CONCEPT OF DIVINE INCARNATIONS IN HINDU THEOLOGY
(I-Discourse by N. R. Srinivasn; May 2012)
Concept of Incarnation
The concept of Incarnation (avataara) is the very cornerstone of Hindu theology. According to it, the Supreme Spirit manifests itself in animal or human forms on earth, with the divine mission of cleansing it of the periodically increasing evil. Avataara concept has given scope for personal gods. Hindus believe in the concept of Personal God (Ishta Devata).
The incarnation concept is closely related to the measurement of time in Hindu theology which has its basis on one working day of Brahma, the creator. According to Bhaagavata Puraana, Brahma, the creator, is the casual effect of the predetermined periodic creation and dissolution of the Universe.
Each creation or Kalpa is equal to one day and each dissolution or Pralaya is equal to one night in the life of Brahma. A Kalpa and Pralaya last for 4,320 million human years each. Every Kalpa has 1000 cycles of four yugas (ages). Each cycle of 4 yugas is completed in 4,320, 000 human years. These are called Satya (Krita), Treta, Dwaapara and Kali.
Lord Krishna declares in Bhagawad-Gita thus;
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir-bhavati Bhaarata /
Abhyuttaana-madharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham //
Paritraanaaya saadhoonam vinaasaaya cha dushkritaam /
Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavami yuge yuge //
"Whenever, O descendant of Bhaarata, there is decline of dharma and rise of adharma, I body myself forth for the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of dharma, I come into being in every Yuga (eon)". This aspect of the Lord is called Incarnation or Avataara in Samskrit. The Samskrit word avataara has two syllables 'ava' meaning to protect and 'taara' meaning conquering or crossing over.
"The doctrine that God can be incarnated in human form is found in most of the principle historic expositions of the perennial philosophy—in Hinduism, in Mohammedanism of
Sufis, Mahaayaana Buddhism, in Christianity……every human being thus can become an avataara by adoption" to quote Aldus Huxley from his Perennial Philosophy.
There are several beliefs regarding the divine incarnation. They are:
1. Supreme God-head comes down from the heaven and assumes the form of human beings;
2. All human beings evolve by leading righteous and pious life. They get enlightened and become noble souls, and finally release the people from worldly bondage (samsaara). They transform the society for a new world order. Hindus believe in both and there are umpteen illustrations for both views in Hinduism; and
3. There is a third theory of Avataaravaada. According to it the full development of avataaravaada seems to have been influenced by Buddhist conception of the former Buddhas, some of whom were worshipped in their own Stupas as early as 300 B.C., that
large number of Buddhists were admitted into the fold of Vaishnavism towards the close of Vedic period as seen in the inclusion of Buddha in the list of Vishnu Avataaras. Buddha said that he was a teacher in search of the truth but never claimed to be God like Krishna. Yet his followers made him God and created many Buddhas. Hindus caught hold of the opportunity.
Types of Incarnations
Incarnations fall under three categories: 1. Incarnations of Lord Vishnu; 2. Incarnations of Lord Shiva; 3. Incarnations of Devi. Among the Hindu Trinity of Gods, Vishnu and Shiva incarnate sometimes with their consorts to free the people from bondage and to bestow grace and salvation to the devotees.
Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, sacred scriptures (eighteen Puranas and Upa Puranas) and Tantra texts narrate countless myths about the incarnations of these Gods and, their purposes and messages.
Incarnation of Vishnu
Vishnu is first referred as the brother of Indra, the ruler of the Vedic people. He is associated with the Lord Sun and traverses the sky. He is praised by the epithet Trivikrama, i.e., who had three giant strides (Rigveda I 154-156; 99-100). He helps Indra in killing the demon Vritra. Vritra appears in the form of massive serpent extending far and wide in the sky and blocking the light and radiance of the Sun. Indra wields his weapon of thunderbolt (Vajraayudha) and kills him. He thus releases the waters and light to humanity.
Rigveda Samhita extols the mighty acts of Vishnu several times and especially his placing the third stride, which is above the realms of the Earth and Nether regions. It declares, "He stepped forth over the realms of earth for freedom and for life (Rigveda I 155.4B).
