THE CONCEPT OF AVATARS
The Doctrine of Avatar
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham
Whenever and wherever there is
a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a
predominant rise of irreligion--at that time I descend Myself.
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as
to reestablish the principles of religion, I myself appear age
"Whenever the world declined in virtue and
righteousness; and vice and injustice mount the throne, then
cometh I, the Lord and revisit my world in visible form, and
mingled as a man with men, and by my influence and teachings do I
destroy the evil and injustice and reestablish virtue and
righteousness. Many times have I thus appeared, and many times
hereafter shall I come again?"
The purpose of the avatar is defined in Bhagavat Gita 4:7-8
Whenever there is
decline of dharma,
rule of law and
there is increase in injustice,
to protect the good, the law abiding and
to destroy the evil, the delinquent, the unjust or inequitous and
to establish dharama, justice
Yet as we go through the Avatars, we will see that this was never
accomplished unless the Suras are the only people of god. It is
certainly a history of the people who is represented as Suras who
are the enemies of the people represented as Asuras. All the
reference to dharma, righteousness, justice, rule of law are the
justice of one group of people over another - unfortunately
both these group of people are Bharathians – Indians. But as
far as Vishnu is concerned only the interest of the Devas are
The avatar was at least initially connected to the Dispensational
Ages. We shall now undertake a quick look at the concept of
Yuga and their probable origin
Aeons and Avatars
The whole idea of ages and avatars were brought into India by
St.Thomas but they were manipulated by the later Gnostics into a
fight between good and evil, Suras and the Asuras and developed
into myths because of the concept of duality in the world which in
turn was introduced into India by the gnostics of Persia and
The term appropriated by
heresiarchs to designate the series of spiritual powers evolved by
progressive emanation from the
Being, and constituting the Pleroma or invisible spiritual world,
as distinct from the Kenoma, or visible material world.
The word aeon (aion)
signifying "age", "the ever-existing", "eternity", came to be applied to the
eternal power, and to the personified
attributes of that power, whence it was extended to designate the
successive emanations from the divinity which the
Gnostics conceived as
necessary intermediaries between the
spiritual and the material worlds. The
Gnostic concept of the aeon may be
traced to the influence of a
which postulated a divinity incapable of any contact with the
material world or with
evil, and the desire to reconcile
philosophy with the
Christian notion of a direct
in the affairs of the material world, and particularly in the
angelology, which represented
Jehovah ministered to by a court of
celestial beings, and Hellenic
religious systems, which
a number of intermediaries between the finite and the
infinite, suggested the emanation from
the divinity of a series of subordinate
heavenly powers, each less perfect,
the further removed it was from the supreme
deity, until at length increasing
imperfection would serve as the connecting link between the
spiritual world and the material world of
Gnostic systems the
hierarchy of Aeons was diversely
elaborated. But in all are recognizable a mixture of
Platonic, mythological, and
Christian elements. There is always the
primitive all-perfect Ćon, the fountain-head of divinity, and a
co-eternal companion Ćon. From these emanate a second pair who, in
turn, engenders others, generally in pairs, or in groups of pairs,
in keeping with the
idea of divine couples. One of
these inferior Ćons, desiring to
know the unknowable, to penetrate
the secrets of the primal Ćon, brings disorder into the Ćon-world,
is exiled, and brings forth a very imperfect Ćon, who, being
unworthy of a place in the Pleroma, brings the divine spark to the
nether world. Then follows the
creation of the material
Finally, there is evolved the Ćon Christ, who
is to restore
harmony in the Ćon-world, and heal
the disorder in the material world consequent upon the catastrophe
in the ideal order, by giving to
knowledge which will rescue him from
the dominion of matter and
The number of Ćons varies with different systems, being determined
in some by
ideas on the mystic efficacy of
numbers; in others by epochs in, or the duration of, the life of
Christ. The Ćons were given names, each
system having its own catalogue, suggested by
Christian terminology, and by Oriental,
philosophical and mythological
nomenclature. There were nearly as many aeonic hierarchies as
Gnostic systems, but the most
elaborate of these, as far as is known, was that of
Valentinus, whose fusion of
Platonism is so completely described in
the refutation of this system by
St. Irenćus and
GNOSTICISM, VALENTINUS, BASILIDES,
This gnostic insertion changed the concept of avatar in terms of
hierachies and levels of gods. This is what we see in the
Avatar myths and the categorization of Avatars in Hinduism.
Evidently some time in History gnostics took over the Christian
concepts and remodeled it. The Greeks and the Syrians had
their role in this transformation. As a result the material
world is never redeemed but destroyed. In Christian theology
of redemption, the cosmos with its material realm included is
redeemed and the blessing of death and decay is removed as sin is
removed and beings becomes like the Son of Man. This is the
deification or theosis of christianity. All things are thus
made new and the mahakalpa ends. It may repeat. But
that is another story if and when it arises.
Vaishnava Avatar in History
This should then give us some idea of the dates of the period of
the four yugas and consequently the time of the various avatars.
Kali yuga started 3102 BC
Dwapara Yuga Started 3102 +864,000
= 867,102 BC
Treta Yuga Started 867,102 +1,296,000 =2,163,102 BC
Satya Yuga Started 2,163,102 + 1,728,000 = 3,891,102 BC
Hence the incarnations are supposed to be in the following period
Between 3,891,102 and 2,163,102 BC (2 to 3 million years
before) in Satya Yuga:
Matsya (fish), Koorma (tortoise), Varaaha (boar), Narasimha (the
Between 2,163,102 and 867,102 BC (1 to 2 million years ago)
in the Treta Yuga:
Vaamana (the dwarf), Parasurama (the angry man), Rama (the perfect
Between 867,102 and 3,102 BC (3000 to 1 million years ago)
in the Dwapara Yuga:
Balarama and Krishna
Now expected in some 427,000 years time- Kali Yuga:
In the Krita (Satya Yuga) there is no adharma and dharma stands on
all four legs (4), in the Treta Yuga it stands on three legs(3) –
adharma is only little. In fact there was no adharma to be
destroyed in the first three avatars if at all the other had any.
In the Dwapara Yuga(2) it stands on two legs and in the Kali Yuga
(1) it stands on one leg. If adharma was the reason for
incarnation the number of incarnations in each age should have
been the other way round. There is no reason for the
first four avatars at all since there is no evil in the first
The following table summarizes
the meaning of Vishnu's past 9 avatars:
Which avatar's case fits into this
A demon performed austerities and gained too
much power over the gods
3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9
The avatar came to save the gods
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9
The avatar came to save humans
1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8
The avatar kills a demon
3, 4, 7, 8
The avatar's form of embodiment
Animal (1, 2, 3), half-beast, half-human (4),
human (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) according to how the demon had to be
8 out of 9 avatars (no. 1, 2,
3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9) are involved in saving the world of gods from
the power attained by the demons, while only 6 is concerned with
saving humans alone. Whenever there was a conflict of
interest between the gods and the non-gods, incarnation of God
sided with the gods and in fact outright cheated the non-gods.
