Varaha avatar

Among the avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu, Sweta Varaha (White Rhinoceros) is the third.Popular notion is that Varaha avatar is a wild boar (or pig) which restored earth(land) from completely sinking into water.But in reality, Sweta Varaha Avatar is Elasmotherium, which is ancestor of present day’s Rhinoceros.This Avatar took place at the time of deluge ending the Padma kalpa and after restoration of earth, the next kalpa (the present one) was named after this avatar as ‘Sweta Varaha Kalpa‘.Mahabharata describes the Varaha as triple humped, as shown in the Harappan iconography.

The original Rhino image existed on coins and symbols of Gupta dynasty and prior.However, the boar and its relative the pig started emerging as replacement for original Elesmotherium or Rhino and they were being seen as polluting animals since the 12th century, due to Islam influence on India.Muslims consider the pig and its meat unclean. This led to a decline in Varaha worship to a certain extent.Now we can find one Varaha temple on tirumala hills, adjacent to Venkateswara temple.Puranas mention that when earth was restored from sinking, the first part which emerged from water was Tirumala hills and Varaha chose to rest there till end of this Kalpa.

Guru Dattatreya’s first incarnation in Kali Yuga, Sri Pada Vallabha, in his charitra (biography) also describes Varaha as a tough and gigantic animal with unicorn and body of a rhinoceros.Wild Boars have corns emerging from teeth on both sides, but only Rhino and its ancestor Elasmotherium has unicorn above its nose.Eka Sringhee Varaahas Tvam (Unicorn Rhinoceros) says Ramayana.

Elasmotherium is an extinct genus of giant rhinoceros endemic to Eurasia during the Late Pliocene through the Pleistocene, from 2.6 Ma to as late as 50,000 years ago, possibly later, in the Late Pleistocene, an approximate span of slightly less than 2.6 million years.E. sibiricum was the size of a mammoth and is thought to have borne a large, thick horn on its forehead which was used for defense, attracting mates, driving away competitors, sweeping snow from the grass in winter and digging for water and plant roots.

Hebrew tradition uses the word Reem, to describe a mythical unicorn monster which looked like a Rhinoceros and emerged from sky. (Midarsh, fol.14)According to Rabbi Jannai, Noah saw a young Rhinoceros, which was one day old, as big as Mount Tabor, whose dimenstions were forty miles.Its neck was 3 miles long and head half a mile. It dropped dung and choked up jordan. (Jalkut, Genesis fol.14a)

A similar story during Yao’s regime (when earth was flooded) in China, describes a Qilin (with unicorn) with deer’s body, horse’s hooves and enormous horn on its head.Other stories concerning Yao tell the appearance of a large goat with Unicorn, which meted out justice on earth.Interestingly, Varaha Avatar in hindu mythology is considered as a source of knowledge and justice.Varaha has killed demon and restored justice and Dharma on earth, according to Varaha Purana.Somehow all ancient traditions seem to depict a gigantic unicorn animal to have restored earth from sinking into floods.