The famous Purushasookta of Rigveda Samhita describes the Vishnu's (Virat and Viraja- the male and female aspects) body forms the entire Universe. He transforms his body into the entire animate and inanimate objects of the World. This thought gave room for the theory called Brahmaparinaama Vaada (Brahman manifesting into the world) in the Vedanta. The word Vishnu is derived from the root of the Samskrit word 'vish' to enter. It also means 'all pervading', which can be applied to the "Sun God who is everything and contained in everything".
The following Ten Incarnations of Vishnu are considered most significant and are celebrated in sacred hymns composed by great many saints—Matsya, Koorma, Varaaha, Naarasimha, Vaamana, Parasu Rama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. Some scholars believe that these Ten Incarnations of Vishnu (Dasaavataara) depict the evolution of life on earth and compare with the Evolution Theory of Charles Darwin. Some exclude Krishna being a full avatar. They add Balarama instead. Some others do not like Buddha as he was silent on Brahman. They think Bauddha Avatar mentioned in Bhaagavata Puraana is different from this Historic Buddha. Alternately, Mohini Avatar is considered. It is also not clear why Jina (Aadi Natha) who is celebrated as Rishaba in Bhaagavata Purana as an Avataar of Vishnu is not considered while Buddha is controversial and yet favored amongst these Ten Avatars. Balarama is called avataara of Vishnu in Bhaagavata Puraana but in all other religious texts indicated as an avataara of Sesha (serpent).
(TEN POPULAR INCARNATIONS OF VISHNU)
Life starts in water 600-400 million years ago
First amphibians emerge 100 million years ago
First mammals evolve 60 million years ago
Half-man, half-lion (Narasimha)
Our Earliest ancestors
Dwarf Man (Vamana)
Homo erectus, upright, short and weaponsless 5-2 million years ago
Bronze age; the coming of Ramapithecus, development of first weapons such as axe
Homo Sapiens 35000-100000 years ago
Fully developed human being
In the words of Naval K Prinja, "other avataaras such as Rama, Krishna, Buddha etc., can be seen as the continuous process of the mental, moral, intellectual and spiritual development of humanity. The tenth avataara, Kalki, is meant to mark the end of the present cycle of creation.
Adhyaatma Ramayana gives symbolic meaning where Rama and Sita are considered as the very embodiment of Brahman in his dual aspect as the manifest (saguna or vyakta) and the un-manifest (nirguna or avyakta). Rama is the representation of an impersonal absolute existence, where as Sita is personal, creative and self-projecting aspect of Brahman. Similarly, Jayadeva considers Krishna as the embodiment of Brahman and therefore does not include him amongst ten celebrated avatars but says all Avatars emanated from Krishna.
Gita makes a distinction between the divine descents of Rama and Krishna, and reincarnation of individual common souls tainted with Maaya that attain salvation through a continuous struggle. The reason assigned for this is the divine descent has no accumulated actions of the past called Praarabhda Karma in Sanskrit. The empirical reality of the descent as animal or human being (the mortals) is not due to karma as is believed in Sanatana Dharma. Divine descents here do not imply any genetic relationship. The incarnation of the Supreme are not considered as individual souls or Jeevas born due to the force of individual karma. Sometimes they are the incarnations of exalted souls like Buddhaavataara. The birth of a descent or Avatar is taken as Praatibhaashika. It is like a role played as an actor in a play. Puranas say that before every incarnation there is a collective prayer to the Supreme in the form of prayers on the part of all dharmic people including Devas. The very prayer becomes the material cause for the Supreme to assume a body to protect the people by re-establishing Dharma.
Analyzing the technical aspects of Evolution Theory it follows that: 1) the first born one cell microorganism may only grow bigger but it can never produce sense organs on its own; 2) the adaptation or natural selection process can only effect to change the body color or a slight change in the appearance of the body behaviors; and 3) technically the mutation process has a very narrow margin of DNA alterations; So it is unable to create a brand new species. It could only multiply the number of species of only one category.
