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Fig1. The bara ha or third Avatar of Vishnu. 2. Lakshmi as Parahi.
Published by Parbury (Illen & l! London 1832.
and arrows, and in the act of discharging the latter. The whole is represented under a Gothic arch, resting on a plinth ornamented with the heads of boars.
In an ancient legend relating to the destruction of the city of Mahabalipooram, and the seven pagodas, on the coast of Coromandel, by an earthquake and inundation during an early period of Hindu history, it is stated that “ Hirinacheren, a gigantic prince or demon, rolled up the earth into a shapeless mass, and carried it down to the abyss : whither Vishnu followed him in the shape of a hog, killed him with his tusks, and replaced the earth in its original position.” A large portion of the magnificent ruins of the city and pagodas are now covered by the sea ; other parts of them (the sculpture of which are still in many places very little injured by the lapse of ages or the effect of the elements) extend over a space of several miles. One of the cavern temples, now used as a place of worship, is said to contain a fine figure of Vishnu in the Varaha Avatar.
FOURTH, or NARA-SINGH (Man-Lion) AVATAR.
In this avatar Vishnu took the form of another monster, to punish the wickedness of a profane and unbelieving monarch, Hiranyacasipa, the brother of the gigantic demon mentioned in the third avatar, and his successor on the throne, who being not less wicked than his predecessor, refused to do homage to Vishnu. He had a son, named Pralhaud, who disapproved
his father's conduct; who, in consequence, banished, and sought to kill him. A reconciliation, however, at length took place : but the king still contended against the supremacy of Vishnu, boasted that he himself was lord of the universe, and asked wherein Vishnu was greater than himself? Prahaud replied, that Vishnu was supreme over all, and was every where. “ Is he,” said Hiranyacasipa, “ in this pillar ?" (striking it at the same moment with his sceptre) : “ if he be, let him appear.” In an instant the magnificent column was rent in twain, and Vishnu, in the form of a man with the head of a lion, issued from it, and tore Hiranyacasipa in pieces. (See fig. 1, plate 8.)
FIFTH or VAMUNA (Dwarf) AVATAR.
Vishnu, in this avatar, took the form of a Brahman dwarf, to humble the pride and arrogance of another monarch, Maha Bali, a descendant from Pralhaud, mentioned in the foregoing avatar. This king is represented to have been both a pious and a magnificent sovereign, and by his religious austerities to have obtained from Brahma the dominion of the universe, or the three regions of the sky, the earth, and patala (or hell). Having thus, by his piety, gained supreme power, his virtue was not long proof against the pride which his pre-eminence created, and he neglected to worship the gods, and to offer up to them the oblations which he had been before accustomed to do. In short, he arrogated to himself a superiority over all created beings, and an equality of power with the gods themselves. The Dewtahs, alarmed, supplicated, through the mediation of Brahma, the protection of Vishnu, who descending from heaven, became incarnate in the person of a dwarf, the more effectually to humble the pride, and to punish the presumption of the apostate king.
It must here be imagined, that power having been once conferred upon mortals by a deity could not be recalled without the consent of the party who had obtained it. In this avatar, Vishnu appears to have judged that the end would sanctify the means, and to have resorted to a somewhat unholy fraud to effect his object in depriving Maha Bali of his authority. Having interested the king, who compassionated his distress, in his behalf, he supplicated him for a piece of ground, not larger than he could measure with three steps, on which to erect a poor dwelling to contain himself and his books. This the king readily granted, and confirmed by the solemn Hindu ceremony of pouring the sacred water from a vessel over the hands of the supplicant. As soon as the holy stream bad reached his hand the form of the dwarf began to expand itself, and at length became so enormous that it appeared to extend itself up to heaven. Then with one stride he compassed the earth ; with another, heaven ; and with the third was about to obtain patala, when Maha Bali, convinced that the pretended