I left the museum and returned to the western complex, and this time I was cautious and more alert. As I entered the gate I told myself, “There is no need to hop from temple to temple. Start here, where you are.” I took the first left-turning path and saw a small temple with two enormous temples looming behind it. The little temple intrigued me. It had no walls—the roof was supported only by pillars, and as I approached I saw that the interior was almost entirely filled by the monolith of a huge animal. A nearby sign read: “Varaha Mandir” [the temple of the boar incarnation of Vishnu].
The most famous incarnations of Vishnu are Rama and Krishna, and it is quite rare to find a temple dedicated to Varaha. However, in esoteric traditions the Varaha incarnation takes precedence over the others because its purpose is nothing less than the deliverance of the entire planet. According to the Puranas, it happened like this:
There was a mighty king, Hiranyaksha, who found great joy in amassing wealth (hiranya = gold). His senses and mind (aksha) were completely focused on it, and in the pursuit of material possessions he conquered the whole world. During his reign much of the Earth sank into the ocean; what remained was fouled with waste. Everyone lived in fear, and the ecosystem was so out of balance that the Earth fell from its axis. The vitality drained from humans, animals, plants, and even the minerals, and as the ecosystem crumbled, all forms of life began to suffocate. The soul of the planet cried out in despair.
Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, responded by assuming the form of a gigantic boar that ground to dust all those who tried to prevent him from rescuing Mother Earth. Then, cradling the planet between his tusks and forehead, he restored it to its axis, and as he did, the benevolent forces of nature reasserted themselves, restoring the planet to health and balance.
Still, the aura of fear and mistrust engendered by the wicked Hiranyaksha lingered. Everyone feared that Varaha, this giant creature, might be yet another tyrant (he was so huge and so radiant that no one could see him clearly). So the celestial beings descended from heaven and joined the sages in their prayers that Varaha withdraw his effulgence and restrain his glory. And as he did so, the awe and fear he inspired gave way to a sense of serenity, security, and trust. There was a grand celebration that culminated in the marriage of Varaha and Mother Earth. And that is why in Indian mythology the god Vishnu, in the form of a boar, and Mother Earth are worshipped as husband and wife.
The Source of True Understanding
According to historians, after Sixty-Four Yoginis, Varaha Mandir is the oldest temple at Khajuraho. As I walked around it I realized that its existence clearly demonstrates that Khajuraho is the shrine of Mother Nature. The Sixty-Four Yoginis represent the numberless forces that govern, guide, and nurture everyone and everything in this world. They are the benevolent forces of nature, and the first step toward meditating on the Divine Mother is to understand and heal our relationship with her natural world.
The vitality of our natural resources has declined drastically, and so has the vitality of the creatures who depend on them. This is because the Sixty-Four Yoginis, the creative forces within and without, are under constant attack from the forces of self-serving materialism.
In fact, maintaining our connection with nature is essential to any form of spiritual practice. According to the sages, those who see a difference between nature and God are bound to be destructive. The arrogance that makes us feel that we are the owners of this planet gives birth to Hiranyaksha, the self-serving, materialistic demon who lodges in the heart of each of us and causes us to destroy our own home. As we all know, the vitality of our natural resources—air, water, and soil—has declined drastically, and so has the vitality of the creatures who depend on them. This is because the Sixty-Four Yoginis, the creative forces within and without, are under constant attack from the forces of self-serving materialism.
I had gone to the shrine of Sixty-Four Yoginis with the eyes of a tourist and found it lifeless. How silly I had been! Now, thanks to Ganesha, the Divine Mother who had blessed my master with her vision had brought me to Varaha. Standing here, gazing at the ancient temple, I realized that in this era of planetary crisis it is time to turn to Varaha, the divine boar whose body is made of pure knowledge. This is the source of true understanding of ourselves and others. Ultimately, it is this understanding that will unravel the mystery of Sixty-Four Yoginis.