Some religious leaders and philosophers therefore do not like to compare divine descents with the materialistic doubtful scientific postulations. The avatars of fish to half-lion half-man took place with specific reasons for specific purposes at celestial level and are not related to the evolution process on the earth in their opinion. Also according to them our Puranas and Vedas say that the Supreme creator Brahma, in turn created Swayambhuva and Sataroopa. The creation started from them with four wise sages of highest intellectual order who were not interested in procreation further. It is therefore not logical to think that evolution started with low order of fish, tortoise, boar etc., even though the pattern from the fish working up to nobleman fits very well with much questioned Darwin's Evolution Theory. (Please also see Appendix)
According to Bhagavata Purana, there are twenty-two incarnations of Lord Vishnu. They consist twelve more incarnations besides the ten principle avatars popularly known as Dasavataaras. These are: 1) Sanatkumara (earliest creation); 2) Sage Narada (exponent of Bhakti and Tantras); 3) Saints Nara and Narayana; 4) Sage Kapila (founder of Samkhya system; 5) Dattatreya (the great magician who restored Vedic rites and originated Tantric rites; 6) Yagna Purusha (Lord Vishnu identified as the Sacrifice); 7) Rishabha (founder of the pre-Aryan Jain philosophy; 8) King Prithu; 9) Dhanvantari (founder of Ayurveda—he came from the Ocean of Milk holding the divine elixir, Amrita; 10) Balaraama (came as the brother of Lord Krishna--he is the embodiment of virtues); 11) Sage Vedavyaasa (author of Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana); and 12) Mohini (the enchanter who deprived the demons of the divine elixir Amrita). There are still more Avatars of Lord Vishnu like Hayasirsha or Hayagreeva (horse headed) who killed the demons Madhu and Kaitabha and rescued Vedas from them., Hamsa, a swan like mythical bird, an incarnation of Vishnu in Krita Yuga, Varadaaja (Karivarada) who rescued the elephant in Gajendramoksha etc.
Vedanta Desika does not consider Buddha amongst most important Dasaavataaras. Instead, he has glorified Balaraama in his Dasaavataara hymns. Some other saints have included Mohini avataara amongst Dasaavataara deleting Buddha because of his silence over God. The Buddha mentioned in Matsya Purana and many others, is not the fountainhead of Buddhism. He is identified with Maayamoha, the wily teacher who tricked demons into giving up the Vedas, which they stole earlier from Devas. Rishis recovered these thrown out Vedas and restored them to their past glory.
Incarnations of Siva
Shiva is the annihilator of the World. He destroys the world at the end of every epoch and helps Brahma in the new creation. He is called Rudra in the Rigveda and they are eleven in numbers. The forms of Rudra appear terrible and graceful also. Satarudriya hymn of the Yajurveda portray many aspects of Shiva of classical Shaivism. The deadly form of Rudra in the Vedic age was transformed into the pleasant form of auspiciousness, Shiva, during the epics as opined by a number of scholars. Shiva's forms are many. Many are the places in which he resides. Many are the forms of his grace. Shiva assumes all the forms i.e. of animate and inanimate beings. He represents the transformation of the World from Microcosm to Macrocosm.
Shiva Purana deals with many of his incarnations. The main among them are:
- The incarnation of Nandi (bull) who is the son of Silada.
- Bhairavanatha, son of Suchchismati
- The incarnation of mythical animal (Saardulaavataara)
- The incarnation of Yaksha (Demi-god, Guardian of the Treasures)
- The incarnation of a hunter (Kiraataavataara)
- The symbol of a Linga (abstract form), as Jyoti
[Sardoola avartara is a form of mythological lion similar to Narasimha Avataara in Vaishnavism. These mythological figures can be seen sculpted on the pillars of Rameshvaram Temple. They are called Vyaali or Yaali in Tamil. Perhaps this avataara is the reason why Narasimha worship is popular in Orissa even in Siva temples like in Bhuvanesvar confusing with normal lion. Probably Ratna Simhaasana at Puri had at one time Sardoola not necessarily Bhairava as the avatar of Siva on Ratnavedi contrary to the belief. This has prompted Narasimha worship there also.]
The profounders and the interpreters of Vedanta Schools namely Adi Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya are considered the incarnations of Shiva, Adisesha and Vaayu respectively. Madhvacharya according to some is the incarnation of Vishnu, Hayagreeva. The followers of Buddhism and Jainism believe that Buddha and Mahavira are incarnations. In fact, Buddha assumed several births such as Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, Bodhisatva and other beings before attaining Buddhahood in his birth. Like Jainas, the Buddhists also have a notion of twenty-four Buddhas who were responsible for the spread and stability of Dharma amidst humanity. Gautama appeared as 25th Buddha. Mahavir Vardahamaana is the 24th Teerthankara; he is now worshipped in all Jain Temples and even installed in solitary Hindu Temple Overseas. Hanuman is considered as an avatar of Rudra, Vaayu and Vishnu. Saardula is one of the mounts of Vishnu, which is displayed in all temple pillars. This is known as Yaali or Vyaali and is taken out in procession during Brahmotsavam in all Vishnu Temples with Vishnu seated on its back.
