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Overview
In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, an avatar (ˈæv.ə.tɑːr, from Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 , अवतार in the Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 script, meaning "descent") is a deliberate descent of a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being
Supreme Being
The term Supreme Being is often defined simply as "God", and it is used with this meaning by theologians of many religious faiths, including, but not limited to, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Deism. However, the term can also refer to more complex or philosophical interpretations of the...

 (i.e., Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 for Vaishnavites) and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation
Incarnation
Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".

The term is most often associated with Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, though it has also come to be associated with other deities.
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In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, an avatar (ˈæv.ə.tɑːr, from Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 , अवतार in the Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 script, meaning "descent") is a deliberate descent of a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being
Supreme Being
The term Supreme Being is often defined simply as "God", and it is used with this meaning by theologians of many religious faiths, including, but not limited to, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Deism. However, the term can also refer to more complex or philosophical interpretations of the...

 (i.e., Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 for Vaishnavites) and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation
Incarnation
Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".

The term is most often associated with Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, though it has also come to be associated with other deities. Varying lists of avatars of Vishnu appear in Hindu scriptures, including the ten Dashavatara of the Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds...

and the twenty-two avatars in the Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

, though the latter adds that the incarnations of Vishnu are innumerable. The avatars of Vishnu are a primary component of Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

. An early reference to avatar, and to avatar doctrine, is in the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

.

Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 and Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

 are also described as descending in the form of avatars. The various manifestations of Devi
Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism, are also described as avatars or incarnations by some scholars and followers of Shaktism
Shaktism
Shaktism is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Shakti or Devi – the Hindu Divine Mother – as the absolute, ultimate Godhead...

. The avatars of Vishnu carry a greater theological prominence than those of other deities, which some scholars perceive to be imitative of the Vishnu avatar lists.

Etymology and meaning



The Sanskrit noun is derived from the verbal root "to cross over", joined with the prefix "off , away , down". The word doesn't occur in the Vedas, but is recorded in (3.3.120).
was initially used to describe different deities, then around the 6th century CE it began to be used primarily to describe the manifestations of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

.
While earlier texts mention deities taking on different forms, the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

(4.5-9) is the first text to discuss the doctrine associated with the term even though the word avatāra itself is not mentioned.

According to some scholars like Parrinder, Oduyoye, Vroom and Sheth, the common translation "incarnation" due to its christological implications
Incarnation (Christianity)
The Incarnation in traditional Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ the second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son or the Logos , "became flesh" by being conceived in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, also known as the Theotokos .The Incarnation is a fundamental theological...

 is somewhat misleading as the concept of avatar corresponds more closely to the view of Docetism
Docetism
In Christianity, docetism is the belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die...

 in Christian theology, as different from the idea of God 'in the flesh' in mainstream Christology
Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

.

Related to the idea of avatar is that of , that is, the idea of manifestations of the divine in various aspects of human life and the natural world.

Avatars of Vishnu




The concept of avatar within Hinduism is most often associated with Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, the preserver or sustainer aspect of God within the Hindu Trinity or Trimurti
Trimurti
The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer," These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or...

 or the one and only supreme God for followers of Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

.

Vishnu's avatars typically descend for a very specific purpose. An oft-quoted passage from the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 describes the typical role of an avatar of Vishnu—to bring dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

, or righteousness, back to the social and cosmic order:


(Gita:4.7–8)


The descents of Vishnu are also integral to His teaching and tradition, whereas the accounts of other deities are not so strictly dependent on their avatar stories. Although it is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avatars, within the Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

 branch of Hinduism Narayana
Narayana
Narayana or Narayan or Naraina is an important Sanskrit name for Vishnu, and in many contemporary vernaculars a common Indian name. Narayana is also identified as the original man, Purusha. The Puranas present divergent views on Narayana...

, Vasudeva
Vasudeva
In Hindu itihasa , Vasudeva is the father of Krishna, the son of Shoorsen, of the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties. His sister Kunti was married to Pandu. He was a partial incarnation of Rishi Kashyap....

, and Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 are also seen as names denoting divine aspects which descend as avatars.

The Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

 describes Vishnu's avatars as innumerable, though there are ten incarnations (Dasavatara, Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

: ten avatars) that are widely seen as his major appearances. Krishna and Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 are the two mostly widely known and worshiped avatars of Vishnu, with their stories told in the two popular epics, the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

 and the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

. Different lists of Vishnu's avatars appear in different texts, including: the dasavatara from the Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds...

; lists of twenty-two, twenty-three, and sixteen avatars in the Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

; thirty-nine avatars in the ; the dasavatara again in Agni Purana
Agni Purana
The Agni Purana, one of the 18 Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts, contains descriptions and details of various incarnations of Vishnu. It also has details account about Rama, Krishna, Prithvi, and the stars...

; the first eight of the dasavatara in Padma Purana
Padma Purana
Padma Purana , one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text, is divided into five parts.In the first part of the text, sage Pulastya explains to Bhishma about religion and the essence of the religion. The second part describes in detail Prithvi...

. The commonly accepted number of ten was fixed well before the 10th century CE. In addition, various Vaishnava saints and founders are considered to be partial avatars.

The various avatars categorized in many different ways. For example: Purusavatara is the first avatara; Gunavataras are represented by the Trimurti
Trimurti
The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer," These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or...

 (Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

, Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, and Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

) who each preside over one of the gunas (rajas, sattva, and tamas); Lilavataras are the well-known ones, and include Avesavataras (beings into whom part of God Himself has entered) and saktyamsavesa (into whom only parts of His power enter); Kalpa-, Manvantara-, and Yuga-avataras descend during different cosmic ages.
Some Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

 schools consider Krishna to be the source of all avatars (Krishnaism
Krishnaism
Krishnaism is a group of Hindu denominations within Vaishnavism, centered on devotion to Radha Krishna or other forms of Krishna, identified with Vishnu.The central text of Krishnaism is the Bhagavad Gita....

).

Dashavatara



The ten best known avatars of Vishnu are collectively known as the Dasavatara (a dvigucompound meaning "ten avatars"). This list is included in the Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds...

 (1.86.10"11).

The first four are said to have appeared in the Satya Yuga
Satya Yuga
The Satya Yuga , also called Sat Yuga, Krta Yuga and Krita Yuga in Hinduism, is the "Yuga of Truth", when mankind is governed by gods, and every manifestation or work is close to the purest ideal and mankind will allow intrinsic goodness to rule supreme...

 (the first of the four Yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

s or ages in the time cycle described within Hinduism). The next three avatars appeared in the Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga is the second out of four yugas, or ages of mankind, in the religion of Hinduism, and follows the Satya Yuga of perfect morality and precedes the Dvapara Yuga. The most famous events in this yuga were Lord Vishnu's fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations as Vamana, Parashurama and...

, the eighth descent in the Dwapara Yuga and the ninth in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

. The tenth, Kalki, is predicted to appear at the end of the Kali Yuga.
  1. Matsya
    Matsya
    Matsya was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat.-The Legend:According to the Matsya...

    , the fish-avatar who saved Manu
    Manu (Hinduism)
    In various Hindu traditions, Manu is a title accorded to the progenitor of mankind, and also the very first brahman king to rule this earth, who saved mankind from the universal flood. He was absolutely honest which was why he was initially known as "Satyavrata"...

     – the progeniter of mankind from the great deluge and rescued the Vedic scriptures by killing a demon. Story can be found in the Matsya Purana
    Matsya Purana
    Matsya Purana is the sixteenth purana of the Hindu scriptures. During the period of mahapralaya, Lord Vishnu had taken Matsya Avatar to save the seeds of all lives and Manu...

    .
  2. Kurma
    Kurma
    In Hinduism, Kurma was the second Avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatar also belongs to the Satya yuga.-Samudra manthan :...

    , the tortoise
    Tortoise
    Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles . Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise...

    -avatar, who helped in the Samudra manthan
    Samudra manthan
    In Hinduism, Samudra manthan or Ksheera Sagara Mathanam, Churning of the Ocean of Milk is one of the most famous episodes in the Puranas...