The general structure of the Hindu Avatar myth follows a strict
progression as follows:
A demon (Asuras) gains great power through austerities and
The demon defeats gods (Suras, Devas) totally and takes
over their lands
The Suras pettitions one of the great deities.
The deity takes a form suitable to trick the Asura.
Demon is defeated without violating any legal conditions
within the law.
Suras praise the demon slayer.
A casual look will verify that most of the incarnations do not
fulfill the reason for avatar. Evidently it is a one sided
story and certainly refers not to how the supreme God of all
Creations deal with his creation, but how the King of a group of
people deal with their enemies. It is this obvious character
of the avatar that I treat as historical.
The Reality Check with Time
This would imply that except for the Balabhadra and Krishna
avatars all avatars took place over a million years ago.
Even those two fall within the vast time frame of 3000 to 867000
BC (nearly a million years). It would also
imply that human civilization with highly sophisticated social
system, kingship, chariots, war machines, flying vehicles etc were
in existence in India for over three million years.
The True History and the Religion of India: A Concise
Encyclopedia of Hinduism.-
“Using the Hubble constant and information about the expansion of
the Universe from the Hubble Space Telescope, we have been able to
measure the age of the Universe to between 12 and 14 billion years
old.” Dr. Wendy Freedman
Dr. Wendy Freedman is one of the leaders of an international
team of 27 astronomers at the Observatories of the Carnegie
Institution of Washington, America.
Poor scientists, What do these people really know?
Compare this with the evolutionary
history of man.
A timeline of human evolution, history, technology, and the fates
of human societies.
This is History, history understood as a single, coherent,
evolutionary process, when taking into account the experience of
all peoples in all times. Time in BC
bipedal human ancestor.
Bipedalism appears suddenly in the fossil record. Could be
a hominid that lived in the wooded grasslands of the Horn of
| Homo erectus
in Africa, Asia, and Indonesia (and Europe?). First use of crude
stone tools and may have harnessed naturally occuring fire (1.5
Myr, Swartkrans, South Africa). Genetic studies indicate modern
humans are not descended from
H. erectus, which appears as an evolutionary side-branch
and dead end.
(or "mitochondrial Eve"), the most recent common female ancestor
of all living humans (from mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA, dating). The
merely acts as a tracer that links all present-day humans to a
single population of ancient humans, who lived in Africa.
| Archaic Homo sapiens,
otherwise known as Neanderthals, appear in the fossil
record, distinct from earlier protohumans. They occupied Europe,
the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Differ from modern humans (Homo
sapiens sapiens) in skeletal details and behavior.
Recent genetic studies also indicate that modern humans are not
descended from Neanderthals. They used crude stone tools and may
have harnessed naturally occuring fire. They buried their dead and
cared for their sick.
could not grip complicated tools,
preventing them from engaging in fine motor skills, such as
carving and painting. Cultural sharing between Neanderthals and
modern humans or Homo
erectus during time of overlap?
| Modern humans appear (sometimes called
Homo sapiens sapiens),
originally in Africa, probably east Africa. Same stone tools as
Neanderthals. No art. Unimpressive hunting skills (killing
easy-to-kill, not-at-all-dangerous animals.) No fishing.
| Diaspora of Neanderthals and modern humans (Homo
sapiens sapiens)? First domestication of large mammal,
A little over 3 feet tall, a distinct humanoid species,
people flourished on Flores from 94,000 to 12,000 years ago, when
a volcano killed them off. They apparently hunted dwarf elephants
(or "Y-chromosomal Adam"), the most recent common male ancestor of
all living humans (from Y-chromosome dating).
| Great Leap Forward (anthropological "big bang" of human
expression) among Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans). First standardized
stone tools. First jewelry. First painting. Timing of innovation
coincides with first appearance of modern humans,
Homo sapiens sapiens;
Cause of innovation unknown, could be due to increase in brain
size, some say vocal box became well developed. Most likely first
took place among one group of humans in Africa.
| Diaspora of humans reaches China via Southeast Asia.
| Human population: 1.2 million hunter-gatherers,
H. sapiens sapiens.
| First human settlement in the Americas, according to evidence
found at a
If true, beats the oldest accepted date by 35,000 years. Did they
come by sea from Africa or Europe?
begin to enter southwestern Europe.
Some 6 percent of Europeans are descended from the continent's
first founders, who entered Europe from the Near East (these
people are modern Basque and Scandinavians). Skeletons are fully
modern. Tools of bone: fishhooks, engraving tools, needles.
Multi-piece tools. Harpoons, spear-throwers, bows and arrows to
catch large, difficult animals. Nets, lines, and snares for
fishing. First art: cave paintings, statues, and musical
The fallacy of such a history as stated in the Hindu myths is
obvious when we realize that even the most ancient Indus Valley
Civilization extends only from 3,300 BC. Unless you are one
of those who believes that there had been a highly civilized India
two million years ago whose remnants even in archeology are
destroyed with time, the history as given by the myths will be a
fiction of imagination. Scholars like Vamadeva David Frawly and
Sri Yukteswar Giri
were quick to discern it and is now trying to down grade the
traditional yuga to historic lengths
“The shorter yuga theory offers better proof of the age of Rama
and Krishna and other important historical Indian figures than
other dating methods, which make some of these figures out to be
millions of years old - too old for the accepted chronology of
human history on Earth.”
Astrology of the Seers, Frawley)
"the astronomers and astrologers who calculate the almanacs have
been guided by wrong annotations of certain Sanskrit scholars
(such as Kullu Bhatta) of the dark age of Kali Yuga, and now
maintain that the length of Kali Yuga is 432,000 years, of which
4994 have (in 1894 CE) elapsed, leaving 427,006 years still
remaining. A dark prospect! And fortunately one not true."
(The Holy Science, Yukteswar)
Yet we should not forget that Sanskrit itself started only by the
mid second century AD, and the Indian Time Metric System came into
existence at the earliest by fifth century AD.
What we have seen is that there is no mention even of names of
avatars in any pre-christian documentation or archealogy.
All these names appeared in due course of time after the Christian
Era as is represented in the Purana Stories and in the icons that
appeared in the temples. We wont be able to see any historic
person in the form of avatar – not even Krishna and Rama.
That is why the Vaishnavites want to make them long predated to a
period when we don’t have any history and it will be impossible to
provide any positive or negate evidence. The Avatar datings
are these days done using intricate astronomic references that are
found in the Puranas written as late as the fifteeth century AD.
Other than that we don’t have any way of finding the historical
person of the Avatar and it will remain only as a fiction.
Most of these personalities were actually evolved by compiling
characters and traits from heroes of our period and presenting it
as a unified ideal personality. Evidently none of these
persons lived prior to Christian Era – at least we don’t have any
evidence whatsoever for that.
