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Avatars of Vishnu

by Dr Anthony E. Smart
Avatars were like messengers, aspects of the gods who descended to Earth. In the Hindu mythos, the Avatars of Vishnu are many: firstly, Matsya, which appeared as a fish, to the good king Satyavrate, he and his family, and seven sages and their families having escaped the terrible flood which swamped the world, drowning all its wickedness, mirroring the Great Flood of Christian myth. Like Noah, Satyavrate escaped the deluge in a great ark, filled with the beasts of the earth, and the birds of the sky. The second Avatar, Kurma, appeared as a tortoise, supporting Mount Mandara on his back, while the gods churned the sea for the divine ambrosia. Varaha, the third Avatar, appeared as a boar, to save the Earth when it had been drowned a second time. The boar went into the sea and fished the Earth out on its tusks. Narasinha was the fourth, manifesting himself as a man-lion, to save the world from a monarch who, for his austerities, had been endowed with universal dominion by the gods. The subsequent Avatars were a dwarf, then Rama, hero of the Ramayana, then as Krishna himself. Buddha is also said to have been an Avatar of Vishnu. Nine of these Avatars have passed; the tenth is to be called Kalki Avatara, where he will appear armed with a scimitar, and riding on a white horse, where he will end the present age. After that, he will sleep on the waters, produce Brahma, and inaugurate the new world.

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