Hindu God Vishnu with a Horse Head – Hayagriva



Hayagriva is an incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu with a horse head. The main purpose of this incarnation of Vishnu was to recover the Vedas, which were stolen by Asuras or Demons. In this incarnation, Vishnu is worshipped in a human body with a horse head. An important temple where the Hayagriva murti is worshipped is the Hayagriva Madhava Temple at Hajo in Assam.

In Hindu scriptures there are two important legends relating to the incarnation of Hayagriva. The origin of Hayagriva Avatar is dealt in the ‘Shantiparva’ of Mahabharata and the Puranas.

In one legend, Kashyapa Prajapati had a son named Hayagriva which means ‘one with a horse’s head.’ Through intense austerities he pleased Goddess Durga and attained the boon that he will only be killed by another Hayagriva. With this new found strength, Hayagriva started creating mayhem in the world.

Devas approached Vishnu to rescue the world and he readily agreed. A terrific battle ensued between Vishnu and the demon. But with Goddess Durga boon to his aid, Hayagriva could not be killed. Vishnu left the battlefield to take rest. He went to Vaikunta and started meditating with his head supported by his bow.

Devas were worried at Vishnu leaving the battlefield and entering into a long meditation. They looked out for ways to wake him up and finally sort the help of termites to eat away the bow. 

While the termites were eating the bow, the string snapped and Vishnu’s head was severed. The entire universe trembled and Devas took refuge in Goddess Durga.

A smiling Goddess Durga – who knew what Vishnu was up to – asked the Devas to attach a head of a horse on Vishnu. Brahma did the auspicious deed and now Vishnu was Hayagriva. He went to the battlefield and fought demon Hayagriva and killed him.

In another legend, Vishnu appeared in the Hayagriva form to recover the Vedas. It is said that two demons named Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas when Lord Brahma was sleeping. Brahma asked Vishnu’s help and he took the form of Hayagriva and brought back the Vedas.

Since the Hayagriva incarnation is associated with Vedas, Vishnu in this form is worshipped as the Lord of knowledge and wisdom.

Hayagriva is also the name of an important Buddhist deity.