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Aihole Durga Temple: Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu


Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu
Installed in one of the six devakoshtas (niches) of the Aihole Durga Temple, this beautifully sculpted narrative relief depicts the story of Varahvatara, the third of the ten avatars of Vishnu.

Varaha in Sanskrit means wild boar. In this avatar, Vishnu assumes the form of a wild boar and rescues Bhudevi (Mother Earth) from an evil demon named Hiranyaksha, who was tormenting her. As you can see from the image, Vishnu as Varaha is lifting Bhudevi while Hiranyaksha lay dying on the ground, killed by Vishnu.

The story of Varahavatara is a popular theme in both Chalukya and Hoysala temples. The Chennakeshava and the Hoysaleshvara temples in Belur have several Varahavatara reliefs carved on their outer walls. Likewise, Cave – 2 and Cave -3 of the Badami caves also have the Varahavatara relief carved in their inner walls.

The six devakoshtas are built into the inner wall of the covered pradakshina patha (circumambulation path) that surrounds the garbhagriha (inner sanctum) and the sabhamantapa (congregation hall) of the temple. The jālandharas (perforated stone windows) occupy the space between the devakoshtas.

Here is the list of sculptures in the six devakoshtas:

South corridor
1. East: Shiva with his vehicle Nandi
2. Middle: Narasimhavatara, the fourth avatar of Vishnu
3. West: Vishnu riding Garuda

North corridor
4. West: Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu
5. Middle: Durga Mahishasuramardini (Slayer of Mahishasura)
6. East: Harihara

Other Varahavatara Pages
Varahavatara – Sculptural relief in Cave – 2
Varahavatara – Sculptural relief in Cave – 3
Varahavatara – Sculptural relief carved into the outer wall of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple in Karnataka, India
Varahavatara – Sculptural relief mounted on the outer wall of Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Related Pages
Durga Temple at Aihole
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals

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