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Varaha avatar – Boar Incarnation of Vishnu

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varaha avatar vishnu Hiranyaksha

Varaha avatar is the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The word Varaha means boar. Lord Vishnu incarnated as a Varaha (boar) to protect the earth (Prithvi) which had sunk to the depths of the Garbhodaka ocean. Varaha avatar is known as the slayer of the demon Hiranyaksha, who had dragged the earth to the bottom of the sea.

The four Kumaras Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana, and Sanat Kumara, once visited Vaikuntha by dint of their mystic prowess and thereby perceived exceptional bliss. After passing through the six entrances of Vaikuntha Puri, they discovered two guards, Jaya and Vijaya, outside the seventh gate. These guards were wearing fresh garlands and were armed with maces. They were adorned with jewelry, earrings, helmets, garlands, etc. The four sages, although the oldest of living creatures, appeared just like five-year-olds. They wore no clothes and covered their bodies only with the atmosphere. When the guards noticed the four Kumaras, they stopped them from proceeding further. This enraged the sages, whose eyes turned red due to their eagerness to meet with Sri Hari, the supreme Lord. The sages concluded that these guards should be cursed as they held the mentality of the material world where living entities had three kinds of enemies. But such a mentality was misplaced in Vaikuntha, which was devoid of any disharmony. The guards repented for their actions, but the sages cursed the guards, Jaya and Vijaya, to be born in the material world.

When the Supreme Lord Narayana, became aware of the situation, He came over to the spot with Lakshmi, His wife. On beholding the beautiful form of the Lord, the four Kumaras sang His praises and considered their lives successful. Lord Hari glorified the brahmanas identifying them as His own body. The Kumaras surrendered unto the Supreme Lord and awaited His instructions on the matter. Lord Hari remarked that though Jaya and Vijaya were cursed by the sages, the action was actually ordained by Him. They would soon be taking birth in a demoniac family, where they would possess a nature inimical to the Lord. In this way, they would be firmly united with the Supreme Lord through mental concentration intensified by anger. And before long, they would return to Vaikuntha again. The sages circumambulated and offered their obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, before departing.

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Jaya and Vijaya take birth as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu

In course of time, Jaya and Vijaya were born as twin asuras (demons) from Diti and sage Kashyap. Diti bore them in her womb for a hundred years. Their birth induced a lot of natural disturbances, on both heavenly and earthly planets. The world suffered from earthquakes, fire, violent storms, meteors, thunderbolts, etc. Ominous planets such as Mars and Saturn shone brighter than auspicious ones such as Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus.

Hiranyaksha Varaha avatar hiranyaksha

All the heavenly denizens were seized with fear. The elder of the twins was Hiranyakashipu and the younger was Hiranyaksha. Hiranyakashipu was unafraid of death having received boons from Brahma that made him effectively immortal. On the other hand, Hiranyaksha was always ready to serve Hiranyakashipu, his elder brother, and traveled all over the world, to fight and prove dominance. Hiranyaksha was powerful and the boons he had received, made him very proud. The demigods hid at the sight of these two brothers just as serpents were terrified of Garuda.

Hiranyaksha challenges Varuna to fight

On finding that Indra and demigods had fled the heavens, Hiranyaksha roared loudly. Searching for a fight, he dived deep into the ocean and finally reached ‘Vibhavari’, the abode of Varuna (God of the seas). A proud Hiranyaksha mocked Varuna and smilingly said, “Give me battle o Lord”. A humiliated Varuna became enraged but controlled his anger. Varuna sarcastically replied that he was too old for battle. Hiranyaksha should instead approach Lord Vishnu, who could give him the battle he was eagerly searching for. Varuna added that Lord Vishnu would rid the demon of his pride and put him on the battlefield for eternal sleep. It is to vanquish wicked demons like Hiranyaksha, that Lord Vishnu assumes various incarnations like the Varaha avatar.

Hiryanaksha confronts Varaha avatar

dvitiyam tu bhavayasya
rasatala-gatam mahim
uddharisyann upadatta
yajnesah saukaram vapuh
(S.B. 1.3.7)

For the welfare of the earth which had sunk to the nether regions of the universe, the supreme enjoyer of all sacrifices accepted His second incarnation as a boar.

garuda vishnu lakshmi

Pierced with the sharp words of Varuna, Hiranyaksha set out in search of Lord Vishnu. He learned from Narada the whereabouts of the Supreme Lord and hurriedly entered the depths of the ocean. There the demon saw the all-powerful Supreme Lord, in His Varaha form (boar incarnation). The Lord was bearing the earth upwards at the end of His tusks. Cursing the Lord with sharp words, Hiranyaksha challenged Him to a duel. Hiranyaksha wanted to smash the Lord’s skull with his mace. The Lord noticed that the earth personified was very fearful of the situation. So instead of confronting the demon right away, He tolerated his words and placed the earth within His sight on the surface of the water. Lord Varaha transferred to earth His own energy in the form of the ability to stay afloat. The demigods rained flowers upon the Lord.

