Introduction to Dashavatara
Hindu Mythology is full of wonderful stories. Lord Vishnu is one of the holy trinities consisting of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh. It is said that Brahma creates the life and Mahesh (or Shiva) is responsible for destruction thus enabling further creation.
However, Lord Vishnu takes care of the life created by Brahma. To effectively take care of all the living beings, Lord Vishnu often takes a mortal form and comes live on the mortal world (also known as Bhulok).
Different scriptures mentions different number of forms Lord Vishnu took. But the most common forms of Lord Vishnu are popularly known as the Dashavataras.
Dashavatar basically mean ten avatars.
There are many popular stories around Dashavatara of Vishnu. But when one starts reading up on Dashavatara, we quickly realize that there are so many more lesser known stories too.
In this article I am not focusing on the individual stories. Rather I am going to provide a bird’s eye view of the Dashavatara and compare it to the Darwin’s theory of Evolution.
But first lets start with understanding Lord Vishnu and his ten avatars.
Lord Vishnu and his Ten Avatars (Dashavatara)
Lord Vishnu is the caretaker of the entire world. Occasionally, he takes a mortal form and lives amongst his followers (and occasional foes). Basically, whenever there comes a big danger for the people of the world, Lord Vishnu takes a form that is best suited to handle the situation. Now he doesn’t come for each and every problem. Basic problems are sorted by humans themselves – be it by brave Kings or Warriors or someone with a more humble background.
When humans are not able to handle the situation, they pray to the relevant gods. Like in case of a famine, we pray to the rain god (Indra Dev). There are dedicated gods for every natural phenomenon. However, sometimes the threats are much greater and stronger powers are required. In such cases, the matters are escalated to the higher authority. Most of these requests go to Lord Vishnu (although some are taken up by Lord Shiva as well).
Comparing evolution with avatars
As per Darwin’s theory of evolution, life started from water and then moved to land. First living organisms were purely aquatic, followed by amphibians and then living beings that lived only on land.
As per Dashavatara, the first form also known as Matsya avatar is a fish living only in water. The second avatar Kurma is a turtle or amphibian. This is followed by Varaha which is a big boar living only on land.
As per the theory of evolution, humans made their appearance much later. And when the humans did come, they were not in the same form as we are today. The early cave people relied more on physical strength. Only once the civilizations started the need for mental prowess came.
Similarly in Dashavatara, the transition from animal form to human form doesn’t happen at once. After the Varaha (or boar) avatar comes Narasimha avatar which is a part human and part animal form. From Vamana avatar we start seeing human forms.
As the human societies evolved, the struggles humans faced changed. Today as we live in comfortable and safe homes, chances of us being eaten by a hungry lion is negligible. However, for our cave dwelling ancestors, getting eaten by a lion was a very possible reality. On the other hand they didn’t have to worry about rent or mortgage.
The Dashavatara reflects this change as well.
Parshuram represents the early man with a lot of physical strength. He is followed by rule following man – Ram. Strategy forming men came next in the form of Krishna and then spiritual awakening was led by Buddha.
As humans are still evolving the Dashavatara has an avatar reserved for future as well in the form of Kalki avatar. Kalki will come and fight challenges unknown to us up to now.
Man and his struggles
As life form evolved so did the struggles. Initially, the struggles came in the form of natural calamities like floods. Then the fight was with other species inhabiting our world. As civilization formed the fights were with other tribes and rulers. With intelligence came vices like ego and that became our next foe. After fighting from external enemies, the fight then turns to one’s family. Then came fight from within us – our own beliefs.
Lord Vishnu took an avatar and helped us in each of these fights. At every stage of evolution and every enemy we had to fight, an avatar was there to guide us.
Each avatar has a beautiful story. Below is a quick summary of all the avatars.
As we have seen here there are a lot of ways to explore Dashavatara stories. While this post covers the basics, other posts mentioned below take each avatar and dig a little deeper.
Interested in more Dashavatar stories?
Dashavatar ebook now available on Kindle Unlimited.