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Dasavataras of Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu descends on earth whenever there is a decline in religious practice and a predominant rise of irreligion. In the Vedas, it is said that the Lord, although one without second, manifests himself in innumerable forms. Each and every incarnation has a particular mission, and all these forms and their missions are described in the revealed scriptures. The essence of each mission is to restore people’s obedience to religious principles, leading them to God consciousness.

Sometimes Vishnu descends personally, sometimes he sends his bonafide representative in the form of his son or servant, and sometimes he comes himself in a disguised form. The ten major incarnations of Vishnu are collectively known as the Dasavatara.

The Dasavatara incarnations also represent ten different conditions that living beings may generally experience, from the beginning of their bondage up to the end:

1. Invertebrate – Matsya
2. Testaceous, shelly – Kurma
3. Vertebrate – Varaha
4. Crectly vertebrate, half man, half beast – Narasimha
5. Manikin – Vamana
6. Barbaric – Parasurama
7. Civilized – Sri Rama
8. Wise – Krishna
9. Ultra-wise – Buddha
10. Destructive – Kalki

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1. Matsya (The Fish)

Matsya is said to be the avatar that rescued the first man, as well as other creatures of the earth, from a great flood. Matsya is sometimes depicted as a great fish or as a human torso connected to the tail of a fish. Matsya is said to have forewarned man about the coming flood and ordered him to preserve all the grains and living creatures in a boat. This story is similar to many deluge myths found in other cultures.

2. Koorma (The Tortoise)

Kurma (or Koorma) is the tortoise incarnation that relates to the myth of churning the ocean to obtain treasures dissolved in the ocean of milk. In this myth, Vishnu took the form of a tortoise upon which to support the churning stick on his back. The Kurma avatar of Vishnu is usually seen in a mixed human-animal form.

3. Varaha (the Boar)

Varaha is the boar that raised the earth from the bottom of the sea after the demon Hiranyaksha dragged it to the bottom of the sea. After a battle of 1,000 years, Varaha raised the earth out of the water with his tusks. Varaha is depicted as either a full boar form or as a boar head on a human body.

4. Narasimha (The Man-Lion)

As the legend goes, the demon Hiranyakashipiu obtained a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed or harmed by any means. Now arrogant in his security, Hiranyakshipiu began to cause trouble both in heaven and on earth. However, his son Prahlada was devoted to Vishnu. One day, when the demon challenged Prahlada, Vishnu emerged in the form of a man-lion known as Narasimha to slay the demon.

5. Vamana (The Dwarf)

In the Rig Veda, Vamana (the dwarf) appears when the demon king Bali ruled the universe and the gods lost their power. One day, Vamana visited the court of Bali and begged for as much land as he could cover in three steps. Laughing at the dwarf, Bali granted the wish. The dwarf then assumed the form of a giant. He took the whole earth with the first step and the entire middle world with the second step. With the third step, Vamana sent Bali down to rule the underworld.

6. Parasurama (The Angry Man)
(Vigraha to be installed in 2018)

In the Rig Veda, Vamana (the dwarf) appears when the demon king Bali ruled the universe and the gods lost their power. One day, Vamana visited the court of Bali and begged for as much land as he could cover in three steps. Laughing at the dwarf, Bali granted the wish. The dwarf then assumed the form of a giant. He took the whole earth with the first step and the entire middle world with the second step. With the third step, Vamana sent Bali down to rule the underworld.

7. Lord Rama (The Perfect Man)

Lord Rama is the seventh avatar of Vishnu and is a major deity of Hinduism. He is considered supreme in some traditions. He is the central figure of the ancient Hindu epic "Ramayana" and known as King of Ayodhya, the city believed to be Rama's birthplace. According to the Ramayana, Rama’s father was King Dasaratha and his mother Queen Kausalya. Rama was born at the end of the Second Age, sent by the gods to do battle with the multi-headed demon Ravana. Rama is often depicted with blue skin and standing with a bow and arrow.

8. Lord Krishna (The Divine Statesman)

Lord Krishna (the divine statesman) is the eighth avatar of Vishnu and is one of the most widely revered deities in Hinduism. He was a cowherd (sometimes depicted as a charioteer or statesman) who shrewdly changes rules. According to legend, the famous poem, the Bhagavad Gita, is spoken by Krishna to Ajuna on the battlefield. Krishna is depicted in a variety of forms because there are so many stories surrounding him. The most common of these is as the divine lover in which he plays the flute, though his child form is very common as well. In paintings, Krishna often has blue skin and wears a crown of peacock feathers with a yellow loincloth.

9. Buddha (Ultra-wise)

Buddha: Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is commonly included as an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. Buddha is sometimes depicted in Hindu scriptures as a preacher who deludes and leads demons and heretics away from the path of the Vedic scriptures, but another view praises him a compassionate teacher who preached the path of ahimsa (non-violence).

10. Kalki (The Mighty Warrior)
(Vigraha to be installed in 2018)

Kalki (meaning “eternity” or "mighty warrior") is the last incarnation of Vishnu. He is not expected to appear until the end of Kali Yuga, the time period in which we currently exist. He will come, it is believed, to rid the world of oppression by unrighteous rulers. It is said that he will appear riding a white horse and carrying a fiery sword.