Sri Maha Vishnu
In Hindu mythology, Bramha is considered the creator, Vishnu – the protector and Siva – the destroyer. In this holy trinity as Sri Maha Vishnu is the protector, Vishnu has taken several forms over the ages to come to the rescue of His devotees, The Dasavataras are the 10 incarnations of India.
In Matsya Avatara, Lord Vishnu is incarnated as a fish in this world. In Sanskrit Matsya means fish. He is depicted here as emerging out of a fish. In this incarnation he is said to have killed the demon Hayagriva who had stolen the Vedas. He is shown holding a lotus bud, conch and chakra in his hands. Matsya avatara is also associated with the legend of Manu. In the earliest yuga (era) of Sata-yuga, a king named Manu performed severe penance for thousands of years. One day as he was performing ablutions with river water, a small fish came into his hands and just as he was about to throw the fish back into the river, the fish requested the king to save its life. Heeding its request, the king put the fish into a jar of water but the fish started growing and the jar was not big enough for it. Then the king threw it into the river, but it soon it outgrew the river and the king then threw it into Ganges and then into the ocean.
The king realized that it was Lord Vishnu himself and then the Lord made an appearance and made a special request to the king. It predicted that the world would come to an end by a huge flood in seven days and requested the king to build a huge boat and take the seven sages (hermits), seeds of all plants, one animal of each type and told him that he would appear as a fish to propel the boat to Mount Himavan for surviving the flood to the next yuga. True to his word, after seven days the Lord appeared and the king tied the boat to the fish by using the royal serpent Vasuki and the fish took all of them to Mount Himavan and kept them there till the flood was over and in the new era, the king started procreation a for the new era.
In Kurma Avatara, Lord Vishnu is incarnated as a tortoise. Lord Vishnu is said to have helped the gods in churning of the ocean for nectar. Vishnu beheaded the demon Rahu, when he wanted to drink the nectar. The tortoise is depicted as the lower portion of the body, while the upper half is in human form with four hands. Once the gods suddenly lost all their strength due to a curse by the short-tempered sage Durvasa. The sage had once presented a garland of flowers to Indra, king of Gods, who carelessly gave it away to his elephant which trampled it. The Devas approached Vishnu for help. Vishnu then asked them to churn the ocean of milk after adding medicines into the ocean. Mount Mandara could be used a the churning stick he said. He requested them to ask them help of asuras in lifting the mountain in exchange for offer of the share of nectar of immortality that would ensue from the churning. Both the devas and the asuras churned the ocean using the serpent Vasuki as the rope. As the churning was proceeding the mountain was sinking and then Lord Vishnu took the form of the tortoise Kurma and kept the mountain afloat. As soon as the bowl of amrita, the nectar of immortality was out, the asuras grabbed it. Then Lord Vishnu took the form of an apsara, a beautiful maiden, and seduced the asuras into letting her distribute the nectar and also to abide by her order of distribution. As soon as the devaswere served the maiden disappeared thus totally deceiving the asuras and making them totally weak.
In his Varaha avatar, Vishnu is said to have killed the demon Hiranyaksha in order to free the world from disaster. It depicts Vishnu with the face of a boar in the standing posture. The upper two hands are holding a shankha and a chakra respectively. In Varaha Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a boar in this world. A demon Hiranyaksha, had prayed for Lord Brahma and got awarded a boon that no beast nor man nor god could kill him. But somehow from the list of beasts the name of boar was missing. This proved to be his lacunae. He then started a campaign of plunder across the worlds. He pushed the world to the Pataala loka, or the under of the sea. He stole the Vedas, the holy scriptures from the Lord Brahma, while he was asleep and performed huge atrocities. To retrieve the Vedas and to save the world the Lord Vishnu assumed the role of a boar and brought out the earth from the under of the ocean, using its two tusks. He then killed Hiranyaksha and retrieved the Vedas from the asura and brought it back to the safe custody of the Lord Brahma.
As Narasimha Avatara, Lord Vishnu is incarnated as a semi-man, semi-lion in this world. The king of demons(asuras), Hiranyakasyapa, who was also the brother of Hiranyaksha and the father of Prahlada. wanted to become immortal and wanted to remain young forever. To this end, he meditated for Lord Brahma and because of his severe penance, the gods were frightened and asked Brahma to pacify the king. Brahma was impressed by his austerity and granted him a wish. Hiranyakasyapa wished that he be neither killed by a man or beast, nor in daylight or at night and neither inside or outside a building. Having obtained the wish he considered himself the supreme God and forbade all worship of gods by anyone. But his son Prahlada, was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. This enraged Hiranyakasyapa very much. He ordered numerous ways to kill Prahlada including asking his sister Holika to sit with Prahlada in the fire. But Prahlada always escaped unhurt. Enraged, once he asked Prahlad to show him the Lord Vishnu. Prahlad said, “He is everywhere”. Further enraged, Hiranyakasyapa knocked down a pillar, and asked if Lord was present there. Lord Vishnu then emerged as a half lion, half man from the pillar which was neither inside the house nor outside, and the time was evening, neither night nor day. He then killed Hiranyakasyapa thus saving the life of his devotee Prahlada.
In Vamanaa Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a small Brahmin boy named Vamana. He is said to have regained the three worlds and restored them to their rightful protector. Vamana is shown as a mendicant holding a kamandala in one hand and umbrella in the other. Bali, thegrandson of Prahlada was a very valorous and mighty asura. By his penance and might, he conquered the whole world. Indra and other gods fearing that he and asuras would conquer all the three worlds, went to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu was then born as a Vamana in the household of a brahmana (priest). He went to Bali and asked for alms. Bali was delighted to offer him anything he requested even though his priest warned him that it was Lord Vishnu. Vamana then requested for the amount of land that could come under his three feet. Bali gracefully agreed. Lord Vishnu then grew in size and covered the earth and heaven in two strides. And due to lack of space, he put his third leg on Bali himself and crushed Bali to the nether or the Patala loka.
Parashurama the sixth avatara of Vishnu is shown his battle axe in his raised right hand. He is shown with a long beard and knotted long hair. In Parasurama Avatara, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a brahmana (priest) in this world. He was brought in this world to avenge all kshatriyas who had become arrogant and were suppressing the brahmans in the world. He was born to Jamadagni and Renuka, and belonged to the Brighu clan. Parashurama was always carrying an axe presented to him by Lord Siva of whom he was an ardent devotee. Kartavirya a powerful king, once went to Jamadagni’s home when he was out, and after a meal, stole the Kamadhenu cow, which was supposed to give endless quantity of milk. Jamadgni was enraged and he went and killed the king and brought Kamadhenu back. On hearing this the son of the king came back and killed Jamdagni. Parasurama was enraged at this and went and avenged the death of his father by killing all kshatriyas in 21 battles. His story is story of the supremacy of brahmans over the kshatriyas.
Lord Rama is depicted with a bow and arrow. Vishnu is said to have reincarnated as Rama to end the terror created by Ravana, the king of Lanka. Ravana carried away Rama’s chaste wife Sita, consequently Rama killed Ravana, and rescued her. Rama is the central character in the epic Ramayana. In this biggest epic of Indian mythology a myriad of topics are covered, including war, love, brotherhood, ideal man, son etc. It is essentially the story of an ideal king, son, father and man, Rama. As an ideal son, he agrees to abide by wishes of his father King Dasaratha to spend 14 years in forest, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. During the course of his stay in forest, the demon Ravana abducts his wife Sita. Rama then sets out in search of his wife. During this he makes friends with king of monkeys Sugreeva, and his devotee Hanuman. In the end he wages a war with Ravana and rescues Sita to return to Ayodhya and rule it as an ideal king for thousands of years.
Balrama is also considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is born as the brother of Lord Krishna. Balarama and Krishna are the sons of Devaki and Vasudeva. In this incarnation he killed Pralambasura the demon and he killed many more demons. Balarama is shown holding a plough over his shoulder. In some texts, Buddha is considered to be part of the Dasavatara instead of Balarama, though this is an area of controversy.
Krishna is considered to be the most important incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna is the central character in the epic Mahabhartha. In this biggest epic of Indian mythology a myriad of topics are covered, including war, love, brotherhood, politics etc. It is essentially the story of two warring groups of cousins the Pandavas and the Kauravas. In the battle between the Kaurava’s and the Pandava’s, he was with the latter, because they followed the path of righteousness. As a part of the Mahabhahrata, during the battle of Kurukshetra Krishna, gives divine knowledge in the form of a long discourse to his disciple Arjuna. This discourse is collectively termed as Bhagvad-Gita. Krishna During his child-hood was responsible for the killing of Kamsa. Krishna is also considered to be an ultimate playboy who was responsible for charming all gopikaas (cowherdesses) around him. He fought against the exploitation right from his childhood and killed many demons like Kalayavan, Kansa, Jarasandh etc.
According to the Puranas, the Kalki incarnation will take place towards the end of Kaliyuga. It is said that he will be riding a white horse named Devaduta. In Kalki Avatar, Lord Vishnu will incarnate himself as Kalki, the machine-man, who will come riding his white horse and with his blazing sword in his hands. This is supposed to be a future avatar of Lord Vishnu. At the end of Kali Yuga (present eon) He will punish all evil doers in this world, destroy this world supposedly and recreate a golden age again. Kalki avathara is believed to be the last of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.