Incarnation of Devi
Since the time of the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilizations, Mother Goddess Sampradaya (tradition) has been prominent. The Goddess is called Devi in Sanskrit (one who shines). The worship of Goddess began with the Rigveda in the form of a hymn offered to Earth Goddess, Prithvi. Uma is the supreme deity, the primordial power (Adi Paraasakti). She plays the dual role of virgin and a mother. Goddess Earth is referred to as Uma, the daughter of Himavan in Kenopanishad; the Saivites made her consort of Shiva popularly called Parvati, the daughter of Mountain King. Shakti schools term her as an active principle of the entire universe (Prakriti or Maya). Without her grace or help, the Trinity of Gods cannot perform their duties.
Goddess Parvati, Uma had several incarnations. Among them, most popular one is that of Mahishasuramardhini who kills the demon Mahishasura and frees the three worlds from the terror penetrated by him and his deadly tribe. Although she assumed several forms, they are but manifestations of Supreme Goddess. Shiva is the male principle and Shakti is the female principle. He is representative of Purusha and she is that of Prakriti according to Sankhya Philosophy. He is the bondage where as she is the liberation and Mahamaaya. She is both ignorance (avidya) and higher knowledge (vidya).
A Tantra text namely Tripura Rahasya declares: "There is no such thing as bondage or liberation. There is no such thing as seeker and the means of seeking. Part-less non-dual consciousness, Tripura alone provides everything. She is knowledge and ignorance, bondage and liberation too. She is also the means of liberation. This is all one has to know-- "The power to release oneself from bondage is within himself is in the form of Kundalini. It is coiled up potential energy, which can be harnessed by practicing Hata and Kundalini Yogas".
In his Brahmasutra Bhashya, Sankaracharya recognizes "Shakti as the root of all phenomenal existence as the root of bondage and creation. This world is dissolved to that extent, that only that the Shakti of the world remains and produced from the root of the Shakti. Adishakti is identical to Brahman, who is the creative force behind creating the world and creation is one with the force that pervades it".
Incarnation of Lakshmi
Sri or Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth, Fortune, Power and Beauty, celebrated in the Vedas. Sometimes Vedas give a feeling that Sri and Lakshmi are different. Probably Sri of pre-Vedic period was merged with Lakshmi of Vedic period. Similarly, Purushasookta mentions of Hree (modesty) as the other consort being different from Lakshmi.
According to Puraanas, in the first incarnation she was the daughter of sage Bhrighu and Khyaati. She was then born along with her elder sister Alakshmi while churning the ocean. Whenever Vishnu was born as an Avataara, his wife Lakshmi also assumed the human form. Hence, we have Padmaa or Kamalaa (consort of Vamana), Dharinee (consort of Parasurama), Sita(Consort of Rama) and Rukmini (consort of Krishna). Narasimha is always shown with Lakshmi as Lakshmee Narasimha. Although Rukmini happened to be the lawful wife of Krishna, Radha, childhood friend assumes a greater role in the Bhakti traditions of Hinduism and their erotic love is described with all fanfare (Jayadeva's Gita Govinda). This relationship of Krishna and Radha outside the purview of marriage is philosophically interpreted as the union of the individual soul (jeevaatma) with the Supreme Soul (Paramaatma). When Lakshmi is shown with eight hands with weapons, she is Mahalakshmi, an aspect of Durga. We have in Kaliyuga avataara of Lakshmi as Padmavati, consort of Lord Venkateshwara. The Sthalapuranas (Locolized mythology) speak of various avataaras of Lakshmi—Aandal, Vedavalli, Ranganayaki etc.
Alakshmi (Deity of Misfortune) was also born during the churning of the ocean (Ksheerasaagara) earlier to Lakshmi. She is also call Jyeshtaa Devi. Her images find place in some temples. She is propitiated to dispel evil and grant prosperity similar to worshipping of Saturn. She married Sage Dussaha (unbearable). According some others she married Sage Kapila. Sometimes she is identified with Lakshmi. Pairs of opposite are quite common in Hindu concept. So ascribing both the Avataaras to one Devi may not come as a surprise. Srisookta mentions: "Kshutpipaasaamalaa Jyeshthaam Alakshmeem naasayaamy-aham"—I will be able to overcome the Deity of Misfortune, Alakshmee who is your first born and who inflicts hunger and thirst on me, with your help and grace.
