Vishnu’s avatars?

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Vishnu is a primary god in Hinduism and plays the role of preserver. The ten Avatars of Vishnu serve specific purposes and have their own stories, including Rama and Krishna. The Bhagavad Gita is a religious subtext about Krishna, who is considered higher and more important than Vishnu by some devotees.

Vishnu, or Visnu, is one of the three primary gods in the Hindu religion. Within the Hindu notion of the cyclical cosmos, Vishnu plays the role of preserver, and is defined as the “pervader” in the Rig Veda, an ancient Hindu oral text. As the name suggests, Vishnu is all pervading and preserves the cosmos by traversing the earth on multiple occasions to solve some cosmic proportion dilemmas. There are multiple diagrams detailing the number and nature of Vishnu’s ‘crossing down’, known as Avataras or avatars in English. The most common of these patterns, and the one which will be enumerated here, is of the ten Avatars of Vishnu. These are the following:
1) MAISYA – the fish
2) KACCHAPA – la tartaruga marina
3) VARSHS – the boar
4) NARASIMHA – the man-lion
5) VAMANA – the dwarf
6) PARASURAMA – a priest who kills some evil warriors
7) RAMA – the perfect man, epitome of the Dharma and protagonist of the Ramayana
8) KRSNA – also known as Krishna, the dark lord
9) BUDDHA – the figure of peace and not evil, or ahimsa
10) KALKI – the one that is yet to come

These Avatars of Vishnu arrive over millions of years, as the time span in Hindu cosmology is perhaps the most extensive of all religions. Each of the Avatars of Vishnu serves a specific purpose and their stories are told in a number of religious myths, some of which take on their own identity as important religious texts. The Ramayana, for example, is probably the most widely read text in India. The Ramayana tells the story of Rama and his wife Sita. They are believed to demonstrate the ideal of male and female identity and behavior in terms of religious and social righteousness. Their story is one of romance and adventure, and in the course of the drama, Rama and Sita are able to display idyllic behavior through their actions, words and interactions with each other as husband and wife.

The stories of other Avatars of Vishnu have perhaps less religious and social significance, but are equally entertaining and exciting. Kacchapa, the sea turtle retrieved the “nectar of immortality”, or amrtam from the bottom of the sea, saving the day for the demigods. Buddha, as embodied in Hindu theology, is considered both good and evil. He is often regarded in Hinduism as an Avatar of Vishnu who, although he taught the valuable lesson of do no harm, was generally wrong in his philosophy i.e. Buddhism. His philosophy of him, however, did not disrupt Hinduism too seriously, as he convinced the demons in the world of this erroneous philosophy, and thus led them astray, which was fitting because they were demons. Perhaps in another example of religious militancy, Kalki, as described by the Ten Avatars of Vishnu, will eventually save the day for Hinduism in India by killing off all Muslims.

Narasimha, another popular Avatar of Vishnu has quite an interesting story. According to the story, a man named Hiranyakashipu was instructed to worship Brahma instead of Vishnu, because the last Avatar of Vishnu, Varaha, had killed his brother Haranyaksha. For worshiping him, Hiranyakashipu received a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed inside or out, by man or animal, on earth or in heaven, day or night. Much to his annoyance, Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu, and one day he decided to kill his son for this annoyance. Prahlada, however, was protected by Vishnu, who crossed Narasimha as half-man, half-lion. Narasimha killed the evil Hiranyakashipu in a doorway at sunset by placing him on his knees and breaking him in half.

Krishna is the best known Avatar of Vishnu and is the subject of a religious subtext called the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of a larger religious text known as the Mahabharata. Krishna has special importance to devotees of Krishna, including followers of the Hare Krishna movement. While at the same time ascribing to the Avatars’ notion of Vishnu, devotees of Krishna consider Krishna higher and more important than Vishnu.

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