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Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh


Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves

  • Udayagiri Caves near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh is an archaeological site consisting of twenty rock cut caves. These caves belong to the Gupta Period (350-550 AD). The site has important inscriptions of the Gupta dynasty belonging to the reigns of Chandragupta II (c. 375-415) and Kumaragupta I (c. 415-55). They contain some of the oldest surviving specimens of Hindu temples and iconography in India. 


  • The most famous carving at Udayagiri is a five-foot tall statue of Sri Vishnu's Varaha (Boar) Avatar rescuing goddess earth (Bhudevi) from the depths of cosmic ocean. This celebrated colossal Varaha Panel of cave 5, has been described as the Iconographic center-piece of Udayagiri and is the most studied sculpture of the Gupta Period. 


  • The legend depicts goddess earth (Bhudevi, Prithivi) in an existential crisis after she has been attacked and kidnapped by oppressive demon Hiranyaksha, where neither she nor the life she supports can survive. She is drowning and overwhelmed in the cosmic ocean. Sri Vishnu then emerges in the form of a Varaha (man-boar) avatar. He descends into the ocean, finds Bhudevi, who hangs onto his tusk, and lifts her out to safety. The good wins, the crisis ends, and Vishnu once again fulfills his cosmic duty. 


  • This image was in the personal temple of Gupta Ruler Chandragupta II (ruled 376-415 AD), and his  choice of the Varaha Avatar carries enormous symbolic weight. A recurring motif in the stories of Sri Vishnu's avatars is the defeat of evil and chaos, and the reestablishment of order and balance in the universe. After defeating the Shaka kingdom, Chandra gupta II became the overlord ruling over much of north India, and his patron deity surely represents how he saw himself-as a manifestation of Sri Vishnu on earth bringing order to the world through exercising his power and righteous rule. The Varaha panel narrates this legend. The goddess earth is personified as the dangling woman, the hero as the colossal giant.


Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh



Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh



Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh



Varaha Avatar of Sri Vishnu, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh