Last updated

Varaha and Hiranyaksha.jpg
Varaha battles the Hiranyaksha, Scene from the Bhagavata Purana by Manaku of Guler (c. 1740)
Affiliation Asura
Abode Patala
Weapon Mace
Personal information
Parents Kashyapa and Diti
Siblings Hiranyakashipu (elder brother)
Holika (sister)
Children Andhaka

Hiranyaksha (Sanskrit : हिरण्याक्ष, romanized: Hiraṇyākṣa, lit. 'golden-eyed'), also known as Hiranyanetra (Sanskrit : हिरण्यनेत्र) [1] is an asura in Hindu mythology. He is described to have submerged the earth and terrorised the three worlds. He is slain by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu, who rescued the earth goddess Bhumi and restored order to the earth. [2] [3]



The boar avatar Varaha, the third incarnation of Vishnu, stands in front of the decapitated body of the asura Hiranyaksha The boar avatar Varaha, the third incarnation of Visnu, stands in front of the decapitated body of the demon Hiranyaksha.jpg
The boar avatar Varaha, the third incarnation of Vishnu, stands in front of the decapitated body of the asura Hiranyaksha

Some of the Puranas present Hiranyaksha as the son of Diti and Kashyapa. [4] Having performed austerities to propitiate Brahma, Hiranyaksha received the boon of invulnerability of meeting his death by neither any god, man, nor beast. [5] [6]

Having received this boon, Hiranyaksha assaulted the defenceless Bhumi and pulled her deep beneath the cosmic ocean. The other deities appealed to Vishnu to save the earth goddess and creation. Answering their plea, Vishnu assumed the avatar of a man-boar (Varaha) to rescue the goddess. Hiranyaksha attempted to obstruct him, after which he was slain by Vishnu. [4] [7]

Hiranyaksha had an elder brother named Hiranyakashipu, who similarly achieved a boon of invulnerability and conquered the three worlds, seeking vengeance for his brother's death. [8] He tried to persecute and abuse his son Prahlada for being a faithful devotee of Vishnu. While Hiranyaksha was slain by Varaha (the boar avatar of Vishnu), Hiranyakashipu was killed by Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Vishnu. [4] Their sister was Holika, who tried to kill her nephew by attempting to immolate him, but got burnt herself and killed.

In some texts including the Bhagavata Purana , Hiranyaksha is an incarnation of one of the dvarapalas (gatekeepers) of Vishnu named Vijaya. Vishnu's guardians Jaya-Vijaya, were cursed by the Four Kumaras (Brahma's sons) to incarnate on earth either three times as enemies of Vishnu, or seven times as his devotees. They chose to take birth on earth thrice. During their first births (during the Satya Yuga), they were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. During their second births, (during the Treta Yuga), they were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna. During their third births (during the Dvapara Yuga), they were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra.

Origins and significance

Varaha slays Hiranyaksha, and the devas shower flowers from heaven Varaha Avatar of Vishnu kills Hiranyakshan and the Devas shower flowers from the heaven.jpg
Varaha slays Hiranyaksha, and the devas shower flowers from heaven

This Hindu legend has roots in the Vedic literature such as Taittariya Samhita and Shatapatha Brahmana, and is found in many post-Vedic texts. [9] [10] These legends depict the earth goddess (Bhumi or Prithvi) in an existential crisis, where neither she nor the life she supports can survive. She is drowning and overwhelmed in the cosmic ocean. Vishnu emerges in the form of a man-boar avatar. He, as the protagonist of the legend, descends into the ocean and finds her. She hangs onto his tusk, and he lifts her out to safety. Good wins, the crisis ends, and Vishnu once again fulfills his cosmic duty. The Varaha legend has been one of many archetypal legends in the Hindu text embedded with the theme of right versus wrong, good versus evil symbolism, and of someone willing to go to the depths and do what is necessary to rescue the righteous and uphold dharma. [9] [10] [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matsya</span> Fish form of the god Viṣṇu

Matsya is the fish avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Often described as the first of Vishnu's ten primary avatars, Matsya is described to have rescued the first man, Manu, from a great deluge. Matsya may be depicted as a giant fish, often golden in color, or anthropomorphically with the torso of Vishnu connected to the rear half of a fish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Varaha</span> Boar avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu

Varaha is an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, in the form of a boar. Varaha is generally listed as third in the Dashavatara, the ten principal avatars of Vishnu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hiranyakashipu</span> Asura in Hindu mythology

Hiranyakashipu, also known as Hiranyakashyap, is an asura king of the daityas in the Puranic scriptures of Hinduism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mangala</span> Deity of Planet Mars

Mangala is the personification, as well as the name for the planet Mars, in Hindu literature. Also known as Lohita, he is the celibate deity of anger, aggression, as well as war. According to Vaishnavism, he is the son of Bhumi, the earth goddess, and Vishnu, born when the latter raised her from the depths of the primordial waters in his Varaha avatar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sharabha</span> Part-lion and part-bird beast in Hindu mythology

Sharabha or Sarabha is a part-lion and part-bird beast in Hindu mythology, who is described eight-legged and more powerful than a lion or an elephant, possessing the ability to clear a valley in one jump. In later literature, Sharabha is described as an eight-legged deer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Udayagiri Caves</span> Early 5th century Hindu cave temples in Madhya Pradesh

The Udayagiri Caves are twenty rock-cut caves near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh primarily denoted to Hindu gods Vishnu and Shiva from the early years of the 5th century CE. They contain some of the oldest surviving Hindu temples and iconography in India. They are the only site that can be verifiably associated with a Gupta period monarch from its inscriptions. One of India's most important archaeological sites, the Udayagiri hills and its caves are protected monuments managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Narakasura</span> Asura king in Hindu mythology

Naraka, also known as Narakasura, is an asura king in Hindu mythology. In Assamese tradition, he is regarded as the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha. Though the myths about Naraka are first mentioned in the Mahabharata, later texts embellish them. According to later post-Vedic texts such as the Brahma Purana and Vishnu Purana, he was the son of Bhudevi, fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He is claimed as one who established Pragjyotisha. He was killed by Krishna and Satyabhama. His son Bhagadatta—of Mahabharata fame—succeeded him.

The following list consists of notable concepts that are derived from Hindu culture and associated cultures traditions, which are expressed as words in Sanskrit or other Indic languages and Dravidian languages. The main purpose of this list is to disambiguate multiple spellings, to make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, to define the concept in one or two lines, to make it easy for one to find and pin down specific concepts, and to provide a guide to unique concepts of Hinduism all in one place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jaya-Vijaya</span> Gatekeepers of Vaikuntha in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Jaya and Vijaya are the two dvarapalakas (gatekeepers) of the abode of Vishnu, known as Vaikuntha. Due to a curse by the four Kumaras, they were forced to undergo multiple births as mortals who would be subsequently killed by various avatars of Vishnu. They were incarnated as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha in the Satya Yuga, Ravana and Kumbhakarna in the Treta Yuga, and finally Shishupala and Dantavakra in the Dvapara Yuga.

<i>Varaha Purana</i> Sanskrit text from the Puranas genre of literature in Hinduism

The Varaha Purana is a Sanskrit text from the Puranas genre of literature in Hinduism. It belongs to the Vaishnavism literature corpus praising Narayana (Vishnu), but includes chapters dedicated to praising and centered on Shiva and Shakti.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bhumi (goddess)</span> Hindu goddess of the earth

Bhumi, also known as Bhudevi and Vasundhara, is a Hindu goddess who is the personification of the earth. She is a consort of the god Vishnu. According to Vaishnava tradition, she is the second aspect of Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, along with the aspects of Sridevi and Niladevi. According to Hindu mythology, Varaha, the third avatar of Vishnu, saved her from the asura Hiranyaksha and later married her, making her one of his consorts. She is regarded as the mother of Narakasura, Mangala, and Sita.

