As is the legend, a horse-headed demon, and hence named Hayagriva, born of Diti, the mother of demons and one of the wives of sage Kashyapa, Brahma’s grandson, once performed great penance and propitiated Brahma to grant him the boon of immortality and when Brahma expressed his inability to do so, he conceded that no one other than Hayagriva – one with the face of a horse, could kill him. Hayagriva believed that he would not kill himself and hence considered himself as one beyond death. This led the arrogant demons to inflict atrocities on all. Finally, Vishnu, with his face transformed as of a horse, took to the form of Hayagriva and killed Hayagriva, the demon.
Varaha and Narsimha were Vishnu’s incarnations for accomplishing other objectives. Vishnu is said to have incarnated as Varaha for killing the notorious demon Hiranyaksha and to restore the earth. Hiranyaksha, a mighty demon, once uprooted the earth from its place and dragging it to Patala-Loka – nether world, hid it there. Gods, saints, Brahmins and all prayed Vishnu for freeing the earth from the clutches of Hiranyaksha. Thereupon Vishnu incarnated as Boar, descended into deep waters and after killing Hiranyaksha carried the earth on his tusks and installed it back in its place. Vishnu had incarnated as Narasimha for killing the atrocious demon Hiranyakasipu who had from Brahma the boon that he would not be killed by either of the man or animal. The boon did not provide immunity against blend of two forms : Narasimha, who was neither man nor animal.
The statue represents Hanuman as the central figure of the image and other four faces as his aspects. All five faces are carried over a human torso suggesting the unity of cosmos which despite the outward diversities is just one.
This sculpture was cast in the city of Aligarh, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.