Uttar Pradesh. Varaha temple is also located in Mysore Palace premises at Mysore, Karnataka.