Introduction to Avataar
Most Puraan give the
description of Avataar (Incarnations of God) - some in short, some in detail.
Some scientists regard them as the pointers towards evolution.
According to Shatapath Braahman
The Shatapath Braahman mentions the story of Matsya as also the Koorm and
Varaah Avataar (188.8.131.52-6, 184.108.40.206., and 220.127.116.11). Although there are
different versions on the Avataar of Buddha, Balaraam and Krishn, there
are no doubts about about the Avataar of Parashuraam.
Vaaman Avataar is mentioned in 18.104.22.168.
Foundation of Evolution
According to Taitteerya Upanishad, which deals with primary evolution, the
soul is to be shrouded with five sheaths -
The first sheath is called Anna-maya (Annamaya Kosh), means made of food
The second one is called Praan-maya (Praan Kosh), means made of Praan or breath or Vaayu
The third one is Mano-maya (Man Kosh), means made of mind
The fourth one is Vigyaan-maya (Vigyaan Kosh), means discriminatory intelligence
The fifth one is Aanand-maya (Aanand Kosh), means eternal bliss.
--The first creation, of first evolutionary stage of life (anaerobic form)
depended only on food for one's survival and multiplication. This is the
most primitive form. Methanogenic (methane producing) or archae bacteria
are in this class.
--The second one, is the appearance of aerobic forms of life that require
oxygen for survival. The Upanishad calls this stage the Praan-maya sheath.
--The third stage is the appearance of intelligent forms of life. These
are the insects and lower forms of animals. They have the ability to
perceive and to react instinctively to their environment. They lack the
ability to analyze, sort out and make sense out of the messages.
--The fourth one is the appearance of the Vigyaan-maya species or with
discriminatory ability species. Collation of a lot of information and
analyzing them is the special skills that this form of life has. This is
the highest form of evolution. So far only human beings have this ability.
--The last evolutionary state of bliss is yet unknown. Geetaa calls Krishn
as the highest, Purushottam, so He may qualify for the highest evolutionary level.
Theory of Evolution and Avataar
The 10 Avataar of Vishnu are in agreement with the idea of evolution of
species held by biologists. According to them, life started as unicellular
organism in aquatic environment and progressed to the higher forms. The
Avataar concept is singularly Hindu concept that says that whenever Dharm
decreases on Earth God descends to re-enforce it. (Geetaa, 4:7-8). According
to fossil records, life has been destroyed several times and had reappeared
again and again.
The 10 incarnations of God can
be justified on the basis on the above assertion.
(1) Fish Incarnation - The first Avataar is the Matsya (Fish) Avataar in
aquatic environment. God comes in the form of a fish to save life forms
from a flood. The episode of the Great Flood has been found in the Mesopotamian
epic "Gilgamesh" and from there it was taken by Jews and now it
has spread in all religions.
The Hindu chronology
is set by the date of disappearance of the river Saraswatee. The event occurred
about 9,000 years ago. The riverbed can be seen from satellite photography. The
river was very broad, 27 kms at its widest point. The river flowed from Maanasarovar
Lake to the Arabian Sea and disappeared after a cataclysmic upheaval in the Himaalaya
that blocked its course. Therefore one may be justified to say that Hindu civilization
and beliefs are older than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian ones. The distinguishing
feature is that Hindu civilization is characterized by cultural artifacts and not
The absence of
archaeological evidence is because the mythological age was over before the
invention of burnt pottery. The method of making fire was invented by a
Vaidik sage Angiraa The method is still used in the ritual known as Yagya.
It is therefore very plausible that human settlements from the hunter stage
started first in Aaryaa-vart or Northern India. Fire God or Agni is considered
as the foremost protector (Purohit or well wisher) of humanity (from wild
animals). Aaryans, Hindu and Zoroastrians, are the only people who worship
Fire as a God.
(2) Koorm Incarnation -
The next evolutionary stage is of amphibians - Koorm or the Tortoise. This Avataar
has more than usual significance. The purpose of this Avataar was to secure the nectar
of immortality from the Heavens. Significantly the turtle has the highest longevity
amongst the species. Strangely enough, Mongols also regard the Turtle as Divine. There
was a huge statue of the turtle in the unfinished capital of Ghengis Khan, Karakoram.
The turtle played a major part in the churning of the vast ocean of milk in the outer
space. The purpose was to get to nectar. Many animal species and blessed forms of divinity
emerge from the ocean. This is important because it confirms what the Padmanaabh icon
implies, namely, a divine hand/participation in evolution of life. This would correspond
to what creationists, mostly based in the US, believe in. They call their belief “intelligent
design". A sculptured model of the churning of the ocean of milk is placed in the
lobby of the Bangkok airport in Thailand.
(3) Varaah Incarnation -
The next avatar is Varaah or wild Boar. In this stage life has emerged from the aquatic
environment and is wholly independent.
(4) Narasinh Incarnation -
Varaah is followed by the lower human forms known as Homo erectus in science and in
mythology as Narasinh or the man-lion. This species stood erect but was still governed
by animal instincts. We hear of monkeys assisting Raam in the epic Raamaayan. Maybe
these monkeys were the subhuman species living side by side with humans without interbreeding.
