All of us know that Varaha is the 3rd Avatar of Lord Vishnu. He incarnated as the Varaha Avatar (The Boar) to save Bhoomi Devi/Mother Earth from an Asura – Hiranyakshan who grabbed Her and hid Her in the Ocean.
First let us look at the Incarnation. The oft repeated story goes something like this – One day Hiranyakshan hides Bhoomi Devi or Mother Earth under an ocean. All the Devas, knowing fully well, the implications of a missing Bhoomi Devi, goes to Brahma who in turn prays to Lord Vishnu. Suddenly a wild boar or Varaha jumps from the Nostrils of Brahma. It grows in size. It then goes into the ocean, kills Hiranyaksha and brings back Mother Earth.
Now let us look at the most popular questions about this Avatar which learned people ask.
If Bhoomi Devi (and essentially the Bhoomi) is inside the ocean, then what happened to all the living things in the Bhoomi?
Was the ocean itself not part of that Bhoomi? If so how could It be hidden inside the ocean?
Why did Vishnu jump out of Brahma’s Nostril and not from anywhere else?
To answer these questions, we need to understand the setting of the Avatar first.
After the Supreme Being creates Brahma He creates the World from the Golden Egg in which everything is in an embryonic state. – Mother Earth is created.
After that He creates Asuras and Devas. – Hiranyakshsan is born.
Next He needs to create all the living things. For this He has a checklist in which He needs to tick-off all the right boxes. Devas – check, Asuras – Check, Golden Egg – Check, Gross Elements – Check, Subtle Elements – Check, Mother Earth – No Check. How can He create the living things, if Mother Earth is not there? He panics. He is sure to lose His Brahma post if something goes amiss here! (There was one other situation, when Brahma almost lost his post. We will see about it in another post)
At the same time, Devas come rushing to Brahma, saying that Bhoomi Devi has gone missing. He does not have anything else to do other than praying to Vishnu. He does that. Vishnu answers his prayers, comes out of the Nostril, kills Hiranyakshan and brings back the Earth from the ocean.
So now, to the answers to the questions given in the beginning.
Mother Earth goes missing BEFORE the creation of living things can begin.
The Ocean in which the asura hides Bhoomi Devi is not the Ocean of the world, but the Primordial Ocean containing primordial waters that is the main cause of the dissolution or Pralay. (Our ancient scriptures say that the water is viscous in nature unlike the water of our oceans which is watery). We have already seen about this ocean here.
It is Mother Earth or Prithvi who goes missing. The subtle element associated with Prithvi – the Gross element – is the Scent. The character of Scent is associated with the sense organ of Nose and hence Vishnu jumps out of Brahma’s Nostrils!!
This version of the story is not very interesting and also not anything similar to what has been narrated in our ancient scriptures. Also in the normal narrations, the story ends with Varaha bringing out Bhoomi Devi. But the essence of the Avatar is not featured anywhere in the story. Is it? If you thought that killing Hiranyaksha was the main goal of the Avatar, You are wrong. Then, what is the objective?
Let us see the alternate version of this story and about the main objective, in the next post.