Rig Veda I.114.5 (dedicated to Rudra) says

दि॒वो व॑रा॒हम॑रु॒षं क॑प॒र्दिनं॑ त्वे॒षं रू॒पं नम॑सा॒ नि ह्व॑यामहे । हस्ते॒ बिभ्र॑द् भेष॒जा वार्या॑णि॒ शर्म॒ वर्म॑ च्छ॒र्दिर॒स्मभ्यं॑ यंसत् ॥५॥

We call down with reverence the boar of heaven, flame-red, with braided hair, turbulent in form. Bearing in his hand desirable healing remedies, he will extend shelter, covering, and protection to us.

In Puranas it was used to indicate the incarnation of Vishnu.

My question is - Why was the epithet varAha (वराह) used for Rudra in Rig Veda I.114.5?

Edit 31-8-2020

In the mantra व॑रा॒हम॑रु॒षं Can be split into varAham + aruSa . aruSa indicates shape of a varAha.

  • @PrasannaR: If varAha means sky, then are there varAha for heaven, as mentioned in the mantra - दि॒वो, and varAha for Earth, ie., sky for Earth? If so, what is the reference for that usage? Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 9:01
  • @PrasannaR: Still not clear as to what you are hinting at. Can you post an answer, explaining in detail? Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 10:19
  • 1
    Why do you post lengthy comments, which are not understandable to ordinary people like me? :-) Please write an answer @PrasannaR Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Varaha is interpreted as strength of a boar in this verse by the commentator Sayana. Rudra does not become a Varaha but is as strong as a Varaha.

Sayana: firm limbs like a Varaha.

Rig Veda Samhita 1.114.5, Bengali translation by Nilanjana Sikdardutta, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture

  • In their translations Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton and Ralph T.H. Griffith mentioned varAha as boar. Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 12:12
  • The word Varaha is used to signify the strength of a boar and not boar itself. At least that is how Sayana understands it. I have edited my post to make this point clear. Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 12:16
  • There were criticisms on Sayana's work as Puranic based, lacking depth, etc, especially from Sri Aurobindo and others. So is the translation of Sayana dependable? Further, Sayana might not have translated varAha as boar, because it comes in the way of Vishnu's incarnation. Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 12:40
  • Yes, Sayana's commentary has been questioned. However, here it seems to me that Sayana could well be right since he is saying Varaha should be understood as conveying strength. So this interpretation sidesteps the objection that Varaha is Vishnu's incarnation since he is not saying that Rudra is a Varaha. Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 12:43
  • I have my own apprehension on this translation. Thanks for responding. Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 13:13

In Puranas it was used to indicate the incarnation of Vishnu.

Not only in the Puranas but in the Vedas too Varaha is mentioned as an incarnation of Vishnu.

From the Mahanarayana Upanishad of the Krishna Yajur Veda:

uddhrtAsi varAheNa krishNena shatabAhunA

You (mother Earth) were lifted up by Krishna (Vishnu) with his hundred arms in the form of Varaha.

So this is not a "puranic concept" as you might think.

As for your main question, the translation you provided says this:

We call down with reverence the boar of heaven...

This just looks like a metaphorical description of Shiva as the might of heaven, comparing him to the might of a boar.

  • 1
    It is not Shiva that was referred to in the mantra of Rig Veda , but Rudra. Further, can you explain what is the metaphorical description of Rudra as the might of heaven? Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 2:59
  • @SrimannarayanaKV Shiva and Rudra are the same person, different names. This is accepted by all orthodox Shaiva sects too. "The might of heaven" means that he protects heaven from Asuras, etc. After all, he destroyed tripura.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 3:05
  • Sorry. Don't mix up Rig Veda and Puranas. If you know an answer please update Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 3:17
  • I'm curious, how come you think Shiva and Rudra are different beings?
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 3:18
  • Because it was clearly told that Rudra is grandson Narayana and son of brahma.. Shiva name is not mentioned inorder escape that they treat this as 2 different entity.. but suprising advaita should add more confusion into this. thinking of themselves as these 2.
    – Prasanna R
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 8:49

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