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The Life of the Hindu God Vishnu

The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer.  These three deities have been called the Hindu triad or the Great Trinity.  Of the three members the greatest benefit can be had from Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu is considered as the chief god in Hindu religion and Indian mythology.  The Hindu God Vishnu is the preserver and protector of the world and restorer of dharma (moral order).  To understand the concept of Vishnu being the preserver of the world, one has to understand the two beliefs of Hinduism. The first is that men attain salvation by faithfully following predetermined paths of duty. The Second is that powers of good and evil (gods and demons) are in regular controversy to rule over the world. It is believed that whenever evil prevails over good in order to win, Vishnu comes down to earth in some mortal form to save righteousness. As per the Puranas, Vishnu is not allowed to interfere in the situations directly. So, he takes form as a different avatar and acts in a manner that will re-establish proper balance between good and evil.  Vishnu is known chiefly through his avatars (incarnations), particularly Rama, Krishna and Buddha.  In theory, Vishnu manifests a portion of himself anytime he is needed to fight evil, and his appearances are innumerable; but in practice, ten incarnations are most commonly recognized. 

Vaishnavites, one of the largest Hindu groups, are the devotees of Vishnu as Ishvara, the Supreme Being, worshipped in the forms of his manifestations or incarnations.  Because of his enveloping presence, images as the focus of worship are of great importance, as are temple architecture and carving.

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The Hindu God Vishnu’s skin color is blue which indicates his all-pervasive nature, blue being the color of the infinite sky as well as the infinite ocean on which he resides. Vishnu has the mark of sage Bhrigu's feet and the srivatsa mark, symbolizing his consort Lakshmi, on his chest.  Most often, the Hindu God Vishnu is shown with four attributes or weapons. In one hand Vishnu holds the conch or Sankha. The second hand of Vishnu holds the discus or Vaijra. The third hand of Vishnu holds the club and in the fourth hand Vishnu holds the lotus or Padma. Vishnu also has a bow called Sarnga and a sword called Nandaka.  Vishnu is also commonly shown with or resting on the serpent Shesha.  Also many times he will be with His consort Lakshmi.  

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Avatars of Vishnu

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Lord Vishnu has ten avatars that are commonly considered to be the most prominent.  The avatars appear in order to balance the effect of good and evil upon the earth. It is believed that nine avatars have already descended, three in non human form, one in hybrid form and five in human form. Of the ten universally recognized avatars, nine have already appeared whereas the tenth is yet to appear. These ten avatars are also known by the name of Dasha Avatar of Vishnu.

Matsya, the fish - Before the latest creation of the present universe, the four Vedas (the holy books delivered from the mouth of the Supreme-God) remained drowned in the waters. It was necessary to get hold of them to instruct Brahma about the work of creation. Vishnu was therefore appointed to bring up the Vedas from the deep. He took the form of a fish, descended into the waters and brought up these sacred books.  Through this avatar, he saved humanity and the sacred Veda text from the flood.

 

 

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Kurma, the turtle – The second avatar, Kurma, was taken in the Satyuga (last age) to help the Devas and to obtain the amrut (nectar) of immortality which was also sought after by the Asuras (demons).  Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise and took the newly created earth on his back in order to render stability to the trembling globe. It is believed that even to this day the earth is supported on the back of this tortoise.

 

 

 

Varaha, the boar – The third avatar, Varaha, was taken at the end of the last flood in the Satyuga, when Bhoomi Devi (Earth Mother) sank to the bottom of the ocean.  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 Pataal 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. It then killed Hiranyaksha and retrieved the Vedas from the asura and brought it back to the safe custody of the Lord Brahma.

 

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Narasimha, the man-lion – The fourth Avatar, Narsimha, was taken in the Satyuga (last age) to kill a tyrant demon king, Hiranyakashyap.  Lord Brahma had given him the blessings that no known man or animal born in the natural process could kill him, that he could not die in the day or in the night, on earth or in heavens, either by fire, water or by any weapon.  It was to kill such a tyrant and to remove him from the earth that Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Narasimha which was neither man nor animal came out of a broken pillar, laid hold of the demon king by its teeth, put him up on his thighs and tore him up in the middle by his claws. It was evening time (twilight) - neither day nor night.

