Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

The Complete List of 24 Avatars of Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu appeared as various Avatars (incarnations) in this world from time immemorial. The Garuda Purana mentions 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu, whereas the Bhagavata Purana mentions 24 Avatars of Lord Vishnu. There are many differences in Hinduism regarding the number of incarnations of Vishnu. Here, I will briefly discuss the complete list of 24 Avatars of Lord Vishnu.

1. Adi Purush

Adi Purush is the first and primary Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took this Avatar form as the pre-eminent man, with a desire to commence creation.

2. Four Kumaras

According to Hindu mythology, Kumaras are four sages who traveled the world as children (Sanaka kumara, Sanatana kumara, Sanandana kumara and Sanat kumara). In the Puranas they have been described as the sons of the mind of Brahma. All their lives they went against their father and practiced celibacy. The Bhagavata Purana mentions them as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

3. Narada

Devarshi Narada was a Vedic sage, famous as a travel musician and storyteller, who carried news and imparted knowledge. He is also referred to as the king of all sages, which means sage king.  He got the ability to see past, present and future.  In Hindu Vaishnavism, he is presented as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

4. Nara Narayana

Nara-Narayana is the twin-brother Avatar of Lord Vishnu on the earth to preserve the Dharma or righteousness.

5. Kapila

Kapila is narrated in the Hindu Puranas as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu who came to Earth to restore the spiritual balance through his teachings. He is said to have founded the Samkhya School of Philosophy.

6. Dattatraya

Dattatreya is a Hindu deity who is also regarded as a combined representation of the Divine Trinity or Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. The name “Dattatreya” is derived from two Sanskrit words, Datta (which means “given”) and Atreya (which refers to the sage Atri, who was also Datta’s biological father).

7. Yajna

According to the Bhagavata Purana, Yajna or Yajneshwara is an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. In few texts, Indra, the king of gods, has also been referred to as Yajna.

8. Rishabha

Rishabha is the eighth Avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is also known as the founder of Jainism. It was believed that he had escaped the cycle of birth and death. He guided people the path of moksha (salvation).

9. Prithu

Prithu is considered as the first consecrated king. Lord Vishnu in his tenth Avatar as ‘Prithu’ came into existence after the body of King ‘Vena’. Lord Vishnu took this Avatar as per the wishes of the sages. The earth had concealed all the vegetations in her and as a result the whole land became barren. This is considered that the earth became full of vegetations again after that.

10. Dhanvantari

From the churning of the cosmic ocean of milk, at last the divine healer Dhanvantari arose with a pot of nectar that symbolizes immortality.  A fierce battle broke out between the gods and demons to obtain the nectar. Dhanvantari cured the diseases of the sick people. He is the presiding deity of Ayurveda.

11. Mohini

Mohini is the only female Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Mohini is portrayed in mythology as a seductive and charming woman who drives her lovers crazy, and sometimes leads them to their deaths. Mohini is introduced in the story of Mahabharata. According to the Mahabharata, he appeared as a form of Vishnu, and he brought nectar from the asuras who stole the pot of nectar and gave it to the gods.

12. Hayagreeva

In Sanskrit “Haya” means horse and “Greeva” means neck. So “Hayagreeva” means — “The one with the horse’s head” This is an Avatar of Lord Vishnu who, at the request of Lord Brahma dove into the cosmic ocean to rescue the Vedas stolen by the two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha.

13. Vyasa

Maharshi Vyasa was a sage according to Hindu mythology.  He was the great-grandson of Vasishta, the grandson of Shakti, the father of Shukadev, the son of Parashar.  He was a knowledge-seeking sage who compiled, edited, and finally coordinated the mythological epics Mahabharata, Vedanta philosophy, etc., recognizing the Vedas as the earliest manifestations of Hinduism.  When Parashar Muni met Satyavati inside a ferry boat on the river Yamuna, Satyavati became pregnant. Vyasa was later born on an island (Dvip) in the Yamuna. So he was called Dvaipayana.  As his skin color was black (Krishna), his full name became Krishna-Dvaipayana.  He had a braid on his head.  His eyes were bright and his face was brown.  He became a master of austerities and divided the Vedas into four parts.  This is why it is known as Veda Vyasa or Vyasa. Soon after his birth, he set out for austerities with the permission of his mother.  His place of penance was Vadrikashram.  For this reason he was also known as Vadrayana.

14. Matsya

According to the Puranas, Vishnu appeared as Matsya Avatar (a giant fish) to save Manu, the first man on the earth from a catastrophe. Lord Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a human being and the lower of a fish. This avatar is mentioned in the Shatapatha Brahmana.

15. Kurma

Kurma means tortoise. Vishnu took the form of turtle to help devas and asuras ( gods and demons). They were churning ocean to receive the gifts from the ocean. They were using a mountain Mandara as a churning stick, and just as the mountain began to sink into the ocean, Lord Vishnu took the form of a Kurma to carry the weight of the mountain on its back and helped keep the land afloat.

16. Varaha

Varaha Avatar of Lord Vishnu appeared in the Satya Yuga.  According to the Puranas, Vishnu appeared in this Avatar to save the earth from the mighty demon called Hiranyaksha.

17. Narasimha

Lord Vishnu appeared as Narasimha (half human and half lion) in Satya Yuga. Prahlad, the son of the demon Hiranyakashipu, was a devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu was anti-Vishnu. Lord Narasimha was born to end the reign of the demonic king Hiranyakashipu and establish peace, order, righteousness, and other elements of Dharma on earth. Narasimha Chaturdashi or Narasimha Jayanti is celebrated on the fourteenth day of Shukla Paksha (Waxing Moon period) in the month of Baishakh.

18. Vamana

Vamana was born to Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi in the Treta Yuga. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vamana to retrieve the Swarga Loka or Deva Loka from the demon Bali.

19. Parshuram

In the Treta Yuga, Lord Vishnu was born as Parshuram Avatar to sage Jamadagni and Renuka. He was the youngest among the four sons and was the most powerful of them all. ‘Parshu’ means axe, therefore his name ‘Parshuram’ means Rama with an axe. He had received the axe as a gift from Lord Shiva as a result of his meditation. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.

20. Rama

Lord Vishnu in this Avatar took birth as Rama, the eldest son of Dashratha, king of Ayodhya, to eradicate evil and free earth from all the demons. The birthday of Lord Rama is celebrated as the Ram Navami.

21. Balarama

Balarama is the elder brother of the Lord Krishna and is regarded as the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu. Balarama is also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha. His birthday is celebrated as Balarama Jayanti

22. Krishna

The Avatar of Krishna is said to have taken place in Dwapara Yuga. Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mahabharata  contain the wonderful life history and details of the divine play enacted by Lord Krishna.
The avatar of Krishna is considered a “Poornavatar” — an avatar in which Godly qualities were found manifested in full. Lord Krishna is perhaps the most widely loved, adored and worshiped Avatar by Vaishnavaites (devotees of Vishnu).

23. Buddha

According to religious texts, Buddha (Gautama Buddha), the originator of Buddhism, was also an Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

24. Kalki

Kalki Avatar the final Avatar form of Lord Vishnu. He is yet to appear in the world. He will appear at the end of present Kali Yuga (Hindu mythological age). It is believed that Kalki Avatar will usher the Satya Yuga on earth again

By Krishna Das

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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