This book on Varaha Avatara of Visnu in Art and Literature of Tamil Nadu is an outcome of an inspiration to further explore and study the Varaha avatara of Visnu in art and literature of Tamil Nadu, by perusing the events of history in chronological order. The primary source such as literature, epigraphy, and numismatics were consulted and Varaha temples were visited and studied elaborately. The narrative history of Varaha incarnation in Tamil Nadu is carried out and distributed in four chapters viz., the first chapter deals with the worship in India, while the other chapters such as Varaha in Tamil Literature, Varaha temples and in Art forms, the study had confirmed that Varaha incarnation was one of the famous popular worships prevailed in Tamil Nadu. This publication is a significant attempt to forge links to the past, when religion was a way of life to the ancient society. The inclusion of Bibliography, Appendices and Plates also will be an added attraction to the readers of this book.
Vasanthi Srinivasan is presently working as Registering Officer, in the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu. As an excavation and exploration Archaeologist of the department, participated in the excavations (nearly 12 sites) conducted by the department in various archaeological sites in Tamil Nadu. She is the author and editor of Temple architecture and Iconographical studies, Archaeological excavation reports published by the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology. She has also participated in International seminars held at Bangkok, Bali and has presented papers on art history. She has participated and presented papers on Archaeology, Art and History in various international and national seminars. Her articles were published in various reputed journals of Archaeology, Art and History.
I am delighted to welcome the book titled VARAHA AVATARA OF VISNU IN ART AND LITERATURE OF TAMIL NADU by Dr. S. Vasanthi for the readers of religious history, art history and archaeology.
When Dr. Vasanthi, approached for her Doctoral studies under my guidance, I accepted with pleasure and was happy to guide her research work on Varaha avatara in Tamil Nadu..This book is an outcome of an inspiration to further explore and study the Varaha avatara of Visnu in art and literature of Tamil Nadu. The primary sources such as literature, epigraphy, and numismatics were consulted and temple surveys were also carried out and studies elaborately by the author.
The author Dr Vasanthi has narrated the historical importance of Varaha avatara and carried out the study by distributing the study in four chapters in the following manner; the first chapter deals with the worship in India, while the other chapters such as Varaha in Tamil Literature, Varaha Temples and in Art forms. In the concluding part, she has discussed the outcome of her study in detail. In this book, a systematic and a comparative study of the different sources gives a full-fledged account on Varaha worship in Tamil Nadu. The inclusion of Bibliography, Appendices and Plates also will be attractive to the readers of this book.
I congratulate Dr Vasanthi, in bringing out her thesis in book form and wish her success in all future endeavors.
Hinduism believes in one supreme God but allows the Hindus to worship Him in any form that he likes. The Hindu deities can be worshipped in temples and houses. The Hindus believe that one can reach God through personal devotion (Bhakti), Knowledge, (Jnana) and good deeds (Karma) and also that every one has to find his own path to reach God. Brahma, Visnu and Siva, the Trinity of Hindu religion are assigned the duties of Creation, Protection and Destruction. The Creation and Destruction are done at certain phases while the act of Protection is a long process that falls between the two acts. It is believed that Visnu takes incarnation or avatara to destroy the evil Asuras and protect the earth from destruction whenever the need arises.
The term ‘avatara’ is applied to the act of the God coming down in the form of man or animal to the earth and living there in that form till the purpose for which he had descended on the earth was accomplished. It is a coming, a descent or a manifestation of the Divine in human form. Although the number of avataras is considered to be more, only ten avataras of Visnu are traditionally associated with Dasavatara.
“Matsya, Kurma, Varahasca,
Ramo, Ramasca, Ramasca,
Krsnah, Kalkin Janardanah”!!
Is the benedictory verse of Jayadeva the eminent saint poet of Orissa. In the above verse, it is stated that Visnu took the avatara of Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (Boar), Narasimha (Lion), Vamana (dwarfmen), Ramo (Parasuram), Ramasca (Sri Rama or Dasarathi Rama), Rama (Balarama), Krisna and he is yet to take the avatar of Kalkin to protect the world. The first avatara, Matsya avatara was to save all the living things of the world. In the second avatara, Visnu assumed the form of a Kurma (tortoise), raised the mount Meru and functioned as a pivot during the churning of Parkadal (milky ocean) by the devas and the asuras, to obtain amrta (nectar). The third, Varaha avatara gained greater popularity. There are many Puranic stories connected with this incarnation.
Varaha avatara is widely worshipped in India. The present work is an outcome of an inspiration to further explore and study the Varaha avatara of Visnu in art and literature of Tamil Nadu, by perusing the events of history in chronological order. The primary sources such as literature, epigraphy, and numismatics were consulted and temple survey was also carried out and studied elaborately. The narrative history of Varaha incarnation in Tamil Nadu is carried out and distributed in four chapters.
