Ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Stories of Vishnu Dashavatar. Vishnu took various forms including fish, tortoise, boar and human forms. Shri Rama, Krishna and Parshurama are the human forms. As they say, whenever this planet is on the verge of destruction, lord vishnu takes avatar to save. The tenth incarnation is yet to happen.
Parshuram, Rama with an axe is believed to be sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born to Renuka and Jamadagni one of a saptrishi. He is believed to be one of the immortals of Hindu mythology. According to some legend it is believed that he still lives at Mahendragiri Mountain Peak in Orissa. Here are some interesting stories about Parshuram.
1. Parshuram received his famous axe after pleasing Lord Shiva by strict penance.
Lord Shiva giving axe to Parshuram
2. Parshuram conducted thousands of Ashwamedha and gave the entire land conquered as an alm to sage Kashyap.
3. Once kshatriya king Kartavirya went to his father’s ashram and stole the holy calf that was gifted to him by Lord Indra. Enraged by this act, Parshuram killed Kartavirya and rescued the calf. To avenge Kartavirya’s death, his son killed Jamdagni (Parshuram’s father). In return Parshuram killed all kshatriya 21 times to restore peace to the earth.
Kartavirya Arjuna and Parshuram fight
4. He played an important role in Ramayan, he gave the bow of Shiva to Janaka for Sita’s swayamvar.
Parshuram in Ramayan
5. He played important role in Mahabharat by serving as mentor to Bhishma, Drona and Karna.
6. He killed his mother – His mother Renuka was known for her chastity and devotion for her husband. Her strength of her devotion was so strong that she was able to fetch water in unbaked clay pot. One day she was at the river she saw some gandharva, for a moment she was filled with desire and the unbaked pot dissolved. Her husband Jamadagni came to know every thing with his yogic power he was enraged. He called his son gave him an axe and ask him to kill his mother but one by one they all refuse in return they were turned into stone. But Parshuram was very obedient and he beheaded his mother. He was granted two boon in which he asked for her mother and his brothers back to life.
Parshuram killing his mother
7. Fight with Lord Shiva – Once Lord Shiva challenged him for a battle to test his skills in warfare. Fierce battle lasted for 21 days one day he countered and attacked Shiva with his parshu which stuck on his forehead. Lord Shiva was impressed by his amazing skill and embraced him. Thus Shiv is also known as Khanda- Parshu.
8. Parshuram cursed Karna that he will forget his skills at the time when he needs most. This happened when Parshuram discovered that Karna was a Kshatriya and not a Brahmin.
Parshuram and Karna
9.Once Parshuram was annoyed with Surya (Sun God). He shot several arrows in the sky when he ran out of arrows he send his wife to bring more. Sun God focused his rays on her causing her to collapse. Surya then appeared before Parshuram and gave him slippers and umbrella.
10. Once he went to mount kailash to meet Lord Shiva but he was stopped by Ganesha. Parshuram threw his axe on him , Ganesha knew that the axe was given to him by his father so he allowed it to sever his left tusk thus got his name Ekdante. Later he gave him his divine axe and bless him.
Parshurama is the sixth incarnation (one of the dashavatara) of Lord Vsihnu. He is said to be one of the chiranjeevis. Chiranjeevi means one who doesn’t die.
Parshurama is born to Sage Jamdagni and Renuka. Parshurama was very obedient to his father, and once when asked by his father, he did not hesitate and beheaded his own mother. Jamdagni and Renuka meditated before the birth of Parshurama and with the blessing of Shiva, Vishnu agreed to take incarnation as their son which became sixth of the ten dashavataras. He was the fifth son of his parents.
In his childhood, he did severe penance and pleased Lord Shiva. Lord presented him with the weapon parshu, thus the boy was called as Parshurama.
Killing of king Kartavirya
At that point of time, a king named Kartavirya Arjuna became very strong. He also defeated Ravana. One day, he came to the hermitage of sage Jamdagni and was welcomed by the sage. Jamdagni had a cow, Kamdhenu, presented by Indra, which allowed him to serve his guests. Impressed, kartavirya wanted the cow, which Jamdagni denied. The king stole the calf.
Parshurama was not at home at this point of time. When he returned back, he went to the palace of King Kartavirya and killed him. Then he retrieved Kamdhenu and came back to his home.
Killing of Sage Jamdagni
Soon, sons of Kartavirya discovered their father at the palace and knew that only Parashurama could have killed him. In revenge, they traveled to the hermitage and murdered Jamadagni, surrounding the rishi and shooting him to death with arrows like a stag. Afterwards, they decapitated his body and took his head with them.
