Hinduism recognises that humans evolved from creatures in the sea, to creatures on land, to the hairy upstanding ape, to homo sapiens with sapienta, consciousness and self-awareness. Human life on this planet is the apex form of life that may escape the round of birth-death-and-birth-again. In this article we visit the progression of human life via the births of various Hindu gods.
For the sake of humans, and for the sake of restoring righteousness and right conduct on Earth, Vishnu, the preserver god, is said to take birth on Earth to right the wrongs and preserve the spark of life in the beings that live on Earth – be they fish, plant, animal and / or human in various stages of awareness and consciousness of their own humanity. These births of Vishnu – the preserver god – are called avatars, a Sanskrit term meaning ‘descent of’ and ‘divinity’. So an avatar is a descent of divinity, the divine form, to Earth. It is said there will be ten descents of Vishnu – the preserver god – called (in Sanskrit) Dasa Avatara. (This simply means “ten descents of divinity”.)
So far, Lord Vishnu has appeared nine times on Earth and the tenth, kalki, is expected.
The sequence of appearance of Lord Vishnu on Earth is in tune with the evolutionary theory. In fact, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is an amazing recording of the advancement of human civilization. All this was recorded by Hindu sages thousands of years before Christ.
The first incarnation or avatar of Lord Vishnu was in the form of a fish and is known as ‘Matsya Avatar.’ It has now been confirmed by Science through various experiments that the first life forms evolved underwater.
The second incarnation of Lord Vishnu was in the form of a tortoise known as ‘Kurma Avatar.’ Tortoise is an amphibious creature capable of living both on land and in water and it indicates the moving of life form from underwater to surface of Earth.
The third incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the boar known as ‘Varaha Avatar’. Boar is a complete land animal and in this incarnation, life form has moved out of water and has adapted to land.
The fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the half-man half-animal form known as ‘Narasimha Avatar.’ This incarnation starts the transformation from animal to human form. This avatara is the first to respond for “protection of the righteous and the destruction of evil“, a term later used by Lord Krishna.
The fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the dwarf or pigmy sized human being known as the ‘Vamana avatar.’ A transition from the beastly form to human form and the development of intelligence. It was this avatar who, by his actions – revealed the immanence and transcendence of the divine in human form.
The sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the forest dweller known as ‘Parasurama.’ He has developed weapons and axe is his first weapon. Any sharp stone can be transformed into an axe and it also indicates the first settlement of humans in forests. It was this avatar who trekked the Earth, destroying all who knowingly misused their discrimination and their tasks in life. Once again, a descent of divinity who sought to destroy evil and restore righteousness.
The seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu was Ramachandra, known as Lord Ram. He was civilized, learned in the Vedas, and has developed more superior weapons like the bow and arrows. He has cleared the forests and developed small communities or villages. He is very vigilant and protects his villages and people.
The eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu is Lord Balarama. He is portrayed with the plough – the beginning of full-fledged cultivation. Human civilization has developed agriculture and is no longer depended on meat and forest for food. The beginning of agrarian economy. (Note in some scriptures instead of Balaram it is Buddha)
The ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is Krishna. He represents the advancing human civilization. He is associated with cows, the beginning of domestication of animals and development of economy, which continues to the present day.
The tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is Kalki and is yet to arrive. He is believed to ride on a white horse named Devadatha and destroy the world. A clear indication that human beings will bring an end to life on earth.
There have been many incarnations of gods and goddesses on Earth, in India – which, in the scriptures – is called Bharat. It is said that avatars only take birth in India, and not any other land, because the Vedas are preserved, taught and practiced in that place. There have been many hamsa avatars, partial incarnations of Vishnu, Devi, Dattatreya (the Hindu trimurthi), Vishnu and Ganesh. It is also taught that the beloved Skanda (Murugan or Subramanium) was human and trekked from Scandinavia to Tamil Nadu, spreading divine teachings on the way.
Another instance we should take note of is the divinity inherent within Sri Sathya Sai Baba – which is said to be a tri-avatara, taking three births to accomplish his mission. The firt birth is claimed to be Shirdi Sai Baba, the famous Hindu fakir; then Sathya Sai Baba who was born in the (then) Madras Presidency, and Prema Sai Baba – who is said to be born in Mysore state.
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