In a country where incarnations are still walking from Kashmir to
Puttaparthy these stories will be taken as true by very sincere
believers. Once stories are established additional stories
are added in time to elaborate the character and sometimes to
cover the trails of truth. The power of the myth continues to
delude the masses.
of the Theory of Avataras/Kashinath.
"This book tells about the
re-interpretation of the theory of Avataras, Hindu Avataras have
always been depicted by the priests as the mythological entitles
to be worshiped by the believers with fear and hope. Even the
modern scholars of Hinduism also putting all their knowledge
aside, often paint Avataras as the supernatural beings, plastered
with devotional praise, to be worshipped alone. But a careful
study says that the Theory of Avataras, among other things, played
a great role in unifying several conflicting elements in ancient
India to make it a united nation. The class contradictions between
the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, which claimed a lot of human blood,
were pacified by delcaring Rama and Parshurama, although
contemporaries, as the Avataras of Vishnu. Later the Buddha, an
agnostic, was also declared to be the Avatara, with the result
that Buddhism, with all its high ideals, became one with Hinduism
and India was preserved as a land of unity in diversity. But later
this doctorine was forgotten. Had the Hindu genius used the Theory
of Avataras when confronted with Christianity and Islam,
generating crisis, much human blood could be saved that was poured
in India, and the country itself was divided in the name of
religion obviously, the Theory of Avataras has again to play its
tested role to spread unity and love among all the inhabitants of
India and the world as well. This process is natural of Hindu
genius and the need of the day." (jacket)
Purpose of incarnation
An incarnation is essentially an interference in the normal
progression of the manifested worlds. It becomes necessary due to
the remorseless violation of divine laws by the actions of beings
endowed with free will. The law of karma makes each individual
being responsible for its action. But in some cases that alone
would not act as a deterrent to prevent people from indulging in
evil pursuits and causing a great imbalance in the working of the
worlds or interfering with the lives of other people. When their
number increases disproportionately, a much higher and potent
force is required to deal with them. God is not judgmental. But He
would also not remain static to the calls of his devotees.
So when the situation reaches a boiling point, He decides to take
matters into His own hands and come down to earth in physical form
to restore order and morality. In Hinduism, an evil force is not
opposed to God against His will. It is a force that works for God
in its own evil ways. God uses these forces to create
situations that warrant His intervention. It is part of His
divine drama already planned and embedded in the design. Most
of the demons that He slew during his many incarnations were but
his own devotees who out of arrogance asked for things that would
ultimately lead to the welfare of the good and the destruction of
the evil and themselves. From the perspective of duality, we may
say the demon was destroyed by a divine force for a good cause.
But from the highest perspective of the unity of all creation, we
cannot deny the fact that by destroying the evil force God
facilitates its ultimate dissolution into Himself and the dawn of
a new awareness and promulgation of a new code of conduct among
people. So from the highest perspective, an incarnation is a drama
(leela) with in a bigger drama (maha leela), orchestrated by God
for his own enjoyment and for keeping His laws in place. This, in
brief, is the purpose and justification of an incarnation, which
the followers of Vaishnavism accept as an undeniable truth.
Here is how the leela is acted
out:Shri Mad-Bhaagvat Puraan
Skandh 7:Chapter 1
Shukdev Jee said - "In fact
Bhagvaan is Nirgun, Ajanmaa (does not born), cannot be described
and is beyond Prakriti, still He with His Maayaa performs all
kinds of actions. Sat, Raj and Tam are the Gun of Prakriti, not of
Paramaatma. And these three Gun are not always present in the same
amount in Prakriti. Bhagavaan takes all Gun at time to time. When
Sat Gun is more, He takes care of Devtaa and Rishi; when Rajo Gun
is more, He takes care of Daitya; and when Tamo Gun is more, He
takes care of Yaksh and Raakshas. When He wants to take any 'body'
for Himself then He creates a separate Rajo Gunee creation with
His Maaya. When He wants to take strange Yoni (species), He
creates them with Sato Gun and when He wants to sleep, then He
increases Tamo Gun. Kaal depends on Him not that He depends on
Kaal. Whenever this Kaal Eeshwar increases Sato Gun, He increases
the power of Devtaa and kills Tamo Gunee Daitya.
Here is how the predestination explained
Those devotees who were spiritually
situated were simply taking part in the Lord's transcendental lila…..
Jaya and Vijaya's fall was a special arrangement of the Lord for
In the following excerpts Srila Prabhupada states something very
different; that Jaya and Vijaya are pure devotees who have
descended to the material world by the Lords arrangement:
This incident, therefore, proves that those who have once entered
a Vaikuntha planet can never fall down. The case of Jaya and
Vijaya is not a falldown; it is just an accident. (Bhag. 3.16.12,
A devotee once accepted by the Lord, can
never fall down. That is the conclusion of this incident. [Jaya
and Vijaya] (Bhag. 3.16.29, purp.)
From authoritative sources it can be
discerned that associates of Lord Visnu who descend from Vaikuntha
do not actually fall. They come with the purpose of fulfilling the
desire of the Lord, and their descent to this material world is
comparable to that of the Lord. The Lord comes to this material
world through the agency of His internal potency, and similarly,
when a devotee or associate of the Lord descends to this material
world, he does so through the action of the spiritual energy. Any
pastime conducted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead is an
arrangement by yoga-maya, not maha-maya.
Therefore it is to understood that when
Jaya and Vijaya descended to this material world, they came
because there was something to be done for the Supreme Personality
of Godhead. Otherwise it is a fact that no one falls from
Vaikuntha. (Bhag. 7.1.35, purp.) ,,
Similarly, Krsna does not fight with
anyone ordinary, but rather with some of His great devotees.
Because Krsna wants to fight, some of His devotees come down to
this material world to become His enemies and fight with Him. For
example, the Lord descended to kill Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa.
Should we think that these were ordinary living entities?
The fighting spirit is there in Krsna
also. …. Just like Jaya Vijaya came just to satisfy his
master. His master desired fighting, so some of His servant went
to the material world and became great enemy like Hiranyakasipu.
We can see that the whole history of cosmic creation and cycles
are considered by the Vaishnavites as leela – a fun game, which is
all pre-planned. This can be seen clearly in the case of the
ten avatars which we will be looking at.
The mythological story goes that the two demigod gate-keepers/dwarapalakas
(Jaya and Vijaya) of the abode of Vishnu, known as Vaikunta
(meaning place of eternal bliss), barred revered sages from
entering Vishnu's abode because Vishnu was sleeping at the time.