     – the churning of the ocean. Story can be found in the Kurma Purana
    Kurma Purana
    -Contents:The printed editions of this text are divided into two s , the and the . The has 53 chapters and the has 46 chapters.According to the tradition, the originally consisted of four s : the , the , the and the . The extant text would correspond to the .The gives a brief overview of...

    .
  3. Varaha
    Varaha
    Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu Godhead Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to...

    , the boar
    Boar
    Wild boar, also wild pig, is a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae. The species includes many subspecies. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises...

    -avatar, who rescued the earth from the ocean, by killing her kidnapper-demon Hiranyaksha
    Hiranyaksha
    In Hinduism, Hiranyaksha [golden-eyed] was an Asura of pre-ancient India and the son of Diti and Kashyapa. He was slain by the god Vishnu after he took the Earth to the bottom of what has been described as the "Cosmic Ocean". His name in Sanskrit literally means "Goldeneye"...

    . Story can be found in the Varaha Purana
    Varaha Purana
    The Varaha Purana is one of the major eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts. It describes in detail about the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu, and narrates about the rescue of the Prithvi.-Contents:...

    .
  4. Narasimha
    Narasimha
    Narasimha or Nrusimha , also spelt as Narasingh and Narasingha, whose name literally translates from Sanskrit as "Man-lion", is an avatar of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism...

    , the half man-half lion
    Lion
    The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

     avatar, who killed the tyrant demon-king Hiranyakashipu
    Hiranyakashipu
    Hiranyakashipu [golden-haired] is an Asura from the Puranic scriptures of Hinduism. The Puranas describe Hiranyakashipu as an Asura. His younger brother, Hiranyaksha was slain by Varaha, one of the Avatars of Vishnu and angered by this, Hiranyakashipu decided to gain magical powers by performing...

    , to rescue the demon's son Prahlada
    Prahlada
    Prahlada is a character from the Puranic texts of Hinduism, wherein he is famed for his exclusive devotion to Vishnu, despite attempts in the story by his father, Hiranyakashipu, to turn him to the contrary...

    , who was a Vishnu-devotee
  5. Vamana
    Vamana
    Vamana is described in the Puranic texts of Hinduism as the Fifth Avatar of Vishnu, and the first incarnation of the Second Age, or the 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...

    , the dwarf-avatar, who subdued the king Maha Bali
    Mahabali
    Mahabali , also known as Bali or Māveli was a benevolent Asura King, and the grandson of Prahlada. The festival of Onam commemorates his yearly homecoming after being sent down to the underworld by Vamana, the fifth avatar of Vishnu.-Conquest of the Universe and banishment:Bali, an asura, was the...

    . Story can be found in the Vamana Purana
    Vamana Purana
    The Vamana Purana, , one of the eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts, is devoted to the Vamana Avatar of Vishnu. It has a eulogy praising both Vishnu and Shiva....

    .
  6. Parashurama
    Parashurama
    Parashurama , is the sixth avatar of Vishnu and belongs to the treta yuga, and is the son of a Brahmin father Jamadagni and mother Renuka. He is considered one of the seven immortal human. He received an axe after undertaking a terrible penance to please Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of...

    , sage with the axe who killed the thousand-armed king Kartavirya Arjuna
    Kartavirya Arjuna
    Kartavirya Arjuna , was a legendary king of an ancient kingdom during the Ramayana period with capital at Mahishamati which is on the banks of Narmada River in the current state of Madhya Pradesh. Kartavirya was son of Kritavirya, king of the Haihayas. This is his patronymic, by which he is best...

  7. Rama
    Rama
    Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

    , the king of Ayodhya and the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana
    Ramayana
    The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

  8. Krishna
    Krishna
    Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

    , the king of Dwarka
    Dwarka
    Dwarka also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka, is a city and a municipality of Jamnagar district in the Gujarat state in India. Dwarka , also known as Dwarawati in Sanskrit literature is rated as one of the seven most ancient cities in the country...

    , a central character in the Bhagavata Purana
    Bhagavata purana
    The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

     and the Mahabharata
    Mahabharata
    The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

     and reciter of Bhagavad Gita
    Bhagavad Gita
    The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

    . However, in the original Dasavatara stotra, Balarama
    Balarama
    Balarama , also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha, is the elder brother of the divine being, Krishna in Hinduism. Within Vaishnavism Hindu traditions Balarama is worshipped as an Avatar of Vishnu, and he is also listed as such in the Bhagavata Purana...

