Vishnu as Varaha



10th century
more object details

General Description

Vishnu and Shiva are the chief gods in modern India. In the older triad of Hinduism, Brahma is the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu is imagined as preserving the world many times, whenever it is threatened. In his ten best-known avatars, he awakes from a cosmic sleep to set right the balance of the world. In this 10th-century sculpture, he appears as the boar-headed Varaha, who saves the earth goddess from a demon trying to drown her. The inclusion of a lotus flower above Varaha's head is significant. Whole flowers represent beauty, happiness, and renewal, and lotuses commonly appear as the thrones of Hindu gods. The lotus flower, which grows out of the mud, represents emergence from earthly ignorance and release from the cycle of rebirth. Like much early Hindu art, this is an architectural sculpture that ornamented a temple or shrine.

Adapted from

  • "Vishnu as Varaha," in_ Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ ed. Bonnie Pitman (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 98.

  • DMA Connect.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Bromberg, Anne R. discusses Vishnu as Varaha (DMA collection, 2002.25), Hindu, India
demonstrating a classical Indian dance related to the Hindu god Vishnu; web version posted to You Tube; date comes from YouTube information
Art historian Darielle Mason describes the story of Vishnu’s creation.
Learn about the role of Hinduism in Indian culture.

Web Resources

Arturo's Art Stories~ Play the memory game Vishnu to the Rescue.