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The Real Avatars

Updated on January 7, 2010
Brahma emerging from the naval of Vishnu with Lakshmi at his feet.
Brahma emerging from the naval of Vishnu with Lakshmi at his feet.

History of the mythical Avatars

What is an avatar exactly? When I first heard that a movie was in-production about avatars my first impression that came to mind was the Yahoo! animation characters that you can customize to look like yourself online, but the true legend of Avatars date back hundreds of years ago. Unlike James Cameron's film on Avatars, Hinduism depicts avatars in a much different way.

Avatars originally derived from Sanskrit avatra, meaning "descent," avatars are believed to posses God-like powers and were deliberately sent from heaven to earth. This idea was first predicted on the notion that from time to time, whenever evil or ignorance is mounting, a supreme being must incarnate itself in some form, or descend to earth, so that the forces stand for good. They first appeared in English in 1784, usually translated as "incarnation" more often then "descent," and are described to have a human appearance of a deity, particularly the Hindu God Vishnu. Vishnu is described as "the all-pervading essence of all beings, the master of the past, present, and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, governs and sustains all elements in the universe and originates and develops all elements within." Vishnu has four arms which are always equipped with a mace, conch, and a wheel. The main lore about the avatars of Vishnu is said to be found in the Puranas, a class of literary texts all written in Sanskrit verse and whose composition dates back from the 4th century B.C.E. to about 1,000 A.D. According to Hindu mythology, they believe that ten incarnations of the loving deity will appear on Earth, each an avatar of the Vishnu God. The idea of avatars was distinct to Hinduism before a similar knowledge of avatars evolved into the Mahayana Buddhism, and it still remains a fundamental role in Hindu theology and mythology.

Avatars can also be understood as an archetype, or a vehicle for transmitting ideas to human beings; or might also be viewed as God's playfulness, wrath, a mere concern for human welfare, and as a warning. The Hindu concept of avatars is in some ways similar to the belief found in Christianty that God came to Earth incarnated in the form of Jesus. However, most Christians believe that God has assumed the form of a human only once, Hinduism teaches that there have been several avatars throughout history and there will be more. The Lord Krishna, who is not only viewed as an incarnation of an avatar but the main source of all incarnations says:

"Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases, I incarnate myself as a human. To deliver the holy, to destroy the sin of sinner, to establish righteousness. I send myself forth, I come into being age after age."


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    • AnkushKohli profile image

      Ankush Kohli 6 years ago from India

      Avatar has great importance in Hindu mythology because each time there is threat to very human existence, an avatar have taken place. In modern world, the last avatar will took place in near future to save us from wrath of satan. Nice post btw.

    • aisha1257 profile image

      aisha1257 7 years ago

      I'm glad you like it. :) Avatars are pretty interesting.

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      claudia 7 years ago

      a mi me encanta los avatars son de lo mejor de lo mejor y espero q me siga gustando xao bss

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      Rich E 8 years ago

      this ones really good too boo