Vishnu Avataras: Incarnations of Lord Venkateswara
list twenty-five avatars of Vishnu.
1.Catursana (the four sons of Brahma)
The Four Kumaras or Catursana are the four sons of Brahma from the Puranic
texts of Hinduism named Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanat-Kumara. Born
from Brahma's mind, the four sons are described as great sages who undertook
lifelong vows of celebacy (brahmacarya) against the wishes of their father.
The Bhagavata Purana lists the Kumaras among the twelve Mahajanas (great
devotees or bhaktas) who although being eternally liberated souls from
birth, still became attracted to the devotional service of Vishnu from their
already enlightened state. Despite being very senior in age the Four Kumaras
are said to wander the universe in the forms of small children. They play a
significant role in a number Hindu spiritual traditions, especially those
associated with the worship of Krishna and Vishnu.
2.Narada (the travelling sage)
Narada or Narada Muni is a divine sage from the Hindu tradition, who plays a
prominent role in a number of the Puranic texts, and especially in the
Bhagavata Purana. Narada is portrayed as a travelling monk with the ability
to visit distant worlds and planets. He carries with him a musical
instrument known as a vina, which is primarily used to accompany Narada's
singing of hymns, prayers and mantras as an act of devotion to his lord,
Vishnu or Krishna. In the Vaishnava tradition he is held in special
reverance for his chanting and singing of the names Hari and Narayana and
his promoting of the process of devotional service, known as bhakti yoga as
explained within the text acredited to Narada himself, known as the Narad
3.Varaha (the boar)
Varaha is the third avatar of Vishnu, a boar sent to defeat Hiranyaksha, a
demon who had taken the Earth (prthivi) and carried it to the bottom of what
is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Lord
Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to have taken place for a thousand years,
which the former finally won.
Sculpture of varaha from khajurahoVaraha is depicted in art as either purely
animal or as being anthropomorphic, having a boar's head on a man's body. In
the latter form it has four arms, two of which hold the wheel and
conch-shell and the other two hold a mace, sword or lotus or form a blessing
posture. The earth is held between the boar's tusks.
The avatar symbolizes the resurrection of the earth from a pralaya (deluge)
and the establishment of a new kalpa (cycle).
The Varaha purana is a purana in which the form of narration is a recitation
A very ancient temple lies in Tamil Nadu goes by the name of Sri Mushnam,
and is considered a svayambhu murthi like Tirupati and Badrinath.
4.Matsya (the fish)
Matsya was the first Avatara of Vishnu.
According to legend, the mantri to the king of pre-ancient Dravida,
Satyavata who later becomes known as Manu was washing his hands in a river
when a little fish swam into his hands and begged him to save it's life. He
put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew; he successively moved it to a tank,
a river and then the ocean. The fish then warned him that a deluge would
occur in a week that would destroy all life. Manu therefore built a boat
which the fish towed to a mountaintop when the flood came, and thus he
survived along with some "seeds of life" to re-establish life on earth.
The Bhagavata Purana narrates the following tale about Vishnu's Matsya
"Long ago, when life first appeared on the earth, a terrible demon
terrorized the earth. He prevented sages from performing their rituals and
stole the Holy Vedas, taking refuge in a conch shell in the depths of the
ocean. Brahma, the creator of the world approached Vishnu for help and the
latter immediately assumed the form of a fish and plunged into the ocean. He
killed the demon by ripping open his stomach and retrieved the Vedas. Four
forms emerged from the demon's stomach representing the four Vedas: Rig,
Sam, Atharva, and Yajus."
Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso
of a man and the lower of a fish.
In Hinduism, Yajna is a ritual of sacrifice more commonly practised
during Vedic times. It is performed to please the Devas, or sometimes to the
Supreme Spirit Brahman. It involves pouring oblations into the divine Agni.
Everything that is offered in the divine Agni is believed to reach the Devas.
A yajna is typically performed by a hotar, with a number of additional
priests playing a supporting role, chanting Vedic verses. Often there will
be a fire in the centre of the stage and items are offered into the fire.
Among the items offered as ahuti in the Yajna include many coconuts, large
quantities of ghee, sandalwood shavings and even quantities of clothing. A
yajna can go on for several hours, typically with a large number of people
in attendance. Yajna ,where milk products, fruits, flowers, cloth, and money
are offered, is also termed homa or havan. A typical Hindu marriage
essentially consists of a yajna, because the fire deity Agni is supposed to
be the witness of all pious marriages. Brahmins and certain other castes
receive a yagnopavitham at their Upanayanam. The yagnopavitham symbolizes
the right of the individual to carry out yagnas or homams. The mode of
temple worship is termed agamic, while communication to divinity through the
fire god, Agni, is considered Vedic. Temples of today are generally a
combination of both Vedic and Agamic rituals.
The name is also associated with Brahma and Krishna. He is also identified
with, or as the son of, the original man, Purusha.