When Parshurama discovered his mother weeping over the body of his father, he vowed to avenge the death of his father. He hunted down the sons of Kartavirya at the palace. He killed them all and returned with the head of his father to conduct the cremation. Parashurama then vowed to enact a genocide on the war-mongering Kshatriyas twenty-one times over.
Parshurama is also the guru or teacher of Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Parshurama’s famous curse is on Karna which rendered the Brahmastra useless for Karna.
Parshurama and Rama ( dashavatara’s of Lord Vishnu)
During Sita swayamvar, Rama broke the bow of Lord Shiva. Hearing the sound of breaking of the bow, Parshurama came there and challenged Rama to string the bow with an arrow. Rama, being an avatar of Lord Vishnu, easily mounted the arrow and asked Parshurama, where should I fire this arrow now? Parshurama realized that Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and his own role has completed now.
Vamana avatar is a story of Lord Vishnu’s incarnation. Lord Vishnu decided to be born as Aditi and Kashyap’s son. The son was a dwarf or a Vamana. This was the Vamana avatara (dwarf incarnation) of Vishnu dashavatara which was taken to save Indra’s kingdom.
There was a king of the daityas named Bali. Bali was the grandson of Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakshyap. He was powerful and invincible. He was also righteous and truthful. The gods cold not bear to see Bali’s prosperity and began to plot how Bali might be foiled. So well did Bali rule that disease, drought and evil disappeared throughout the three worlds.
Bali had organised a horse sacrifice. Many sages came to the sacrifice and Shukracharya was the chief priest. The dwarf (Vamana) also arrived at yajna.
Shukracharya, the guru of Daityas, realised that the dwarf was none other than Vishnu. He warned Bali not to promise anything to the Vamana (The Dwarf), who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu ( a dashavatara).
Bali replied that it would be his honour to serve Lord Vishnu. Bali went to the dwarf and asked what he had wanted. Vishnu expressed the wish that he might be given as much of land as might be covered in three of the dwarf’s steps. This boon Bali readily granted. But no sooner than the boon had been granted, the dwarf adopted a gigantic form.
In two steps, the Dwarf covered the whole kingdom of Bali, from heaven to earth to nether world and demanded where he should place his third step. Bali offered himself. Vishnu was charmed at Bali’s generosity.He then appointed Bali king of the underworld and Indra’s kingdom was returned back to him.
Vamana Avatar is instantly recognizable with the short frame having a wooden umbrella.
The fourth of incarnation of Vishnu dashavatara is Narsingh avatar (half man half lion)
The story of Hiranyakashyap and Brahma’s boon
Hiranyakashyap was a demon king who did severe penance of Brahma. Brahma became pleased with him and asked for a boon. Hiranyakashyap demanded immortality. Brahma replied that this is not possible as everyone who takes birth has to die, so ask something else.
Hiranyakashyap then asks “no one created by you can kill me; I cannot die inside the house or outside, during the day or the night. I cannot be killed by any weapon by any human or beast, living or non living, any demi-god or demon. ” Brahma granted him this boon.
His son Prahlad
Thus Hiranyakashyap became very strong and he started asking people to treat him as god. But his own son, Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was initiated by Sage Narada and he belived in none other than Narayan. Knowing this, Hiranyakashyap became very angry and tried to dissuade Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu.
He wants to kill Prahlad
He tried to kill him by burning him in fire, by giving him poison, by crushing him under elephants’ feet, by rolling down from high hills, by snake bites, by many kinds of weapons, but because of his devotion, Prahalad could not be killed by any means.
Hirankashyap’s sister Holika, offered a solution. She sat with Prahalad on a pyre, thinking that the flames would burn Prahalad and she would be saved by a cloth which was immune from fire. But by god’s grace, Holika was burnt and Prahalad was saved. This is still celebrated as Holika dahan which is followed by Holi, a prominent Indian festival.
One day, Hiranyakashyap challenged Prahalad that where is his god. Prahalad replied – he is everywhere. Out of rage, Hiranyakashyap asked, is he in the pillar and broke the pillar with his mace.
Emergence of Narsingh avatar
Duly, Narsingh avatar or fourth dashavatara of lord Vishnu appeared in form of half lion and half man. It was twilight (neither day nor night) and it was the entrance of the palace (neither inside nor outside). At that moment the Narsingh Avatar ( neither man nor beast), killed Hiranyakashyap with his nails. (Not with a weapon).
