Hinduism, being a dynamic religion caters for all types of people, high thinkers and common people as well. High thinkers can think of or conceive God as Impersonal (without attributes/form) whereas common people with attributes, i.e. they can think of God as being Personal. Concerning the Personal aspect of God, Hinduism believes in the Hindu Trinity where we have Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu as the preserver and Shiva as the Destroyer. Since Vishnu’s function is to preserve. Whenever the existence of the world is threatened by evil forces, He incarnates on earth in human or non-human form to re-establish the balance between righteousness and unrighteousness. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says:
“Whenever righteousness declines and unrighteousness prevails, I manifest Myself; for the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I am born in every age” – B.Gita, IV.7&8
Shri Krishna is considered to be one of the incarnations of Vishnu; whatever He says in the Gita is authoritative.
The definition of the term avatara is “the descent of God on earth in either human or non human form to protect dharma”. The concept of incarnation is not Vedic in nature, it became well pronounced during the Epic Age and the period of the Puranas where Vishnu became popular because of His incarnations. The Epic Age was different from the Vedic Age but despite this the Vedas and Vedic institutions were still noted, the various incarnations helped to safeguard these. According to the Bhagavata Vishnu has twenty-two incarnations, but the most popular view is that He has ten incarnations only: (1) Fish or Matsya, (2) Tortoise or Kurma, (3) Boar or Varaha, (4) Man-Lion or Narsimha, (5) Dwarf or Vamana, (6) Rama with the axe or Parashurama, (7) Rama the Perfect Man, (8) Krishna, the philosopher king, (9) Buddha, the preacher of peace and (10) Kalki, the final destroyer. So far nine incarnations are said to have already appeared and the last one is yet to come.
Each incarnation is relevant to the place, people and period. Interestingly there is an evolutionary order among them, starting with the aquatic fish, developing into the amphibious tortoise, the four legged animal and finally the two-legged human being. In Hinduism there is a belief that there are four different ages or yugas: (1) Satya Yuga, (2) Treta Yuga, (3) Dwapara Yuga, (4) Kali Yuga. The different incarnations have appeared in the different ages.
Incarnations can be either partial or full (complete or purnavatar). It is generally believed that Rama and Krishna are the complete or full incarnation because They had not only fought against evil (adharma) but had also established an ideal which till date has remained a good example and is still inspiring mankind.
The various incarnations of Vishnu descend on earth to eliminate all obstacles on the path of dharma. The incarnations protect dharma and set a standard in the socio-religious life of people. They have eliminated the malpractices and evils existing at the social and religious level in society, thereby showing the ideal path to the masses. Whenever forces of evil suppress morality, dharma and religion, Vishnu incarnates to restore and rejuvenate faith. This is the reason why Rama, Krishna and Buddha have inspired and have a large number of people as devotees.
RAMA AS AN INCARNATION OF VISHNU
Rama is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. He is considered by many to be a ‘purnavatar’ or full incarnation. This is because He was born, not only to eliminate demoniac forces but also to establish an ideal and till date it is providing inspiration to millions of people worldwide. Rama was born in Treta Yuga or the golden age. At that time Ravana and many other powerful demons were destroying Yajnas and making life difficult for sages, saints, seers and people as well. Ravana, by means of his severe austerities had obtained the boon...