There is evidence that in an Israeli cave the Neanderthals and the humans lived without
interbreeding for 50,000 years.
(5) Vaaman Avataar -
The midget human Vaaman is the next stage in mythological evolution.
(6) Raam Incarnation -
From there evolution takes us to a rule-bound human being in the form of Raam.
(7) Krishn Incarnation -
The last stage of evolution is Krishn, the Purushottam or the perfect human being.
This is why Krishn is worshipped in all stages of life - as infant Mukund, as a
child Daamodar or Baal Krishn, as a carefree teenager, Venu Gopaal, as a lover
Raadhaa-Krishn, as a warrior (Kans Chaanoor Mardan), and finally as the philosopher
on the battle field of Kuru Kshetra. He
represents the quintessential joy of life. The Geetaa devotes one full chapter,
Chapter X, to evolution in all species. It concludes that all forms of excellence
are divine manifestations.
This chapter 10 distinguishes
Hindu evolution from the Darwinian evolution. Every species evolves independently to the
best within its limitations. There is no competition among the species for survival. With
this chapter Hinduism rejects the idea that only the fittest survive. Peter principle is
more relevant than Darwin. Peter Principle states that in any organization every employee
tends to reach his level of incompetence. When an employee is found efficient at any
particular level he is promoted to the next higher level. The process goes on till he is
promoted to a point where the employee becomes a misfit. Species also tend to follow the
rule. They stagnate at the level of their incompetence. Within each species the evolutionary
trend is to produce the best. This is what the Geetaa says.
A corollary is that every one
should try to reach the best of his potential. Excellence in any form, profession or
activity is divine. If one wants to reach God. the only way is to realize one’s highest
Arjun poses a FAQ in Geeta's 10th chapter -: “How does one recognize a divine manifestation”. (17)
Krishn answers: “There is no limit to my manifestations. I shall tell you the major ones.”
“I abide in all beings. I am the beginning, middle part and end of all creation. (20)
“I am Vishnu among the Aaditya. Among the bright objects I am Ravi the Sun God. Tej in
49 Marud Gan, I am the Moon among the stars.” (21)
“Among the Ved I am Saam Ved. Among the Dev I am Indra. I am the mind among the senses,
and consciousness of the created beings.” (22)
“I am Shankar among the Rudra, Kuber of the Raakshas, and Meru among the mountains. (23)
“I am Brihaspati among the priests, Skand among the generals and the ocean among water bodies.” (24)
“Among the Rishi I am Bhrigu. In forms of meditation I am Jap. Among the mountains I am the
"I am Ashwatth (Peepal) among the trees; Naarad among the Devarishi; Chitrarath among
the Gandharv; and the Muni Kapil among the Siddh. (26)
“I am Ucchaishravaa among the horses; know me to be born of the eternity;I am Airaavat among
the elephants; among men I am the king. (27)
“In the weapons class I am Vajra; among the kine I am Kaamdhenu; I am Manmath among the
progenitors; Vaasuki among the poisonous snakes. (28)
“Among the nonpoisonous snakes I am Anant (who bears Vishnu in his coils in the Padmnaabh
icon). Varun among the Yadasas;I am Aryamaa among
the forefathers (Pitri); and Yam among the controllers. (29)
I am Prahlaad among the Daitya; Samaya (Time) in counters; among the animals I am the lion;
and Garud among the birds. (30)
I am the Wind God among the purifiers; Raam among the warriors who keep weapons; among the
fishes I am the crocodile; among the rivers I am the Gangaa. (31)
Hey Arjun, I am the beginning, middle and end of the Universe. I am Adhyaatm Vidyaa (Brahm
Vidyaa) in all kinds of knowledge; and [I am] that discussion which is done to decide about
I am Akaar (A) in letters; Dwandwa Samaas in
Samaas; indestructible Kaal, Viraat Swaroop which has mouths all around and I maintain
and nourish everybody. (33)
I am Mrityu (death), destructor of everything; and the cause of creating everything; Keerti,
Shree, Vaak, Smriti, Medhaa, Dhriti and Kshamaa among women. (34)
In worth singing words I am Brihat Saam; Gaayatree Chhand in Chhand; Maargsheersh month
in months; and Vasant (Spring) season in seasons. (35)
I am gambling in cheaters; influence of influential men; victory of winners; intention of
intenders; and Saatwik nature of good people. (36)
Among the Vrishni I am Vaasudev and among the Paandav I am Arjun; among the Muni I am Vyaas;
among the poets I am Ushanaa. (37)
I am the punishment power of judges; [I am] the policy of wishers of winning; [I am] the
silence who want to keep secrets; Tattwa Gyaan of knowledgeable people. (38)
And Hey Arjun, I am the cause of the creation of all beings, because there is no movable
or immovable thing which is without me. (39)
Finally Krishn sums up the divine manifestations. "My Vibhooti has no end, I have
told you all in brief. (40)
Wherever one finds brilliance, prosperity and durability recognize the same as a divine
“I pervade the whole Universe and sustain it as my singular manifestation. (42)
The important point here is
that under divine guidance every species evolves to its most brilliant form. In this
respect Hindu evolution differs from Darwinian evolution. At every level there is divine
blessing and sustenance for evolution to the best.