Note: Hiranyaksha, brother of Hiranyakashyap, was killed by Varaha avatar of Dashavatara and Prahlad grandson Bali was neutralized by another dashavatara (Vamana) of Lord Vishnu.
This avatar of Vishnu dashavatar is in a form of boar. He saved the earth from Hiranyaksha, who incidentally is also the brother of Hiranyakashyap. He has grown because boons from Brahma. Hiranyaksha took the earth to the bottom of the ocean. He did this because wanted to make Devas weak. The devas need Havis, the sacrificial oblations of the mortals to maintain their strength.
Since they started losing their strength, they requested Vishnu to help them. Vishnu took the form of a boar, the third dashavatar. Herescued the earth from the depths of ocean with his tusks. Hiranyaksha, who was searching for Vishnu, finally finds him in the form of boar – a dashavatar.
Hiranyaksha intercepted the boar, and then commenced one of the greatest battles of all time. Vishnu balanced the earth on his thigh, and gored Hiranyaksha to his death. Since he had balanced Bhooma Devi (the goddess of earth) on his thighs, a son was born to her. As he was created when Vishnu had been involved in a ferocious battle, he was an Asura. This is the famous Narakusara, who was later slain by Vishnu in his avatar as Krishna.
The avatar of Varaha signifies the restoration of the Earth from a pralaya (deluge) and the formation of a new kalpa (cosmic cycle). Varaha Purana, one of the major eighteen Mahapuranas, describes about the Varaha incarnation of LordVishnu, and also about the rescue of the Prithvi.
Hiranyakashyap and Hirankyaksha were two gandharvas Jaya and Vijaya. Due to a curse from Sanat kumaras, they had to take birth as asuras. Vishnu. They wanted to be free of the curse in little time, that is why Vishnu decided to take from of dashavatars to kill them.
The second avatar of Dashavatara is Kurma avatar. Kurma means tortoise. Vishnu took the form of turtle to help devas and asuras ( gods and demons). They were churning ocean to receive the gifts from the ocean. Lord VIshnu helped the devas in two counts. First, he acted as base to support the Mount Mandar, which was used as an axis for churning of ocean. Second, as Mohini to take hold of nectar (or amrit). Due to this gods got an upper hand in “Dev Asur sangharsh”.
Kurma avatar belongs to the Satya Yuga and in this avatara Mahavishnu incarnated as a giant turtle to save the earth from destruction. Kurma Avatar of dashavatar is explained mainly in the Bhagavad Purana, Agni Purana and Ramayana. Kurma Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, is said to have been directly stated by Lord Vishnu to the sage Narada, and it contains the details about the Kurma avatar.
Durvasa curse to Indra
Devas grew weaker due to a curse from Durvasa. The demons or asuras, a group of malicious deities in the Hindu mythology, tried to overcome them. A war followed, which continued for long. Despite fighting bravely, devas could not win over the asuras. They asked Lord Vishnu for help.
Advice of Lord Vishnu
Lord Vishnu asked the devas to use Mount Mandara as a churning stick. But, they could not pull up the mountain. On advice of Lord Vishnu, the gods and asuras made a deal to churn the ocean jointly. They pulled the Mount Mandara and used it as a churning stick. Serpent Vasuki was used as a rope. it was pulled first one way and then the other. During churning, Mandara began to sink into the mud at the bottom of the milk ocean. Vishnu took the form of Kurma (second dashavatara), and held the mountain on his broad back.
As a result of the churning, amrita was obtained which asuras took control of it. Here Vishnu, took the form of a beautiful lady, Mohini. He managed to take the nectar bowl with him and gave it to devas. Thus devas eventually got powerful. Thus, Vishnu helped them once again and took the form of one of the dashavatara.
The Matasya avatar story is as follows. The Satya Yuga was about to end and a great flood was to come and destroy all the life on earth to start afresh for the next Yuga. Lord Brahma after a day full of creation, was tired. He wanted to go to sleep and was soon snoring loudly.
While Lord Brahma was sleeping an asura Hayagriva emerged from Brahma’s nose. With Brahma asleep, Hayagriva realized that it was the right time to take in all the knowledge of the Vedas. Hayagriva concentrated and soon absorbed the knowledge in the Vedas. He then hid deep inside the ocean, thinking that nobody would find him there.