    , the elder brother of Krishna, is stated as the eight incarnation, while Krishna
    Krishna
    Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

     (Lord Kesava) is the source of all the incarnation.
  9. Gautama Buddha
  10. Kalki
    Kalki
    In Hinduism, Kalki is the tenth and final Maha Avatar of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time...

     ("Eternity", or "time", or "The Destroyer of foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yuga. Story can be found in the Kalki Purana
    Kalki Purana
    The Kalki Purana is a prophetic work in Sanskrit that details the life and times of Kalki, the tenth and final Dashavatara of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu...

    .

In the Bhagavata Purana



As many as forty specific avatars of Vishnu are mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

, though the book adds that the number is innumerable. Twenty-two avatars of Vishnu are listed numerically in the first book:
  1. Four Kumaras
    Four Kumaras
    The Four Kumāras or Catursana are the four sons of Brahma from the Puranic texts of Hinduism named Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanatkumara....

     [BP 1.3.6] – the four Sons of god Brahma
    Brahma
    Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

  2. Varaha
    Varaha
    Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu Godhead Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to...

     [BP 1.3.7]
  3. Narada
    Narada
    Narada or Narada Muni is a divine sage from the Vaisnava tradition, who plays a prominent role in a number of the Puranic texts, especially in the Bhagavata Purana, and in the Ramayana...

     [BP 1.3.8] the divine-sage who travels the worlds as a devotee of Vishnu
  4. Nara-Narayana
    Nara-Narayana
    Nara-Narayana is a Hindu deity pair. Nara-Narayana is the twin-brother incarnation of the preserver-god Vishnu on earth, working for the preservation of dharma or righteousness...

     [BP 1.3.9] – the twin-sages
  5. Kapila [BP 1.3.10] – a sage and one of the founders of the Samkhya
    Samkhya
    Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

     school of philosophy
  6. Dattatreya
    Dattatreya
    Dattatreya or Datta is a Hindu deity encompassing the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, collectively known as Trimurti. The name Dattatreya can be divided into two words - "Datta" and "Atreya" referring to the sage Atri, his physical father.Various Hindu sects worship him differently...

     [BP 1.3.11] – the combined avatar of the Hindu trinity
    Trimurti
    The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer," These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or...

     Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
  7. Yajna
    Yajna (avatar)
    Yagya or Yajna or Yagneshwara is mentioned as an Avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu in Bhagavata Purana. As Yagya, Vishnu is the embodiment of the Hindu fire sacrifice ritual or yagya...

     [BP 1.3.12] – the lord of fire-sacrifice, who took was the Indra
    Indra
    ' or is the King of the demi-gods or Devas and Lord of Heaven or Svargaloka in Hindu mythology. He is also the God of War, Storms, and Rainfall.Indra is one of the chief deities in the Rigveda...

     – the lord of heaven
  8. Rishabha [BP 1.3.13] – the father of King Bharata
    Bharata (emperor)
    Bharata was a legendary emperor of India, and is referred to in Hindu and Jain mythology. He was son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala and thus a descendant of the Lunar Dynasty of the Kshatriya caste. Bharata conquered all of greater Greater India, uniting it into a single entity which was named...

     and Bahubali
  9. Prithu
    Prithu
    According to Hindu mythology, Prithu is a sovereign , named in the Vedic scriptures and considered an Avatar of the preserver god—Vishnu. He is also called Pruthu, Prithi and Prithu Vainya, literally, Prithu — the son of Vena...

     [BP 1.3.14] – the sovereign-king who milked the earth as a cow to get the world's grain and vegetation and also invented agriculture
  10. Matsya
    Matsya
    Matsya was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat.-The Legend:According to the Matsya...

     [BP 1.3.15]
  11. Kurma
    Kurma
    In Hinduism, Kurma was the second Avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatar also belongs to the Satya yuga.-Samudra manthan :...

     [BP 1.3.16]
  12. Dhanvantari
    Dhanvantari
    Dhanvantari is an Avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods , and the god of Ayurvedic medicine...

