histories – stretching from the Agni Purana, Vishnudharmottara Purana, Matsya
Purana, and other texts –present the boar colossus Varaha, as the powerful
third avatar of Vishnu. The ‘sthapati’ from Swamimalai has presented Vishnu’s
mythology in a graceful and stylistic manner that evokes the fierce as well as
benevolent sides of Varaha. As the half boar half man form of the great
preserver of the universe, Varaha’s legend is associated with the defeat of
Hiranyaksha and the rescue of the Earth goddess Bhudevi.
Poised on a raised
plinth, the figure of Varaha stands proud with one leg on the hood of Shesha,
his eternal and primordial devotee (whose coiled body represents the
circularity of time). Varaha, wearing a multi-layered conical ‘mukuta,’ holds
the Vaishnavite attributes of the ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ and conch, and gestures
in the ‘abhaya mudra’ to dispel fear from the devout’s minds and hearts. His
lower left hand embraces the seated figure of Bhudevi, who has clasped her
hands in the ‘anjali mudra,’ performing a namaskaram.
is simple, and the god wears an inornate ‘dhoti’ and jewellery, but the artisan
has gracefully captured the important episode from Vaishnavite tradition that
makes this image religiously and aesthetically iconic.
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