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Navagunjara or Nabagunjara[1] is a mythical creature composed of nine different animals in Hinduism.

The animal is a common motif in the Pata-Chitra style of painting, of the Indian state of Odisha. The beast is considered a form of the god Vishnu, or of Krishna, who is considered an avatar of Vishnu. It is considered a variant of the virat-rupa (omnipresent or vast) form of Krishna, that he displays to Arjuna, as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the epic Mahabharata.[2]


Jagannatha as Navagunjara

The version of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, written by the Odia poet Sarala Dasa, narrates the legend of Navagunjara; no other version has the story. Once, when Arjuna was doing penance on a hill, Krishna-Vishnu appears to him as Navagunjara. Navagunjara has the head of a rooster, and stands on three feet, those of an elephant, tiger and deer or horse; the fourth limb is a raised human arm carrying a lotus or a wheel. The beast has the neck of a peacock, the back or hump of a bull and the waist of a lion; the tail is a serpent. Initially, Arjuna was terrified as well as mesmerized by the strange creature and raises his bow to shoot it. Finally, Arjuna realizes that Navagunjara is a manifestation of Vishnu and drops his weapons, bowing before Navagunjara.[3]


The Navagunjara-Arjuna scene is sculpted at the northern side of the Jagannath Temple, Puri.[4] Also, the Nila Chakra disc atop the Jagannath Temple has eight Navagunjaras carved on the outer circumference, with all facing towards the flagpost above.

In popular culture[edit]

Navagunjara is also depicted in Ganjifa playing cards as the King card and Arjuna as the minister card, in parts of Odisha, mainly in Puri District and Ath-Rangi Sara in Ganjam District, Odisha. This set is known as Navagunjara.[5][6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chaudhury, Swaati (4 May 2014). "Odissi fabric with a spiritual touch". Deccan Herald.
  2. ^ Cesarone, Bernard (2001). "Pata-Chitras of Orissa: An Illustration of Some Common Themes". journal. / Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  3. ^ Pattanaik, Devdutt (2003). Indian Mythology: Tales, Symbols, and Rituals from the Heart of the Subcontinent. Inner Traditions / Bear & Company. pp. 19, 21. ISBN 9780892818709.
  4. ^ Starza, O. M. (1993). The Jagannatha Temple at Puri: Its Architecture, Art, and Cult. BRILL. p. 45. ISBN 9789004096738.
  5. ^ Kishor Gordhandas (25 November 2007). "A Short History Of Ganjifa Cards". magazine. Epic India. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  6. ^ "HISTORICAL NOTES". website. Geocities. Archived from the original on 23 July 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  7. ^ "Asian Cards". website. Alta Carta. Retrieved 12 October 2008.