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Images of Varahi: An Iconographic Study

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Item Code: NAL949
Author: Haripriya Rangarajan
Publisher: Sharada Publishing House
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8188934011
Pages: 310 (99 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7.5 inch
Weight 840 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The focus of this book is on goddess Varahi who is the atmasakti of Varaha responsible for lifting up the earth goddess from the Nether region. Very few books like the present are available which are exclusively devoted to Varahi. In this book, the author presents in great detail the various aspects of Varahi including the iconographic features of the different forms as well as mantras and yantra associated with the worship of Varahi. The detailed information provided in the book is based on the ancient texts, Puranas and Silpa-sastras.

The book consists of six chapters. The first two chapters deal with the antiquity and development of the worship of mother goddess in the pre-Vedic and the Vedic periods. Chapter III brings out the evolution of the identification of three female deities Vak, Sarasvati and Varahi and their fusion and synchronization into one. This chapter also narrates the important position Varahi occupies in Vaisnavism, Saktsim and Tantric Saktism. Chapter IV presents the canonical rules prescribed in Silpasastras with regard to the various forms of Varahi. Chapter V deals with the icons of Varahi in temples, caves and other places in India. Some of the images kept in the museums in India and abroad have also been described. Chapter VI presents the basic mantras and yantras to b followed to procure benefits from Varahi worship. The special feature of this book lies in presenting large number of collection of the images of Varahi found different parts of the country. In the Appendix al the slokas of Varahi including Varai Sahasranama are given. This book will be of benefit not only to researchers but also to those who are interested in the worship of Varahi.


About the Author

Dr. (Mrs.) Haripriya Rangarajan obtained the Ph. D. degree in Indian Culture from the Gujarat University in 1987. She specialized in the iconography of Vishnu and has contributed articles to academic jounal, national seminars and popular magazines. Her doctoral thesis was published in 1990 under the title Spread og Vaishnavism in Gujarat upto 1600 A.D. (A study with Special Reference to the Iconic forms of Vishnu). Her book on Ramanuja Sampradaya in Gujrat: A Historical Perspective was published in 1996.

Her thied work entitled Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh-An Iconographic Study was published in 1997 and the Asistic Society of Bombay has awarded the Silver Medal for this work in 1998. She is a recipient of Indian Council of Historical Studies fellowship for her research studies.

She is keen in organizing and participating in the academic activities. She has organized several seminars and workshops in close association with well-known museums and research institutions.



This study entitled Images of Varahi: As Iconographic Study is a unique intellectual exercise, presenting at one place, the various aspects of conceptual traditional, ritualistic iconographical importance in regard to the Goddess Varahi. I have not only enjoyed going through the study in great details but also learnt a lot from the study, about the differest dimensions of the personality of Goddess Vrahi. Throughout the study, the author, Smt. Haripriya Rangarajan displays her extra-ordinary scholarship, depth of perceptive insights and skill of communication.

The study begins by bringing out the antiquity of the concept of Motheer Goddess, and in particular that of Earth Goddess, as perceived during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. It is rightly pointed out that during the latter period, the Earth-Goddess was conceived as the ‘generative power in nature as a whole’. The author has done extensive study of the religions and the ritualistic practices of the various tribal societies in Indian and also examined the varieties of the evidences available in the different ancient monuments and the literature to establish the antiquity of the concept of Mother Goddess and Earth Goddess. This analysis is followed by the discussion on the various types of Goddesses that are mentioned in the Vedas, the Brahmana, the Upanisada and the Puranas. The extensive original references given in this context, in regard to the various Goddesses and in particular, about the Goddess of Vak and the concept of Maya Sakti, clearly display that scholarly command of the author over the ocean of literature that has been scanned through, for the analysis of the topic on hand.

The Chapters III, IV, V and VI constitute the intellectual core of the entire volume. The third Chapter provides an insightful account of the features of and the spiritual purposes associated with the different forms of Goddess Varahi, in the different religious systems and sults, viz. Vaisnavism, Saktism, Tantric Saktism and Buddhism.

Smt. Haripriya Rangarajan is well-known in the intellectual world, as a great scholar in the fields of Iconography and Tantrism. This reputation of hers finds its evidnce in the Chapters IV and V, which, respectively deal with the termes of Iconography of Varahi and Icons of Varahi and in Chapter VI which provides an insight into the varieties of with Goddess Varahi.