Lord Vishnu saw this and was worried. If the Vedas were stolen by the asura, the knowledge of the Vedas could not be passed on to the Next Yuga. As a Preserver, it was his job to make sure the knowledge survived to the next Yuga.
King Manu yagya
In the earliest yuga (era) of Sata-yuga, king Manu was performing severe penance for long period. 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 very soon 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.
Lord Vishnu’s advise as a Matasya
The king realised 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.
He told him that he would appear as a fish to propel the boat to Mount Himavan for surviving the flood to the next yuga(eon). 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 Mt Himavan and kept them there till the flood was over and in the new era, the king started procreation a for the new era.
Thus, taking the Matasya avatar, Lord Vishnu saved the earth from destruction.
Krishna said to Arjuna in Mahabharat war : 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. – Bhagavat Gita
This article is in continuation to earlier article where we published the pictures of 1-5 avatars of Vishnu. Details of next 6 avatars are found as following.
Parshurama was the son of sage Jamdagni and Renuka. He has killed evil doers kings of the earth. A great archer, was the teacher (guru) of Bhishma, Drona and Karna. He is one of the seven immortal ones (saptachiranjiva).
Rama was born as a son of Dashrath and Kaushalya. He slayed the demon king Ravana of Lanka. Assisted by Hanuman and Lakshman ( Sheshnaag’s avatar).
This incarnation was the central character of Mahabharat. Mahabharat was the conflict of kuru brothers, Kauravas and Pandavas. He did not fight the war himself. He was the charioteer of great archer, Arjuna in the Mahabharat war. In his early life, he killed Kansa. His brother was Balrama and he is also believed to be a avatar of Lord Vishnu by some texts.
In the Puranic texts, he is mentioned as one of the ten avatars of Vishnu, usually as the ninth one. Siddhartha was born in a royal Hindu Kshatriya family. Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree—now known as the Bodhi tree—in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. His companions believed that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained enlightenment.
The tenth and last avatar, Kalki avatar, is supposed to happen in future, in Kaliyug. This will be the tenth and final Maha Avatar (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will bring to an end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. He will establish a new era based on truth, righteousness, humanism and goodness, called Satya Yuga.
Pictures of Lord Vishnu in various avatars (Dashavatar)
Vishnu took the form of a big fish. There is a story about this in Hindu scriptures. The Asuras or the demons snatched the Vedas, the holy books of the Hindus, and went deep inside the sea. At this point, Vishnu changed his form. He became a matsya, that is, a fish. He entered the sea and brought back the Vedas. There is another story of recreation of human kind after the pralaya, where the sage Manu put all the vedas and other important things in a boat and Vishnu took that to safety.
Here Vishnu took the form of a Turtle (kurma) and then goes the story of the samudra manthan or the churning of the ocean. He provided the base which helped in churning of the ocean. There is another story that when Demons got hold of Amrit, Vishnu helped the gods again in form of Mohini. One Demon had drank some Amrit, Whom Vishnu has cut into two. Thus Rahu and Ketu have been born.
Dashavatar is ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. In Indian mythology, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiv) are symbols of creator, saviour and destroyer. Whenever there is a decline of religion and a rise of irreligion, Vishnu incarnates himself to protect the good, to destroy the wicked, and to re-establish religious principles. The famous ten incarnations of Vishnu are collectively called Dashavatar. The first four appeared in Satya Yuga. The next three appeared in Treta yuga, eighth incarnation in Dwapara yuga and ninth appeared in Kalyuga. The tenth incarnation is predicted to appear at the end of Kalyuga.
Ten avatars of Vishnu are :
1. Matsya – The fish
2. Kurma – The Tortoise
3. Varaha – The Boar
4. Narasimha – Half lion and half man
5. Vamana – The dwarf
6. Parashurama – The warrior
7. Sri Rama – The king
8. Sri Krishna – The cowherd
9. Buddha – The Teacher
10. Kalki – The Slayer
1. Matsya avatar The fish incarnation is the first incarnation of Vishnu. One day Brahma was sleeping, Hayagriva stole the holy vedas from under Brahma’s head. He then ran and hide in the depth of ocean. Brahma had to read the holy books to create universe. Since he was unable to do so he approached Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu took the form of a fish and dived into the ocean to get back the vedas. After a fierce battle with the demon Vishnu was successful in bringing back vedas.