The sages cursed the Jaya and Vijaya to be born as mortals
and roam the earth (Bhuloka). The gatekeepers reported back to
Vishnu of the incident that had taken place. He told
them that he could not take back the curse, but could give them
options on how the curse would be lived out. He gave them the
option either to be born several many times as great devotees of
the Lord Vishnu, or a few times as powerful individuals that
were the sworn enemies of the Lord Vishnu, and to die at the
hands of Lord Vishnu. The dwarapalakas chose to be born a few
times as enemies of Lord Vishnu, and took the form of the demons
Madhu and Kaitabh, Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and
Kumbakarna, and Kamsa(in another version dantavakra) and
Vishnu wanted to someone to fight with. He cannot really
fight with someone who is weak and puny. So the two
gatekeepers – those strong watchmen at the gate of heaven – are
send out to be born as Asuras – the Demons and the whole
scenario is set up so that Vishnu can take the playful forms and
kill them over and over again. It is like children playing in
their early childhood. It is their means of growing up and
becoming. It is just the thrill of killing and fighting.
In most cases we can see that there is no moral reason for the
incarnation, there is no justice in the killing and foul play;
trickery and legalism are used. Evidently it puts God in a
poor light. The ostentious reasons given as decay of
righteousness, justice and dharma are not the real reason for
Vishnu incarnation. Those conditions are created
intentionaly for the sole purpose of glorification of Vishnu.
(Why should God want to be glorified?) It is similar to
the five point Calvinistic thought where God creates a class of
people to be put in hell and another to put in heaven.
Vaishnavism is thus historically a Calvinistic development
within the Early Indian Christianity which went wild.
This is in sharp constrast with the concept of incarnation
within the historic Christianity where incarnation is for the
sole purpose of redemption. Judgement and punishment are
part of the process and are always justified as it is a
consequence of the free will of sentient beings. The on
going ages are intended to give as much time as needed to bring
in total salvation based entirely on love. God is love and
his actions are based only on love. His actions are always
just. It is this supreme self sacrificing love that is
expressed in the incarnation of Jesus.
Fatherhood of God means a great deal more than we sometimes
imagine. It is not merely a term of tenderness; it is also a
term of law and discipline. But fatherhood means supremely
that if the child has wandered away, the father will suffer
everything to save and bring it home again. Within the realm
of revealed religion this truth emerged, that the one God,
mighty, holy, beneficent, is the Father who will sacrifice
Himself to save the child. There man found the point of
contact, in infinite love which never abandons him, never
leaves him. That is the truth which, coming into revealed
religion, saved it from being intellectual apprehension, minus
moral dynamic, and sent running through all human life rivers
of cleansing, renewal, regeneration.
THE PURPOSES OF THE INCARNATION, G. CAMPBELL MORGAN, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/6528/fund62.htm
Basis of Avatar Myth as struggle between
Suras and the Asuras
But every myth has some historic seed and it must be true of
the myths of Vishnu Avatars too.
A myth is never a reality but is always true in its meaning.
It is not history as such, but retells history in a more subtle
powerful way to impress the meaning fully. Since these
characters do not appear in any of the Pre-Christian documents,
literature, history or archeological records the myth refers
certainly to some history which is certainly related to Post
Is there a common thread that runs through the whole ten
avatars? We are neglecting the later expansion of infinite
avatar and petty additions from the list of heroes and self
proclaimed avatars whether leela or serious. One common
factor is that in every case it was supposed to kill an Asura.
Incarnation - Vasudeva - Vishnu
Asura - Prati-Vasudeva
Matsya (Fish) Avatara
The Shatpath Brahmana and the Bhagavata Purana relate it to
Manu, the Padma Purana to Makara or Shankhasura , and
the Matsya Purana to Asura Hayagriva.
Associated with the Churning of the Milky Way to get the
Varaha (Boar) Avatara
Nara Simha (Man-Lion) Avatara
Killed Hiranyakasipu (brother of Hiranyaksha)
Vamana (Dwarf) Avatara
Defeated Mahabali (Grandson of Hiranyakasipu)
Parasu Rama (Rama with the Axe)
reclaim Kerala (An Asura Kingdom?)
Killed Asura Ravana (Grandson of Mahabali)
Killed Asura Dhenuka
Killed Kamsa son of an Asura, taken to be the son of Ugrasen
the son of Damaghosha, king of Chedi (the rebirth of
Killed Narakasura son of Hiranyksha with Bhumi Devi in the
Varaha Avatar. (Or was he the son of Varahaavatara Vishnu?)
If there is a historical germ in these stories, then we must
look at it from the historical period essentially after the
development of Sanskrit literature. This post dates the
beginning of Christian Era. What is given below is the
most probable historical explanation. The myths
essentially speaks about an on going war between the Vaishnavism
(referred as Suras, Devas,gods) and the Asuras (referred in
internet sites as daitya, danava, titans, demons, demigods,
in the Encyclopaedia of Hinduism
“some are of opinion that the use of the words like daitya,
danava, etc, is in accordance with the Puranic character of
narrating events of past ages. (Buddha lived long before the
authors of the current Puranas.) These words refer to those
persons who, in ancient times, followed anti-Vedic religions and
consequently found the teachings of Buddha as valid and useful.
A similar use of words is found in the legends concerning the
destruction or the loss of Vedas. The Puranas say that the
Vedas were destroyed or stolen by the asuras namely Hayagriva,
Sankha and others. There is no doubt that in these legends
the world asura refers to those persons who were against Vedic
discipline and who created obstacles to the propagation of Vedic
culture. It must be borne in mind that no mythical tale
can spring through pure imagination; such tales must have their
bases in some for of reality?”
It would be worthwhile to trace the etymology and history
of the Asuras.
Who are the Asuras?
Much scholarly work were done in this regard that I quote the
essential passages from them. They should speak for
Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] 'Spiritual, divine.'
In the oldest parts of
veda this term is used for the supreme spirit, and is the same
as the Ahura of the Zoroastrians. In the sense of 'god' it was
applied to several of the chief deities, as to
It afterwards acquired an entirely opposite meaning, and came
to signify, as now, a demon or enemy of the gods.
The word is found with this signification in the later parts
of the Rigveda, particularly in the last book, and also in the
Atharva,. veda. The Brahmanas attach the same meaning to it,
and record many contests between the Asuras and the gods.
According to the Taittiriya Brahmana, the breath
Prajapati became alive, and "with that breath he created me
Asuras." In another part of the same work it is said that
Prajapati "became pregnant. He created Asuras from his
abdomen." The Satapatha Brahmana accords with the former
statement, and states that "he created Asuras from his lower
breath." The Taittiriya. Aranyaka represents that Prajapati
created gods, men, fathers, Gandharvas, and Apsarases from
water, and that the Asuras, Rakshasas, and pisachas sprang
from the drops which were spilt.
statement is that they were created by the Prajapatis.
According to the Vishnu Purana, they were produced from the
groin of Brahma (prajapati). The account of the Vayu Purana
is: "Asuras were first produced as sons from his (Prajapati's)
is declared by Brahmana to mean breath. From it these beings
were produced; hence they are Asuras." The word has long been
used as a general name for the enemies of the gods, including
the Daityas and Danavas and other descendants of Kasyapa, but
not including the Rakshasas descended from Pulastya.
