It is said that before the road was built in front of it, the grand Varaha sculpture of Udayagiri, near present-day Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, rose high from the waters of the tank that lay before it. What a sight it would have been. It reminded the many who flocked here of the story from the Puranas, of how the Hindu God Vishnu took the form of a boar to rescue the Earth Goddess Bhudevi from the clutches of the demon Hiranyaksha, who had hidden her deep within the cosmic waters, as the devas and asuras – gods and demons – fought for control of the universe.
The great relief in Cave No. 5 in Udayagiri captures the story of the Varaha, considered the third avatar of Vishnu, in fine detail. You can see Bhudevi perched on the anthropomorphic boar’s shoulders, as numerous sages and devas look on. The rivers Ganga and Yamuna depicted as goddesses stand by, as does Varuna, the God of the Oceans, and a Naga king, who bows his hooded head. Even the ripples of the ocean can be seen etched on the wall.
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