Lakshmi is regarded as the divinity directly responsible for the evolution of the Universe and creation. She is called Lokamaata (Universal Mother) and celebrated in Lakshmi Tantra and Seeprasna Samhita. According to Tantric school of thought Subhadra in Puri is considered to be this Divine Mother and so she is the central figure in Ratna Simhasana. She is not the puranic Subhadra, the sister of Krishna. Sudarshana who is installed to her left is her attendant and not the Chakra in the right hand of Vishnu. It is customary to show Devi with her attendant. Puri is called according to them as Sri Kshetra, the Holy City of Mother Goddess.
Lakshmi is celebrated in her eight forms and worshiped as Ashtalakshmi. They are: 1.Aadya Lakshmi(deity as primordial creative power); Vidyaa Lakshmi (deity as power of learning); Santaana Lakshmi (deity of progeny as abundance and prosperity); Saubhaagya Lakshmi (deity of well-being and happiness); Dhana Lakshmi (deity of wealth); Veerya Lakshmi (deity of valor and energy); Vijaya Lakshmi (deity of success and glory); and Mahaa lakshmi. These deities are worshiped almost like Dasaavataaras. Puraanas also mention of eight Saktis of Vishnu: Sreedevi (Deity of Wealth); Bhoodevi (Deity Mother Earth); Sarasvati (Deity of Learning); Preeti (Deity of Love); Keerti (Deity of Fame); Shanti (Deity of Peace); Tushti (Deity of Pleasure); Pushti (Deity of Strength). These deities do not come under the definition of Divine Incarnations in the opinion of Vaishnavites. They are emanations of Mahalakshmi like Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna who are emanations of Vishnu.
Mahaa Lakshmi is not considered as consort of Vishnu but as the primordial energy manifesting herself as Mahaa Saraswati (as Sattva) Mahaalakshmi (as Rajas) and Mahaakaali (as Tamas) from whom the three gods Brahmaa, Vishnu and Rudra took shape to create, preserve and dissolve the universe in Sakta concept.
Review of Incarnation
Avatars are not limited to Hinduism alone. They happen worldwide. Holy Koran tells Moslems that the last Judgment will come at the end of this age and that Allah will pronounce judgment on every one. Hindus believe that at the end of Kaliyuga that is, about 427,000 years from today, Supreme will descend as Kalki on a white horse. Similarly, Christians also believe the appearance of Christ within one thousand years on a white horse (Revelation 6:1-2). The early Christians believed the Resurrection and preached it. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus described Himself: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever more… and have the keys of hell and of death." A man conversing with a Brahmin priest asked, "Could you say, 'I am the resurrection and the life?'" "Yes, I could say that" replied the priest. The conversation ended when the man asked: "But could you make anyone believe it?" (Nashville Christian Family, April 2011, Why the Resurrection of Jesus is the biggest truth in the Bible). Resurrection is the Achilles heel of Christian Faith that cannot argue against Avataaravaada and dismisses it as mythology. But who this Brahmin, is not clarified.
Christians all over the world generally believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this world to save humanity from deep suffering. Jesus said, "I and my father are one". Moses said the same when he uttered the prophetic words earlier: "I am that I am". Both of them are implying the mystic vision of oneness with God, which in Upanishadic thinking is termed as: "Tat tvam asi", "Thou art That" or "You are That". Professor J.B. Haldane, a world-renowned biologist used to begin his class every year explaining the concept "Tat tvam asi" to his students. The idea of one immutable God and yet impersonal in his nature pervades all advanced religions, so the conception of avatar, the Supreme Being descending upon Earth in human form seems to be universal. God descends upon Earth in the form of man to instruct man how to ascend towards him. Christianity believes in a personal God, i.e. Jesus Christ just as Shankara's concept of Lord Shiva, Ramanuja's personal God Sriman Narayana and Madhvacharya's personal God Sri Krishna.
