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Hindu Avatars

Hindu Avatars

  • In Hinduism, an avatar is a careful succession of a god to Earth, or a succession of the Supreme Creature.
  • Avatar is considered as among the basic principles of Hinduism. The occurrence of an avatar is also observed in Ayyavazhi and Sikhism.
  • The word is most often related with Vishnu. In Hindu religious writings different lists of avatars of Vishnu show up. The main part of Vaishnavism is the avatars of Vishnu. There is an early reference to avatar doctrine in the Bhagavad Gita. The avatars of Vishnu have greater theological importance as compared to other deities.
  • In Sikhism, an avatar is a succession of a spirit to earth. Guru Granth Sahib has firm belief in the presence of the Dashavatara. Three compositions on historical avatars were written by Guru Gobind Singh in Dasam Granth which include Rudra Avatar, Brahma Avatar, and Vishnu Avatar.
Etymology and Meaning
  • Initially the word Avatara was used to define different gods. Around the 6th century, it was used mainly to define avatars of Vishnu. The philosophy related with the word was discussed by the Bhagavad Gita for the first time.


Hindu Avatars

Avatars of Vishnu

  • Typically avatars of Vishnu come down for a very precise objective. Bhagavad Gita defines the typical role of Vishnu’s avatar - as bringing righteousness or dharma back to the cosmic and social order.
  • Although Vishnu is mentioned as the origin of the avatars, Krishna, Vasudeva, and Narayana are also considered as names indicating godly features that come down as avatars.
  • There are 10 widely seen major avatars of Vishnu. Rama and Krishna are the 2 most widely worshiped avatars of Vishnu. Different texts mention different avatars of Vishnu. Well before the 10th century CE, the generally accepted number of Vishnu’s avatars was fixed as 10.
  • Mohini is the only female avatar of Vishnu. The different avatars are classified in many different ways.



  • The best 10 avatars of Vishnu are collectively called the Dashavatara. The list of 10 avatars is in the Garuda Purana. The first four avatars appeared in the Satya Yuga, the next three in the Treta Yuga, the eighth in the Dvapara Yuga, the ninth in the Kali Yuga and the tenth, Kalki, is expected at the conclusion of the Kali Yuga.


In the Bhagavata Purana

  • In the Bhagavata Purana, 40 particular avatars of Vishnu are pointed out, although the book mentions that the total is infinite.


Other Vaishnava avatars

  • In Hinduism there are several shades and senses of meaning of the word avatar.


Purusha avatars

  • Sometimes Purusha avatars are defined as the original avatars of Vishnu in the Universe.


Guna avatars

  • Sometimes the personalities of the Hindu trinity are also referred to as Guna avatars due to their parts of controlling the 3 types of gunas of nature.
  1. Shiva – As controller of the mode of ignorance
  2. Vishnu – As controller of the mode of passion and desire
  3. Brahma – As controller of the mode of goodness


Manvantara Avatars

  • Manvantara avatars are beings in charge for creating children throughout the Universe.


Shaktyavesa and Avesa Avatars

  • When Vishnu himself comes down to earth, he is called shaktyavesa-avatara or sakshat but when he doesn’t incarnate directly, and indirectly authorises some living being to symbolise him, that living being is known as an indirect or avesa avatar.
  • As per the Sri Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism, Amsarup avatars and Purana avatars are 2 types of direct avatars.
  • Only the direct, primary avatars are worshipped. The direct avatars that are worshipped today are the Purana avatars of Krishna, Rama and Narasimha. Krishna is considered to be the highest Purana avatar among most Vaishnava traditions. All Hindus believe that there isn’t any difference between worship of Vishnu and His avatars.


In Sikhism

  • In Dasam Granth, the 2nd sacred  book of Sikhs written by Guru Gobind Singh, 24 avatars of Vishnu are mentioned.