Incarnation or Avatar means to appear or to take birth. When it comes to Hinduism, it mostly refers to the birth of deity on any form of a living being. Sometimes it is in the form of an animal or another human being or a mythical creature. An avatar is just not a mere materialization or appearance, it is the physical presence of God on the earth, for the sake of his devotees. Let us discuss the concept of Incarnation and its development along with the history of India for a better understanding of the term.
The Concept Of Incarnation Or Avatar In Hinduism
In Hinduism the concept of Avatar is unique. Thus, it is closely linked to the idea of Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism is found by God himself, also known as Brahman. The knowledge of eternal deities and rituals associated with them are mentioned in the Vedas and other ancient Indian scriptures. Since Brahman is the creator, we can assume that he is directly or indirectly responsible for the preservation and continuation of the world. An incarnation or a deity is one of them.
God has been beholding his appearance on the earth. It is either condemned to pass some message or to accomplish a particular task. Countless people have heard the voice of God on earth through different channels. God has appeared on this earth in the form of various sages, seers and even demons. He has conversed with various humans on earth and has also blessed them to pursue their goals in life.
On various occasions God has taken up different forms, both men and women to help the humans of the earth. An incarnation is actually the birth of God in a physical form, through a natural process and his existence upon earth going through the journey of life and death. It can be in the form of a human, animal or any mythical form. The incarnations exist for a brief period of time or a lifetime depending upon the purpose that is going to be served by the form.
An incarnation is actually an interference in the affairs of the already living world. It is an intervention that becomes necessary due to the activities that are being endowed in the world. The law of Karma makes each individual responsible for their own actions. However, in some cases, this concept may alone cause some imbalance in the working worlds and people. When certain things go disproportionate, God decides to take the matter into his own hands and thus, take in a challenge to the rest of the world to its sanctity again. In this case, you will see the manifestation of God in the world to restore the ground of morality in order.
The Chief Purpose Of An Incarnation
An incarnation is a way to restore balance by destroying evil from the world. This only happens when the amount of evil increases and dares to threaten the regularity of the world. By nature, God is impartial and thus, he will never take sides. He has no desire or bias. This incarnation occurs mainly to keep the world going and keep in check the evil eye.
The main functions of the incarnation are as follows:
- Restore and reestablish the dharma and self-righteousness in the world.
- Restore the lost knowledge of sacred scriptures and verses for the community.
- Strengthening people’s faith in the greater good in the forms of God.
- Revive the knowledge of liberation and thus reveal the secrets of creation.
- Serve as a role model to humans.
- Be the protector of the people who find their faith and devotion in god.
- Grant salvation to the souls who have completed their spiritual journey.
An incarnation is neither a messenger nor a prophet. It is God himself in the body of a human. He personifies God himself in a mortal body. The energy and force of the God himself does not get diminished, it just remains concealed.
Incarnations Of Vishnu
The Puranas describe the ten main incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Ten incarnations are described as follows:
- Matsyavatar: This was the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a fish. The purpose of the incarnation was to save Manu. The firstborn and seven sages from a deluge that inundated the earth.
- Kurmavatar: Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as Tortoises was made, when he held the mountain named mandhara on the back of his body to enable gods and demons to churn the ocean, where they looked up for the elixir of life.
- Varaha Avatar: When Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar took place, he appeared to slay the demon called Hiranyakashipu to save the earth from the great flood under which it was submerged.
- Narasimha Avatar: In this incarnation of Lord Vishnu took the form of Part Human-Part Lion, where he rescues the son of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad. Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, and Hiranyakashipu couldn’t accept this fact, thereby making his son’s life miserable.
- Vamanavatar: In the form of a dwarf Brahmin, Lord Vishnu assisted Indra to retain his lordship over the heavens by eliminating his rival Bali.
- Parasurama: In this incarnation, Lord Vishnu appeared as the sage Parsurama to destroy the Kshatriya Clans who became increasingly evil and started to destroy the world. He maintains order and regularity.
- Ram Avtar: During this incarnation of Lord Vishnu, He gave us all an example of a perfect human being. He exemplified the human virus and slew the demon king, Ravana who became obsessed with his boons obtained from Brahma and shiva.
- Balarama: In this incarnation, Lord Vishnu manifested as the elder brother of Shri Krishna to kill the demon King Dhenuka and the ape divide with the help of mighty plough which was also his weapon.
- Shri Krishna: One of the most popular and well-known incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna slew many demons including Kansa. He also played an important role during the Mahabharata war. He was a great philosopher and scholar.
- Kalki: This incarnation of Lord Vishnu is to take place in Kaliyuga, It is said that, at this time, he would manifest as Kalki, and ride upon a white horse. He would destroy all evil and release the world from all sin.
Incarnation And Its Development In Hinduism
The proponent of the Dvaita school of Vaishnavism believed that you must not try to categorize the incarnations of Vishnu. However, not all the followers of Vishnu do not agree with this argument.
An incarnation of God is also different in many respects from a manifestation. Technically, An incarnation is a soul itself in different identical aspects. The incarnations of God manifests all the power and knowledge inherently his divine purpose of the earth.
What Does An Incarnation Represent?
Many conclusions can be resolved through these incarnations of God on earth. Let’s understand them briefly.
- Although God is impartial and just, he is not a mere witness. He is a dynamic force who keeps a firm hold upon his creation. He promptly responds to situations that undermine the order and regularity of the world.
- The incarnation of God exemplifies the importance of duties and the need for karma and desireless actions. God has no purpose or desire, he is still engaged to restore order.
- An incarnation of God points us towards the need to remain on guard and thus, lie responsibly in this mortal world. Thus, we as humans and god’s devotees should do our part in preserving the order and uphold dharma
- The presence of a godly character on earth gives us hope that we are not alone in the world. Thus, We are not deserted on this earth alone.
- An incarnation serves as a role model of the human. It happens through the life of the incarnation, their rules and indeed he showcases through purity, nonviolence and truthfulness.
Significance Of Incarnation
Many claims have been made that the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu represent the life of mankind on earth. The time of the incarnations also curtain significance and thus, the king’s rule reached its ideal state in the Treta yuga, with Rama Avtar and social justice and dharma were protected in Dwapar Yuga with the avatar in Krishna.
The incarnations represent the evolution of life in society. There is also a representation of certain technological advancement in human society. Thus, even during the incarnations of the world, there is a constant battle amongst human beings to have a huge responsibility to lead the world in the right direction and help the gods in the fight against the evil forces.