THE UNIVERSAL COMPENDIUM





The Avatars of Vishnu

# Main Avatar Other Names Affiliation Description
1 Matsya Ekasringatanu, Meena, Mina   A single-horned fish
2 Kurma Kacchapa, Kamathesvara   A tortoise
3 Varaha Yajna-Varaha, Yajna-Sukara, Sukara, Shukara   A boar
4 Narasimha Narahari   A man-lion
5 Vamana Urukrama, Trivikrama, Upendra   A dwarf
6 Parasurama
 
Bhrugupati, Bhargava Rama, Jamadagnya   Warrior-with-the-axe, defeated the Kshatriyas
7 Rama Ram Chandra, Dasharathi Rama, Rama Dhanurdhara   A deity and perfect king
8 Krishna   Satvata A deity of love and vegetation
9 Buddha     The founder of Buddhism
10 Kalki Kalkin   A man on a white horse, yet to appear
Other Avatars Other Names   Description
Ajit Ajita   Invincible, unsurpassed
Ananta Shesha, Shesha, Adishesha Balarama, Sankarshana Divine serpent
Badava Badabavaktra Aurva, Hayasira A mare, the submarine fire
Balarama Balabhadra, Baladeva, Balabhadrarama, Haladhara Satvata Elder brother of Krishna. Alternatively, a partial incarnation of Ananta.
Dattatreya/Datta     A rishi and son of Atri and Anusuya.
Dhanvantari      Founder of Ayurveda, the scripture of medicine
Dharma Deva      Personification of right conduct
Dhruva      A rishi, and the pole star personified.
Ekarnavasayin     Sleeping with Lakshmi on the primeval waters
Hamsa     A sacred bird, swan, or wild goose, able to separate milk from water.
Hari     One of the four sons of the god Dharma and his wife Ahimsa; he counselled in meritorious works.
Hayagriva   Vagisvara A Daitya who recovered the stolen Veda; or a form of Vishnu with a horse's head.
Hayasira   Hayagriva, Badava Horse-head form, vomits fire and drinks up the waters
Kalanemighna   Rahujit Conqueror of Kalameni
Kantatman    Dhanvantari A handsome youth, incarnation of Pradyuma or Kama, and son of Krishna.
Kapila     An ancient rishi, founder and teacher of the philosophical system of Samkhya.
Krishna (II)     One of the four sons of the god Dharma and his wife Ahimsa; he practised austerities.
Krodatman Krodhatma Varaha, Yajna Yajna Varaha/Yajna ukara, aspect of the Boar incarnation.
Lokanatha   Pursa, Manu Vaivasvata Lord of the worlds
Madhusudana   Krishna Killer of the demon Madhu
Makaradhvaja     Son of Hanuman
Manas     The Mind
Mandhata     A king of the Solar Dynasty
Manu Vaivasvata     The seventh Manu, survivor of the great flood, and progenitor of the human race.
Mohini     Vishnu in female form with whom Shiva fell in love.
Nara     One of the four sons of the god Dharma and his wife Ahimsa; a hermit of divine powers, he recited mantras.
Narada Devarishi, Parameshthi Surarishi   A divine rishi to whom some hymns of the Rig-vida are ascribed and the expounder of the Sattvata system.
Narayana     One of the four sons of the god Dharma and his wife Ahimsa; a hermit of penance, he was deeply absorbed in meditation.
Nyagrodhasayin     A male child floating on a nyagrodha branch in whose mouth revealed the dissolved universe.
Padmanabha     He grew a lotus on his navel from which Brahman emerged.
Parijatahara     Krishna who took the celestial tree from Indra
Patalasayana     Lord of the cataclysmic fire
Piyushaharana Amrtaharana   Restorer of immortality to the gods
Pruthu Prthu, Prithi, Prithivainya   The first consecrated king, the earth was named Prthvi after him.
Rahujit   Kalanemighna Conqueror of Rahu
Rishabha Rsabha   A king and great ascetic
Saktyatman Shaktyatman   Assumes any form as prayed for by the devotee
Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana, Sanatkumara     Four brothers who were rishis and remained children forever.
Santatman   Sanatkumara or Sanaka; Narada Having a mind full of compassion, carrying the conch and lotus in his hands, showing the threefold path of knowledge, renunciation, and virtuous deeds.²
Satya     Truth
Sripati     Husband of Lakshmi
Vaikuntha     Carried out the task of creation with the five elements without hindrance.
Valmiki     A rishi, and traditional author of the earliest-known Ramayana.
Vedavyasa     A rishi and author of the Vedas, the Vedanta Sutras, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavatam.
Vedavid   Vedavyasa Conversant with the Vedas
Vidyadhideva     Four-faced Brahman, Lord  of Viraj
Vihangama   Hamsa A soldier of the giant Khara
Vishvarupa     Appeared to Arjuna on the battlefield
Yajna   Hamsa Personification of sacrifice


Notes


The main avatars are complete incarnations, whilst the others are considered partial. Vishnu is said to have thousands of incarnations. The better-known ones are listed here.
1. 'Shanti Parva' includes Satvata on its list of incarnations who is either Krishna or his brother Balarama
2. This is the only description of Santatman which appears in Sattvata Samhita, S. XII, 110.

Sources

1. R. Dalal. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2010.
2. J. Dowson. A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. London: Trübner & Co., 1879.
3. G.R. Garg, gen. ed. Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Volume 1, A-Aj. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1992.
4. V. Mani. Puranic Encyclopaedia. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
5. F.O. Schrader. Introduction to the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita. Adyar, Madras: Adyar Library 1916.
6. M.L. Varadpande. Mythology of Vishnu and His Incarnations. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 



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