     [BP 1.3.17] – the father of Ayurveda
    Ayurveda
    Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

     medicine
  13. Mohini
    Mohini
    Mohini , in Hindu mythology, is the name of the only female Avatar of the god Vishnu. She is portrayed as a femme fatale, an enchantress, who maddens lovers, sometimes leading them to their doom. Mohini is introduced into the Hindu mythos in the narrative epic of the Mahabharata...

     [BP 1.3.17] – the enchantress
  14. Narasimha
    Narasimha
    Narasimha or Nrusimha , also spelt as Narasingh and Narasingha, whose name literally translates from Sanskrit as "Man-lion", is an avatar of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism...

    [BP 1.3.18]
  15. Vamana
    Vamana
    Vamana is described in the Puranic texts of Hinduism as the Fifth Avatar of Vishnu, and the first incarnation of the Second Age, or the 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...

     [BP 1.3.19]
  16. Parasurama [BP 1.3.20]
  17. Vyasa
    Vyasa
    Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

     [BP] 1.3.21] – the compiler of the scriptures – Vedas
    Vedas
    The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

     and writer of the scriptures Puranas
    Puranas
    The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

     and the epic Mahabharata
    Mahabharata
    The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

  18. Rama
    Rama
    Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

     [BP 1.3.22]
  19. Balarama
    Balarama
    Balarama , also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha, is the elder brother of the divine being, Krishna in Hinduism. Within Vaishnavism Hindu traditions Balarama is worshipped as an Avatar of Vishnu, and he is also listed as such in the Bhagavata Purana...

     [BP 1.3.23]
  20. Krishna
    Krishna
    Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

     [BP 1.3.23]
  21. Buddha
    Buddha
    In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

     [BP 1.3.24]
  22. Kalki
    Kalki
    In Hinduism, Kalki is the tenth and final Maha Avatar of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time...

     [BP 1.3.25]


Besides these, another four avatars are described later on in the text as follows:
  1. Prshnigarbha [BP 10.3.41] – the son of Prshni
  2. Hayagriva
    Hayagriva
    Hayagriva is a horse-headed deity that appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism.-Hinduism:...

     [BP 2.7.11] – the horse-faced avatar
  3. Hamsa [BP 11.13.19] – the swan
  4. Golden avatra [BP 11.5.32] – the avatara in Kali-yuga for propagating hari-namasankirtan.

Avatars of Ganesha



The Linga Purana
Linga Purana
The Linga Purana is one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text. The extant text is divided into two parts, comprising 108 and 55 chapters respectively. These parts contain the description regarding the origin of universe, origin of the linga, and emergence of Brahma and Vishnu, and...

 declares that Ganesha incarnates to destroy demons and to help the gods and pious people. The two upapurana
Upapurana
The Upapuranas are a genre of Hindu religious texts consisting of a large number of compilations differentiated from the Mahapuranas by styling them as secondary Puranas by using a disparaging prefix Upa...

s – Ganesha Purana
Ganesha Purana
The Ganesha Purana is a Hindu religious text dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesha . It is an that includes many stories and ritualistic elements relating to Ganesha. The Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana are core scriptures for devotees of Ganesha, known as Ganapatyas...

 and Mudgala Purana
Mudgala Purana
The Mudgala Purana is a Hindu religious text dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesha . It is an that includes many stories and ritualistic elements relating to Ganesha. The Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana are core scriptures for devotees of Ganesha, known as Ganapatyas...

 – detail the avatars of Ganesha. Both these upapuranas are core scriptures of the Ganapatya
Ganapatya
Ganapatya is a denomination of Hinduism that worships Ganesha as the Saguna Brahman.The worship of Ganesha is considered complementary with the worship of other deities. Hindus of all sects begin prayers, important undertakings, and religious ceremonies with an invocation of Ganesha...

 sect – exclusively dedicated to Ganesha worship.

Four avatars of Ganesha are listed in the Ganesha Purana:Mohotkata, Mayūreśvara, Gajanana and Dhumraketu. Each avatar corresponds to a different yuga, has a different mount and different skin complexion, but all the avatars have a common purpose – to slay demons.

