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HINDUISM MYTHOLOGY
 
 

Incarnation of God

God Incarnation

 

In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being (i.e., Vishnu for Vaishnavites), and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".
The phenomenon of an avatar (descent of God in human and other forms) is observed in Hinduism, Ayyavazhi, and Sikhism only. Thus Avataravada is one of the core principles of Hinduism along with Ekeshwaravada (One Supreme Divine Reality), Veda Praman (Authority of the Vedas), Atman, Karma, Murti Pooja, Ahimsa, and Punarjanma (Reincarnation).
The term is most often associated with Vishnu, 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 and the twenty-two avatars in the Bhagavata Purana, though the latter adds that the incarnations of Vishnu are innumerable. The avatars of Vishnu are a primary component of Vaishnavism. An early reference to avatar, and to avatar doctrine, is in the Bhagavad Gita.
Shiva and Ganesha are also described as descending in the form of avatars. The various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism, are also described as avatars or incarnations by some scholars and followers of Shaktism. 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.
In Sikhism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a soul to earth in any form. Guru Granth Sahib believes in the existence of Dasavtara. In Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh wrote three composition on historical avatars which include Vishnu Avatar, Brahma Avatar, and Rudra Avatar.

 

 

10 Avatars of Vishnu Bhagwan

1. MATSYA (Fish) Avatar : ( Satya Yuga ). During the deluge before the latest re-creation of the universe, the four Vedas (the holy scriptures) which were required by Brahma for the re-creation, were drowned deep in the waters. Vishnu took the form of a fish to retrieve the sacred scriptures. Another legend has it that Vishnu in his Matsya Avatar instructed Manu (the progenitor of mankind in each creation) to build a huge boat and gather samples of all species in it. The Matsya then pulled the ark to safety through the deluge and floods to enable Brahma to start the work of re-creation.

2. KACHYUP or KURMA (Tortoise) Avatar: ( Satya Yuga ). The gods ( Devas ), suddenly lost their immortality due to the curse of a sage, soon after the new creation of the universe. Afraid of the Asuras (Demons), they turned for help to Vishnu who advised them to churn the ocean to obtain Amrita (Ambrosia), which would restore their power. The churning had to be done with the Mandara Mountain as the churning stick. Vishnu then assumed the form of a Kachyup (tortoise) to hold up the mountain on his back to enable the churning to be done. The help of Vishnu in restoration of immortality of the Devas is another example of the upholding of the dominance of Dharma .

3. VARAHA (Boar) Avatar: ( Satya Yuga ). The earth ( prithvi or goddess Bhudevi ) was swamped deep under the cosmic ocean at the end of the deluge before the re-creation of the present universe. At this time, Hiranyaksha , an Asura (demon) who had attained extraordinary powers through penance, was wreaking havoc among the Devas (gods). On the request of Brahma , who needed the earth for his work of recreation, and of the Devas , who needed succor from Hiranyaksha , Vishnu assumed the form of a Varaha (boar). He carried the earth from the bottom of the ocean on his tusks in this Avatar ; also slaying the rampaging Asura in the process.  

4. NARASIMHA (half-man half-lion) Avatar : ( Satya Yuga ). Hiranyakashipu , a demon king and a tyrant, had through severe penance, obtained a boon from Brahma that no natural-born man or animal could kill him; nor could he be killed in heaven or earth, by any weapon, either during day or night. He started considering himself as the supreme God and banned the worship of gods; even trying to kill his own son Prahlada, who was a Vishnu devotee. Vishnu assumed the form of Narasimha (neither man nor animal); emerged from a pillar (not natural born); during evening (neither day nor night); laid the demon-king across his thighs (neither heaven nor earth) and tore his entrails out with bare claws (no weapon). 

5. VAMANA (Dwarf) Avatar: ( Treta Yuga ). The legend associated with this Avatar has it that the valorous demon- king Bali , a descendant of Hiranyakashipu , empowered by severe penance, defeated Indra , the king of the Devas and conquered the whole world. Fearing that he would overcome all three worlds ( Swarga , Marta and Patala or heaven, earth and the nether worlds), the Devas appealed to Vishnu . Taking birth in a Brahmin family and growing up to be a dwarf, Vishnu approached Bali for alms when the latter was performing a religious sacrifice. Bali, in an expansive mood promised him whatever he wanted - which was as much land as he could cover in three strides. Vishnu then covered heaven and earth in two strides to emancipate the Devas and banished Bali to the nether world.

6. PARASHURAM Avatar : (end of Satya Yuga or in the Treta Yuga as per different scholars). Vishnu took birth as a Brahman (priest) in this Avatar to free the Brahmans from the depredations of the Kshatriyas (warrior caste) who had become arrogant oppressors of the Brahmans . His name derives from the axe-like weapon ( Parsu ) he carried - a gift from Shiva . He annihilated the Kshatriyas in battles twenty-one times. Parashuram and Rama , the seventh Avatar , are generally depicted as living at the same time even though the former is said to have appeared in this world before Rama .