2. Kurma avatar Once during samudra manthan or great churning of sea by the Gods and the demons. This churning was to bring out the ‘amrita’ from the depth of ocean to help regain power and immortality. The huge mountain Mandara was used as a pole for churning of water, but as churning continued mountain began to descend into the sea. Then Vishnu incarnated himself into a huge tortoise and placed the mountain on his back then churning began and this time it continued smoothly.
3. Varaha avatar There was a demon named Hiranyaksha He was granted a boon by Brahma that no God or demon or man or beast would ever kill him. One day he snatched the earth and took it with him under the ocean. All Gods rushed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu remembered that Brahma has forgotten to grant Hiranyaksha immortality against varaha – the two tusked wild boar. Vishnu changed himself into a varaha and dived into ocean, after a fierce battle he killed Hiranyaksha ans brought back earth from the depth of ocean.
4. Narasimha avatar In satya yuga there was a wicked king named Hiranyakashyap. He prayed to Lord Brahma for immortality. He requested that neither at day nor at night could any God, demon man or beast could ever kill him. He also prayed that no instrument or weapon could ever destroy him. Impressed by his devotion Brahma granted him the boon. Hiranyakshyap then banned worship of God. But his son Prahlad was a devotee of Vishnu. This enraged Hiranyakashyapand he decided to kill Prahlad. After many unsuccessful attempts one evening he ordered his men to tie Prahlad to a pillar and behead him. However Vishnu took the form of Narasimha a creature that was half lion and half human, he came out of the pillar. He comes upon Hiranyakashyap at twilight (neither day nor night), on the threshold of courtyard (neither indoor nor outdoor), he put the demon on his thioghs (neither earth nor space) using his sharp nails (neither weapon nor instrument) he tore Hiranyakashyap’s chest apart and killed him.
5. Vamana avatar In Treta yuga Vishnu incarnated into a dwarf or vamana. Bali, grandson of Prahlad was a famous demon. By leading a austere life he had acquired the powers to rule the earth. Indra and other God got feared that someday Bali would conquer everything and defeat them so they asked Vishnu for help. Vishnu decided to be born in a household of a poor Brahmin one day he went to Bali and asked for alms. Seeing this young boy, Bali agreed to give anything the dwarf asked for. Vamana asked for entire land that would come under 3 steps. Bali agreed. The dwarf then grew in size and covered earth and heaven in two steps. Then he asked Bali where can he put his third steps. Bali reallised vamana was Vishnu incarnation and his pride was broken he offered his head for third step. Vishnu then blessed him and send him to neither world.
6. Parashuram Parashuram was the sixth incarnation of Vishnu had a violent temper. He was a master archer and desciple of Shiva. Vishnu appeared as parashuram in Tetrayuga to destroy warrior caste. When the king of the earth became despotic and started to harm people and saint in the forest. Vishnu incarnated as Parashuram and destroyed all the kings who were harassing people. Jamdagni a brahmin sage was Parashuram’s father, he had a divine cow kamadhenu. There was a king name Kartavirya arjuna (sahasrarjuna) has thousand arms. Once he and his army visited Jamdagni and demanded the magical cow kamdhenu but JAmadangi refused because he needed cow for his religious ceremonies, king forcible took the cow and devastated ashram. Angered at this Parashuram killed entire army and king after cutting his each hand. As a revenge king’s son killed Jamadagniin Parashuram’s absence. Furious at his father’s murder Parashuram killed all sons of Sahasrajuna. His thirst for revenge unquenched and he went on killing every adult kshatriya on earth not once but 21 times and filling 5 pond with blood. Ultimately his grandfther appeared and stopped him.
7. Rama Rama who was prince and king of Ayodhya was 7th incarnation of Vishnu that appeared in Tetra yuga. Lord Rama defeated and killed the king of srilanka, Ravana for capturing and imprisoning his wife Sita in Ashok garden in Srilanka.
8. Krishna In 8th incarnation Vishnu appeared in Dwapara yuga as Krishna. He is one of the most common worshipped deity in Hindu faith. Krishna killed Kansa and played a huge role in the battle of kurukshetra. He helped pandavas to defeat kauravas. Krishna is a significant character in mahabharat. He delivered Bhagwat Gita on battlefield to Arjun. Krishna is known for his bravery in destroying evil powers throughout his life.
9. Buddha Vishnu in his 9th incarnation appeared as mahavir buddha in Kalyuga to teach the lesson of following a middle path in life. Buddha means the ‘enlightened one’. he thought that all sorrow comes from attachment and desire so its better to curb all attachment in order to be happy.