The Mudgala Purana describes eight avatars of Ganesha:
  1. Vakratunda ("twisting trunk"), his mount is a lion.
  2. Ekadanta ("single tusk"), his mount is a mouse.
  3. Mahodara ("big belly"), his mount is a mouse.
  4. Gajavaktra (or Gajānana) ("elephant face"), his mount is a mouse.
  5. Lambodara ("pendulous belly") , his mount is a mouse.
  6. Vikata ("unusual form", "misshapen"), his mount is a peacock.
  7. Vighnaraja ("king of obstacles"), his mount is the celestial serpent .
  8. Dhumravarna ("grey color") corresponds to Śiva, his mount is a horse.

Avatars of Shiva


Although Puranic scriptures
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

 contain occasional references to avatars of Shiva, the idea is not universally accepted in Saivism. The Linga Purana
Linga Purana
The Linga Purana is one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text. The extant text is divided into two parts, comprising 108 and 55 chapters respectively. These parts contain the description regarding the origin of universe, origin of the linga, and emergence of Brahma and Vishnu, and...

 speaks of twenty-eight avatars of Shiva. In the Shiva Purana
Shiva Purana
The Shiva Purana is one of the s, a genre of Hindu religious texts dedicated to Shiva. According to a tradition which is stated in the of this text, the original text was known as the ....

 there is a distinctly Saivite version of a traditional avatar myth: Shiva brings forth Virabhadra
Virabhadra
According to Hindu mythology, Virabhadra or Veerabhadra was a super being created by the wrath of Rudra , when he stepped in to destroy the Yagna of Daksha, after his daughter Dakshayani - consort of Shiva, self-immolated in yagna fire...

, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha
Narasimha
Narasimha or Nrusimha , also spelt as Narasingh and Narasingha, whose name literally translates from Sanskrit as "Man-lion", is an avatar of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism...

, an avatar of Vishnu. When that fails, Shiva manifests as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. The story concludes with Narasimha becoming a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. However, Vaishnava followers including Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 scholars, such as Vijayindra Tirtha (1539–95) refute this Shaivite view of Narasimha based on their reading of Sattvika Puranas
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

 and Śruti
Sruti
' , often spelled shruti or shruthi, is a term that describes the sacred texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism and is one of the three main sources of dharma and therefore is also influential within Hindu Law...

 texts.

The monkey-god Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 who helped Rama – the Vishnu avatar is considered by some to be the eleventh avatar of Rudra
Rudra
' is a Rigvedic God, associated with wind or storm, and the hunt. The name has been translated as "The Roarer", or "The Howler"....

 (Shiva).
Some regional deities like Khandoba
Khandoba
Khandoba, also known as Khanderao, Khanderaya, Malhari Martand and Mallu Khan is a regional Hindu deity, worshipped as Mārtanda Bhairava, a form of Shiva, mainly in the Deccan plateau of India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. He is the most popular family deity in Maharashtra...

 are also believed by some to be avatars of Shiva.

Other stated avatars of Shiva, according to some sources, are 8th century non-dualist Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 philosopher (Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

) Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

. He was named "Shankara" after Lord Shiva and is considered by some to have been an incarnation of the god and Virabhadra
Virabhadra
According to Hindu mythology, Virabhadra or Veerabhadra was a super being created by the wrath of Rudra , when he stepped in to destroy the Yagna of Daksha, after his daughter Dakshayani - consort of Shiva, self-immolated in yagna fire...

 who was born when Shiva grabbed a lock of his matted hair and dashed it to the ground. Virabhadra then destroyed Daksha
Daksha
In Hinduism, Daksha, "the skilled one", is an ancient creator god, one of the Prajapatis, the Rishis and the Adityas. Daksha is said to be the son of Aditi and Brahma...

's yajna
Yajna
In Hinduism, yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes...

 (fire sacrifice) and severed his head as per Shiva's instructions.

Avatars of Devi



Avatars are also observed in Shaktism
Shaktism
Shaktism is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Shakti or Devi – the Hindu Divine Mother – as the absolute, ultimate Godhead...

