Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 11

BY: SUN STAFF - 24.8 2019

Lord Varaha

Transcendental art: the rare woodcut prints of nineteenth century Calcutta.

Like Sri Krsna's Vrindavan lila pastimes, the incarnations of Lord Visnu were among the favorite subjects depicted by Bengal's woodcut artists. While the vast majority of 19th century Calcutta woodblock prints were destroyed by time and the elements, a few exceptional images of Dasavatara have been rescued and archivally preserved.

Today's engraving is beautiful woodcut of Lord Varaha. Varaha Avatar is the third main Visnu incarnation, following Matsya and Kurma Avatars. Lord Varaha is seen here in striking form. While the original woodcut was tinted with color, the artist has expertly used black and white contrast to bring the picture to life. The Lord's dark, four-armed form is seen holding his paraphernalia: mace, chakra, conch and lotus. The strength of Varaha's arms dominates the picture.

Using beautifully shaded line work, the artist has rendered an intriguing form of the angry demon Hiranyaksa, who is drowning to his death beneath the Lord's mighty foot. While subtly in the overall picture, the demon's face is seen through the murky water.

The transcendental boar incarnation's bristly neck sticks up above a beautifully detailed shawl and dhoti. He wears a heavy-looking crown and arm bracelets. Lord Varaha holds the earth planet, which the artist has rendered as a simple orb, safely upon His tusks.

The engraver of this woodcut is unknown. It measures 25 x 39 cm.