vishnu avatars

169
VISHNU AVATARS Matsya (Sanskrit : मममममम) (Fish in Sanskrit ) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hindu mythology . Once while lord Brahma was sleeping and the Vedas were not under protection, the demon Hayagriva stole them. According to the Matsya Purana , the king of pre-ancient Dravida and a devotee of Vishnu, Satyavrata who later was known as Manu was washing his hands in a river when a little fish swam into his hands and pleaded with him to save its life. He put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. He then moved it to a tank, a river and then finally the ocean but to no avail. The fish then revealed himself to be Vishnu and told him that a deluge would occur within seven days that would destroy all life. Therefore, Satyavrata was instructed to take "all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints” [1] along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals. Then to restore the Vedas Matsya dived into the ocean to kill Hayagriva and a battle ensued between Vishnu as Matsya and the demon Hayagriva in which Hayagriva was defeated and the Vedas were restored. The deluge occurred and the lord reappeared as promised and advised Satyavrata to board the boat and fasten the serpent Vasuki to his horn as a rope to the boat. Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish. KURMA

Upload: ganeshru

Post on 21-Nov-2014

517 views

Category:

Documents


2 download

TRANSCRIPT

Page 1: Vishnu Avatars

VISHNU AVATARS

Matsya (Sanskrit: मत्स्य) (Fish in Sanskrit) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hindu mythology.

Once while lord Brahma was sleeping and the Vedas were not under protection, the demon Hayagriva stole them. According to the Matsya Purana, the king of pre-ancient Dravida and a devotee of Vishnu, Satyavrata who later was known as Manu was washing his hands in a river when a little fish swam into his hands and pleaded with him to save its life. He put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. He then moved it to a tank, a river and then finally the ocean but to no avail. The fish then revealed himself to be Vishnu and told him that a deluge would occur within seven days that would destroy all life. Therefore, Satyavrata was instructed to take "all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints”[1] along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals.

Then to restore the Vedas Matsya dived into the ocean to kill Hayagriva and a battle ensued between Vishnu as Matsya and the demon Hayagriva in which Hayagriva was defeated and the Vedas were restored.

The deluge occurred and the lord reappeared as promised and advised Satyavrata to board the boat and fasten the serpent Vasuki to his horn as a rope to the boat.

Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish.

KURMA

In Hinduism, Kurma (Sanskrit: कु� म�) was the second avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatara also belongs to the Satya yuga.

Contents

[hide] 1 Samudra manthan (The Churning of the ocean)

o 1.1 Temples 2 Notes

3 External links

Page 2: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Samudra manthan (The Churning of the ocean)

The bas-relief from Angkor Wat, Cambodia, shows Samudra manthan-Vishnu in the centre, his turtle avatar Kurma below, asuras and devas to left and right.

Kurma Avatar of Vishnu, below Mount Mandara, with Vasuki wrapped around it, during Samudra manthan, the churning of the ocean of milk. ca 1870.

The Devas lost their strength and powers due to a curse by the sage Durvasa because Indra, the king of the Devas, had insulted the sage’s gift (a garland) by giving it to his elephant which trampled upon it. Thus, after losing their immortality and kingdom, they approached Lord Vishnu for help.

Vishnu suggested that they needed to drink the nectar of immortality to regain their lost glory. However, they needed to strive hard to acquire the nectar since it was hidden in the ocean of milk. After declaring a truce with their foes (Asuras), Indra and his Devas together with the Asuras, use the serpent Vasuki as a churning rope and the mount Mandara as the churning staff.

When they began churning, the mount began sinking into the ocean. Taking the form of a turtle (Kurma), Vishnu bears the entire weight of the mountain and the churning continues and various objects are thrown out including the deadly poison Halahala, whose fumes threaten to destroy the Devas and the Asuras. Lord Shiva then comes to

Page 3: Vishnu Avatars

their rescue and gathers the entire poison in his palm and drinks it. His consort, Parvathi, clasps his throat and the poison remains there. Hence he became known as “Neelakanta” (literally: “the blue-throated one).[1]

“Fourteen precious things” come out of the ocean, culminating with Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, appearing with the nectar of immortality. The Asuras immediately rush and grab the nectar while quarreling among themselves.[2]

Vishnu again comes to the rescue in the form of a beautiful damsel, Mohini and tricks the Asuras and retrieves the potion which is distributed to the Devas. Though the Asuras realize Vishnu’s tricks, it is too late, as the Devas regain their renowned prowess and defeat them.

