In Hinduism, Varaha, the third avatara of Vishnu manifests as a boar. The incarnation symbolizes the resurrection of earth from pralaya or deluge and the establishment of a new kalpa or cosmic cycle. He fulfils his dharma as a Vishnu avatara of defeating Hiranyaksha, a demon who had carried earth (prithvi) to the bottom of the cosmic ocean. The combat between Lord Varaha and Hiranyaksha lasted a thousand years, which the Lord finally won because of his innate divinity. Vishnu married Prithvi in this avatara.
Varaha is depicted as having a boar’s head on a man’s body with four arms. Two of them hold the wheel and conch-shell while the other two hold a mace, sword or lotus or make a gesture of blessing. Earth is held between the boar’s tusks. In the Varaha Purana the form of narration is a recitation by Varaha.
Pralaya or destruction of the cosmos in the great flood, during the Satya Yuga, was followed by the beginning of a new kalpa or cycle of existence. Brahma, Creator of the Universe, was engrossed in the mighty task of creation but Earth or Bhudevi, ravaged by surging waves and burdened with the rising sins of creation sank to the bottom of the fathomless ocean.
The Bhagavata Purana describes the boar manifesting from Brahma’s nostril and details Vishnu’s battle with demon Hiranyaksha. Miserable Brahma, ardently appealed to the preserver Lord Vishnu, "O Lord, please come to my rescue and retrieve Mother Earth". Soon enough a tiny white boar manifested out one of Brahma’s nostrils, smaller than his thumb in size. To his sheer surprise, the boar continued growing in size until it had assumed a gigantic form and Brahma realized the Boar or Varaha was none other than Lord Vishnu.
The Vayu Purana affirms that the boar delighting in water was the perfect choice for bringing earth back onto the land. Storming through the clouds, He plunged into the ocean. After a frantic search, the Varaha Incarnation discovered Bhudevi, stuck in the ocean-bed which he penetrated with his tough tusks and dug up. Then, he carried her upwards, towards the surface.
Meanwhile, the disruptive demon, Hiranyaksha arrived on the scene. A formidable foe of the deities, attaining a boon from Brahma by severe penance, the asura used to invite gods for combat and often defeat them with his ferocity. He approached Varuna, the water god, for battle but the deity aware of his evil intentions plus his own limitations, instigated Hiranyaksha to pose a challenge to Vishnu.
He gathered the news from Narada Muni, the divine sage and a dedicated devotee of Lord Vishnu that the Lord was escalating upwards from the ocean with Bhudevi on his tusks. Blinded by pride and arrogance, Hiranyaksha leapt into the ocean and spotted the Varaha Avatar bearing earth. The Varaha, heedless of the Asura’s confrontation, safely deposited Bhudevi on the shore, bestowing Divine Benediction on her, "May you fit into the Divine order".
A terrific battle ensued since it was time to ward off evil, possible only by Vishnu’s valuor. Simultaneously, Brahma cautioned the furious Varaha, "Twilight is approaching and in an hour he will become more powerful and formidable. So, slay him quickly and rid us all of the menace." The warning urged the Lord to cast the fatal deathblow upon the vicious Asura. The demon was destroyed and peace restored to the Universe. Brahma and all deities, expressed their gratitude by eulogizing The Lord`s Magnificence.
Varaha Avatara very much like Matsya and Kurma Avataras, endorses the eternal truth that God can descend in any form, while coming to the rescue of the virtuous. Thus it is imperative for religion to impart the essential knowledge that God resides in every creature since all are but His manifestations.