, the sect dedicated to the worship of the Goddess (Devi
Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

), but they do not have universal acceptance in the sect. The Devi Bhagavata Purana describes the descent of Devi avatars to punish the wicked and defend the righteous—much as the Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

 does with the avatars of Vishnu. Like Vishnu, his consort Lakshmi
Lakshmi
Lakshmi or Lakumi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity , light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments...

 incarnates as Sita
SITA
SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

 and Radha
Radha
Radha , also called Radhika, Radharani and Radhikarani, is the childhood friend and lover of Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana, and the Gita Govinda of the Vaisnava traditions of Hinduism...

 – the consorts of Rama and Krishna avatars. Nilakantha, an 18th century commentator on the Devi Bhagavata Purana – which includes the Devi Gita – says that various avatars of the Goddess includes Shakambhari
Shakambhari
In Hinduism, Shakambhari is an incarnation of Ishwari, consort to Shiva. She is the divine mother, called "The Bearer of the Greens."- Etymology :...

 and even the masculine Krishna and Rama – generally thought to be Vishnu's avatars. Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati are also goddesses worshipped as Devi avatars.

Other Vaishnava avatars


There are many senses and shades of meaning of the term avatar within Hinduism.

Purusha avatars


Purusha avatars are sometimes described as the original avatars of Vishnu or Krishna within the Universe:
  • Vasudeva
    Vasudeva
    In Hindu itihasa , Vasudeva is the father of Krishna, the son of Shoorsen, of the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties. His sister Kunti was married to Pandu. He was a partial incarnation of Rishi Kashyap....

  • Sankarshan
    Shesha
    In Hindu tradition, Shesha or Sheshanaag is the king of all nagas, one of the primal beings of creation, and according to the Bhagavata Purana, an Avatar of the Supreme God known as Sankarshan. In the Puranas, Shesha is said to hold all the planets of the Universe on his hoods and to constantly...

  • Pradyumna
    Pradyumna
    Pradyumna is a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. He is one in 24 Keshava Namas , praised in all pujas. It is also the only name in Sanskrit with all the 3 letters joint...

  • Vamana
    Vamana
    Vamana is described in the Puranic texts of Hinduism as the Fifth Avatar of Vishnu, and the first incarnation of the Second Age, or the 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...


Guna avatars


The personalities of the Trimurti
Trimurti
The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer," These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or...

 (Hindu trinity) are also sometimes referred to as Guna avatars, because of their roles of controlling the three modes (guna
Guna
' means 'string' or 'a single thread or strand of a cord or twine'. In more abstract uses, it may mean 'a subdivision, species, kind, quality', or an operational principle or tendency....

s) of nature, even though they have not descended upon an earthly planet in the general sense of the term 'avatar'.
  • Vishnu
    Vishnu
    Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

     – As controller of the mode of goodness (sattva
    Sattva
    In Hindu philosophy, sattva is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika "pure", rājasika "dim", and tāmasika "dark". Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying...

    )
  • Brahma
    Brahma
    Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

     – Controller of the mode of passion and desire (rajas
    Rajas
    Rajas ) is, in the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy, one of the three gunas. Of these, rajas, is responsible for motion, energy and preservation...

    )
  • Shiva
    Shiva
    Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

     – Controller of the mode of ignorance (tamas
    Tamas (philosophy)
    In the Samkhya school of philosophy, tamas is one of the three gunas , the other two being rajas and sattva or purity). Tamas is the template for inertia or resistance to action...

    )

Manvantara avatars


Manvantara avatars are beings responsible for creating progeny throughout the Universe. There are said to be unlimited numbers of these avatars.
""During the hundred years of Brahmā's life, there are 504,000 manvantara-avatāras." (Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya 20.322)

Shaktyavesa and Avesa avatars


Avataric incarnations are classified as two kinds
  • direct (sakshat)
  • indirect (avesa)


When Vishnu himself descends, he is called sakshat or shaktyavesa-avatara, a direct incarnation of God. But when he does not incarnate directly, but indirectly empowers some living entity to represent him, that living entity is called an indirect or avesa avatar.