 

 

Vamana, the Dwarf (priest) Brahmin - The fifth avatar, Vamana, appeared in the Tretayuga in order to destroy Bali, the king of demons.  The fourth lineal descendant of Hiranyakashyap, named Bali, through his devotion and penance defeated Indra, the god of firmament, humbled other gods and extended his authority over the three worlds.  All the gods appealed to Lord Vishnu for protection and He became manifest in His Dwarf Avatar of Vaman for the purpose of restraining Bali.  Once when this king was making a great religious offering, Lord Vishnu in the form of Vaman appeared before him in the company of other Brahmins. Bali was extremely pleased to see a holy man with such a diminutive form and promised to give him whatever he should ask. Lord Vishnu asked only for as much land as he could measure by three steps. Bali laughingly agreed to grant the boon of three steps. Lord Vishnu as dwarf stepped over heaven in first stride and earth in the second stride. Then out of respect to Bali's kindness and his grandfather Prahlad's great virtues, Lord Vishnu stopped short and left him in pathal, the subterranean region. Bali's capital was Mahabalipuram.

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Parashurama, Rama with the axe – The sixth avatar, Parshurama, appeared in the Tretayuga to destroy the warrior caste. Parsu is the name of an axe-like weapon adopted by this incarnation.  Parasuram was a Brahmin who manifested himself at the close of the satya-yug. This appearance was for the purpose of defeating the tyranny of the power-drunk kshatriyas.  When the kings of the earth became despotic and started to harm people and saints in the forest, Vishnu incarnated as Parshurama and destroyed all the kings who were harassing the people.
When the Kshatriya kings of the earth and their ministers became very corrupt and tyrannical, the goddess Prithvi (Mother Earth) went to Lord Vishnu and prayed for relief. Lord Vishnu answered the prayer and appeared on the earth as a descendant of the great sage Brigu. Parasuram avenged the gruesome murder of his father by a Kshatriya king and freed the earth of oppression perpetrated by the rulers by clearing the earth of kshatriyas.

 

Rama, the prince and kind of Ayodhaya – The seventh avatar, Rama, the prince and king of Ayodhaya, appeared in the Tretayuga, to rescue Sita with his loyal servant Hanuman and his brother, Lakshmana, and killed the demon Ravana. Lord Rama became one of the most popular gods in the Hindu religion.  He is always holding a bow and arrow indicating his readiness to destroy evils.  He is also called “Shri Rama”.  More commonly he is pictured in a family style, with Sita, Lakshmana, & Hanuman.

 

 

 

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Krishna – The eighth avatar, Krishna, along with his brother Balarama, appeared in the Dwaparyuga to kill the demon king, Kansa. Lord Krishna conveyed the message of love and humanity to the world. Krishna told the epic poem Bhagavad-Gita. Gita to the warrior Arjuna, in which he acclaimed: ''Whenever Dharma, or the situation of law and order, is endangered on this world, I incarnate onto this world to re establish Dharma, law and order, and to protect the Sadhus or saints and to destroy the evil elements of the society.''

 

 

 

Buddha – The ninth avatar, Buddha, appeared in the Kalyuga, to teach the lesson of following a middle path in life in which he offered a balanced, harmonious way of life, steering between two extremes of self-indulgence and total abstinence. ''Buddha'' means 'the enlightened one'. Buddhism rests upon four Noble Truths: Suffering is universal, it is caused by desire and yearning, Suffering can be prevented and overcome and Eradication of desires can lead to removal of suffering.  To prevent suffering one has to conquer craving and desire and this conquest leads to the attainment of nirvana or complete enlightenment.

 

 

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Kalki – The tenth and the last avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, is yet to appear. Kalki will appear at the end of the Kalyuga. This avatar will appear seated on a white horse with a drawn sword blazing like a comet.  He shall come finally to destroy the wicked, to restart the new creation and to restore the purity of conduct in people's lives.

 

Learn about the Hindu God Shiva

Learn about the Hindu God Brahma

 

 

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