But at its core, Nara-Narayana is further broken down where Nara means human
and Narayana means the Supreme Divinity, or Vishnu. In the concept of Nara-Narayana,
the human soul Nara is the eternal companion of the Divine Narayana. Any
human being with an awakened consciousness of divinity in him and who works
overall for the welfare of humanity is a Nara-Narayana, an incarnation of
Vishnu on earth working for the preservation of dharma or righteousness.
Furthermore, the name Narayana is a Sanskrit tatpurusha compound, with the
members nara, which means "human, man", and ayana "eternal, without ending.
Tradition associates the nara element with another meaning of "water",
explaining the name as indicating the all-pervasive nature of Narayana as
that of an infinite ocean in which the never-ending movement of birth, life
and death of the cosmos occurs. Narayana according to this etymology is the
one who moves in the infinite waters and is also the water itself. This
close association of Narayana with water explains the frequent depiction of
Narayana in Hindu Art as standing or sitting on an ocean.
Another interpretation of Narayana is that "Ayana" also means direction/goal
and as previously mentioned "Nara" means human. Hence Narayana refers to the
direction of a human towards moksha. Specially so , because moksha is
represented by the water element and as previously mentioned Nara referes to
the "Water" element.
Maharishi Kapila is a Vedic sage traditionally considered to be the original
proponent of the Samkhya system of philosophy but there are no known
writings by him that deal with the Samkhya system as it is understood today.
He is desribed as an incarnation of Vishnu within the Puranas, famous for
teaching a process of liberation known as bhakti yoga.
Dattatreya is considered by some Hindus to be God who is an incarnation of
the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The word Datta means "Given,"
Datta is called so because the divine trinity have "given" themselves in the
form of a son to the sage couple Atri and Anasuya. He is the son of Atri,
hence the name "Atreya."
In the Nath tradition, Dattatreya is recognized as an Avatar or incarnation
of the Lord Shiva and as the Adi-Guru (First Teacher) of the Adinath
Sampradaya of the Nathas. Although Dattatreya was at first a "Lord of Yoga"
exhibiting distinctly Tantric traits, he was adapted and assimilated into
the more devotional cults; while still worshipped by millions of Hindus, he
is approached more as a benevolent God than as a teacher of the highest
essence of Indian thought.
In Hinduism, Hayagriva (also Hayagreeva) is an avatar of Vishnu. He is
worshipped as the God of knowledge and wisdom, with a human body and a
horse's head, brilliant white in color, with white garments and seated on a
white lotus. Hayagriva is celebrated in the Puranas for rescuing the Vedas
from the demons Madhu and Kaitabha and teaching them again to Brahma.
Symbolically, the story of Hayagriva represents the triumph of pure
knowledge, guided by the hand of God, over the demonic forces of passion and
Hayagriva is a very important deity in the Vaishnava tradition. His
blessings are sought when beginning study of both sacred and secular
subjects. Special worship is conducted on the day of the full moon in August
(Sravana-Paurnami) (his avatara-dina) and on Mahanavami, the ninth day of
the Navaratri festival.
This verse, originally found in the Pancaratra Agamas, is popular among
devotees of Hayagriva.
Rishabha Deva or Aadinatha was born more than 5000 years ago estimated near
about 3000 B.C.E. He is considered the first Tirthankar of Jainism and
referred to with the honorific prefix Lord.
Rişhabha (other names used: Rişhabh, Rişhabhanāth, Rishabh Dev,Rushabh,
Rushabhdev, Rishabha devar, Adhi Bagvan ,Adinath or Adishwar)
According to Jain beliefs, Rishabha was the first Tirthankar of the present
age (Avasarpini). Because of this, he had the name of Ādināth - The first
lord. He became a Siddha - a liberated soul which has destroyed all of its
Rishabh has been derieved from Sanskrit and it means morality, it's often
confused with sanskrit word "Vrishabha" that means bull.
Narasimha is desribed as the fourth incarnation (Avatara) of Lord Vishnu
within the Vedic/Puranic texts of Hinduism. He is worshipped in deity form
by a significant number of Vaishnava groups throughout India (especially in
the South) and is primariliy known as the 'Great Protector', being a form of
Vishnu who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need.
In Hinduism, Kurma was the second avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatara
also belongs to the Satya yuga.
Vishnu took the form of a tortoise and sat on the bottom of the ocean after
the Great Flood. A mountain was placed on his back by the other gods so that
they could churn the sea and find the ancient treasures of the Vedic
Kurma is also the name of a rishi, the son of Grtsamada.
Dhanvantari (also Dhanwantari, Dhanvanthari) is an avatar of Vishnu from the
Hindu tradition. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the
gods (devas), and the controller (god) of Ayurvedic medicine. It is common
practice within Hinduism for worshippers to pray to Dhanvantari asking him
for improved or good health for themselves and/or others.
Dhanvantari is depicted as Vishnu with four hands, holding medical herbs in
one hand and a pot containing rejuvenating nectar called amrita in another.