The Chapter III on Iconography of Varahi explains also to how the different images of Varahi are conceived and designed in specific postures and with specific mudras, as per the prescriptions given in the different Agamas and Silpasastras. The different forms of Varahi are classified into four categories viz. Varahi, Dhumra Varahi, Svapana Varahi and Vartali, and the eleven to twelve different forms of Varahi referred to in extensive iterature on the subject are considered for analysis under these four major categories. The author’s mastery over the Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil literature on the subject is remarkable. The texts of relevant references drawn from the various source materials such as Parsurama Kalpa Sutra, Purvakarnagama, Agnipurana, Tantraja Tantra, Sri Vidya Maharnavam, Mantramahodadhih, Devi Bhagavatam, Sri Tattvanidhi, Hindi Mantra Maharnava, given at the end of this chapter, not only enrich the intellectual content of the hapter but also strengthen the veracity of the discussions given in the main text. It is revealing to learn from this chapter that despite differences in the forms of the images of Varahi, there is one uniformity in all the schools of thought in regard to the faith that Goddess Varahi is one of the most powerful divine entities, that needs to be adored, worshipped and appeased, by the Sadhakas, for te realization of the varieties of their wishes and/or for spiritual emancipation.

The Chapter on Icons of Varahi is the outcome of the extraordinarily pains taking efforts put in by the author, in collecting, seeing and examining a large number of Images of Varahi from the different parts of Indian and also from abroad. Detailed descriptions of the forms, mudras,postures, vahanas, etc. in regard to the different Icons, and the analytical discussions on their dates and on he nature of their associations with the different religious systems, traditions and cults, presented in this Chapter, make it as one of the most informative and intellectually inspiring Chapter. Obviously, Smt. Haripriya Rangarajan herself has travelled extensively in the country and also used tours abroad to collect authentic evidences from the original sources and to hold discussions with research scholars, curators of the museums and also the priests in the temples. By this remarkable exercise of physical effort and intellectual commitment, Smt. Haripriya Rangarajan has, in my view, become a role modle for all researchers-an Adarsha Samshodhika. The professional community indeed owes a great deal of debt of Smt. Haripriya and Rangarajan for providing at one place, that rich reservoir of knowledge and information on the innumerable varieties of Icons of Varahi.

The Sixth Chapter of the Study presents an extremely insightful account of the Mantras and the Yantras associated with the different systems of Upasana of Varahi Goddess. The author rightly points out, right at the beginning of the Chapter that the etymological meaning of Mantra, implies the mental process of meditation-derived from the roof Man, for the purpose of protection and freedom from bondage-implies a modality for awakening one’s own consciousness. The detailed texts of the different Mantras and the diagrams of the different Yantras, presented in this Chapter, make this Chapter take the form of a practical Manuel in this Chapter take the form of a practical Manuel for the Sadhakas of Goddess Varahi. The masterly treatment of the subject given in this Chapter, once again, testifies to the depth of Scholarship possessed by Smt. Haripriya Rangarajan.

The style of presentation throughout the Study is extremely lucid and focused. The author draws extensively both from the writings of the western scholars as also from those of the Indian and other oriental scholars. Copious references to the ancient Sanskrit literature of Agamas and Puranas, given in the Study makes its ntellectual foundations firm and authentic.



The present study entitled ‘Images of Varahi: an iconographic study’ is the continuation of my earlier work, ‘Varaha images in Madhya Pradesh: an iconographic Study’. While doing researhon the Varaha images, I was attracted by a two-armed tiny female figure of Vak standing in Samabhanga position on the snout of zoomorphic Varaha at Eran, Madhya Pradesh, datable to the 5th century A.D. It is the earliest and the only one of its kind found in the State. Interesting, in the later centuries in Madhya Pradesh, the same figure of Vak was transformed into the form of four-armed Sarasvati shown sitting on the lotus pitha on the snout of zoomorphic Varaha and holding vina in two of the hands. This practice continued until the 14th century A.D. The figure of Vak-Sarasvati is idebtified as the synonym of goddess Varahi who is the Sakti of Yajna Varaha, the third incarnation of Visnu.

Beside the figures of Vak-Sarasvati (Varaha Sakti) represented along with zoomorphic yajna Varaha, during my earlier research work I came across several independent images of Varahi with boar face and female body in various temples and Museums. She is four armed, endowed with Vaisnava, Sakti and Tantric ayudhas and attributes and with vahanas of buffalo or lion or Garuda or Sesa or Kurma or preta. She is also shown with a child on her lap. More than that, when I observed images of huge, heavy and big pot bellied Varahi with matsya and mamsa in her hands in Orissa, I realized that this goddess cannot be regarded as just a member of the Saptamatrika group. She must be a goddess with complex personalities. This idea made me write about her and I have striven hard to bring out all her salient features in this work. In fact, while some of the earlier author have described Varahi as one of the members of the Saptamatrika group, some others have mentioned about her attributes of matsya and mamsa and tried to acknowledge her relative connection with Tantrism. However, their descriptions have been partial. They have not bought out in all dimensions her complex set of qualities.