The concept of a Personal God or a Theistic God is a natural outcome of Incarnation, which all the Sampradayas (traditions) in Hindu Theology present in their interpretations of Vedanta. This God is personalized, worshiped, praised and meditated upon by the devotees or spiritual seekers striving hard for salvation.
The Paanchraatra Tradition puts forth the theory that Lord Vishnu has four aspects of manifestation: 1) Para or the Supreme; 2) Vyooha or the emanation; 3) Vibhava or the Incarnation; and 4) Archa or Icon. Pancharaatra Concept of Vyuha is very close to the Concept of Divine Incarnation.
Para is the Brahman in his Supreme, in all his glory. Vibhava represents the incarnations dealt above. Archa is the descent of the Lord into the icon or Moorti ceremonially installed by Kumbaabhishekam and worshipped in temples. The Vyooha or emanations are four in number. It is often called Chaturvyooha or Chaturmoorthi. The Chaturmoorthis are: Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. In mythology Vasudeva is Lord Krishna, Sankarshana is his brother Balarama, Pradyumna is Krishna's son and Aniruddha is Krishna's grand son. Vasudeva represents Chitta (Consciousness); Sankarshana represents Ahankaara (Ego); Pradyuman represents Buddhi (Intellect); and Aniruddha represents Manas (mind). Later these have been increased to twenty four to merge with Gayatri Mantra as described in my lecture in Pooja Vidhanam. Iconographically these four are represented by Sankha (Conch), Chakra (Discus), Gadaa (Mace) and Padma (Lotus). Paancharaatra theology often adds another aspect Antaryamin (Inner-self) to Vyuhas, which cannot be represented by icons.
Ten Incarnations of Vishnu are accommodated within the four Vyuhas of Pancharaatra Theology. Vasudeva—Vaamana and Krishna; Sankarshana—Matsya, Koorma, Parasu Raama, Rama and Kalki; Pradyumna—Buddha; and Aniruddha--Varaaha and Nrisimha.
Regarding the question of the absence of the incarnation of Brahma, one possible answer is that Brahma had occupied a predominant position in the early phases of the Vedic period but was replaced by Indra, Vishnu and Rudra in the later phases and by Rama, Shiva and Krishna in the Epic and Puranic age. Hence, Lord Brahma is not regularly worshiped in India although there is a temple dedicated to him in Pushkar Rajasthan. The reason for Brahma having very few temples is explained in the legends. But why Brahma's spouse Saraswathi, has very few temples is not mentioned anywhere. There is probably no Hindu house, which does not honor Saraswathi and Lakshmi, at least by having pictures of these Goddesses in some room or other. Saraswathi Puja is widely observed, yet it is strange that there are only three temples for this Goddess in India. These are: one at Panchikad near Kottayam in Kerala, second in Kasahmir and the third on the banks of the river Gautami in the village Basra in Madhol Taluq of Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh. She is also installed in the house temple of Sringeri Sakara Math as Sadrada Devi.
Divine Incarnations gave ample scope and creativity to Hindu artists and sculptors to represent in manifold ways the Ten Avataaras in Hindu Temples all over the country and in South-East Nations. The outer walls, the bass relief, the inner walls of many temples have a number of sculptures depicting the various aspects of avatars. There are also exclusive Hindu Temples for the various avatas with the exception of (Matsya, Buddha) the most popular being that of Rama, Krishna and Narasimha. There is one for Varaaha-Narasimha (combined avataara?) in Srisailam. There are Temples for other Avatars mentioned in Bhaagavata Puraana like Hayagreeva, Dhanvantari, Vyaasa, Dattaatrey etc. Vedanta Desika and Jayadeva have composed stotras, sacred hymns in praise of the most celebrated Dasaavataaras of Lord Vishnu, which are chanted regularly by ardent devotees.
This discourse is prepared by extracting, abridging and editing from the following texts by N.R.Srinivasan for the Vedanta class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville;
- Dr M.K.Sridhar, Kumbhabhishekam Souvenir, May 2004, Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Ga., U.S.A.
- Ed. Viswanathan, Am I A Hindu? Rupa & Co., New Delhi, India.
- T.K.Mukundan, A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
- Pratap Mulick, Dasha Avatar, Amar Chitra Katha, India Book House, New Delhi, India.
- Swami Prakashanand, True History and Religion of India, International Society of Divine Love, Barsana Dham, TX., USA
- Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
A NOTE ON HUMAN EVOLUTION FROM FISH
Dr. Michael Mosley in his recent broadcast on BBC, talks about "Anatomical Clues to Human Evolution from Fish".