In this sense a
different derivation has been found for it: the source is no
longer asu, `breath,' but the initial
a is taken as
the negative prefix, and
'not a god;' hence, according to some, arose the word sura,
commonly used for 'a god.'
“The gods are the Suras and the
demons the Asuras or "non-gods". This distinction, however,
did not obtain in the early Vedic period. Originally the
deities, and especially Varuna and Mitra, were called Asuras,
but in the later part of Rigveda the term is applied
chiefly to the enemies of the gods. In the Atharvaveda,
as in subsequent Epic literature, the Asuras are simply demons
and giants and goblins.
No conclusive explanation can be
offered as to how this remarkable change took place in the
course of the centuries embraced by the Vedic period. It may
have been due primarily to sectarian strife between the
religious teachers of those tribes which had been influenced
by Babylonian modes of thought and those which clung
tenaciously to the forms of primitive Aryan nature worship,
and perhaps also the worship of ancestors (Pitris). In the old
Persian language, which, like Greek, places "h" before a vowel
where "s" is used in Sanskrit, Ahura (= Asura) signifies
The Zoroastrian chief god is called
Ahura-Mazda, "the wise Lord", as Varuna is addressed in early
Rigvedic hymns, "wise Asura and King", and "the all-knowing
Asura who established the heavens and fixed the limits of the
earth". On the other hand "daeva" in the Iranian dialect,
which is cognate with Sanskrit "deva", "god", came to mean
"demon". "Asura" is derived from the root "asu", which
signifies "the air of life", and "deva" from "div", "to
shine", or "deiwo", "heavenly".”……
How the gods of the Indian Aryans
became the demons of Persia and the demons of Persia became
the gods of India is a problem for which a solution has yet to
The Asuras became completely
identified with the demons and giants; they symbolized evil,
darkness, and drought. In Epic literature we read that "in
ancient times the gods and Asuras were very active in
destroying one another. And the terrible Asuras always
succeeded in defeating the gods." .
elementals and evil, gods—considered maleficent; demons, and
no gods. But esoterically—the reverse. For in
the most ancient portions of the Rig Veda, the term is
used for the Supreme Spirit, and therefore the Asuras are
spiritual and divine It is only in the last book of the
Rig Veda, its latest part, and in the Atharva Veda,
and the Brâhmanas, that the epithet, which had been
given to Agni, the greatest Vedic Deity, to Indra and Varuna,
has come to signify the reverse of gods. Asu means
breath, and it is with his breath that Prajâpati (Brahmâ)
creates the Asuras. When ritualism and dogma got the better of
the Wisdom religion, the initial letter a was adopted
as a negative prefix, and the term ended by signifying “not a
god”, and Sura only a deity. But in the Vedas the Suras have
ever been connected with Surya, the sun, and regarded
as inferior deities, devas.
from Sanskrit meaning a "power-seeking" and "power-hungry"
being (I don’t see how this meaning comes from the word.
But this is how the Brahminic world sees it -Ninan),
is similar to a Titan, often, but somewhat misleading,
described as a "demon"; or anaya (non-Aryan) people of
ancient India. The term's derivation is uncertain. Some
scholars derive it from Ashur, the Assyrian god, or from the
breath (asu) of Prajapati, or from the root as (to be).
According to a Hindu myth, a-sura is the negation of
sura, an Indo-Aryan liquor, and refers to non-Aryan
abstainers. In Hindu mythology sura came to mean a
minor godin contrast to a-sura, "not-god" or "demon,"
but this is believed to be a false etymology.
In older part of the
Rg Veda, asura refers to the supreme spirit, like
or to Vedic deities (devas)
In younger Vedic texts and Hindu mythology asuras
become demons or titans who war against the devas (gods).
(cf., in the Iranian tradition ahura came to mean "god"
while dacva came to mean "demon")
Satapathe Brahmana the devas and asuras both came from
Prajapati, but the former chose true speech while the latter
chose the lie. Aitarcya Brahmana relates that devas
hold power by day and asuras hold equal power by night.
The non-Aryan Danavas
and Laityas were called asuras. These may have been peoples
who were opponents of the non-Aryans and who were
mythologically equated with titans and demons.
Asuras are not
necessarily evil while devas are not necessarily good. They
are consubstantial, distinguished only by their mutual
opposition, which is not conceived as an absolute ethical
The negative character of the asura in Hinduism seems to have
evolved over time. In general, the earliest texts have the
asuras presiding over moral and social phenomena (e.g.
the guardian of
the patron of marriages) and the devas presiding over natural
whose name means "dawn", or
a weather god).
Devas and Asuras
Modern historians tends to consider Asuras and Devas (the
enemies of Asuras) as two divisions of ancient people, who
shared same motherland, culture and civilization, for some
period of time in the past. Later they split into two groups,
harbouring enmity to each other. One group used the name
Asura or Ahura as a respectful surname to their
chiefs and kings. They used the name Deva or Daiva
to denote a demon or devil. On the other hand, the
other group used the name Asura to denote a demon
and Deva to denote a divine being or god.
These groups probably came from Iran, Iraq and Syriya, from the
kingdoms like Assyria and cities like Assur into
India. Their religion was the earliest form of Zorastrianism.
Zend Avesta was one of their sacred texts, which have many
similarities with the Vedas. A portion of this group spread to
the Baluchistan in Pakistan, the western shore of India and
finally to the whole of South India. The probably used the sea
route also to reach these regions, since they were very good at
navigation. This group is described in the ancient Indian texts
as Asuras. In
The Civilized Demons: the Harappans in Rgveda
Essentially therefore Asuras are of Chaldean-Syrian origin and
they were spread all over India even as far as Southern tip of
the subcontinent. The Asuras probably kept their contact
with Syria and Iran since their religious affiliations required
it. This explains the predominant Christian presence among
Relationship of Asuras and Bhargavas
Small pockets of Asura regions existed in northern India and
regions beyond Himalays as well. Vrishaparvan, was a
famous Asura king, who ruled some unknown kingdom in the
Himalayas. The founder of the Puru dynasty of kings in
north India (described in the epic Mahabharata as the forefather
of the Pandavas and Kauravas), viz king Puru, was the son of
Sarmishta, the daughter of king Vrishaparvan. Vrishaparvan's
priest was the sage Sukra, (alias Usanus), who was a Bhargava
(the son or a descendant of the sage Bhrigu.) Often the Asura
kings chose, sages in the line of Bhrigu as their priest,
whereas the Devas chose, sages in the line of Brihaspati or
Angiras, as their priests. Mahabali was yet another Asura king
whose priest also was named Sukra, in the line of Bhrigu.