The origin and development of Varaha worship in India is discussed and explained in the first chapter with the help of Varaha worship in India is carried out and archaeological and literary sources. In ancient societies of the world the wild Boar was associated with harvest and fertility. In India, the depiction of Boar is found in the seals and other antiquities from Indus valley. The Vedas, the Puranas and the Agamas also speak of it. The earliest reference of Varaha is in the Rg Veda and Atharva Veda. The Rg Veda mentions Emusa, i.e., Varaha who was the keeper of the goods belonging to the Asuras, behind the seven hills. Later, the Brahmanas, Upanishads and Samhitas also make mention of Varaha, who brought Earth goddess from the nether region.
The epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha also refer to Varaha as one of the avataras of Visnu. The mythical boar avatara of Visnu captivated the imagination of poets and thus attained popularity in India during the Gupta period. Puranas such as the Varaha, Kurma, Visnu, etc., compiled during the Gupta period about 4th Century CE, extol the glory of this form of Visnu, as the lifter of the earth.
Varaha, as boar, is presented in other Indian religious systems also; these aspects are studied with reference to Tamil Nadu. Generally, Hindu deities are included both in the Jain and Buddhist realms of Gods and Goddess. The study of these religious texts with reference to sculptural representation has been discussed elaborately. In Jaina mythology, certain animals and birds are considered to be the Vahanas of the Tirthankaras. The Boar happens to be the Vahana Vimalanatha, the thirteenth Thirthankara and also serves as a vehicle to the Yakshini Bala or Vijaya. Buddhist goddess of dawn Marici is said to have three faces, one of which is a pig face and has seven sows drawing chariot. Marici is worshipped in Nepal and Tibet even today under the name of Dorje Phagmo.
The second chapter deals with the study of Varaha and his adulation in Tamil literature. The systematic and detailed study of Tamil literature through the ages is attempted. The depiction of Varaha in the Pre-historic period was studies with the consultation of Rock Paintings. The Tamil literary works are divided into three broad sections i.e., Varaha incarnation in Sangam literature, Varaha worship in Bhakthi literature and Varaha forms in Post Bhakthi literature. The earliest of the Sangam works are available in the form of anthologies called Ettuthogai and Pathupattu. They give a fair idea of the theistic cults and their pantheons. The Bhakthi movement spawned ardent devotion and volumes of religious literary hymns. Post Bhakthi movement compositions such as Bharani, Ula, Kambaramanayam and Periyapuranam also praise Lord Visnu and his avatara forms.
In the Third chapter, Varaha incarnation as revealed from inscriptions, Iconographic forms and temples dedicated to Varaha are discussed in detail. The iconography of Varaha under three different forms i.e. (1) Bhuvaraha, (Adivaraha or Nrvaraha) (2) Yajnavaraha, (3) Pralayavaraha and other separate form of Vaikuntha are discussed in this chapter. The survey and study of the temples dedicated to Varaha in Tamil Nadu are carried out. There is a belief that the principal deity of the famous Venkateswara temple at Tirupathi was Varaha and the place itself was called as Varaha kshetra. There is a temple to the west of the main Venkatesvara temple tank and the daily food offerings for Varaha is prepared from the kitchen of Venkatesvara and offered to both the deities simultaneously. There are temples dedicated to Varaha in Tamil Nadu, like Mamallai, Tiruvidandai, Namakkal, Srimushnam, Kumbakonam etc., and the inscriptions found there mention about the construction and gifts made to the temple during various periods. Varaha representations in Saivism and Varahi (the female counter part of Varaha) in Tamilnadu have been included for the study.
In the Fourth chapter the art forms of Varaha avatara in Tamil Nadu are elaborated. The representation of Varaha in the sculptures, carvings, ivory carvings, coins, and paintings on walls and ceilings of temples, emblems and seals have also been studied in detail. Generally speaking, the rulers who conquered and acquired territories worshipped the Varaha avatara. In South India the Chalukyas had a fascination for the depiction of Varaha. The Varaha served as the royal emblem of not only the Western Chalukyas but Kakatiyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara Kings. The Varaha worship reached its zenith during the Pallava rule in the Tamil country. The early and later Pandyas of further south also worshipped the Varaha avatara. The worship of Varaha as one among the ten avataras was also very popular and there were many sculptural representations of Varaha in the Dasavatara group.
The study of origin and development of Varaha worship in Tamil Nadu was carried out with the help of literary and archaeological sources. In this book a systematic and a comparative study of the different sources gives a full-fledged account on Varaha worship in Tamil Nadu.
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