Lord Vishnu is said to have manifested himself in various incarnations, called Avatars,
for the destruction of evil or restoration of faith and justice in the world. These
incarnations are said to have been in the human form, in the animal form and even in the combined human-animal form. Though popularly believed to be ten in number, the
Bhagvat Purana mentions twenty two such incarnations with innumerable more to follow.
It is believed that out of the ten incarnations (called Dashavatar) that are popularly
believed in, nine have already been manifested while the tenth is yet to appear. Though
all of the incarnations are highly revered, the incarnations of Lord Rama and Lord
Krishna have found acceptance as gods in their own right and are propitiated deities in
Hinduism. The first four of the ten avatars have appeared in the Krita Yuga (the first of
the four Yugas or Ages that comprise one Mahayuga – for more details please read the
section above on Lord Brahma). The next three avatars appeared in the Treta Yuga, the
eighth incarnation in the Dwapar Yuga and the ninth in the Kali Yuga. The tenth is
expected to appear at the end of the Kali Yuga.
Ten avatar are:
10 Kalki (Avathar yet to come)
This was the form of the fish, taken up by Vishnu during a deluge that submerged the
earth. Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a
man and the lower of a fish. According to a legend, Vishnu commanded a rishi to gather
together samples of all species and wait in a boat. The gigantic golden fish then dragged
the boat through the deluge and then enabled Brahma to start the act of creation all over
In this incarnation, Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise. According to this legend, the
Gods & Demons united in their efforts to churn the celestial ocean of milk, in the quest of
Amrit (the nectar of life and immortality). This mammoth task was carried out with the
Mandara Mount as the churning stick and the mythological snake Vasuki as the rope.
Thus, Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as the Kurma (the tortoise) in order to support the
mount Mandara, which started sinking during the churning of the ocean. Thus, the Kurma
sat on the bottom of the ocean with a mountain, being placed on his back by the other
gods so that the gods & demons could churn the sea and find the ancient treasures of the
Varaha is the third avatar of Vishnu, who appeared in order to defeat the demon
Hiranyaksha. Varaha is depicted in art as either purely animal or as having a boar`s head
on a man`s body. In the latter form he has four arms, two of which hold the wheel and
conch-shell while the other two hold a mace, sword or lotus or make a gesture of
blessing. The Earth is held between the boar`s tusks.
Since, the demon had taken the earth and carried it to the bottom of the cosmic ocean, the
Lord killed the demon and lifted the earth out of the flood waters in which it had been
submerged. He lifted the Bhoomi Devi (Earth), between his tusks and restored it to its
place in the universe. This may be a symbolic representation of the resurrection of the
world from the deluge of sin by the power of the Supreme Being and the establishment of
a new cosmic cycle. Later, Vishnu married Bhoomi Devi in this avatar.
A combination of man and lion, Narasimha represents another form of Vishnu. He is in
the form of half-man / half-lion, having a human torso and lower body, but with a lionlike
face and claws. When Prahlada, the great devotee of Vishnu was being severely
tortured by his father, the demon Hiranyakasipu, Vishnu appeared as Narasimha (manlion)
emerging out of the pillar shown by Hiranyakasipu and killed him. Thus, in this
avatar, Vishnu demonstrated his omnipresence in a powerful way. Narsimha is especially
the embodiment of valour, which is a divine attribute and hence worshipped by rulers and
Vamana was his fifth incarnation Vamana means a Dwarf There is an interesting story
behind this avatharam. Emperor Mahaballi ruled over the Pathala-loka. Instead of being
confined to his-loka he captured the other lokas and was ruling over them. The Gods and
others from other lokas Implored to God to put Mahabali in his place. Once Mahabali
was performaing a big “yaga”( offering things in the sacrificial fire) and at the end of the
yaga was giving away gold and other things in charity. Whoever went to the palace on
that day could ask whatever they wished and the king would certainly oblige them. God
seized this opportunity and came to Mahabali’s palace as a dwarf-mendicant. The dwarf
asked the King for just 3 footmeasure of land for himself. The king was perplexed and
wondering why the dwarf was asking for only a 3 foot-measure of land when he could
ask for acres and acres of land. However the king agred and asked the dwarf the measure
the land with his feet. ho! God assumed gigantic proportions his head reaching up to the
sky – the highest world above and his feet down at Pathala-loka the lowest of the worlds
below the earth. God took one step and that covered all the worlds above the second step
covered all the worlds below and there was no place left for his third foot measure. God
asked king ” Mahabali , I have taken two steps and have covered all the lokas tell me
where to keep my foot for the third foot-measure.” Mahabali realising that the dwarf was
no other than God himself Bowed before the dwarf and said ” Please my lord you may
keep your foot over my head as the third measure.” Accordingly God put his foot on
Mahabali’s head and pressed hard to push the King to ‘Pathala’loka’ and told him “O
king! this is where you belong and you should confine your self to this loka only.”