Characteristics of Asuras
Historically therefore Asuras were a highly religious people with
tremendous power, who were opposed to the Aryan Vedic religion,
and of the Vaishnavites. As a characteristic they were
highly moral and kept high ethical standards even in war.
They kept their word even at the point of defeat, death and
disaster. We can see that they even allowed Vishnu to take
respite in between the combats and never retracted their offers
or promise. All through the Avatara myth story we can
notice that as a rule, Asuras could not be defeated by the Suras
under normal moral methods. It always required subtle
deceit, trickery and treachery even for the Supreme Person
Vishnu to defeat the Asuras. In fact, it appears that these
deceits, tricks and treachery were eulogized and considered
honorable by the Suras, if we take the Avatar Puranas as true.
Taking the antagonism of Vedics to the Asuras
in general, the natural early choices will be Jains and
Asuras in the Jain and Buddhist Puranas
The Jain Puranas also mentions Asuras as
anti-Vasudeva and names the Asura Kings in that list. So
we should also assume that Asuras were also against Jainism.
This term is often translated as "ogre" or "titan." They are
one of the six states
that are in samsara.
Different types of Buddhism view them differently. Asura is
usually seen as positive, resulting from good
like human beings and gods. In this interpretation, they dwell
in the lower heavens. Other views treat the asuras as
resulting from bad karma and hence they are seen as the
enemies of the gods. Some types of Buddhism ignore this
category altogether and have only five states of existence.
In Mahayana Buddhism, anti-gods or demi-gods, who populate the
lower heavens, the second highest realm of existence. They
enjoy a similar existence to the gods of the highest realm,
but are plagued by jealousy of the latter and wage fruitless
wars against them.
. Above the human realm is the asura dharmadhatu; these beings
have done numerous good deeds when they were in the human
realm but did them with excessive envy and anger toward God.
This extra envy prevents them from entering the territory of
the gods. They usually fight with God.
Non-Death Yoga Yogi C. M. Chen
Buddhism considers Asuras as beings among the list of beings the order being-
Heavenly Beings, Humans, Asuras and Hungry ghosts. Asuras
are beings who have many good things in life, but still like to
fight. They appear in the heavens or on earth as people or
animals. Hungry ghosts are beings who suffer from constant
hunger and Hell-beings.
It is a peculiar path in the Six paths. In terms of material
enjoyment and psychic power, it is similar to Deva. However,
in some aspects, it is even worse than Human Path. The male
Asura is extremely ugly, while the female is as beautiful as
an angel. The male Asura always fights with each other as they
are cruel and furious. They are proud of themselves, and
reluctant to learn and practise the Buddhist teachings.
Thus Asuras were also anti-Buddhists.
Theosophical dictionary gives the
following explanation for the etymology of Asuras:
Two important points are involved herein:
(a) Primarily in the
Rig-Veda, the "Asuras" are shown as
their etymology is derived from
(breath), the "Breath of God," and they mean the same as the
Supreme Spirit or the Zoroastrian Ahura. It is later on, for
purposes of theology and dogma, that they are shown issuing
from Brahma's thigh, and that their name began to be derived
from a, privative, and
sura, god (solar deities), or
and that they became the enemies of the gods. . . .
– H.P.Blavinsky The
A Sura is a Kumara -- a god.
Because of their great purity, virginality in every sense of
the word, Hindu mythology called them gods. Actually they are
monads in so pure, as yet unevolved, a state, so undeveloped a
state, that they are swept along, as it were, in the
evolutionary Rivers of Life.
When this Sura or Kumara has become
an Agnishwatta, it is then an Asura. And Hindu mythology, or
rather Brahmanical theology, with the same spirit behind it
that you will find in Christian theology, says -- and I will
now use Christian language -- "It has eaten of the Tree of
Life, of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and it is
no longer virginal and pure." That is the Christian
theological way of explaining it. But leaving these dogmatic
theologies of the religions aside, what actually are the
That from an unself-conscious
god-spark, a Kumara -- the Sura, the monad, the same thing --
through suffering and experience in the lower realms of
matter, in the different planes, has become an Agnishwatta. It
has tasted of the fire and has become a self-conscious god, an
Asura really comes from
essential meaning of which in Sanskrit is 'to, breathe.' You
will find it in other languages. The verbal root
Sanskrit meaning 'to be,' is the same essential idea. So the
Asuras are not merely unself-conscious god-sparks swept along
through the ages unself-consciously on the Rivers of Life.
They are those who have gained self-consciousness; or, to use
a Buddhist term meaning the same thing, they have become
celestial Dhyanis, celestial Bodhisattvas, celestial Buddhas.
Studies in Occult
G. de Purucker, Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Evidently we need to look into other possible religious groups
ouside of these three – Vaishanavite, Buddhist and Jain to find
the Asuras. They were evidently powerful enough to withstand and
even overcome all these three religions. The only choice
we are left with is the religion which was brought into India
early in the Christian Era by St.Thomas who were known as Issa
followers or Christians. This fits in very well within the
time line. If these myths have any historical basis this
is the only choice we are left with.
If this is true then the
Vishnu incarnations tells us the story of the war between
Vaishnavites and Christians. Whenever Christians became
powerful, Vaishanavite leadership found a method of defeating
them which evidenly included subtle deceit, treachery, force and
war. This is seen throughout the incarnation stories.
Generations of the Asuras
The puranas themselves give us
the story of the generation of Suras and the Asuras.
Sage Kashyap, had four wives, Diti, Aditi,
Vinita and Kudroo. Diti gave birth to Asuras (demons) and from
Aditi were born Suras (Devas, gods) , while from Vinita was born
Garuda, the carrier of Vishnu. The two sons Diti were
Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashyapu . Both of them performed so many
religious practices and austerities that in course of time they
gained limitless powers.
There is a
story behind the birth of these two where they are the two
Vishnu's heaven, Jaya and Vijaya,who were cursed to fall
from grace and find salvation only in opposition to
Vishnu -probably added later.
Jaya and Vijaya
According to a story from Bhagavata Purana, The Four Kumaras,
Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, and Sanat Kumara who are the sons
of Brahma (born from the mind or though power of Brahma),
visit Vaikuntha - the abode of Vishnu, to see Him. Due to the
strength of their tapas, the four Kumaras appear to be
mere children, though they are of great age. Jaya and Vijaya,
the gate keepers of the Vaikuntha arrogantly stop the Kumaras
at the gate, thinking them to be children. They also tell the
Kumaras that Sri Vishnu is resting and that they cannot see
Him now. The Kumaras grow angry at the gate keepers. They tell
Jaya and Vijaya that Vishnu is available for his devotees any
They lay a curse to Jaya and Vijaya that they would have to
give up their divinity, be born on Earth, and live like normal
human beings. Vishnu appears before them and His gatekeepers
ask Him to lift the curse of the Kumaras. Vishnu says that the
curse of Kumaras cannot be taken back. Instead, he gives Jaya
and Vijaya two options. The first option is to take seven
births on Earth as a devotee of Vishnu, while the second is to
take three births as His enemy. After serving either of these
sentences, they can re-attain their stature at Vaikuntha and
be with Him permanently. Jaya and Vijaya cannot bear the
thought of staying away from Vishnu for seven lives. As a
result, they choose to be born three times on Earth even
though it would have to be as enemies of Vishnu.