This text consists of seven chapters. In the first chapter an attempt has been made to explain the origin and evolution of Goddess cult in the world with special reference to Indian from the very early times. This chapter explains how in the beginning Mother Goddess was recognizd as Earth Goddess as a representation of fertility and how in the later period Earth Goddess became the Mother Supreme.

The second chapter describes how Aryans personified different aspects of Nature in the form of goddess and named them. Altogether forty names of the goddess are described in detail of which Vak and Sarasvati are given more importance.

In the third chapter, the origin of the concept of Varahi and her identification with Vak-Sarasvati is great length. It also explains the complex power of Varahi and her affinity with different religious sects which include Vaisnava, Saiva, Sakta and Tantric Saktism. This chapter introducs Varahi both as atmasakti of Varaha and as commander-in-chief of the army of goddess Lalita Parameswari. She is called Pancami, Vakstambhini, Vartali etc., in Tantric Saktism and Vajravarahi in Buddhist Tantrism. While explain the different traits of her personality, the chapter refers to her different names, forms, attributes in the hands and vahanas at the bottom in accordance with the different sects.

Chapter IV provides the iconographic prescriptions from the Agamas, Sutra, Puranas, Silpasastras and Tantric texts. This chapter classifies the images of Varahi into four categories. In first category, her seven forms are explained which include (a) Adi Varahi (b) Brhad Varahi (c) Laghu Vrahi (d) Pancami (e) Asvarudha Varahi (f) Suddha Varahi and (g) Dandanatha Varahi. In the category, she is described as Dhumavati alias Dhumra Varahi. She is acclaimed as Jyestha the eldest, who is stated to be anterior to the age of gods and is known as the smoky swallower of the universe. Simlarly Laghu Varahi is specially mentioned in the Sri Vidyaratnakara as “Unmatta Bhairavi” who is the angadevata of Varahi. It says that She only lifted up the earth which was drowned in the sea. Sh is the atmasakti of Maha Visnu in Mahavaraha form (see Ch. IV, fn. 31). The third category of varahi is called Svapna Varahi who is always waiting to speak to her ardent devotees in their dreams. The fourth category is Vartali Varahi about whom it is said in Tamil ‘Don’t fight with Varahi worshippers, and don’t argue with her devotees’. Those who fight against her will meet their end and those who argue with her will be defeated in their arguments. Varahi is fire.

The fifth chapter is the cream of this text. Altogeter 100 images are examined by me. It describes the images of Varahi in sitting, standing and dancing position. Each and every attribute and the unique characteristics represented in the Varahi images are minutely explained with great care. She is represented in the sculptural form with wide open eyes, beautiful body of a maiden and the face of a boar. This chapterdistinguishes Varahi images in her two characteristics, one as the independent Varahi image, second, as one of the mothers in the Saptamatrika group. In these images of Varahi, her suputra called Candoccanda is also represented. It is important to note that in the independent images, she is the only goddess shown as having different vahanas at the bottom. The second significant factor is that of the preence of matsya in one her hands to indicate her affinity with Tantric Saktim. In a rare representation, she is shown holding a matsya between her teeth to indicate her act of lifting up the earth from the Nether region. The figure of fish is been straight and Varahi supports it with her left heel. The figure of fish between the teeth of Varahi has nothing to do with Pancamakara. It is exclusively a symbolic depiction on how Varahi brought Earth Goddess from Nether region by holding her tightly between her teeth. Here the fish is purely symbolic of Earth. At present, it is preserved in the British Museum, London. It is an ideal example of Swapna Varahi as mentioned in Mantra Mahodadhi (Taranga 10, Sl. 39.). In another rare representation, Varahi is shown as a pair which is exhibited in Indian Art Museum, Berlin. This representation comes from Agni Purana. This chapter with the help of the illustration analyses the benevolent and fierceful qua;ities of the anthropomorphic form of Varahi. In all the descriptions, the artistic beauty is brought out fully.




  Foreword ix
  Preface xiii
  List of Illustrations xvii
Chapter I The Antiquity of Mother Goddess Earth Goddess 1
Chapter II Goddess in The Vedas and Upanisads 17
Chapter III Goddess Varahi in Different Sects 35
Chapter IV Iconography of Varahi 61
Chapter V Icons of Varahi 91
Chapter VI Mantras and Yanteras of Varahi 153
Chapter VII Conclusion 197
  Appendix 203
  Bibligraphy 219
  Index 225
  Illustraions 235


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