Whenever there is a decline in righteous and wherever there is a predominance of unrighteousness. I incarnate on earth”- Bhagavad Gita 4:7
Lord Vishnu is the Hindu god who has taken different incarnation in different Yugas for the betterment of mankind. These various Incarnations that Lord Vishnu took are called avatars. Lord Vishnu manifested ten incarnations on earth to vandalise unrighteousness and evils, to restore the Dharma and peace.
There are four Yugas in total i,e Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali or Kalyuga. Out of ten incarnations, “Dashavatara“, the first four incarnations of Lord Vishnu appeared in the first Yug, SatyaYuga. The next fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations appeared in Treta Yuga, the eighth and ninth in Dwapara Yuga and the tenth would appear in Kali Yuga.
1. First incarnation- Matsya Avatara (Fish)
According to Hindu scripture Manu refers to the first man (progenitor of humanity). Vishnu Purana narrates, once upon a time there was a king whose name was Vaivasvata, also known as Sraddhadeva or Satyavrata. Lord Vishnu took a avatar of a small fish and warned of the deluge that would destroy earth and was advised to built a boat to carry along with one of every species of plant and animal to restart the circle of life again on earth. The boat also carried the Vedas, Manu’s family and the seven sages to safety, helped by Matsya.
2. Kurma Avatara (the tortoise)
During Sagar manthan, when the God and demons were churning the Ocean to aquire the nectar of immortality, Amrita with help of serpent Vasuki as the rope and the mount Mandara as the churning staff, the mountain starts to sink, Vishnu took the form of a tortoise to bear the weight of the mountain.
3 . Varaha Avatara (the boar)
Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a boar to defeat Hiranyaksha and to save earth. Hiranyaksha was a cruel demon who carried Earth, or Prithvi to the bottom of cosmic ocean. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to have lasted for a thousand years. Varaha slayed the demon and carried the Earth out of the ocean between his tusks and restored it to its place in the universe
4. Narsimha Avatara (the half-man/half-lion)
The younger brother of Hirṇayakṣa, Hiraṇyakaśipu, through an austere penance of Lord Brahma, was granted a powerful boon of not to be killed by man or animal, inside or out, day or night, or in earth or the stars, with a weapon either living or inanimate. Vishnu descended with the body of a man and head and claws of a lion. He then disembowels the demon at the courtyard threshold of his house, at dusk, with his claws, while he lay on his thighs.
5. Vamana Avatara (the dwarf)
Bali was the fourth descendant of Hiranyakashyap. With devotion and penance, he was able extended his authority over the three worlds. Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as Brahmin to end the rule of the generous demon-king, Bali.
When in Vamana avatar, lord Vishnu Vamana asked for three paces of land. Bali agreed. He stepped over heaven in his first stride, the netherworld with the second. Bali realized that Vamana was Vishnu incarnate. In deference, the king offered his head as the third place for Vamana to place his foot. The avatar did so and thus granted Bali immortality.
6. Parashurama Avatara
Parashuram, Rama with the axe. He is son of Jamadagni and Renuka. He received an axe after a penance to Shiva. Parashurama is the first Brahmin-Kshatriya in Hinduism, or warrior-saint, with duties between a Brah. His mother was from the Kshatriya Suryavanshi clan that ruled Ayodhya, of the line of Rama. Parashurama took a vow to kill every Kshatriya on earth twenty-one times over, and filled five lakes with their blood.
7. Lord Rama
Rama is the most commonly worshipped avatar. He has been seen as an ideal son, brother,husband and father. According to pious Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, Lord Rama massacred ten headed demon Ravana to set free his abducted wife, Sita from Ravana’s Hostage in Ashoka vatika. Twenty days post Dusshera, comes the festival of light, Deepawali. Shri Rama along with his wife, Sita and brother Lakshmana were exiled for 14 years, Deepawali marks the celebrations on arrival of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, capital for the Ikshwaku Dynasty (Suryavanshi) of kings. Lord Rama was 64th heir of Ikshwaku Dynasty.
8. Lord Krishana
Krishna, was the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudev. He killed his cruel maternal uncle, Kans. Krishna also played a pivotal role in the epic battle of Kurukshetra. Krishna preached Bhagwad Gita in the battlefield of Kurukshetra to dicy and confused Arjun, one of the most revered texts of Hindu philosophy.
9. Lord Buddha
Buddha also known as Gautama Buddha was born as the prince of the Kapilavastu to King Suddhodana and Maya. He was named Siddhartha, meaning “All thing fulfilled”. Buddha was saddened by death of living creatures, and vices like poverty. Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. He got enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. He then spread the message of an eightfold middle path to create peace in daily life.
The Dasavataras include buddha or Balarama according to different sampradayas. Also the order may vary.
10. Kalki Avatara (“Eternity”, or “White Horse”, or “Destroyer of Filth, Mighty Warrior)
It is said that Lord Vishnu has already completed 9 avatars and the last one is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yug, our present yuga to destroy all unrighteousness and evil. He will be atop a white horse and his sword will be drawn, blazing like a comet.