Introduction of Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar or avatara ,
is the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of an Immortal Being,
or of the Ultimate Supreme Being. It derives from the Sanskrit word
avatara which means "descent" and usually implies a deliberate
descent into mortal realms for special purposes. The term is used
primarily in Hinduism, for incarnations of Vishnu the Preserver,
whom many Hindus worship as God.
Unlike Christianity, and Shaivism, Vaishnavism believes that God
takes a special (including human) form whenever there is a decline
of righteousness (dharma) and rise of evil. Lord Krishna, an avatar
of Vishnu, according to Vaishnavism that is espoused by Ramanuja
and Madhva, and God in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, said in the Gita: “For
the protection of the good, for destruction of evil, and for the
establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age.”
(Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, verse 8.) In any event, all Hindus believe
that there is no difference between worship of Vishnu and His avatars
as it all leads to Him.
An Avatara is a personal form of the Supreme Being and innumerable
such divine forms reside in an eternal spiritual realm. When a personal
form of God descends from that higher dimensional realm to the material
world, He (or She) is known as an incarnation, or Avatara.
By referring to the form of God as an "incarnation,"
one invokes a Western conception describing a physical symbol which
represents or embodies an abstraction. In fact, the Latin root carnis
means "flesh." However, in this context, this may be somewhat
misleading, since the divine forms of God do not "become flesh"
or "take on a material body." An ordinary soul may take
on a gross material body, but in the case of God, His 'soul' and
His 'body' refer to the same spiritual essence.
In fact, the Avataras exhibit God's essential features: They are
eternally existent and free from the laws of the matter, time and
space. Although They have no obligation to come into contact with
the material energy, the Avataras descend into this world for our
own protection, instruction and redemption. Although They may potray
human weaknesses such as grief and anger, They are never to be considered
ordinary people. Human beings act out of earthly desire, fear and
anger. The Avatar, however, acts out of His own blissfully divine
nature performing exhuberant pastimes for the pleasure of His pure
God is one, yet He manifests Himself in innumerable forms within
this world. There is the Darling Krishna Avatar whose beauty enchants
the hearts of all; and the awesome Narasimha (the Man- Lion Avatar)
who outwitted an ingenious demonic tyrant; and the regal form of
Lord Rama Avatar whose example of truth and virtue is emulated even
today. Each and every one of those forms has a particular mission;
each Avatar being a unique revelation of the Absolute Truth.
Although the Avatars appear in different forms at different times,
places and circumstances, They are the Selfsame Supreme Lord and
Their purpose is one: to reveal the Absolute Truth in this world
and remind its inhabitants of their eternal lives of blissful service
to God in their original homeland, the spiritual world. This divine
purpose is eloquently expressed by Lord Krsna in the world-famous
Teachings and Significance
The philosophy reflected in the Hindu epics is the doctrine of
the avatar (incarnation of Vishnu as an animal or a human form).
The two main avatars of Vishnu that appear in the epics are Rama,
the hero of the Ramayana, and Krishna, the advisor of the Pandavas
in the Mahabharata. Unlike the superhuman devas (gods) of the Vedic
Samhitas and the abstract Upanishadic concept of the all-pervading
Brahman, the avatars in these epics are intermediaries between the
Supreme Being represented as either Saguna Brahman or Nirguna Brahman
and mere mortals.
This doctrine has had a great impact on Hindu religious life, for
to many it means that God has manifested Himself in a form that
could be appreciated even by the least sophisticated. Rama and Krishna
have remained prominent as beloved and adored manifestations of
the Divine for thousands of years among Hindus. The Upanishadic
concept of the underlying unity of Brahman is revered by many to
be the pinnacle of Hindu thought, and the concept of the avatars
has purveyed this concept to the ordinary Hindu as an expression
of the manifestation of the Hindu's highest single divinity as an
aid to humanity in difficult times. The Hindu cycle of creation,
evolution, and destruction contains the essence of the idea of "avatars"
and indeed relies on a final avatar of Vishnu, that of Kalki, as
the final evolutionary avatar before destruction at the end of the
Aside from Rama and Krishna there are many other human or animal
forms which appeared on earth or elsewhere in the universe. Scriptures
do not describe any appearance as an avatar by Brahma or Shiva (they
are themselves listed as guna avatars) of nirguna Brahman, but emanations
of Vishnu have appeared a number of times. Some Hindus, based on
the Ramayana, aver that Shiva incarnated once as the monkey-god
Hanuman. Hanuman is more well-known as the son of Vayu, the deva
of wind or his emanation. (Hanuman lived in a jungle in Treta Yuga
and is called vanara, which means people having characteristics
of monkey, and was one of the greatest devotees of Vishnu).