According to Indian Epics and Sacred Relics, An
Avatar is Supreme Consciousness, in human form incarnated directly on
Earth, for a specific purpose. The purpose has been mostly to uphold and
rejuvenate Dharma and reilluminate the forgotten or being forgotten ways
AND LIFE SPAN
Lord Brahma, the embodiment of Lord Vishnu has a life-span of one
hundred years. His life-span is also called ‘Par’, and half of its
period is known as ‘Parardha’. One ‘Kashtha’ consists of 15 Nimesha
while a Kala consists of 30 ‘Kashthas’. A muhurta consists of 30 Kalas.
The periods of 30 muhurtas are equal to one day and Night of the human
beings. A month of this world is equivalent to 30 days and nights. Six
months make an ‘Ayan’ and a year consists of two ‘Ayans’. These two ‘Ayans’
are also known by two other names—Dakshinayan and Uttarayan.
Dakshinayan is the night of the deities where as Uttarayan is their day.
Four yugas are equivalent to twelve thousand years of the deities, which
occur in a cyclic order—Satya, Treta, Dwapar and Kaliyuga. The periods
of these yugas are as follows—
Satya Yuga = 4000 years
Treta Yuga = 3000 years
= 2000 years
Kali Yuga = 1000 years
Total = 10,000
Each yuga is followed by the hibernation
periods of ‘Sandhya’ and Sandhyansh, which are as follows– Sandhya
Satya Yuga 400 400
Treta Yuga 300 300
Dwapar Yuga 200 200
Kali Yuga 100 100
Total : 1000
years ! 1000 years
Four Yuga are collectively known as ‘Chaturyuga’.
A Brahma’s day consists of one-thousand such ‘Chaturyugas’. Altogether,
fourteen Manu appear during this whole period of 1000 Chaturgas or in
other words a day of Lord Brahma. Each ‘Manvantar’ is named after a Manu
and is equivalent to little more than 71 Chaturyugas. It also has its
own Indra, Saptarishis and other deities. This way, a manvantar is also
equivalent to 8,52,000 years of the deities or divine years. Going by
the standard of the years of this world a manvantar is equivalent to
30,67,20,000 years. On the basis of the years of this world, a Brahma’s
day is equivalent to 30,67,20,000 x 14 = 4,29,40,80,000 yrs. This is the
period after which a Brahma’s day is over and a deluge takes place when
all the three worlds becomes devoid of life due to unbearable heat. Lord
Brahma then takes rest for the same period (4,29,40,80,000 yrs) which is
After the night is over, Lord Brahma again commences his creation. So,
this process continues for the whole period of Brahma’s life span, i.e.
100 yrs.” Bheeshma requested Sage Pulastya to describe how Lord Brahma
created life in the beginning of the present Kalpa.
Pulastya replied— At the end of the previous kalpa when Lord Brahma
awakened from his sleep, he found the whole earth submerged in water. He
meditated on Lord Vishnu, who took the incarnation of ‘Varah’ and
retrieved the earth and established it in its original position. Lord
Brahma then created all the four worlds–Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka, Swargloka
and Maharloka and divided the earth into seven islands.
First of all, Lord Brahma created the ‘Mahattatva’. After that he
created the ‘Tanmatras’, Indriyas (sense-organs), the immovable things
like mountains, rivers, animals, deities, demons, human beings etc.
purpose is to destroy evil on earth and establish righteousness. Vishnu
is regarded as the preserver of the universe and it is therefore
Vishnu’s incarnations that one encounters most often. Vishnu has already
had nine such incarnations and the tenth and final incarnation is due in
the future. These ten incarnations of Vishnu are as follows.
(1) Matsya avatara or fish incarnation
(2) Kurma avatara or turtle incarnation
(3) Varaha avatara or boar incarnation
(4) Narasimha avatara – an incarnation
in the form of a being who was half-man and half-lion.
(5) Vamana avatara or dwarf incarnation
(10) Kalki – this is the incarnation
that is yet to come.
years ago, the whole world was destroyed. The destruction in fact
extended to all the three lokas (Worlds) of bhuloka, bhuvarloka and
svarloka. Bhuloka is the earth, svarloka or svarga is heaven and
bhuvarloka is a region between the earth and heaven. All there worlds
were flooded with water. Vaivasvata Manu was
the son of the sun-god. He had spent ten thousand years in prayers and
tapasya (meditation) in the hermitage vadrika. This hermitage was on the
banks of the river Kritamala. Once Manu came
to the river to perform his ablutions. He immersed his hands in the
water to get some water for his ablutions. When he raised them, he found
that there was a small fish swimming in the water in the cup of his
hands. Manu was about to throw the fish back
into the water when the fish said, “Don’t throw me back. I am scared of
alligators and crocodiles and big fishes. Save me.”
found an earthen pot in which he could keep the fish. But soon the fish
became too big for the pot and Manu had to find a larger vessel in which
the fish might be kept. But the fish became too big for this vessel as
well and Manu had to transfer the fish to a take. But the fish grew and
grew and became too large for the lake. So Manu transferred the fish to
the ocean. In the ocean, the fish grew until it became gigantic.
