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Avatara ( Sanskrit , m., अवतार, avatāra , literally: “descent”, from ava- “down” and tṝ “to cross”) in Hinduism denotes the manifestation of the highest principle ( Brahman ) or a divine aspect that takes the form of a Accepts humans or animals. Avatara always refers to the god himself or his power (Chit-Shakti), which manifests itself in a special consecrated soul ( Atman ) or descends to this soul. In theosophy , avatara generally denotes the incarnation of the divine.


In the scriptures the term avatara appears in the Ramayana , in the Bhagavad Gita , in the Bhagavatapurana and in many others, e.g. Some texts derived from it. The task of the avatar or avatara is to be a pioneer, example and teacher for humanity in its striving towards Brahman. Krishna says this clearly in the Bhagavad Gita:

“Because whenever piety wants to fade, O Bharata, nefariousness lifts
its head, then I create myself anew.
To protect the good people here and to the wicked downfall.
To fix the piety anew, I arise at every age. ( "Age" means " World Age " ) "

- Bhagavad Gita, fourth song, verse 7 ff.

Rama is understood as an avatar at the transition from Tretayuga (silver age) to Dvaparayuga (bronze age), Krishna as an avatar at the transition from Dvaparayuga to Kaliyuga (iron age, now time). So the great avatars are to be seen not only as protectors of the devotees and virtue, but also as transformers of the consciousness of the being and the beings of an entire age in relation to the creative energy. There are two types of avatars: the female-born and the orphan Anupadaka . Vishnu , seen by the Hindus as a sustaining aspect of God, has incarnated ten times over the ages as an avatar. The ten avatars are described in different chapters of the Bhagavatapurana , the Agni Purana, and the Ramayana (Valmiki), of which Rama and Krishna are best known. The identity of the ninth avatar is not clear. Mostly Buddha is mentioned here , whose teaching should lead the demons astray. Others call it Balarama , the brother of Krishna. The list of ten avatars has become popular, even if some Puranas mention 25 ( Bhagavata ) or 26 ( Devi Bhagavatam ). However, these are not all considered complete (Purna) avatars, but represent partial (Amsa) avatars.

A large number of Indian gurus are worshiped as avatars in India. The most famous gurus outside of India include Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi .

In the former Kingdom of Nepal , the respective king was also considered to be the incarnation of Vishnu.

Types of avatars

  • In the Purna Avatars, including Narasimha , Rama and Krishna, all of Vishnu's powers and qualities are incarnated.
  • Mahavishnu is only partially manifested in the Amsarupa avatars. These include Matsya , Kurma , Varaha and Vamana .
  • Both Purna and Amsa avatars belong to the primary group of Svarupa avatars.
  • There are also the Shakti Avesha avatars (also just called Avesha avatars). Here Vishnu does not descend himself, but sends his power or power (Chit-Shakti), as in the case of Parashuramas or Buddhas, to a high-ranking rishi so that he can fulfill a certain mission in his service. But when Vishnu personally enters a Bhakta or Rishi in one of his forms of being and identifies himself with it, he is called Bhagavad-Avesha-Avatara (also Amsa-Avesha-Avatara).


The philosopher Madhva contradicts this gradation and describes all avatars as equivalent in power and quality. Both he and Ramanuja see in Krishna an avatar of Vishnu , while Chaitanya , Nimbarka and Vallabhacharya see Krishna as the highest deity himself, who became directly from the highest realm Goloka Avatara, but at the same time is said to be the avatari from whom all other avatars are directly or go out indirectly. Madhva also sees Siddhartha Gautama as an avatar of Vishnu. According to him, Vishnu, in the form of Siddhartha, wanted to mislead demons with a message, the true meaning of which was later explained to the devas .


The yogi Aurobindo saw in the ten avatars a symbol of evolution that follows the divine involved; from the animal (Varaha, Matsya) to the half-man (Narasimha) and the little man (Vamana) to the warlike (Parashurama), to the law-abiding (Rama), to the all-opposites (Krishna) and finally to the development of the super-man with the tenth avatar Kalki .

See also

Web links

Commons : Avatara  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Avatara  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Bhagavad Gita, chapter 4, verse 5
  2. Helmuth von Glasenapp : Madhva's Philosophy of the Vishnu Faith, Geistesströmungen des Ostens Vol. 2, Bonn 1923, Introduction pp. * 1-2.
  3. Anusha Sudindra Rao, Of Deities and Demons: Madhva's Doctrine of Hierarchy in the Mahābhāratatātparyanirṇaya, Calgary 2019, pp. 59-62.
  4. See: Letters on Yoga, Vol. I, The Purpose of Avatarhood, p. 402 The Hindu procession of the ten Avatars is itself, as it were, a parable of evolution. ( Memento of March 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ibid. The involution is of the Divine in the Inconscience and it is done by the interposition of intermediate planes (overmind etc., mind, vital - then the plunge into the Inconscient which is the origin of matter). But all that is not a process answering to the evolution in the inverse sense - for there is no need for that, but a gradation of consciousness which is intended to make the evolution upwards possible.