means “coming down” in the sense of “descent from heaven” , and refers in the Indian tradition to the incarnations of a God, his divine presence on earth in order to restore the Order, the Dharma.
The 10 best known incarnations of Vishnu (Viṣṇu) are :
- The fish (Matsya)
- The tortoise (Kurma)
- The boar (Varaha)
- The human lion (Narasimha Nara = man, simha = lion)
- The dwarf (Vamana)
- The man with an ax (Parashurama)
- Lord Rama, king of Ayodhya, is the image of the perfect man, the hero of Ramayana (Rama)
- Lord Krishna (Kṛṣṇa means “dark” or “black” ) one of the most beloved deities in India.
- Lord Buddha (Buddha ‘the awakened one’ ). The integration of the Buddha in the Hindu pantheon probably dates from the eighth century. Older sources say that Balarama is the ninth avatar, Kṛṣṇa big brother.
- Kalki or Kalkin (‘eternity’ ) is an apocalyptic figure. It is the incarnation that is ‘yet to come.’ It is represented in the iconography as a god with a horse head.