Hindu Pantheon-Varadaraja

Analysis and Conclusions: Expansion of the Hindu Pantheon-Varadaraja Perumal

V. Krishnakumar

  1. The multiple forms of Horus
  2. Classification of Shiva
  3. Bahubali and origin of Jainism
  4. The incarnations of Lord Vishnu
  5. Arjuna’s penance of Mahabalipuram
  6. Varadaraja Perumal 

Varadaraja Perumal 

One of the important gods of South India is Varadaraja Perumal. As one of the Varadaraja myths go [13], a king by name Nandacholaraja chased a group of boars, which were destroying a garden. One of the boars, which was huge, carried some bushes with earth and entered into a cave. The boar on its way to the cave had dug a groove in the ground that later became a river called ‘Varahanadi’ or ‘Shankarabharani’. The boar deposited the bushes in front of the cave where they grew luxuriantly. As the king followed the boar into the cave, the boar transformed itself into Lord Varadaraja.

We have both good and bad boars in this story, from the human perspective of course! Initially, the crops were destroyed by them therefore we can call them bad, but one of them was Lord Varadaraja himself who appeared in guise of a big boar and supported crops and also created a river.

Seth is represented by boar in Egypt, he appeared as a big boar to Horus and Re [1]. We have already mapped this to Varaha avatar of Vishnu. Also, we have mapped Trivikrama to Seth. We hypothesize that the boar that became Varadaraja is a Seth’s representation. We shall try to find evidence for our claim:

Cholas were possibly the supporters of Seth. This can be concluded from the following observations.

  • Cholas supported mainly Shaivism, and we find ample evidence of Chola built temples with Lingam. We have mapped Shiva to Seth in an earlier article. Thus, we conclude that Cholas can be supporters of Seth.
  • Another important evidence for Chola’s support of Seth is the gigantic door-keepers in temples, which represent Seth. It is interesting to note that these door-keeper images are, at times, much larger than the idol in the sanctum itself, which they guard. Further they have large canines like a boar.

However, they also supported temples of Varadaraja and UAP [94]. Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple is built by Cholas [13]. The likely reason why they supported only Varadaraja and UAP among Vaishnava gods is possibly because these two gods represented Seth.

The next question is, since Seth is considered evil and an opponent to Osiris and Horus, how could any one amalgamate Varadaraja, Varaha, UAP and Ranganatha, all under one god that is, Lord Vishnu?

The need for amalgamation must have come from the need for reconciliation between people of different faiths, that is the believers of Osiris-Horus and those of Seth. This is not surprising: similar events have happened number of times in Egypt as well [1] when Egyptians have unified many gods into one: for example the combined image of Horus and Seth with both their heads, see the picture on page 198 in [5]. Whereas, if the two gods to be combined were of opposite gender, they were married [1]. What happened in India might be that the above mentioned gods were amalgamated under Lord Vishnu with a possible criterion of purely benevolent gods. Thus, the followers of Seth might have got their gods divided: they now have a Shiva/Rudra in the phallic form representing Seth as well as a Varadaraja who was under Seth group earlier, but now taken over to Vishnu’s side. This explains why the Cholas supported Varadaraja and UAP as well.

It may be noted that Seth was evil for the followers of Osiris-Horus; he was believed to be a threat to vegetation, called a god of desert and storms [1,5]. However, he must have been praised by his subjects and viewed as a god; thus, the dictionary meaning of Seth is ‘to sow seeds’ [49], something similar to the corn-god Osiris. Similarly, in the Nandacholaraja story, the boar was given good attributes of making a grove that became a river and vegetation grow luxuriantly, that is, the boar was given the attributes which are apt for Osiris.

However, certain remnants of Seth can still be seen in Varadaraja, which serve as witness for his earlier association with Seth, and they are as follows:

  • It is interesting to note that according to [13] Varadaraja of Kanchipuram protects Ranganatha of Srirangam, suggesting his association with Seth, who guards Osiris in the netherworld.
  • Typically, the idols of Lord Vararaja Perumal are quite tall in absolute terms and relatively large compared to the size of the sanctum, see for example Kondajji and Maddur in Karnataka, reminding the enormity of Seth.
  • Purushamrugas or Yalis are found in the walls of Varadaraja temple. This can be because, since they both represent Seth, Yali guarding the doors of Varadaraja may not be apt. However, this distinction might not be strictly followed in the temples because, the association might have been long forgotten.

There are a couple of interesting facts about Varadaraja that have an alternative explanation following our analysis.

1. The word ‘Ati’ means ‘king’ in Egyptian language, its hieroglyphic representation is a pair of lizards [49]. Thus, ‘Atti Varada’ of Kanchipuram is ‘King Varada’. Note that there are two lizard idols very close to the sanctum in the temple that are highly revered by devotees, thus explaining the importance of lizard in that temple.

2. River Shankarabharani or Varahanadi that flows in the Draupadi cult region is Ganga itself, according to [13]. It is possible that the name Ganga might have migrated along with people, that is many rivers might have got named or renamed as Ganga as the believers migrated over a period of time.

3. There are some commonalities between Shiva, Varadaraja and Seth. River Ganga was stopped and held in the locks of Lord Shiva. Similar to Lord Shiva, Varadaraja Perumal controls the flooding of river Vegavathi in Kanchipuram [118-120]. Seth subdues the raging sea as mentioned in [87].

4. Atti Varada of Kanchipurum is normally under water; the idol is brought out once in forty years for festivities. According to some, Seth is commemorated in Sed festival once in thirty years [1].


[1] J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, A study in Magic and Religion, 3rd Edition, Macmillan and Co. London, 1914

[5] Richard H Wilkinson, The Complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003

[13] Alf Hiltebeitel, The Cult of Draupadi, MLBD, New Delhi, 1991

[49] Wallis Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Dover Publications, NY, 1978

[87] http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/

[94] http://tamilartsacademy.com/Kanchi%20Varadaraja%20temple%202.xml

[118] Steven Hopkins, Singing the body of god: the hymns of Vedantadesika in their South Indian tradition, Oxford University Press, 2002.

[119] Rao, P.V.L. Narasimha, Kanchipuram- Land of Legends, Saints and Temples, New Delhi: Readworthy Publications, ISBN 978-93-5018-104-1, 2008

[120] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varadharaja_Perumal_Temple#Legend

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One Response to Hindu Pantheon-Varadaraja

  1. Narasimha says:

    I like this

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