In the first life they were born as
Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. Vishnu takes
the avatar of Varaha to kill Hiranyaksha, and the Narasimha
avatar to kill Hiranyakasipu. In the second life, they were
born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna, being defeated by Rama avatar
as depicted in the great Hindu epic Ramayana. Finally, in
their third life, they were born as Sishupala and Dantavakra
during the time of Krishna.
Evidently as a class both the
Suras and the Asuras are the same. But there is an ethnic
difference indicated. Daityas are identified with the
Dravidians. If Diti was Dravidian and Aditi was Aryan then
this is the struggle between Dravidians and the Aryans with
Vishnu as the Aryan leader who uses trickery and deceit to
defeat the Dravidians. Apparently Dravidian faith was not
the same as the Aryan faith. Asuras had more direct relationship
with Syria on a constant on going basis.
Daityas got tremendous strength through their austerities and
religious practices. The story of St.Thomas plays around
the Dravidan centers mostly except for Kerala where Vedics
joined them as a group which was a minority in that area.
Who are the Dravidians?
We usually take Dravidians as
people who are native to India and it is considered that they
were the original inhabitants of the Mohen Jodero Harappa
Civilization. According to the present Dravidian
Scholarship they are the descendants of Abrahm of the Old
Testament originaly from the Ur of Chaldea. The word Ur
indicating village still forms part of the Dravidian languages.
In the Old Testament Abraham had another wife other than Sara
(which forms the root for Saraswathi) called Keturah. At
the the time of partition of properties, Keturah’s children were
send to the East after given them gifts. These people are
said to have settled in the Saraswathi and Sind Area.
Their father Abrahm was a sojourner of great power and he was
the Father figure for the nation.
“Abraham, a popular leader of masses (legendary prophet for
Jews, Christians and Muslims,) lived approximately 2000 BC in
the NW Indian subcontinent-Asia Minor-Central Asia region.
After his death in the tradition of spirit worship he became
the “Bermer(u)” for Tulu tribes. Vedic Aryans converted the
Abraham legend into the Brahman, the supreme cosmic creative
power. Gradually with time Brahman evolved into the God Brahma
with ten or four heads in different Purana epics, by the time
of composition of the Ramayana ca. 800-500 BC. The dominance
of Lord Brahma in Ramayana has been analysed in detail by SSN
“The spirit of Brahma, derived from the mass hero Abraham was
one of the earliest spirit worships in the early civilizations
around 2000-500 BC. Migrating Tulu tribes and their associates
carried Bermer (Brahma) cult around 500 BC from the NW Indian
subcontinent to the Karavali (coastal Karnataka) which became
their subsequent homeland, the Tulunadu. The Tulu Bermer was
imaged originally as a horse riding hero, probably a bearded
one like Abraham.
Similar horse riding hero image was retained for Bommayya
(Brahma) by Halakki and other tribes of Uttara Kannada
district. The Uttara Kannada area is in the migration route of
the early Tulu tribes.
The character of Abraham has been described in the Bible
(Genesis) and later retold in the Anacalypsis. Abraham (or the
Brahma) was actually a mass hero, an uncommon leader of early
tribes, born ca. 1900 BC, more or less during the chaotic time
of earth movements, migration of major rivers and mass exodus
of tribes from the Indus Valley civilization.
Abraham is said to have been lived for a period of 175 years.
(The cited lifespan appears to be an exaggerated figure,
characteristic of hero worship societies, nevertheless may
imply that Abraham was a strong, dynamic character and had
considerably long healthy lifespan.) Different tribes called
him slightly differently depending upon the style of
pronunciation native to them.
He was called Abraham by Jews and subsequently by Christians.
Arabs called him ‘Ibrahim’ whereas IndoAryans referred to him
as Brahma. His father, ‘Terah’ originally came from a place
known as Ur of Chaldees or Culdees, a part of Asia Minor.
Terah had a beautiful daughter called ‘Sara’ (or ‘Saraswati’
for Indo- Aryans and cohabitants of Pirak and northwest India)
born to another wife who was not Abraham’s mother. Abraham or
the Brahma fell in love with Sara and married her. For this or
other reasons the Abraham and Sara left Ur and settled in
Mesopotamia. There he organized Jews and became a venerated
hero figure. Abraham has been considered as the founder of
Jews. Similarly, Muslims believe ‘Ibrahim’ to be one of their
early leader or founder. The original Kaba temple (later a
mosque) at Mecca is said to have been built in honour of
Abraham or the Ibrahim.
At that time, the present day Asia minor-Indian subcontinent
region consisting of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and
India (though had different individual provincial names at
that time) were all contiguous states where communications and
concepts freely exchanged among diverse townships. The Abraham
(or the Brahma) was a dynamic leader of the masses and the
ordinary people believed that he was the creator of the
tribes. The legend of Abraham continued after his death and
continued to inspire or haunt memories of the tribes living in
the Asia minor-Indian subcontinent region. The legend of
Abraham inspired Vedic tribes and others alike. This is the
initiation the concept of Lord Brahma the creator of universe
in Hindu mythology. Abraham became the Brahma the supreme God
after couple of centuries following his demise. In the
primitive cultures accustomed to spirit worship, the legendary
Brahma, who organized tribes, represented a supreme hero
capable of creation of tribes and later the universe itself.
Legends turned into myths and Brahma was deified and
considered supreme God.”
After the coming of St. Thomas, Brahminic
domination took over the new concepts of religion brought in by
Thomas and transformed it into Vaishnavism in the North and
Saivism in the South. However Brahminism through
trickery took over Vaishnavism and transformed it totally.
Saivism remained as part of the Christian faith for a longer
time before they were also influenced by Brahminism. But
even today their influence is very small.
We can now trace the genealogy of Daitya kings which will come
in handy in the discussion
This genealogy explains the on going mythical history of
The Vaishnavite Struggle with Historic Christianity
over a period of six centuries
If this conjecture is correct, then the stories of the Boar
incarnation and Lion-man incarnation of Vishnu tells the story
of how the generations of the Christians before Mahabali were
driven out from Northern India. This is exactly what
we find in terms of geography and order of Vishnu’s incarnation.
actually see the sequence of Vaishanavite conquest in the
Dravida Asura King killed
HiranyaKasipu (Brother of Hiranyaksha)
Maha Bali (King of Dravida) great grandson of HiranyaKasipu
(Rama with the axe)
Lifting Kerala out of the sea and giving to Brahmins
Ravana – The King of Sri Lanka
Ravana was a great-grandson of
First of all we notice that all the incarnations were Vishnu
incarnations. Hence they are a history connected with
the Vaishnavite traditions and, it is the history which
tells how Vaishnavism defeated their opponents.
