The embodiment of sacrifice and the savior of Earth, Vishnu’s third avatar, Varaha, are presented in a highly charged form in this ‘panchaloha’ bronze sculpture image, along with his consort Varahi, or the Earth goddess Bhudevi. This visual presentation is also symbolic of what Hinduism today celebrates as Varaha Jayanti, which marks the mythological celebration of Varaha defeating Hiranyaksha, who stole the Earth and hid her in the ocean and rescued her upon the submission of the demon. Varaha’s tusks, notably, are understood to have supported the Earth’s retrieval from under the ocean.
While a unique zoomorphic form of the Varaha Statue is still present in Khajuraho – complete with carvings of sages, gods, and the saptmatrikas – we have greater evidence of anthropomorphic forms of this Vishnu’s avatar, like the Gupta-era wall panel in Cave five at Udayagiri. Varaha’s iconographic depictions have been detailed in the Agni Purana, Vishnudharmottara Purana, Matsya Purana, Narada Purana, Skanda Purana, and other texts. As the Nri-Varaha, or ‘human-boar,’ Varaha is presented in a combative ‘alidhasana’ with one leg resting on a turtle and the other on the king of all serpents, Sheshnaga. In a glorious manner, Varaha looks up in reverence to Bhudevi, who is held carefully on one of his elbows. His other three hands carry the attributes commonly related to Vishnu: the ‘shankha’ or conch, the mace Kaumodaki, and the war discus ‘Sudarshana chakra’.
Shesha’s presence under the feet of Varaha carries a symbolism of great obeisance towards Vishnu. As one of his earliest and oldest devotees, Shesha has faithfully presented himself as the resting place for Vishnu; moreover, whenever Vishnu descended the Earth in a human form (as Rama or Krishna), Shesha has accompanied him to serve devotedly and help (as Lakshmana or Balrama). Presenting Shesha here carries another symbolic connotation, for the Adishesha is said to hold all the planets of the universe, and its endless coil represents the movement of time. No wonder then, that Bhudevi should be part of this majestic entourage of the world serpent and various other Nagas and Nagini's that are seen praying to the glory of Varaha.
Varaha with Bhudevi Dhokra Art - Bronze Statue: