When most people think of Avatars they think of the recent Blockbuster hit by James Cameron. But the original concept of Avatars stems from the Hindu Religion and is most widely associated with Hindu God Vishnu. Within Hinduism, Avatars are thought to be descendants of Hindu deity’s, deliberately placed upon earth. The reason Hindu God Vishnu, the Preserver, is most closely associated with this concept is because he is thought to have many, each with a specific aim or purpose in existence.
Within the Bhagavad Gita there is a passage that describes the purpose of these destined Avatars of Vishnu as bringing about dharma back to the social order of the world:
“Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth. For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being age after age.”
Another reason for the close association with Vishnu and his Avatars is because his descendants are thought to be integral to his teachings. Other deities do not have such close ties to their descendants.
Although there are thought to be countless descendants of Vishnu in some respects, there are 10 main avatars that are often referred to as Dasavatara. Krishna and Rama are the most widely known of Vishnu’s 10 avatars.
The other 8 are as follows:
1) Matsya- fish avatar
2) Kurma- tortoise avatar
3) Varaha- boar avatar
4) Narasimha- half man-half lion avatar
5) Vamana -dwarf avatar
6) Parashurama- sage avatar
7) Gautama Buddha
8) Kaliki- who has yet to come