Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ten. Far better than Tolkien.

Lord Vishnu sounds like quite a brainy god. Look at the functionally appropriate forms he assumed in his dasavataras or ten reincarnations. In other words, if the task was, say, to bring up a sinking earth from the depths of the ocean, he would promptly become a tusked boar. My first introduction to it was as a child when we used to chant the Dashavatara Aarati to my khelacha (play) Ganapati at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. http://tinyurl.com/4ywmwm. Lord Vishnu, the Preserver in the Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh Trinity, would arrive among his true believers (bhaktas) having assumed what I described earlier as a "functionally appropriate form" to restore the balance between good and evil, he told Arjun in Bhagvadgita (iv, 7 -8). http://tinyurl.com/3jb5xb. When the asuras stole the Vedas, Vishnu assumed the form of a fish (matsyavatara) to save Manu, the primordal human being, from the Great Flood. In the kurmavatara (Vishnu as tortoise), he carried the sinking Mount Mandara on his back during the churning of the ocean to find the divine nectar, the so-called amrit. Enter Hiranyaka next. This demon misbehaved or sinned so much that the earth was unable to bear the load of his wrongdoings and literally did the sinking act. The ever-alert Preserver immediately put on his tusked boar form (varahaavatara) to prevent the calamity. Another demon king with a similar-sounding name, Hiranyakasipu, his twin brother, terrorised the devotee Pralahada. The Preserver had no option but to assume narasimhavatara (the man-lion form) because the perpetrator of the atrocities had a boon that he could be killed by neither man nor animal. A combo could however do the trick. A part of the boon also was that he could not be killed on land, water or air, in day or night, inside or outside his abode. So, Vishnu placed him on the man-lion's lap (neither land, water or air) at dusk (neither day or night) and at the entrance of the house (neither inside nor outside). The first four distinctly anthropomorphic avataras were in the satya or krita yuga. The next four happened in the treta yuga and the dwapara yuga. http://tinyurl.com/4r9g3e. The fifth avatara was the dwarf son (Vamanavtara) born to Kashyapa, one among the Saptarishis, and Aditi, the daughter of Agni, the Fire God. I wrote about his conquest of the all-powerful King Mahabali here: http://tinyurl.com/4p6btu. Vamana tricked him into surrendering his kingdom comprising heaven, earth and underworld by requesting for a plot of land admeasuring his diminutive three steps to which the generous king readily agreed. Vamana then regained his viraat swaroop (the original gargantuan form) and occupied the entire kingdom. (By the way, Mahabali happened to be the fourth direct descendent of Hiranyakasipu. Please see above.) So far, the Preserver was involved with fighting the demons. The sixth avatara (Parsurama) though, went after the human Kshatriya warriors. And, that too twenty one times. Yes, twenty one. They must have been up to big mischief, to be sure. In the next two episodes of Ten that reputedly took place at the cusp of the treta yuga and the dwapara yuga, Vishnu switched back to looking after the humankind as Rama who got rid of the ten-headed rakshasa, Ravana and Krishna who did likewise to Kamsa. Lord Buddha is most likely the next avatara in which case it occured in the kali yuga. Not everybody agrees with this version, though. They take Balarama, elder brother of Krishna and slayer of several demons in the dwapara yuga, as the holder of that honour. Avatara No. 10 Kalki is likely to come into the world on a magnificent white stallion when the kali yuga is about to end. Some people believe it will happen in 2012 A.D. http://tinyurl.com/47ug4c. His mission statement? Destroy all the mleccha. http://tinyurl.com/3k26td & http://tinyurl.com/46b6lp. Free the world from the clutches of Kali, the very embodiment of strife. Re-establish the perfect dharma. Inaugurate a new time cycle of existence with a brand new satya yuga.