Overview for Varaha: In Indian Art, Culture and Literature
The boar, a wild animal of considerable strength and speed, has been known the world over from the time immemorial, as evidenced from the ancient texts as well as archaeological sources. Initially it was a hunting animal possibly meant for human consumption, but gradually it entered the contemporary religious thought in various countries of the globe. The Indian evidence portraying reverence to the animal is comparatively later than that of the other countries of the world. As for example the animal is found depicted in the coins and legends of Greek, Crete and Rome etc. centuries before the Christian era, which was followed in the later period. In the Indian context, the animal, though occasionally appears in the Vedic and post-Vedic literature, but its reverence achieved a great boost after its association with the incarnation of Visnu, a strong and powerful Brahmanical god. In this form the boar, it is stated, rescued the earth-goddess submerged under the deep sea-waters. The reasons for the drowning of the Earth have been quite convincingly given in the texts. The Mahabharata is quite vocal in this regard, wherein, it is stated that the earth was submerged in water because of its overpopulation. The salient features of the episode are (i) the Deluge, (ii) the Earth, (iii) the Demon Hiranyaksa, besides the boar. With the passage of time the theme of the rescue of the earth became symbolical with the rulers of the country, who after having conquered a territory or overthrowing the foreign domination, equated the event with the rescue of the earth by the boar incarnation of Visnu. Such events were celebrated by erecting an image or a temple of the god. The present work aims at highlighting the various aspects of Varaha form of Visnu, in the background of the literary as well as the archaeological evidence, available in the country .
Shanti Lal Nagar (Author)
Shantilal Nagar, a graduate of the Punjab University, served in the curatorial capacity in the Central Asian Antiquities Museum, New Delhi, the Archaeological Museum Nalanda, and Archaeological Section of the Indian Museum, Calcutta for a number of years. He has to his credit the scientific documentation of over fifty thousand antiquities, in these museums, representing the rich cultural heritage of the country and comprising of sculptures, bronzes, terracottas, beads, seals and sealing, ancient Indian numismatics, wood work, miniatures and paintings, textiles and Pearce collection of gems, ranging from the earliest times to the late medieval period. He was awarded, in 1987, a fellowship, for his monograph on the Temples of Himachal Pradesh, by the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. He has authored more than 38 books.