There are said to be a great number of avesa avatars. Examples include Narada Muni
Narada
Narada or Narada Muni is a divine sage from the Vaisnava tradition, who plays a prominent role in a number of the Puranic texts, especially in the Bhagavata Purana, and in the Ramayana...

, Sugata Buddha
Buddha as an Avatar of Vishnu
The Buddha in Hinduism is viewed as an Avatar of Vishnu. In the Puranic text Bhagavata Purana, he is the twenty-fourth of twenty-five avatars, prefiguring a forthcoming final incarnation. Similarly, a number of Hindu traditions portray Buddha as the most recent of ten principal avatars, known as...

, and Parashurama
Parashurama
Parashurama , is the sixth avatar of Vishnu and belongs to the treta yuga, and is the son of a Brahmin father Jamadagni and mother Renuka. He is considered one of the seven immortal human. He received an axe after undertaking a terrible penance to please Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of...

. Parashurama is the only one of the traditional ten avatars that is not a direct descent of Vishnu.

According to the Sri Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism, there are two types of primary or direct avatars, Purna avatars and Amsarupavatars:
  1. Purna avatars are those in which Vishnu takes form directly and all the qualities and powers of God are expressed, (e.g. Narasimha
    Narasimha
    Narasimha or Nrusimha , also spelt as Narasingh and Narasingha, whose name literally translates from Sanskrit as "Man-lion", is an avatar of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism...

    , Rama
    Rama
    Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

     and Krishna
    Krishna
    Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

    ).,
  2. Amsarupavatars are those in which Vishnu takes form directly but He is manifest in the person only partially. (e.g. avatars from Matsya
    Matsya
    Matsya was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat.-The Legend:According to the Matsya...

    , Kurma
    Kurma
    In Hinduism, Kurma was the second Avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatar also belongs to the Satya yuga.-Samudra manthan :...

     etc.).


The avesa or indirect avatars are generally not worshiped as the Supreme being. Only the direct, primary avatars are worshiped in this way. In practice, the direct avatars that are worshiped today are the Purna avatars of Narasimha, Rama and Krishna. Among most Vaishnava traditions, Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 is considered to be the highest Purna avatar. However, followers of Chaitanya (including ISKCON
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness , known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada...

), Nimbarka
Nimbarka
Nimbarka , is known for propagating the Vaishnava Theology of Dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. According to scholars headed by Prof. Roma Bose, he lived in the 13th Century, on the assumption that Śrī Nimbārkācārya was the author of the work Madhvamukhamardana...

, and Vallabha Acharya
Vallabha Acharya
Vallabhacharya was a devotional philosopher, who founded the Pushti sect in India, following the philosophy of Shuddha advaita ....

 differ philosophically from other Vaishnavas, such as Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya
Madhvacharya
Madhvācārya was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in...

, and consider Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 to be the ultimate Godhead, not simply an avatar. That said, all Hindus believe that there is no difference between worship of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and His avatars as it all leads to Him. According to Madhvacharya
Madhvacharya
Madhvācārya was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in...

 (chief proponent of Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 or school of differential monism
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

), all avatars of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 are alike in potency and every other quality. There is no gradation among them, and perceiving or claiming any differences among avatars is a cause of eternal damnation. See Madhva's commentary on Katha Upanishad
Katha Upanishad
The Katha Upanishad , also titled "Death as Teacher", is one of the mukhya Upanishads commented upon by Shankara. It is associated with the school of the Black Yajurveda, and is grouped with the Sutra period of Vedic Sanskrit. It is a middle Upanishad...

.

See also

  • Avatars in Mahabharata
    Avatars in Mahabharata
    This page contains a list of the characters of the great epic Mahābhārata and the original devatas or deities whose Avatars they were....

  • Gautama Buddha in Hinduism
  • Incarnation
    Incarnation
    Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

    : similar conceptions in other religions
  • List of avatar claimants

Further reading

  • Daniélou, Alain
    Alain Daniélou
    Alain Daniélou was a French historian, intellectual, musicologist, Indologist, and a noted Western convert to and expert on Shaivite Hinduism.-Life:...

    (1991) [1964]. The myths and gods of India. Inner Traditions, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0892813547. pp. 164–187.

External links