Extracts from his talk are reproduced below in support of his theory:
It seems strange that humans have evolved from fish, but the evidence can be found not just in fossils but also with our own bodies.
The following observations can be made if one watches the video picture of the face developing from one-month-old embryo to an age of 10 weeks. If you watch closely, you will see that the human face is actually formed from three main sections, which rotate and come together in an unborn fetus.
The early human embryo looks very similar to the embryo of any other mammal, bird or amphibian all of which evolved from fish.
The way this happens only really makes sense when you realize that strange though it may sound we are actually descended from fish:
- Your eyes start out on the sides of your head, but then move to the middle.
- The top lip along with the jaw and palate started life as a gill-like structure on your neck.
- Your nostrils and the middle part of your lip come down from the top of your head.
Dasaavatar Stotra from Varaahapuraana
The following is a rare Dasavatara Stuti (hymn on Lord Vishnu’s Ten Incarnations) by Sage Gauramukha taken from Varaha Puranam and Chapter 15. Sage Gauramukha is said to have attained Apunarbhava (emancipation) after worshipping Lord Vishnu with this hymn.
Gauramukha uvāca :
Stoṣhye mahendraṁ ripu-darpahaṁ śivaṁ nārāyaṇaṁ brahmavidāṁ-variṣṭham |
āditya candrā'śviyugasthaṁ ādyaṁ purātanaṁ daitya-haraṁ sadā harim || 1 ||
Chakara mātsyaṁ vapurātmano yaḥ purātanaṁ veda-vināśa-kāle |
mahāmahībhṛd vapuragra pucchac-chaṭāhavārciḥ sura-śatruhā 'dyaḥ || 2 ||
Tathā 'bdhi-manthāna-kṛte girīndraṁ dadhāra yaḥ kaurma-vapuḥ purāṇam |
hitecchayāptaḥ puruṣaḥ purāṇaḥ prapātu māṁ daitya-haraḥ sureśaḥ || 3 ||
Mahāvarāhaḥ satataṁ pṛthivyās talāttalalamprāviśadyo mahātmā |
yajñāṅga saṁjñaḥ sura-siddha-saṅghaiḥ sa pātu māṁ daitya-haraḥ purāṇaḥ || 4 ||
Nṛsiṁha-rūpo cha babhūva yo'sau yuge yuge yuge yogivarograbhīmaḥ |
karāla-vaktraḥ kanakāgravarcāvarāśayo 'smān asurāntako 'vyāt || 5 ||
Baler-makha-dhvaṁsa-kṛd aprameyo yogātmako yogavapuḥ svarūpaḥ |
sa daṇḍakāṣṭhājina lakṣaṇaḥ punaḥ kṣitiṁ ya ākrāntavapuḥ punātu || 6 ||
Triḥsapta-kṛtvo jagatīṁ jigāya kṛtvā dadau kaśyapāya pracaṇḍaḥ |
Sa jāmadagnyo 'bhijanasya goptā hiraṇyagarbho 'surahā prapātu || 7 ||
Chatuḥ prakārañca vapur ya ādyaṁ hairaṇyagarbha pratimāna lakṣyam |
Rāmādi-rūpair bahu-rūpa-bhedañ cakāra so 'smān asurāntako 'vyāt || 8 ||
Chāṇūra-kaṁsā'sura-darpa-bhīter bhītā 'marāṇāṁ abhayāya devaḥ |
yuge yuge vāsudevo babhūva kalpe bhavatyadbhuta-rūpakārī || 9 ||
Yuge yuge kalki-nāmnā mahātmā varṇa-sthitiṁ kartuṁ aneka-rūpaḥ |
sanātano brahmamayaḥ purātano na yasya rūpaṁ sura-siddha-daityāḥ |
Paśyanti vijñāna-gatiṁ vihāya ato yamenā'pi samarcayanti ||10||
matsyādi-rūpāṇi carāṇi so 'vyāt || 11 ||
namo namaste puruṣottamāya punaśca bhūyo 'pi namo namaste |
Nayasva māṁ mukti-padaṁ namaste || 12 || ||
Iti śrīvarāha purāṇe ādikṛta-vṛttānte gauramukha-kṛta daśāvatāra stutiḥ sampūrṇam