By Kashish Rai
In Hinduism, the meaning of this shok in sankskrit confines to Lord Vishnu:
शान्ताकारं भुजगशयनं पद्मनाभं सुरेशं
विश्वाधारं गगनसदृशं मेघवर्णं शुभाङ्गम् ।
लक्ष्मीकान्तं कमलनयनं योगिभिर्ध्यानगम्यं
वन्दे विष्णुं भवभयहरं सर्वलोकैकनाथम् ॥
It means that:
I bow before God Vishnu..
Who is personification of peace,
Who sleeps on his folded arms,
Who has a lotus on his belly,
Who is the God of gods,
Who is the basis of earth,
Who is similar to the sky,
Who is of the colour of the cloud,
Who has beautiful limbs,
Who is the consort of Lakshmi,
Who has lotus like eyes,
Who is seen by saints through thought,
Who kills all worries and fears,
And who is the lord of all the worlds.
In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu is considered as the preserver of this world. As the preserver, he had declared, “Whenever evil will prevail in this world, I will take up an avatara in this world to cast-off all the evil and sufferings”.
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What is an Avatara?
Avatara (or incarnation) in Sanskrit refers to the “appearance” or “manifestation” of God or a Deity in an earthly embodiment. The concept of an avatara is principally associated with Lord Vishnu.
Classification of Avatars By Lord Vishnu
Avatars are broadly classified into two kinds:
- Sakshaty Avatara: When Lord Vishnu himself descended on earth, he took Sakshaty Avatara.
Amsarup Avatars and Purna Avatar are sub-categories of Sakshaty-Avatara!
- Purna Avataras: They include Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Narasimha
- Amsarup Avataras: These include Lord Vishnu’s partial incarnation Matsya, Kurma, Varaha Avatara.
- Avesa Avatara: When Lord Vishnu indirectly empowered some living entity on earth to represent him, he took Avesa Avatara.
(Lord Parshurama, Vyasa are examples of Lord Vishnu’s Avesa Avataras)
The Concept of “Dashavatara”
According to Srimad Bhagwad Purana, there are innumerable incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Among them, there are 24 important incarnations of Lord Vishnu in total.
But, from Innumerable incarnations of Vishnu, Rishis or Sages selected ten Avatars as a representative of rest, these ten incarnations are known in Sanskrit as “Dashavatar”.
The Dhashavatara list of Vishnu is introduced in Garuda Purana (1st millennium BCE).
The most popular ten avatars based on many puranas are Matasya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.
Let us Understand about them in this article!
Dashavataras of Lord Vishnu
The matasya avatar represents the half fish, a half-human form of Vishnu. According to a story in the “Matasya Puran“, Matasya informs Manu, the leader of the humans, of the great flood, and helps him save all the motile living beings, the Vedas, and the seeds of all plants to sustain life.
Kurma Avatara represents the half tortoise half-man form of Vishnu. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that during the churning of the ocean at the time of “Amrit-Manthan”, he balanced Mt. Mandara on his shell to assist the gods and the demons in the churning process. He is also believed to have supported the weight of the cosmos on the support of his back.
Varaha Avatara represents the half man and half boar avatar of Vishnu. According to Hindu dharma, he slayed the demon Hiranyaksha in order to save “Bhudevi”, the personification of earth, and restored her back to the original surface from a sinking state by using his tusks.
Narasimha Avatara represents the half lion and a half-human avatar of Vishnu. He was born to end the reign of the demonic king Hiranya Kashyap and save the supreme devotee of Vishnu “Prahlad” in order to establish peace, order, righteousness, and other elements of dharma on this earth.
Vamana was a dwarf Brahmin. This avatar of Lord Vishnu comes to check the growing power of the demonic king Mahabali, which he does by tricking him during a sacrificing ceremony and sending him to the underworld inside of the Earth.
Lord Parshurama is a Brahmin Kshatriya. In Hindu mythology, he is depicted as a sage with an axe in his hand. He was born to end the tyranny of the evil Kshatriyas, who misused their powers and made others’ lives miserable and bring them to justice for the sake of humankind.
Lord Rama is one of the most prominent deities in Hindu dharma and the lead character of the epic Ramayana. He kills the evil king Ravana to end his terrorizing rule, to establish morality, and to free his wife Sita, whom Ravana had kidnapped.
Lord Krishna is yet another major form of Vishnu. He is known to end the reign of his tyrannical maternal uncle Kansa, and for his role as the advisor or the Pandavas and the charioteer and guide of Arjuna in the greatest epic Mahabharata.
Siddhartha Gautam, later to be known as Gautam Buddha, left his family and all material possession in search of truth and enlightenment. He founded Buddhism and taught people ways to end all kinds of suffering through Noble Eightfold Paths.
According to Srimad Bhagwad Mahapuran, Kalki remains the only avatar of Vishnu that is yet to be born. It is said that he will end all evil by defeating the demon Kali and start a new “Satyuga” or Kalkiyuga (Kali refers all the negative emotions and elements personified into one).
Kalki is depicted as a warrior riding a white horse and holding a shining sword.