The opponents were all Daityas – who are usually considered as
Dravidian Kings and Kingdoms
Second all the victims were of one family coming from one
The placement of the events are also interesting.
NAME OF DAITYA
indication given in any Puranas
(Brother of Hiranyksha)
grand son of Hiranya Kasipu)
South India – Narmada River to Cape Comorin including Chola,
Chera and Pandya
(of the Kingdom of Maha Bali)
with the Axe)
Son of Maha Bali)
Under the Gnostic influence, the basic
avatar concepts were however extended to include a larger number
almost including all mankind in one form or other. There
are elaborate classifications and explanations, which are
summarized, in the following table
Kinds of avataras
Personal Emanation Incarnations of Visnu
Karanodakasayi Vishnu, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu and
material creation, Lord Krsna's plenary expansion assumes
three Visnus. The first one, Maha Visnu, creates the total
material energy, known as mahat-tattva. The second,
Garbhodakasayi Visnu, enters into all the universes to
create diversities in each of them. The third, Ksirodakasayi
Visnu, is diffused as the all-pervading Supersoul in all the
universes and is known as Paramatma. He is present even
within the atoms. Anyone who knows these three Visnus can be
liberated from material entanglement." (Satvata-tantra)
Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama,
Krishna, Bala-Rama, Kalki.
Brahma (Rajas), Vishnu (Satvic) and Siva (Tamas).
The Trinity as three aspects of one God
Special incarnations of the Supreme Lord who appear in each
manvantara to assist Indra and the other demigods in
subduing demons and maintaining the principles of religion.
Innumerable manu avataras (504,000 Manus manifest in the
life time of one Brahma): Main 14 also called as vaibhava-avatars:
Yajna, Vibhu, Satyasena, Hari, Vaikuntha, Ajita, Vamana,
Sarvabhauma, Rsabha, Visvaksena, Dharmasetu, Sudhama,
Yogesvara and Brhadbhanu.
Incarnation within the Ages
Kumaras, Narada, Varaha, Matsya, Yajna, Nara-narayana,
Kardami Kapila, Dattatreya, Hayasirsa, Hamsa, Dhruvapriya,
Rsabha, Prthu, Narasimha, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini,Vamana,
Parasurama, Raghavendra, Vyasa, Balarama, Krishna, Buddha
and Kalki. (All these 25 avatars happen every one day of
Spirit filled Incarnation
Kapila, Rsabha, Ananta, Brahma, Catuhsana, Narada, Prthu,
Parasurama, Buddha, ...
These are not visnu-tattva but jiva-tattva; jivas, or
living beings, empowered for a special mission.
It appears that the number of incarnations increased, till
finally an infinite number of incarnations was accepted. It may
be an attempt to express the fact that the whole cosmos is
permeated with God. After all God is the only reality.
Purana II-XVI 8c AD
Varaha Purana XXXIX,XLVII 16c AD
Avatars including Buddha & Kalki
These were actually the forms of Brahma which later was
associated with vishnu
Narayaneeya of Mahabharata MBh XII 349.37
Vamana, Narasimha, and Krishna
Mahabharatha XII 338 77-99
heroes Rama-Bhargava, Rama Dasharathi
Kurma, matsya Kalki
Bhagavatha Purana I.3
6/7 c AD
Varaha, Nanda, Nara and Narayana, the philosopher Kapila,
Dattareya, Yajna, the Jaina Tirthankara Rsabha, the ancient
king Prthu, Matsya, Kurma, the physicin Dhanvantari, Mohini,
Narasimha, Vamana, Rama- Jamadagnya ( Parsurama ), Veda-Vyasa,
Rama-Dasaratha, Rama Haladhara, Krishna, Buddha and Kalkin
Garuda P. I.202
avatars Matsya, Trivikrama, Vamana, Narasimha, Rama,
Varaha, Narayana, Kaplia, Datta, Hayagriva, Mahradhvaja,
Narada, Kurmi, Dhanvantari, Sesha, Yajna, Vyasa, Buddha and
Purana Bk I Ch 8
gods, animals and men, Hari is all that is male; Laksmi is
all that is female; there is nothing else than they.'
Purana Bk I Ch 21
Hari, who is the most immediate of all the energies of
Brahma, is his embodied shape”
Purana Bk I Ch 22
Vedas, and their divisions; the institutes of Manu and other
lawgivers; traditional scriptures, and religious manuals;
poems and all that is said and sung; are the body of the
mighty Vishnu, assuming the shape of sound.'
Purana Bk III Ch 18
delusion of the false teacher paused not with the conversion
of the Daityas to the Jaina and Bauddha heresies, but with
various erroneous tenets he prevailed upon them to
apostatize, until the whole were led astray, and deserted
the doctrines and observances inculculated bythe 3 Vedas.
[The teacher was an illusory form of Vishnu, while the
Daityas could not be destroyed whilst they performed the
sacred rites and were slain by the gods]'
KINDS OF AVATARS
Since the number of avatars have been growing and since in most
cases, it would be foolish to say that Vishnu incarnated into
forms that are defective, and very often unsuitable in character
and nature, various types of avatars are formed to classify
them. Here is a table that gives some examples. There is
no limit to the incarnations of the Supreme Lord and depending
on the roles they play, some avatars can be overlapping to more
than one kind...
Kinds of avatars
Examples of actual avataras
Karanodakasayi Vishnu, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu and
Varaha, Kurma, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Krishna,
(Rajas), Vishnu (Satvic) and Siva (Tamas).
Innumerable manu avataras (504,000 Manus manifest in the
life time of one Brahma): Main 14 also called as vaibhava-avatars:
Yajna, Vibhu, Satyasena, Hari, Ajita, Vamana, Sarvabhauma,
Rsabha, Visvaksena, Dharmasetu, Sudhama, Yogesvara and
Kumaras, Narada, Varaha, Matsya, Yajna, Nara-narayana,
Kardami Kapila, Dattatreya, Hayasirsa, Hamsa, Dhruvapriya,
Rsabha, Prthu, Narasimha, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini,Vamana,
Parasurama, Raghavendra, Vyasa, Balarama, Krishna, Buddha
and Kalki. (All these 25 avatars happen every one day of
Rsabha, Ananta, Brahma, Catuhsana, Narada, Prthu, Parasurama,
AVATARS OF VISHNU
According to Hari Vamsa
According to Narayani Akhyan
According to Varaha Purana
According to Vayu Purana
According to Bhagwat Purana
It is enough to say in a word,
that of gods, animals and men, there is nothing else than they.'
-- [Visnu Purana Bk I Ch 8 (p.53)]