As per Hindu Mythology, Lord Vishnu is the protector, preserver and patron of this life. He is considered the holiest of all the gods. He resides in the highest heaven described as Vaikuntha. He has tranquillity in his countenance, lotus shaped eyes and skin, blue as the sky. His four arms holds a conch, a mace, a chakra and lotus which are representative of the four directions of the cosmos, he protects. In four hands he holds. Whenever the sacred, moral and ethical norms of Dharma are broken and chaos and evil threaten the universe, Lord Vishnu incarnates into the world and re-establishes harmony by fighting the forces of disorder. All the incarnations have a common purpose protection of the good, destruction of evil and establishment of Dharma.
The word Dashavatara derives from ‘dasa’, meaning ten and avatar meaning incarnation. Dashavatara refers to the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. The first four avatars of Vishnu appeared in Satya or Krita Yuga, the first of the four yugas. The Satya Yuga is also known as The Golden Age. The next three Vishnu incarnations appeared in Treta Yuga. The eighth and ninth forms in Dwapara Yuga and the tenth avatar are believed to appear in Kali Yuga.
A Brief Introduction to Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu
- 1. Matsya avatar: Matsya, the fish was the first avatar of lord Vishnu. When the world was at the brink of extinction, Vishnu takes the form of a fish to save Manu, from flood, after which he takes his ship to the new world along with one of every species of plant and animal, gathered in a massive cyclone.
- 2. Kurma avatar: In the satya Yuga, the devas and asuras churns the ocean in order to get the nectar of immortality, using Mandara mountain as the churning staff, the mountain starts sinking, at that point, Vishnu incarnates as tortoise to bear the weight of the mountain.
- 3. Varaha avatar: After the asuraHiranyaksha managed to please Lord Brahma by a great penance, he received the boon of invincibility against all beings. When the all mighty king, Hiranyaksha captured the earth and drags the planet earth to the bottom of the ocean, Vishnu takes the form of boar. He not only killed the demon, but also rescued the earth with one great dive into the ocean.
- 4. Narasimha avatar: The invincibility turn the asura king Hiranyakashipu into a tyrant and he assumed he was the supreme power of the universe. His son, Prahalad was a devotee of Vishnu. Vishnu appeared on earth as Narasimha, with the body of a man and the head and claws of a lion. He arrived at dusk, a time which is neither day nor night; he appeared in the courtyard, thus it was neither indoors nor outdoors, and tore the asura apart with his bare nails.
- 5. Vamana avatar: Vishnu appeared as vamana, a dwarf brahman. King Bali obliged by the presence of a Brahman, offered him whatsoever he demanded. Vamana asked for huge proportion of land that could be covered by his three steps. Hearing this, Bali was amused as he imagined the little stretch of land that the dwarf Brahman would claim. However Vamana soon assumed huge proportions, with his first step claiming the heavens and his second step claiming the netherworlds.
- 6. Parashurama avatar: The sixth avatar of Vishnu is Parashurama, skilled in the art of battle and an excellent archer, his birth was to rid the earth of evil kshatriya kings who had unleashed tyranny over the common people.
- 7. Lord Rama: This avatar's purpose was to kill King Ravana, but more than this mission, his life was a lesson for mankind. He taught the importance of standing up to the values of virtue, fairness, truth and strength of character.
- 8. Lord Krishna: Krishna plays a pivotal role in the epic battle of Kurukshetra, between the Kauravas and Pandavas. Krishna expounded various philosophies as guidelines for life, which are known as the Bhagwad Gita, one of the most revered texts of Hindu philosophy.
- 9. Buddha: The ninth avatar is Gautam Buddha - the founder of Buddhism. His penances under a Bodhi tree resulted in Enlightenment. He then spread the message of an eightfold middle path to create peace in daily life.
- 10. Kalki: The tenth and last incarnation of Vishnu is yet to appear. His appearance will mark the end of Kali Yuga, after which the Krita Yuga will again begin where purity of mind will reigns over everything.