DAS AVATARS (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) Under the God\’s Will ten incarnations were created. (Mani M. ], p. 1037) Ten incarnations were created out of Shunya. (Maru M. l, p. 1038) The ten incarnations led kingly lives…(Suhi M. 5, P. 747) The incarnations of the Satyuga : Machh, Kachh, Varaha and Narsingh. MACHH (MATSYA) AVATAR (fish incarnation) : According to Puranas, Vishnu appeared before Manu in the form of a fish and predicted the impending deluge and in this way saved him from universal cataclysm. The incarnation propelled Manu\’s ship across the waters to the Himalayas. KACHH (KURAMA) AVATAR (tortoise incarnation) : Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise, which served as a resting place for the mountain Mandara.

This mountain was used as a churning staff by the gods and demons for the attainment of ambrosia. VARAHA AVATAR (boar incarnation) : In the beginning there was water all around, through which the earth was formed. Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and raised up this earth. He then created the whole world. Aceording to another version, the demon king Hiranyaksha propitiated Brahma by penances and received a boon that he would not be hurt by god, man or beast, but through an oversight he forgot to include the form of a boar in the list of beings. In his pride, he even dragged the earth to the nether-regions under the waters.

Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and saved the earth from the clutches of the tyrant king. NARSINGH AVATAR (man-lion incarnation) : Hiranyakashipu, the brother of the demon-king Hiranyaksha, also propitiated Brahma like his brother and got the boon that he would not be killed by a god, man or beast. He could neither die during the day nor during the night, neither inside nor outside his home. In his pride, he prohibited all forms of worship in his\’kingdom. He had a son named Prahlada, who was a staunch devotee of Vishnu.

The tyrant-king declared himself as all powerful. He used all types of tortures upon his son, but could not make him give up his devotion for Vishnu. One day when Prahlada was chanting the Praises of the glory of Vishnu, the demon questioned his son as to where his Deity was at that time. “He is everywhere,” answered Prahlada. The demon pointing out towards one of the pillars nearby, asked: “Is He there in this pillar?” “Yes,” said Prahlada. Then, in great fury, the demon kicked the pillar, saying, “I must kili Him then.

” Suddenly there sprang forth Narsingh, the man-lion, out of the pillar and tore Hiranyakashipu to pieces. It was evening, neither day nor night; the tyrant was killed on the doorway, neither inside nor outside his home. The Chastiser of the demon was a man-lion, neither god nor man nor beast. The incarnations of Treta Yuga : Vamana (dwarf), Parashurama and Ramchandra. VAMANA AVATAR (the dwarf incarnation) : The demon-king Bali, who was a grandson of Prahlada was ambitious and wanted to extend his dominions. For this purpose, he began to perform a great sacrifice.

Indra, the king of gods feared such a sacrifice, because it was intended to drive him away from his kingdom. Bali was successful in his errand. The gods were thus vanquished. They propitiated Vishnu by penances and prayers and he took birth as the son of Brahaspati as a deformed dwarf. When he grew up, he went to Bali and begged alms from him. Bali was famous for his generosity and he fold the dwarf that he could have anything he wanted. The dwarf asked for three paces of land.

With his miraculous powers, he grew to an immense size and measured the three worlds with only two paces. There was no land for the third pace. Bali was accused of not fulfilling his promise, therefore he was sent to the nether-regions. It is said that Bali, in great humility, asked the god to place his third step on his head. For his righteousness, he was then rewarded by Vishnu and given the kingdom of Patala (nether-regions). He was also given a boon to become Indra in the reign of the eighth Manu. PARASHURAMA (the sixth incarnation) : He is also called the Rama of the Axe.

He belonged to the first strugg between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. He was th» son of a Muni called Jamadagni. His mother Renuk| was a lady of Kshatriya caste. According to the custom| the children followed the caste of their motheri therefore Parashurama was a Kshatriya by birth, though he espoused the cause of Brahmins and later on himself became a Muni. One day, the mother of Parashurama went to take a bath in the river, where she saw a handsome amorous pair sporting within the water. She took pleasure in voluptuous thoughts and in her mind desired the company of the handsome man.

Her Brahmin husband beheld her polluted mind and in great anger ordered his sons to kili the mother. It was only Parashurama, who obeyed his father and received the boon of invincibility. i Jamadagni had the celestial cow Surabhi in his hermitage. The king Kartavirya coveted the divine cow and took it away by force, when Jamadagni and his sons were absent from the hermitage. When Parashurama came to know of this deed of the king, he pursued him, killed him in battle and brought back the cow.

The sons of the deceased king, in order to avenge the death of their father, attacked the hermitage and slew the pious sage. Parashurama was not at his home at mat time. When he returned and came to know of the fate of his father, he swore that he would extirpate the whole Kshatriya race. It is said that in his twenty-one campaigns he cleared the earth of all the Kshatriyas and the Kshatriyas who exist at present are the sons of Brahmins, bom of Kshatriya ladies. In the Ramayana, there is an account of the encounter between Parashurama and Ram Chandra, in which the latter was victorious.