Mahabali realised his folly and ruled long over Pathala-loka. This is to show the people
that they should live in their own places and should not be so greedy to occupy the other
lands. This was the Lord’s fourth incarnation – as a dwarf.
Sri Rama Avathar
Vishnu then took up the form of Parasurama, who was the sixth Avatara born as the son
of the sage-couple, Jamadagni and Renuka. This avatar was to quell the arrogance of the
Kshatriya rulers who harmed the sages and unprotected mortals. He exterminated the
tyrannical among the Kshatriyas led by Kartavirya, who were oppressing the people.
In Hinduism, he is considered to be the Seventh Avatar of Vishnu and an important
manifestation of God. Rama or Ram was also referred as Ramachandra and
honorifically as Sri Rama, is a legendary/historical king of ancient India. Vishnu came in
the form of Rama to rescue the world from the demon, Ravana.
Ram`s purpose was to ensure that justice and peace (dharma) ruled. He is the hero of the
epic Ramayana, and he is regarded as an example of morality and virtue. Rama is shown
with a bow in his hand, symbolizing his strength, because he won the hand of his wife,
Sita, using a bow in a contest. He is usually depicted with his brother Lakshmana, his
wife Sita, and Hanuman.
While all avathars are incarnations of Lord Vishnu it is Adisesha the five hooded of
snake on which Mahavishnu reclines in his ‘yoganidhra’ that incarnates as Balarama.
Balarama was born to Vasudeva and his first wife Rohini. Thus he becomes the elder
brother of Lord Krishna.
There is not much significance in this avathar. From the evolutionary angle this avathar
marks the period when humans started a settled way of life taking to agriculture-
Balarama is pictured as carrying a plough on his shoulders. Being a contemporary of
Krishna the spot light is more on Krishna than on Balarama.
Sri Krishna Avathar
Lord Krishna, or Sri Krishna, as fondly known, is the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu
and the most popular of all his incarnations. Krishna is a deity worshipped across many
traditions of Hinduism. He is usually depicted as a young cowherd boy playing a flute or
a youthful prince giving philosophical direction. He was the charioteer of Arjuna in the
battle of Kurukshetra in Mahabharata.
He is the great expounder of the `song celestial`, the Bhagvad Gita. Krishna and the
stories associated with him appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and
theological traditions. Though they sometimes differ in details reflecting the concerns of
a particular tradition, all shares some core features. These include a divine incarnation, a
pastoral childhood and youth, and life as a heroic warrior and teacher.
(Avathar yet to come)
The Kalki Avatar is the only avatar of Vishnu that is set in the future. It is believed that at
the end of the present age (Kali Yug), there will be a deluge when Kalki – the tenth and
the last avatar of Vishnu, will ride forth on a horse to redeem humankind and re-establish
righteousness. Riding on the back of a white horse, with a drawn sword, he will destroy
the enemies of Dharma and re-establish it in all its glory. The name Kalki is often a
Quote by: Lord Sri Krishna from Bhagavat Geeta
“paritranaya saadunaam vinashayasa dushkrudham
dharma samsthaba narthaya sambavami yuge yuge”