By now, Manu’s wonder knew no bounds. He said, “Who are you? You
must be the Lord Vishnu, I bow down before you. Tell me, why are you
tantalising me in the form of a fish?”
replied, “I have to punish the evil and protect the good. Seven days
from now, the ocean will flood the entire world and all beings will be
destroyed. But since you have saved me, I will save you. When the world
is flooded, a boat will arrive here. Take the saptarshis (seven sages)
with that boat. Don’t forget to take the seeds of foodgrains with you. I
will arrive and you will then fasten the boat to my horn with a huge
Saying this, the fish disappeared.
Everything happened as the fish had
promised it would. The ocean became turbulent and Manu climbed into the
boat. He tied the boat to the huge horn that the fish had. He prayed to
the fish and the fish related the Matsya Purana to him. Eventually, when
the water receded, the boat was anchored to the topmost peak of the
Himalayas. And living beings were created once again.
(demon) named Hayagriva had stolen the sacred texts of the Vedas and the
knowledge of the brahman. In his form of a fish, Vishnu also killed
Hayagriva and recovered the Vedas.
years ago there was a war between the devas (gods) and the daityas
(demons) and the gods lost this war. They prayed to Vishnu to rescue
them from the oppression of the demons. Vishnu told Brahma and the other
gods that they should have a temporary truce with the demons. The two
sides should get together to churn the ocean. Vishnu would ensure that
the devas benefited more from this churning of the ocean than the
truce was agreed upon and the two sides got ready to churn the ocean.
The mountain Mandara was used as a churning rod and great sake Vasuki as
the rope for churning. The devas grasped Vasuki’s tail and the daityas
grasped Vasuki’s head. But as the churning began, the mountain Mandara
which had no base, started to get immersed in the ocean. What was to be
done? Lord Vishnu came to the rescue. He adopted the form of a turtle
and the peak was balanced on the turtle’s back.
churning continued, terrible poison named kalkuta emerged from the
depths of the ocean and was swallowed by Shiva. Shiva’s throat became
blue from this poison and he is therefore known as Nilakantha, blue of
throat. The goddess Varuni, the goddess of wine (sura), came out next.
The gods readily accepted her and thus they came to be known as suras.
But the demons rejected Varuni and were therefore known as asuras. She
was followed by the Parijata tree, a beautiful tree that came to occupy
the pride of place in Indra’s garden. A jewel named koustubha emerged
and was accepted by Vishnu as his adornment. Three wonderful animals
came out next – the cow Kapila, the horse Ucchaishrava and the elephant
Airavata. They were followed by the apsaras, beautiful women who became
the dancers of heaven. They were known as apsaras because they emerged
from ap (water). The goddess Lakshmi or Shri came out next and was
united with Vishnu.
Dhanvantari emerged with a pot of amrita (the life – giving drink) in
his hands. Dhanvantari was the originator of medicine (ayurveda). The
daityas led by Jambha gave half of the amrita to the devas and departed
with the remaining half.
Vishnu quickly adopted the form of a beautiful woman. So beautiful was
the woman that the demons were charmed. “Pretty lady,” they said. “ take
the amrita and serve it to us. Marry us.” Vishnu accepted the amrita,
but he had no intention of giving it to the demons. He served it to the
gods instead. There was only one demon who was somewhat clever. His name
was Rahu. He adopted the form of Chandra, the moon-god, and succeeded in
drinking some of the amrita. The sun-god and the moon-god noticed what
was happening and reported it to Vishnu. Vishnu thereupon cut off Rahu’s
head with a sword.
had drunk the amrita, so he could not die. He prayed to Vishnu and
Vishnu granted him a boon. The boon was that occasionally Rahu would be
permitted to swallow up the sun and the complained about him. You can
see this happening at the time of the solar and the lunar eclipses.
People who give alms during such eclipses are blessed.
obtained the amrita and the demons did not. Thus, the gods became more
powerful than the demons. They defeated the demons and regained heaven.
next incarnation was in the form of a boar.
Kashyapa and his wife Diti had a son named Hiranyaksha. became the king
of the asuras. Hiranyaksha’s meditation pleased Brahma and Brahma
granted him the boon that he would be invincible in battle. Thus armed.
Hiranyaksha went out to fight with the devas. He comprehensively
defeated the gods and conquered heaven. He also defeated Varuna, the god
of the ocean. Thus, Hiranyaksha became the king of the heaven, the earth
and the underworld. But the asura was not
particularly fond of the earth. He himself had begun to live in Varuna’s
palace under the ocean. So he hurled the earth into the depths of the
went to Vishnu and prayed that something might be done about Hiranyaksha.
They wished to be restored to heaven and they wished that the earth
might be brought back from the depths of the ocean. In response to these
prayers, Vishnu adopted the form of a boar and entered the ocean. Who
should he meet there but Hiranyaksha himself?
Hiranyaksha of course did not know that this boar was none other than
Vishnu. He thought that it was an ordinary boar and attacked it. The two
fought for many years. But finally, Hiranyaksha was gored to death by
the boar’s tusks. The boar raised the earth up once again with its
tusks. Vishnu thus saved the gods and the
principles of righteousness or dharma.
had a brother named Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was furious to learn
that his brother had been killed and the resolved to kill Vishnu. But
this could not be done unless h e himself became powerful land
invincible. Hiranyakashipu, therefore, began to pray to Brahma through
difficult meditation. Brahma was pleased at these prayers and offered to
grant a boon.
to be invincible,” said Hiranyakashipu. “Please grant me the boon that I
may not be killed by night or day; that I may not be killed by man or
beast; and that I may not be killed in the sky, the water or the
granted the desired boon. And Hiranyakashipu was happy. He thought that
he had taken care of all possible eventualities. And since he had become
so powerful, he conquered all the three worlds and kicked the gods out
to heaven. Hiranyakashipu had a son named
Prahlada. You no doubt remember that Hiranyakashipu had resolved to kill
Vishnu. But strangely enough, Prahlada became devoted to Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu tried to persuade his son. That did not work. He tried to
kill his son. That too did not work since each time, Vishnu intervened
to save Prahlada.
the gods had been driven off from heaven. They had also been deprived of
their shares in yajanas by Hiranyakashipu. These shares now went only to
the asura king. In desperation, they went and prayed to Vishnu and
Vishnu promised them that he would find a solution.
Hiranyakashipu called Prahlada to him. “How is it that you escaped each
time I tried to kill you?”, he asked.
“Because Vishnu saved me,” replied
Prahlada. “Vishnu is everywhere.”
“What do you mean everywhere?”, retorted
Hiranyakashipu. He pointed to a crystal pillar inside the palace and
asked, “Is Vishnu inside this pillar as well?”
well then. I am going to kick the pillar,” said Hiranyakashipu.
Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar, it broke into two. And from inside the
pillar, Vishnu emerged in his form of half-man and half-lion. He caught
hold of Hiranyakashipu and placed the demon across his thighs. And with
his claws, he tore apart the demon’s chest and so killed him. Brahma’s
boon had been that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by man or beast.
But then narasimha was neither man nor beast it was half-man and
half-beast. The boon had said that the asura would not be killed in the
sky, the water or the earth. But Hiranyakashipu was killed on Vishnu’s
thighs, which were not the sky. The water or the earth. And finally, the
noon had promised that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by night or
day. Since the incident took place in the evening, it was not night or
Hiranyakashipu died, the gods were restored to their rightful
places. Vishnu’s made Prahlada the king of the asuras.
grandson was Vali and Vali became very powerful. When he was the king of
the asuras, there was a war between the devas and the asuras. The gods
were defeated and were driven off from svarga. As always, the gods fled
to Vishnu and began to pray to him to save them. Vishnu assured the gods
that he would do something about Vali.
Accordingly, Vishnu was born as the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. The son
was a dwarf.
Vali had arranged for a huge sacrifice and had announced that, on the
occasion of the sacrifice, he would not refuse anyone a boon. The dwarf
arrived at this sacrifice and began to recite the Veda’s. Vali was so
pleased at this that he offered the dwarf a bon. Vali’s guru(teacher)
was Shukracharya and Shukracharya thought that there was something fishy
about the way the dwarf had arrived. So he tried to restrain Vali.
“No,” said Vali. “I have offered a boon
and I shall stick to my word.” What boon do you desire? I will give
whatever you want.”
boon was actually granted, a small rite had to be performed with holy
water. Shukracharya was still trying to do his best to prevent the boon
from being given. So he entered the vessel in which the holy water was
kept to seal the mouth of the vessel and prevent the water from being
taken out. To get at the holy water, the vessel was pierced with a
straw. This straw also pierced one of Shukracharya’s eyes. Ever since
that day, the preceptor of the demons has been one eyed.
as much of land as may be covered in three of my steps,” said the dwarf.
“I need this as dakshina (fee) for my guru.”
agreed. But the dwarf adopted a gigantic form. With one step he covered
bhuloka. With another step he covered bhuvarloka. And with the last step
he covered svarloka. The three worlds were thus lost to Vali and Vishnu
returned them to Indra. Vali had no option but to go down to the
underworld (patala). But so pleased was Vishnu at Vali’s generosity that
he granted the asura the boon that he would bear the title of Indra in
The kshatriyas were the second of the
four classes. It was their job to wear arms and protect the world. And
rule. The brahmanas were the first of the four classes. It was their job
to pray, study the sacred texts and perform religious rites. But the
kshatriyas became very insolent and began to oppress the world and the
brahmanas. Vishnu was then born as the son of the sage Jamadagni and his
wife Renuka. Since this was the line of the sage Bhrigu, Parashurama was
also called Bhargava. Parashurama’s mission was to protect the brahmanas
and teach a lesson to the kshatriyas.
was a king named Kartavirya who had received all sorts of boons from the
sage Dattatreya. Thanks to these boons, Kartavirya had a thousand arms
and conquered and ruled over the entire world.
Kartavirya went on a hunt to the forest. He was very tired after the
hunt and was invited by the sage Jamadagni had a kamadhenu cow. This
meant that the cow produced whatever its owner desired. Jamadagni used
the kamadhenu to treat Kartavirya and all his soldiers to a sumptuous
was so enamoured of the kamadhenu that he asked the sage to give it to
him. But Jamadagni refused. Kartavirya then abducted the cow by force
and a war started between Kartavirya and Parashurama. In this war,
Parashurama cut off Kartavirya’s head with his axe (parashu) and brought
the kamadhenu back to the hermitage.
some time, Parashurama was away when Kartavirya’s sons arrived at the
ashrama and killed Jamadagni. On the death of his father, Parashurama’s
anger was aroused. He killed all he kshatriyas in the world twenty-one
times. On the plains of Kurukshetra, he built five wells which were
filled with the blood of kshatriyas. Eventually, Parashurama handed over
the world to Kashyapa and went and lived on Mount Mahendra.
Brahma came out of Vishnu’s navel.
Brahma’s son was Marichi’s son Kashyapa, Kashyapa’s son Surya, Surya’s
son Vaivasvata Manu, Manu’s son Ikshvaku, Ikskhvakku’s son Kakutstha,
Kakutstha’s son Raghu, Raghu’s son Aja, Aja’s son Dasharatha,
Dasharatha’s sons were Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Since
Rama was descended from Kakutstha and Raghu, he was also called
Kakutstha and Raghava. Since his father’s name was Dasharatha, he was
also called Dasharathi. Rama’s story belongs to the solar line (surya
vansha), since one of his ancestors was Surya.
himself wished to destroy Ravana and the other rakshasas (demons). He
therefore divided himself into four parts and was born as Rams, Bharata,
Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama was Koushalya’s son, Bharata Kaikeyi’s.
Lakshmana and Shartrughna were the sons of Sumitra.
Rama was the seventh avatara of Vishnu,
Krishna was the eighth.
LORD SRI KRISHNA
son was Atri, Atri’s son Soma, Soma’s son Pururava, Pururava’s son Ayu,
Ayu’s son Nahusha and Nahushja’s son Yayati. Yayati had two wives,
Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani had two sons, Yadu and Turvusu. And
Sharmishtha had three sons, Druhya, Anu and Puru. The descendants of
Yadu were known as the Yadavas.
was a Yadava. His wife was Devaki. Vishnu was born as sthe son of
Vasudeva and Devaki in order to remove the wicked from the world. The
seventh son of Vasudeva and Devaki was Baladeva. And the eight son was
Krishna himself. Krishna was born in the month of Bhadra in the thick of
the night. Scared that the wicked Kakmsa might kill the newly born
child, Vasudeva left him with Yashoda, the wife of Nanda.
was the king of the cowherds and he brought up Baladeva and Krishna.
Kamsa sent a rakshasa woman named Putana to kill Krishna but Krishna
killed her instead. In Vrindavana, Krishna subdued the terrible snake
known as Kaliya. He killed several other rakshasas named Arishta,
Vrishabha, Keshi, Dhenuka and Gardhabha and made the country safe from
the attacksof these demons. He also stopped the worship of Indra. This
led to a fight between Indra and Krishna, Indra tried to destroy the
inhabitants of Gokula by sending down torrents of rain. But Krishna held
aloft the mountain Govardhana and saved the inhabitants of Gokula.
capital was in Mathura, Baladeva and Krishna went there. Kamsa let loose
a mad elephant named Kuvalayapida on Krishna. But Krishna killed
Kuvalayapida. Baladeva and Krishna also killed two strong wrestlers,
Chanura and Mushtika, whom Kamsa had instructed to kill Baladeva and
Krishna. Finally, Krishna killed Kamsa and made Ugrasena the king.
was Jarasandha’s son-in-law and Jarasandha became furious when he learnt
of Kamsa’s death. He attacked the Yadavas and laid siege to the city of
Mathura. After a prolonged war, Krishna managed to defeat Jarasandha.
Krishna also defeated another evil king named Poundraka. On Krishna’s
instructions, the Yadavas built the beautiful city of Dvaraka or
Dvaravati. The Yadavas began to live in Dvaraka.
was an asura named Naraka who was killed by Krishna. Naraka had
imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the devas, gandharvas and
yakshas (guards of Heaven’s treasury). These women were freed by Krishna
and Krishna married all of them. Amongst Krishna’s other exploits were
defeating the daitya Panchajana, killing Kalayavna, seizing the parijata
tree from Indra and bringing back to life the sage Sandipani’s dead
had several sons. Shamba was born of Krishna’s wife Jambavati and
Pradyumna was born of Krishna’s wife Rukmini. As soon as Pradyumna was
born, he was abducted by the asura Shambara. Shambara threw the baby
into the sea, but a fish swallowed the baby. A fisherman caught the fish
and brought it to Shambara’s house. When the fish’s stomach was cut
open, the baby came out. There was a woman named Mayavati who lived in
Shambara’s house and Shambara handed over baby Pradyumna to Mayavati so
that he might be brought up well. When he grew up, Pradyumna killed
Shambara and married Mayavati. They returned to dvaraka and Krishna was
very happy to see his lost son.
and Mayavati had a son named Aniruddha. Aniruddha secretly married Usha,
the daughter of King Vana, Vana himself being the son of Vali. Vana’s
capital was in a city named Shonitapura. Vana had pleased Shiva through
hard and difficult tapasya, so that sometimes he was called the son of
Shiva. Vana loved to fight and he had wanted a boon from Shiva that he
might get the chance to fight with someone who was his equal in battle.
A flag with a peacock on it used to fly from the ramparts of Vana’s
palace. Shiva told him the day this flag fell down. Vana’s desire for
with an equal would be satisfied.
help of a friend of Usha’s, Anuruddha and Usha used to meet secretly in
Vana’s palace. Vana’s guards informed him about this and there was a
fierce battle between Vana and Aniruddha At the same time, the flag with
the peacock on it fell down. Krishna got to know from Narada about the
fight between Vana and Aniruddha and he, Baladeva and Pradyumna arrived
in Vana’s capital. Shiva came to fight on Vana’s side, accompanied by
Nandi and Skanda or Kartikeya. But after a duel that lasted for a long
time, Krishna triumphed over these enemies. Krishna’s arrows also cut
off the thousand arms that Vana had. But at Shiva’s request, Krishna
spared Vana’s life and gave two arms with which to make do.
these stories about Krishna are related in detail in the Harivamsha. The
Agni Purana merely gives a brief summary of the Harivamsha. But stories
about Krishna, the eight avatara of Vishnu, also crop up in the
BUDHA/KALKI AND CREATION
ninth avatara of Vishnu was Buddha and the tenth will be Kalki.
years ago, there was a war between the devas and the asuras in which the
demons managed to defeat the gods. The gods went running to Vishnu for
protection and Vishnu told them that Mayamoha would be born as Buddha,
the son of Shuddhodana. Such were the illusions that Buddha created,
that the asuras left the path indicated by the Vedas and became
Buddhists. These dastardly creatures performed ceremonies that were a
sure ticket to naraka. Towards the end of the Kali era, all people will
be dastardly. They will oppose the Vedas, become robbers and will be
concerned only with wealth. The disbelievers will then become kings and
these kings will also be cannibals.
later, Kalki will be born on earth as the son of Vishnuyasha. He will
take up arms to destroy these disbelievers. Kalki’s priest will be the
sage Yajnavalkya. The norms of he four classes (varna) and the four
stages of life (ashrama) will be established yet again. People will
honour the sacred texts and become righteous. It will then be time for
the dawn of a new satya yuga, a fresh period of righteousness.
cycle (kalpa) and in every era (manvantara) Vishnu is thus born in
various forms. It is a sacred duty to listen to the stories of the ten
avataras. The listener attains his desires and goes to heaven.