For one of the major Hindu denominations, the Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is the most famous Vaishnavite temple in the world. The presiding deity of Vishnu here is referred to as Venkateswara. There are many legends regarding this temple. Sri Venkatachala Mahatyam is the most accepted legend among these, which provides the history of the temple across the various yugas. This place had also been mentioned in many puranas. It has been said as "Venkatadri samasthanam Brahmande nasti kinchana, Venkatesha samodevo na bhuto na bhavishyati" which literally translates as There is no place in the entire Universe which is equal to Tirumala and there is no other God equal to Venkatesha in the past, present or will be in the future.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dashavatara</span> Ten major avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu

The Dashavatara are the ten primary avatars of Vishnu, a principal Hindu god. Vishnu is said to descend in the form of an avatar to restore cosmic order. The word Dashavatara derives from daśa, meaning "ten", and avatāra, roughly equivalent to "incarnation".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vishnu</span> One of the principal deities in Hinduism

Vishnu, also known as Narayana and Hari, is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme being within Vaishnavism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Junior wives of Krishna</span> Unnamed junior wives of Hindu god Krishna

Besides eight principal queens (Ashtabharya), the Hindu god Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu and the king of Dvaraka, wedded a number of captured women, whose number is mentioned as 16,000 or 16,108 in different scriptures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian boar</span> Subspecies of wild boar

The Indian boar, also known as the Andamanese pig or Moupin pig, is a subspecies of wild boar native to India, Nepal, Myanmar, western Thailand, and Sri Lanka

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nithyakalyana Perumal temple</span> Hindu temple

Nithyakalayana Perumal temple in Thiruvidandai, a village in Chennai, Chengalpattu district of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to Varaha, the boar avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Constructed in the Tamil style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Nithyakalayana Perumal (Varaha) and his consort Lakshmi as Komalavalli Thayar. The original structure of the temple was built by the Pallavas during the 7th century CE, with later additions from the Cholas during the 11th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kalanemi</span> Asura in Hinduism

Kalanemi is an asura in Hindu mythology. He is the son of Virochana, and the grandson of Prahlada. He is slain by Vishnu in the Tarakamaya War, in which he is described to be a commander. In one of his rebirths, in various traditions, he is born as Kansa, the son of Ugrasena, and becomes the king of Mathura. His nephew, Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, slays him for his tyranny. Kalanemi's daughter, Vrinda, becomes Jalandhara's wife.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Varahaswamy Temple</span>

Sri Varahaswamy Temple, also called Bhu Varahaswamy Temple, is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Varaha, situated at hill town of Tirumala in Tirupati, located in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh state, India. The temple is situated on the northern premises of Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala, on north west corner of Swami Pushkarini. This temple is believed to be older than the Venkateswara Shrine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Narasimha Jayanti</span> Hindu festival

Narasimha Jayanti is a Hindu festival that is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hindu month of Vaisakha. Hindus regard it to be the date the deity Vishnu assumed his Narasimha avatara to vanquish the oppressive asura-king, Hiranyakashipu.


  1. George M. Williams (27 March 2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 54–. ISBN   978-0-19-533261-2 . Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  2. Williams, George M. (27 March 2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. OUP USA. p. 155. ISBN   978-0-19-533261-2.
  3. Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 189. ISBN   978-0-8160-7564-5.
  4. 1 2 3 Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 159. ISBN   978-0-14-341421-6.
  5. Cole, W. Owen (1 June 1996). Six World Faiths. A&C Black. p. 29. ISBN   978-1-4411-5928-1.
  6. Phillips, Charles; Kerrigan, Michael; Gould, David (15 December 2011). Ancient India's Myths and Beliefs. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. p. 59. ISBN   978-1-4488-5990-0.
  7. George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 154–155, 223–224. ISBN   978-0-19-533261-2.
  8. Hudson, D. Dennis (25 September 2008). The Body of God: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. p. 202. ISBN   978-0-19-045140-0.
  9. 1 2 H. von Stietencron (1986). Th. P. van Baaren; A Schimmel; et al. (eds.). Approaches to Iconology. Brill Academic. pp. 16–22 with footnotes. ISBN   90-04-07772-3.
  10. 1 2 Debala Mitra, ’Varāha Cave at Udayagiri – An Iconographic Study’, Journal of the Asiatic Society 5 (1963): 99-103; J. C. Harle, Gupta Sculpture (Oxford, 1974): figures 8-17.
  11. Joanna Gottfried Williams (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. pp. 42–46. ISBN   978-0-691-10126-2.
Preceded by
Succeeded by