The Puranas state that Dhanavantari emerged from the 'Ocean of Milk' and
appeared with the pot of nectar during the story of the Samudra or Sagar
manthan whilst the ocean was being churned using the Mandara mountain. After
this event another avatar, Mohini, appears and takes the nectar back from
Mohini is one of the 25 avatars of Vishnu found in the Puranas. The main
story, or lila, concerning Mohini is the Sagar or Samudra manthan, a lila
that includes: Indra, Lakshmi, Kurma, Dhanvantari, and numerous other Hindu
divinities. This lila details the conflict between the Daitya (demons) and
the Adityas (gods), as well as their quest for amrita.
In this lila, there is a time when the demons overpowered the gods and take
possession of the amrita. In order to rescue the gods, Vishnu takes the form
of a beautiful woman, Mohini, and approached the demons. When the demons saw
the enchanting beauty of Mohini, they lost all composure. While the demons
were enchanted by Her beauty, Mohini seized the nectar and distributed it
amongst the gods, who drank it immediately. During this lila, Mohini also
decapitates the demon Rahu.
Vamana is a personality described in the Puranic texts of Hinduism as the
Fifth Avatara of Vishnu, and the first incarnation of the Second Age, or
Treta yuga. Also he is the first Avatar of Vishnu which appears with a
completely human form, though it was that of a dwarf brahmin. He is also
sometimes known as Upendra.
Parashurama Bhargava or Parasurama (Axe-wielding Rama), according to Hindu
mythology is the Sixth avatar of Vishnu, belongs to the Treta yuga, and is
the son of Jamadagni & Renuka. Parashu means axe, hence his name literally
means Rama-with-the-axe. He received an axe after undertaking a terrible
penance to please Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of warfare and
other skills. He is a Chiranjeevin, who fought the advancing ocean back thus
saving the lands of Konkan and Malabar (Maharashtra - Karnataka - Kerala
coastline). The coastal area of Karnataka and Kerala state in India is known
as Parashurama Kshetra (Parashurama's area). Some dispute this and say it
extends all the way to Mumbai in Maharashtra.
Ramachandra, or Rama , was a king of ancient India whose grand story is
portrayed in the epic Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India. In
Hinduism, he is also considered to be the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu and one
of the most important manifestations of God. He is one of the most popular
heroes of Hindu mythology and folktales in South and Southeast Asia. Born as
the eldest son of Kausalya and Dasaratha, king of Kosala, he is the
embodiment of the Supreme Brahman and Dharma. Rama is Maryada Purushottama,
literally The Perfect Man. He is the hero of the ancient Hindu epic poem,
The Ramayana (from Sanskrit, The Journey of Rama). Rama is the husband of
Sita, who is also considered the Avatara of Lakshmi and the embodiment of
Vyasa is an important and much revered figure in the Hindu tradition and its
literature. He is considered to be an ideal Brahmarishi- omniscient,
truthful, purest of the pure and possessor of knowledge of the essence of
Krishna, according to various Hindu traditions, is the eighth avatar of
Vishnu. In the Bhagavad Gita , he is seen as the Supreme Person and the
highest God. Thus, according to traditions such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism, he
is the origin of all other incarnations.
Krishna and the stories associated with him appear across the spectrum of
Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. Though they sometimes differ
in details reflecting the concerns of a particular tradition, some core
features are shared by all. These include a divine incarnation, a pastoral
childhood and youth, and life as a heroic warrior and teacher. The immense
popularity of Krishna in India also meant that various non-Hindu religions
that originated in India had their own versions of him.
Gautama Buddha is mentioned as an Avatar of Vishnu in the Puranic texts of
Hinduism. In the Bhagavata Purana he is twenty fourth of twenty five
avatars, prefiguring a forthcoming final incarnation. A number of Hindu
traditions portray Buddha as the most recent of ten principal avatars, known
as the "Dasavatara" (Ten Incarnations of God).
However, Siddhartha gautama's teaching's do not confirm the existence of the
Creator God and consequently Buddhism falls under one of the nastika
(godless) schools according to other Dharmic schools, such as Dvaita. Other
schools, such as Advaita, are very similar to Buddhism in nature and
In Hindu traditions, Kalki is the tenth and final Maha Avatara (Great
Avatar) of Vishnu the Preserver, who will come to end the current Kali Yuga,
(The Age of Darkness and Destruction). The name Kalki is often a metaphor
for "Eternity" or "Time". The origins of the name probably lie in the word
Kalka which refers to "dirt", "filth" or "foulness" and hence denotes the
"Destroyer of Foulness", "Destroyer of Confusion", "Destroyer of Darkness",
or "The Annihilator of Ignorance". In Hindi kal ki avatar means "tomorrow's
avatar". Other similar and divergent interpretations (based on varying
etymological derivations from the ancient Sanskrit language, —including one
simply meaning "White Horse") have been made.
In the Buddhist Kalachakra tradition this legend has a more developed legend
associated with the Buddha who initiates the first king of Shambhala, King
Suchandra. In Buddhism, he is the ruler of the legendary Kingdom of
Shambhala, where the whole of society is enlighted and the Kalachakra tantra
is held and widely practiced.
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