Majholi is a small town in the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. The antiquity of the town was first noticed by Alexander Cunningham who visited here in 1873-74.1 He mentions the Varaha statue however does not provide many details. He mentions that locals did not remember any history related to the temple or the image.
Vishnu Varaha Temple – The present temple is a recent structure and existed during Cunningham’s visit. This modern structure has utilized the material of the old shrine as many statues are inbuilt into the modern walls. It is very probable that the original temple did not survive and this modern structure was constructed on the foundation of that original temple. It has many halls and cells and inside one hall is enshrined a majestic image of Varaha. The image is generally assigned to the 10th-11th century CE. The entrance doorway to the cell is composed of four shakhas (jambs). At the bottom of the jambs are the river goddesses and dvarapalas. The pramatha-shakha, second from the inside, has three panels on each side and inside it are standing female figures. A goddess, probably Gaja-Lakshmi, is present over the lalata-bimba. However, this image is very worn out and it may also represent four-armed Vishnu seated in the yogasana-mudra. Nava-grhas, are distributed and arranged on either side of the lalata-bimba over a lintel. Presence of the female figures on the pramatha-shakha and probable Gaja-Lakhsmi over the lalata-bimba, it appears this doorway was once adorning a temple dedicated to some goddess or shakti. At some later point in time, it was reappropriated to its present position guarding the statue of Varaha.
This colossal Varaha image in its zoomorphic form is about 6’8″ feet long, 7 5″ feet high, and 3′ 6″ feet wide. Every inch of the upper body of Varaha is neatly and symmetrically carved with 1210 figures, arranged in 14 rows.2 A small figure of Sarasvati is present over the snout of the Varaha in the front. She is two-armed and sitting in the lalitasana-mudra. Vasus are present inside the ears. Below the left ear is a two-armed figure holding a plough, and he may be identified with Balarama. Below the right ear is a figure of a fish, and that may be identified with Matysa-avatara. Above the nose is a very worn-out figure of Gayatri.
On the back of the Varaha is a seated figure of Brahma whose only the lower portion has survived. Opposite to him, over the backside of Varaha’s neck, are the seven sages or Saptarishis. A central line over the vertebrae of the Varaha parts his body into two halves. A total of fourteen rows of figures are carved over the body in a leaf pattern. The topmost row has thirty-eight male figures, all shown two-armed, seated in lalitasana-mudra, and holding a water pot. The next row below has forty-two male figures, all shown two-armed, seated in ardhalilasana-mudra, and holding a water pot. The next row down has fifty-three figures, all males except one female figure. All are shown two-armed, seated in ardhalilasana-mudra and holding a water pot. The fourth row has fifty-seven figures, all male, seated in ardhalilasana-mudra, and holding a water pot. The fifth row has fifty-eight male figures including eight Vasus. The sixth row has fifty-six male figures including Hanuman, Ganesha, and a Nagi. They are all shown holding a danda (rod) and a water pot. The seventh row has fifty-six figures, all two armed and seated in ardhalilasana-mudra. Sixty-one figures are carved in the eighth row including that of Sapta-matrikas accompanied by Ganesha and Virabhadra. A figure of a horse is found in this row that Rangarajan identifies as Kalki.3 In the ninth row are present seventy-four male figures including Ekadasa-Rudras who are shown with four hands holding a snake and trishula in their upper hands. The tenth row has seventy-seven figures of gandharvas, both males and females, interspersed with three images of Ganesha. The eleventh row has eighty-one figures, including a few Bhairavas, and the rest male and female deities. Seventy-four figures are carved in the twelfth row including those of Bhairavas and male deities. The thirteenth row has ninety-one figures including Dashavataras and linga-worship devotees. The last row, the fourteenth, has one hundred and two figures, all male and shown seated holding a water pot.
Three rows of figures are depicted over the four legs of the Varaha. The topmost row has twenty male figures, all two-armed, seated in ardhalilasana-mudra, and holding a water pot. The next two rows have fourteen figures each. Four dikpalas, one on each leg, are present on the calf portion while a male seated on makara is present on each hoof. The latter is identified with Samudraraja, “king of oceans” by Rangarajan.4 The tail of the Varaha is also decorated with figures distributed in twelve rows carrying thirty-three male and female figures.
In the front of the Varaha are three figures. The largest is of Shesha who is carved with thirteen hoods, distributed in two tiers, the outer tier has seven and the inner tier has six hoods. Above Shesha is a female figure of Bhu-devi shown seated in the yogasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. This is a unique representation of Bhu-devi as contrary to her usual position of hanging over a tusk of Varaha, here she is shown seated over Shesha. Rangarajan draws a parallel from the Padma Purana that states Varaha lifted the earth when the latter started falling from the demon’s head and placed it over the hood of Shesha.5 The tail of Shesha forms a coil over which is seated Garuda holding a water pot. Behind Shesha, abutting his back is a male Naga. Opposite, between the hind and fore legs of Varaha, is a large figure of Nagi shown with seven hoods. She holds some object in her two arms.
1 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Government Central Printing Office. Calcutta. p. 48
2 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 85
3 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 87
4 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 88
5 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 89
Acknowledgment: Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by the Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage. Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.