7. RAMA Avatar : ( Treta Yuga ). Vishnu , in this Avatar , incarnates himself as Rama , the Kshatriya king central to the Ramayana epic. By far one of the most popular heroes (along with Krishna ) of Hindu mythology, Rama exemplifies the ideal, son, king, father and man. The legend, on the one hand, is a romantic exploit of good triumphing over evil (the slaying of Ravana , the demon-king, by Rama ). On another plane, it is a complex dissertation on love, war, brotherhood, fidelity, societal customs and traditions etc. 

8. BALARAMA Avatar: ( Dwapara Yuga ). Balarama is the eighth Avatar according to Puranic ( Puranas are part of Vedic scriptures) view. Balarama was the elder brother of Krishna and is said to have ably supported the latter in his fight with the evil king Kamsa whom Krishna killed. Balarama also killed the feared Asura (demon) Dhenuka , among others, thus upholding righteousness over evil. His principal weapon was the plough ( Hal ).  

9. KRISHNA Avatar : ( Dwapara Yuga ). Vishnu , in this Avatar , incarnates himself as Krishna , one of the central figures in the epic Mahabharata . The epic, while being a tale of two warring clans of cousins, the Pandava s and the Kaurava s, is also a discerning study of human nature, human weaknesses, statesmanship, war and politics. Krishna is also the friend, philosopher and guide to Arjuna , the Pandava prince in the Kurukshetra war in the epic. His philosophical discourse to Arjuna on the eve of the war, in response to the latter's reluctance to wage war on his own kin, is revered as a sacred Hindu scripture - the Bhagavad Gita .  

 

BUDDHA Avatar : ( Kali Yuga ). Certain schools of thought hold the view that Balaram is not an Avatar of Vishnu but that of Shesh Nag on whom Vishnu reclines. These schools consider Gautama Buddha , the founder of the Buddhist religion to be the ninth incarnation of Vishnu .  

10. KALKI Avatar is the tenth and final Avatar of Vishnu . This Avatar is yet to appear. As per prophesy, this Avatar will manifest itself at the end of the present Kali Yuga which will also be the end of the current Mahayuga . He will ride a white winged horse and have a blazing sword in his hand. He will preside over the destruction of this world and all the evil-doers in it for the next cycle of re-creation.

Avatars of Ganesha

The Linga Purana declares that Ganesha incarnates to destroy demons and to help the gods and pious people.The two upapuranas  - Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana  - detail the avatars of Ganesha. Both these upapuranas are core scriptures of the Ganapatya sect - exclusively dedicated to Ganesha worship.

Four avatars of Ganesha are listed in the Ganesha Purana:Mohotkata, Mayuresvara, 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 ( Vakratu??a ) ("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 Gajanana) ("elephant face"), his mount is a mouse.
  5. Lambodara ("pendulous belly"), his mount is a mouse.
  6. Vikata ( Vika?a ) ("unusual form", "misshapen"), his mount is a peacock.
  7. Vighnaraja ( Vighnaraja ) ("king of obstacles"), his mount is the celestial serpent Se?a .
  8. Dhumravarna ( Dhumravar?a ) ("grey color") corresponds to Siva, his mount is a horse.

Avatars of Shiva

Although Puranic scriptures contain occasional references to avatars of Shiva, the idea is not universally accepted in Saivism.As an avatar requires residence in a womb, Shiva as ayonija (not of a womb) cannot manifest himself as an avatar. The Linga Purana speaks of twenty-eight forms of Shiva which are sometimes seen as avatars. In the Shiva Purana there is a distinctly Saivite version of a traditional avatar myth: Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha, 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 scholars, such as Vijayindra Tirtha (1539–95) refute this Shaivite view of Narasimha based on their reading of Sattvika Puranas and Śruti texts.
The monkey-god Hanuman who helped Rama – the Vishnu avatar is considered by some to be the eleventh avatar of Rudra (Shiva). Some regional deities like Khandoba 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 philosopher (Advaita Vedanta) Adi Shankara. He was named "Shankara" after Lord Shiva and is considered by some to have been an incarnation of the god and Virabhadra who was born when Shiva grabbed a lock of his matted hair and dashed it to the ground. Virabhadra then destroyed Daksha's yajna (fire sacrifice) and severed his head as per Shiva's instructions.
In Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh have mentioned two avatars of Rudra: Dattatreya Avatar and Parasnath Avatar.

Avatars of Devi

Avatars are also observed in Shaktism, the sect dedicated to the worship of the Goddess (Devi), 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 does with the avatars of Vishnu. Like Vishnu, his consort Lakshmi incarnates as Sita and Radha – 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 and even the masculine Krishna and Rama – generally thought to be Vishnu's avatars. Lakshmi and Saraswati are also goddesses worshipped as Devi avatars.

Avatars of Brahma

In Dasam Granth , second scriptures of sikhs written by Guru Gobind Singh, mentioned seven Brahma Avatars.

  1. Valmiki Avatar
  2. Kashyap Avatar
  3. Sukra Avatar
  4. Baches Avatar
  5. Vyas Avatar
  6. Khat Rishi Avatar
  7. Kalidas Avatar


 
 


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