Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Kurmavatara – The second avatar of Vishnu

Kurmavatara - The second avatar of Vishnu carved on the outer walls of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Kurmavatara – The second avatar of Vishnu

Kurmavatara -The second avatar of Vishnu
The image shows a sculptural relief depicting Kurmavatara, the second of the ten avatars (Dashavatara) of Vishnu, mounted on the outer wall surrounding the southern garbhagriha of Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. In Sanskrit, kurma means turtle.

For a list of all the ten avatars, check the Dashavatara (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) mural painted on the ceiling of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.

In this avatar, Vishnu assumes half-man half-turtle form during the Samudra Manthana (Churning of the Ocean of Milk), a collaborative effort by devas (demigods) and asuras (demons) to produce amrita, the nectar of immortality. In the Samudra Manthana, using the seven-headed snake called Vasuki as the rope and Mount Mandara as the churning rod, the devas and asuras tugged Vasuki to churn the ocean for thousands of years to produce amrita. To enable churning, Vishnu assumed the form of a turtle (i.e., Kurmavatara) and positioned himself under Mount Mandara to act as a pivot.

As you can see from the relief, Vishnu has the face of a turtle and the body of a man with four arms. Two of his hands are holding chakra and shanka, his signature objects, and the other two are holding an egg-like object known as Hiranyagarbha, or the cosmic golden womb. In Sanskrit, hiranya means golden, and garbha means womb. According to Rigveda and Yajurveda, Prajapathi, a form of Brahma, was born from this womb. However, they differ in what Prajapathi created. In Rigveda, Pajapathi created abstract entities like mana (mind), kama (desire), and tapas (austerity), whereas, in Yajurveda, he created the real entities like the sky, the earth, seasons, devas, asuras, etc.

Related Pages
Hoysala Temples:
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Badami Chalukya Temples:
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole
Vijayanagara Temples:
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Angkor Wat Temples:
Angkor Wat Temple, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Banteay Srei Temple in Cambodia

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