RAMACHANDRA (RAMA, the seventh incarnation) : He is the most celebrated of all the incarnations. He was the son of Dasrath, the king of Ayodhya. He was bom at the dose of the Treta Yuga. Dasrath had four sons viz. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughana of whom Rama was the eldest. He was married to Sita, the daughter of Janaka, king of Mithila. Rama received her in the Swayyamvara, for his strength in breaking the bow of Shiva, in that king\’s palace. When Rama came of age, Dasrath decided to install him on the throne, but his step-mother Kaikeyi, the mother of Bharata, put the obstruction.

She wanted her own son to be the king. On an earlier occasion, she had been granted two boons by the king and on this occasion she insisted that Bharata should be installed on the throne and instead Rama be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. Rama, therefore went into exile and his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana accompanied him. But as ill-luck would have it, during the exile Sita was carried off by Ravana and the war that ensued for her recovery is the subject of Valmiki\’s epic Ramayana.

Rama and Lakshmana entered into alliance with the monkey-king Sugriva and his general Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys and bears was raised. In order to reach Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana, a bridge was constructed by the army. After that there was a great war. Many of brave warriors and heroes of the army of Ravana fell in the field. Ultimately Ravana was killed and Sita was freed from the captivity. She was purified by the fiery ordeal and men Rama, Lakshmana and Sita retumed to Ayodhya, where Rama ruled over his kingdom for a long time.

The incarnation of Dwapara Yuga : KRISHNA (the eighth incarnation of Vishnu) : In the Treta Yuga, the demon king Ahuka had two sons, Devaka and Ugrasena. Devaka had a daughter named Devaki and Ugrasena, a son called Kansa. Devaki was married to Vasudeva, by whom she had eight sons. There was another wife of Vasudeva, named Rohini. Kansa had dethroned Ugarsena, his father and usurped his kingdom of Mathura. He had been told by Narada that a son of Devaki would kili him, therefore he imprisoned both Vasudeva and Devaki and slew six of their children.

The seventh child Balarama was transferred by divine agency, before his birth, to the womb of Rohini. The eighth child was Kristina, who was preserved by gods from Kansa\’s vigilance by lulling the guards to sleep with the Yoga-nidra (mysterious slumber). Vasudeva took away the baby and crossing the Yamuna river, exchanged it with the newly-born female child of Nanda and Yashoda. Thus Krishna was brought up by the cowherd Nanda and his wire. From his very childhood, the divine character of Krishna becarne apparent. He killed Putana, the female Daitya, the serpent Kaliya and the demoni Arishta, Keshin and Kalanemi.

He plucked up tha mountain Govardhana and held it as a substantiaa umbrella above the land. Kansa, coming to know thel prowess of Krishna and his brother Balararna invitedi thern to Matbura, having great malice in his mind, j keeping in view the prophecy of Narada. The two young heroes came, but were humiliated. Ultimately Kansa was killed by Krishna and Ugrasena was placed on the throne. Several other exploits of Krishna are written in Mahabharata. He is the author of the celestial song Bhagavada Gita, wherein he expounded his great thoughts to Arjuna.

He is known by several other names such as Vasudeva, Keshava, Govinda, Janardana, Damodara, Narayana, Purushottama, Madhava, Madhusudana and Achyuta. The incarnations of Kaliyuga : Buddha and Kalki. BUDDHA (The ninth incarnation) : Though the orthodox Hindus considered the doctrines of Buddha heretical, his impact •was so great on the masses, that he came to be honoured as an Avatar of Vishnu. This is said to have happened between A.D. 450 and sixth century, because he appeared first in the Vishnu Purana (A.D. 400-500).

The Bhagavata Purana refers to the Buddha incarnation in the form of several prophesies, for instance : “When the Kali age has begun, in order to delude the enemies of the gods, Vishnu will be bom as the Buddha, son of Ajana… When the enemies of the gods come to know the Vedic rites and begin to oppress people, then he •will assume an attractive and deluding form and teach adharma to the demons… making them heretics.” (As quoted in The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology by Wendy Doniger 0\’Flaherty, published by University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1976).

Rev Wilkins, in his book Hindu Mythology says, “The Brahmanical writers were far too shrewd to admit that one who exerted such immense influence and won so many disciples could be none other than an incarnation of the Deity; but as his teaching was opposed to their own, they cleverly say that it was to mislead the enemies of the gods that he promulgated his doctrine, that they, becoming weak and wicked through error, might be led once again to seek the help and blessing of those whom they had previously neglected.” KALKI (the tenth incarnation also called Nibkalank Avatar): This incarnation will be bom near the dose of Kaliyuga. He will destroy the wicked people and establish righteousness on the earth.

References :

1. Kohli, Surindar Singh (ed), Dictionary of Mythological References in Guru Granth Sahib, 1993