Manifestations of the Divine – avatars

An avatar is an appearance or an incarnation of a god or goddess on Earth. Hindus believe that a god or goddess takes the form of a human or animal in times of great need, to save humanity from danger or evil. For example:

  • The seventh avatar of Vishnu is Lord Rama, who lived on Earth and fought the evil ten-headed demon Ravana.
  • The eighth avatar of Vishnu is Lord Krishna, who is very widely loved and worshipped in Hindu communities today.

Hindu stories tell of many different avatars. In Vaishnavite Hindu communities, the ten appearances of the great god Vishnu are especially important examples of avatars.

Avatars of Vishnu

Vishnu is one of the three gods of the trimurti. As the god of preservation, he keeps life going. To do this, he has appeared nine times on Earth across the ages (and a tenth avatar is still to come in the future). The most famous avatars of Vishnu are the seventh (Rama) and the eighth (Krishna). The tenth and final avatar is called Kalki. The stories say he will ride in on a white horse to destroy all the evil in the world.

1Matsya – The Fish
2Kurma – The Tortoise
3Varaha – The Boar
4Narasimha – The Man-Lion
5Vamana – The Dwarf
6Parasurama – The Angry Man
7Lord Rama – The Perfect Man
8Lord Krishna – The Divine Statesman
9Balarama – Krishna’s Elder Brother
10Kalki – The Mighty Warrior (still to come)
Question

In Hindu worship, what is an avatar?

Avatars are appearances of the gods and goddesses on Earth. Examples include the ten avatars of Vishnu.