Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Kurmavatara – The second avatar of Vishnu

Kurmavatara - The second avatar of Vishnu carved on the outer walls of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Kurmavatara – The second avatar of Vishnu

Kurmavatara -The second avatar of Vishnu
The image shows a sculptural relief depicting Kurmavatara, the second of the ten avatars (Dashavatara) of Vishnu, carved on the outer wall surrounding the southern garbhagriha of Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. In Sanskrit, kurma means turtle.

For a list of all the ten avatars, check the Dashavatara (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) mural painted on the ceiling of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.

In this avatar, Vishnu assumes half-man half-turtle form during the Samudra Manthana (Churning of the Ocean of Milk), which was a collaborative effort by devas (demigods) and asuras (demons) to produce amrita, the nectar of immortality. Using the seven-headed snake called Vasuki as the rope and Mount Mandara as the churning rod, the devas and asuras tugged Vasuki to churn the ocean for thousands of years to produce amrita. Vishnu assumed the form of a turtle and went under Mount Mandara as a support to enable churning.

As you can see from the image, Vishnu has the face of a turtle. The rest of the body is human with four hands, two of which are holding chakra and shanka, his signature objects. The other two are holding an egg-like object known as Hiranyagarbha, or the cosmic golden womb. In Sanskrit, hiranya means golden, and garbha means womb. According to both the Rigveda and Yajurveda, Prajapathi, a deity who eventually became a form of Brahma, was born from this womb. However, they differ in what he created. The Rigveda says Pajapathi created abstract entities like mana (mind), kama (desire), and tapas (austerity). As per the Yajurveda, he created the sky, earth, seasons, devas, asuras, etc.

Related Pages
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple Complex
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine

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