(Last Updated on : 19/02/2013)
is worshipped as the Supreme Being commonly known as Narayana or Hari. A combination of the three-god concept, the Lord pervades in all the directions. The Puranas
speak of the ten avatars of Vishnu. These incarnations shed light on various stages of human evolution. The ten most famous incarnations of Vishnu are collectively known as the 'Dasavatara.' Besides these, there are several other minor incarnations of the Lord that have been discussed in details below:
, in the Indian Puranas, has been considered as one of the minor incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Son of Kardama Muni and Devahuti, the sage finds his mention in the Bhagavata Purana
. The sage has been identified with Agni
, the god of Fire who shattered with its one glance almost 60,000 sons of king Sagara who went in search of their sacrificial horse to the netherworld where Kapila Muni was engrossed in deep meditation.
Sage Kapila is depicted with a beard and seated in a padmasana
posture on a lotus seat. The Kamandalu, a vessel lies near him. Draped in a deer skin, the sage is adorned with a jata-mandala on his head with his eyes closed in meditation. He is regarded as an embodiment of the Vedas
. The sage possessing eight hands holds a chakra, a khadga, a hala and depicts abhaya mudra
with his four hands on the right side while with the other three he carries a shankha, a pasha and a danda. His one hand rests on the hip. The colour of his garments is red and on his either side stands goddess Gayatri and goddess Savitri.
is the son of rishi Atri and Anasuya but is believed to be the son of Vishnu born of his emanation which fecundated the wife of the rishi. Dattatreya, a teacher of the anti-gods, originator of the Tantras and Tantric rites, restored Vedic rites and created the Soma plant. The shrine of Dattatreya at Sucindrum in Tamil Nadu is believed to be the place where the three gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva revealed themselves to Atri and Anasuya.
, a wicked demon, had received a boon that he would not be killed by a man or beast. He thus, began tormenting the gods and the common masses. The devas approached Lord Vishnu and requested him for his aid. Vishnu, taking the form the face of a horse and the body of a man, annihilated the demon. Hayagriva is looked upon as a god of learning and is revered by the Vaishnavites.
Hayagriva has the face of a horse and is identified as the bestower of knowledge. He is depicted with 2 or 4 arms, occasionally with 8 or 12 arms. In addition to carrying the conch and the discus, he also carries one or more of the following: book, rosary, mace, lotus as well as show some hand gestures. His colour is usually white and rarely red and is always adorned with ornaments
Hayashirsha is the horse-headed incarnation of Lord Vishnu born to protect the scriptures, is closely identified with Hayagriva. Danavas Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas while Lord Brahma was asleep and dived into the ocean with them. Brahma thus, created Hayashirsha and sent him to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve them.
Yajna means ritual sacrifice. During the age of Swayambhuva Manu, Ruci got married to Akuti, the daughter of Swayambhuva Manu. Later Yajrta (Ritual sacrifice) and Dakshina (Sacrificial fee) were born to them. They got married and then gave birth to the twelve Yamas.
Yajna possessed the head of a deer
and was slayed at the sacrifice of Daksha sacrifice by Virabhadra. He then rose to become the constellation Mrigashirsha. The image of Yajna-murti also known as Yajnesha faces the western side. It has two heads, seven hands and four horns. The colour of his body is of molten gold. With his four hands he carries a counch, a chakra, an ajya-patra, a sruva (spoon), a shrava (spatula), and a juhu (ladle) for pouring clarified butter into the sacred fire. He is flanked by goddesses Swaha and goddess Swadha.
Yajna is described in the Rig-veda as a bull having four horns, three legs, two heads and seven hands.
, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is a solar divinity embodied as the physician of the gods. He evolved from the Samudra Manthan carrying in his hands the cup containing amrita. He was been ascribed the position in the sacrifice along with the sacrificial deities. He is sculptured as a handsome man carrying in both hands a vessel containing amrita, the drink of immortality.
, known as the compiler of the Vedas, is also considered a minor incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is depicted as of slender build, dark complexioned, wearing dark brown jata on his head. His disciples Sumanta, Jaimini, Paila, Vaishampayana are seen by his side.
, meaning morality, was one of the hundred sons of Nabhi and his wife Meru and a minor incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Their eldest son was Bharata. Rishabha is considered to be the original founder of the philosophy that morality.
Nara and Narayana
Nara and Narayana are the two saints who are always associated together. They are the sons of Dharma (righteousness) and Ahimsa (non-violence). Narayana
is identified with Vasudeva who is omnipotent. According to the Mahabharata
and Krishna in one of the incarnations were Nara and Narayana.
, generally worshipped along with Lord Krishna, is his elder brother and the 7th avatara of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu took two of his hair, one black and one white. The black hair was born as Krishna from the womb of Devaki. Balarama was born of the white hair and his foetus was miraculously transferred from the womb of Devaki to that of Rohini, the second wife of Vasudeva. He is also known as Sankarshana for the interchange of wombs.
Balarama represented as dressed in blue or red. He carries a club, a plough and a pestle. When depicted with two hands he carries a gada and a hala but when depicted with four hands he carries a musala, a chakra, a hala and a shankha. He is an avatara of Ananta or sheshnaga and is usually shown under a canopy of serpent hoods.
, better known as Narada Muni, is also a minor incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Considered as one of the Saptarishis, in Mahabharata
, he is a son of Kashyapa
. In the Puranas, he is mentioned as a son of Lord Brahma, born from his throat. His wife's name is Sranjaya. The credit of invention of the vena
is attributed to Narada.
Varadaraja means king among boon bestowers. A Vishnu temple at Kanchipuram
in Tamil Nadu
is dedicated to the Varadaraja installed its garbhagriha
, identified with Pradyumna, is a minor incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Regarded as Kamadeva, he is the god of love who was burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva as he kindled the longing in him for Parvati when he was occupied in meditation. Shiva however, was moved by the tears of his wife Rati promising her that her husband would be born as a grandson of Lord Krishna
The iconography of Manmatha depicts him carrying a bow of sugarcane in his left hand and five flowery arrows in his right hand. His colour is green or red and he is adorned with a garland of flowers. Manmatha is also occasionally depicted with eight hands, four of which carry the conch, chakra, bow and arrow and the other four are placed on the bosoms of his four consorts: Rati, Priti, Shakti and Mada-Shakti.
Prithu, the first man to be crowned as a king, is considered as a minor incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is known to have began agriculture, milked the mother earth and provided man food and milk He was the son of Vena, born of his thigh.
According to the tales mentioned in Vishnu Purana
, Vena was earlier crowned as the king but his wicked nature provoked the sages to kill him. To prevent anarchy to spread on earth, the sages rubbed the thigh of the dead king to produce a son. He was proclaimed as the first king.
During Samudra Manthan, the ocean of milk was churned by the gods and the demons for extracting amrita that possessed the power of immortality. Lord Vishnu, to prevent the demons from consuming the amrita, took the form of an exceedingly beautiful woman, Mohini
who after distributing the drink to the devas flew away with it.
Lord Shiva upon perceiving the attractive woman fell in love with her and wishing to embrace the beautiful went to her. Lord Vishnu realizing his intentions changed himself into his male form but could not prevent Shiva from taking him into his arms. Thus, was created the image Hari-Hara i.e. partly Vishnu, partly Shiva. The son of Mohini and Shiva is Shasta.