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Varaha avatar slays demon Hiranyaksha

yatrodyatah ksiti-taloddharanaya bibhrat
kraudim tanum sakala-yajna-mayim anantah
antar-maharnava upagatam adi-daityam
tam damstrayadrim iva vajra-dharo dadara
(S.B. 2.7.1)

Lord Brahma said, “When The unlimitedly powerful Lord assumed the form of a boar for lifting earth, which had sunk into the Garbhodaka ocean, the first demon Hiranyaksa appeared and the Lord pierced him with His tusks.”

The Lord tolerated the demon’s sharp words. Finally, He rebuked the demon and challenged him to a fight. Hiranyaksha trembled with anger and hissed like a cobra. Both of them dealt blows to each other with their powerful maces. When the demon attempted to strike the Lord, He dodged his mace just like an accomplished yogi would elude death. Varaha avatar struck Hiranyaksha on the right of his brow. The demon was an expert fighter and he protected himself by maneuvering his own mace. Both fought fiercely and grew increasingly enraged.

hiranyaksha varaha vishnu avatar

Lord Brahma suddenly appeared at the site of combat and apprised the Lord how demon Hiranyaksha had been a constant pinprick to the demigods. The demon has been constantly harassing devotees, spreading terror, and wandering all over the universe searching for fights. Lord Brahma beseeched the Lord to kill the demon without delay before the demoniac hour arrived. Lord Varaha heartily laughed and accepted Brahma’s prayers.

As the Lord hurled His mace towards the demon, His mace slipped and fell down. Although the demon had the chance to strike the unarmed Lord, Hiranyaksha refrained from doing so, respecting the laws of combat. Varaha avatar acknowledged the demon’s love for fairness and finally invoked His Sudarshana chakra. The demon hissed in anger and attacked the Lord with his mace. Lord Varaha playfully knocked down the mace with His left foot and challenged the demon to pick up his weapon and try again. Hiranyaksha roared loudly and hurled his mace towards the Lord. Lord Varaha caught the flying mace with ease. Hiranyaksha felt humiliated and was reluctant to take back the mace when the Lord offered it to him again. When Hiranyaksha hurled his powerful trident towards the Lord, He cut it to pieces with His Sudarshana chakra. When Hiranyaksha struck Varaha avatar with his fists, the Lord did not even feel the slightest pain. It was as if an elephant was struck with a garland of flowers. The demon tried to conjure magical tricks whereby all directions were engulfed by darkness and hail storms. Demonesses, Yakshas, and Rakshasas appeared out of nowhere, and the sky rained blood, pus, hair, stool, urine, and bones. Lord Varaha dispelled the demon’s magic with His Sudarshana disc. Hiranyaksha then tried to grasp the Lord with His arms in order to crush Him. But the demon was amazed to notice that the Lord always stood outside the circle of his arms. Lord Varaha slapped Hiranyaksha below his ear, causing his eyeballs to bulge out of his socket. The demon’s arms and legs broke, and his hair turned disheveled, causing him to fall down dead. 

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The demigods headed by Brahma sang praises glorifying Lord Varaha. The demigods praised the glorious death of Hiranyaksha where he was greatly fortunate to have received the touch of the Lord’s forefoot, which is meditated upon by the Yogis. After killing the formidable demon, Lord Varaha returned to His abode in Vaikuntha, where there is always an uninterrupted festival.

Appearance of Varaha Avatar during two different cosmic devastations

According to Srila Jiva Goswami, Lord Varaha appeared during two different cosmic devastations – once during the Chaksusa devastation and the second time during the Svayambhuva devastation. Lord Varaha had killed the demon Hiranyaksha during the Chaksusa Manvantara. Whereas during Svayambhuva Manvantara, all the planets, except for Janaloka, Maharloka, and Satyaloka, were submerged in the water of devastation. Varaha avatar had then appeared again from the nostrils of Lord Brahma and rescued the world from the water of devastation.

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