VARAHA

Varaha (Sanskrit: वराह) is the third Avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth (Prithvi) and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to have lasted for a thousand years, which the former finally won. Varaha carried the Earth out of the ocean between his tusks and restored it to its place in the universe. Vishnu married Prithvi (Bhudevi) in this avatar.

Varaha is depicted in art as either purely animal or as being anthropomorphic, having a boar's head on a man's body. In the latter form he has four arms, two of which hold the wheel and conch-shell while the other two hold a mace, sword or lotus or make a gesture (or "mudra") of blessing. The Earth is held between the boar's tusks.

The avatar symbolizes the resurrection of the Earth from a pralaya (deluge) and the establishment of a new kalpa (cosmic cycle).

The Varaha Purana is a Purana in which the form of narration is a recitation by Varaha.

VAMANA

Vamana (Devanagari: वमन, IAST: Vāmana) is a personality described in the Puranic texts of Hinduism as the Fifth Avatara of Vishnu, and the first incarnation of the Second Age, or Treta yuga. Also he is the first Avatar of Vishnu which appears with a completely human form, though it was that of a dwarf brahmin. He is also sometimes known as Upendra.

Page 4: Vishnu Avatars

Contents

[hide] 1 Origin 2 Symbolism

o 2.1 In Sikhism 3 In the Ramayana 4 Temples 5 See also 6 Footnotes

7 External links

[edit] Origin

Vamana was born to Aditi and Kashyapa.[1] He is the twelfth of the Adityas. Vamana is known to be the younger brother of Indra.

The legend of Bhagavata has it that the Vamana avatar was taken by Vishnu to restore Indra's authority over the heavens, which was taken away by force by the demon king Bali in Dravida. Vamana is a disguise of a short Brahman, carrying a wooden umbrella requested three steps of land for him to live in. Given a promise of three steps of Land by King Mahabali against the warning given by his Guru Sukracharya, Vamana, The Supreme God grows so huge that he could cover from heaven to earth, earth to lower worlds in two simple steps. King Mahabali unable to fulfil the promise of three paces of Land to the Supreme God, offers his head for the third step. Thus Vamana places his place on King Mahabali's head and gives him immortality for his benevolence.

[edit] Symbolism

Page 5: Vishnu Avatars

Vamana avatar with King Mahabali

Vamana taught King Mahabali that arrogance and pride should be abandoned if any advancement in life is to be made, and that wealth should never be taken for granted since it can so easily be taken away. Vamana then took on the form of Mahavishnu. He was pleased by King Mahabali's determination and ability to keep his promise in the face of his spiritual master's curse and the prospect of losing all his wealth. Vishnu named the King Mahabali since he was a Mahatma (great soul). He allowed Mahabali to return to the spiritual sky to associate with Prahalada (the demoniac Hiranyakashipu's pious son, also a descendant of the demon race) and other divine beings. Mahavishnu also declared that Mahabali would be able to rule the universe in the following yuga (age). Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlada being the son of Prahlada's son Virochana who was killed in a battle with the Devas.

Mahabali is supposed to return every year to the land of his people, to ensure that they are prosperous.

[edit] In Sikhism

Vamana is discussed in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of Sikhism.[2]

satjugi tai maNiO ChaliO bali bAvan bhAiO In Satyayuga, you sported as the dwarf incarnation, and fooled Bali.

On page 1330 of the Guru Granth Sahib, Vamana is mentioned as the "enticer" of Baliraja.[3]

[edit] In the Ramayana

Page 6: Vishnu Avatars

According to the Adhatya Ramayana It is also said that Vamanadeva is the guard of the gate of Bali Maharaja's planet Sutala[4][5] and will remain so forever.[6] Tulsidas' Ramayana too declares that Vamana became the "dwarpal" (gate-defender) of Bali.[7]

It is said that Mahabali attained Moksha by atmanidedinam.[8] Krishna in the Sri Rūpa Gosvāmīs Bhakti-rasāmrta-sindhuh[9] says that Mahabali came to Him or attained Him. Some traditions also hold that Vamana was an avatar of Ganesha.

KRISHNA

Krishna (कु ष्ण in Devanagari, kṛṣṇa in IAST, pronounced [ ˈkr ̩ ʂɳ ə] in classical Sanskrit) is a deity worshipped across many traditions in Hinduism in a variety of perspectives. While many Vaishnava groups recognize Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu, other traditions within Krishnaism consider him to be svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being.

Krishna is often depicted as an infant, as a young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana,[1] or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita.[2]

The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions.[3] They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being.[4] The principal scriptures discussing Krishna's story are the Mahābhārata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana.

The various traditions dedicated to different manifestations of Krishna, such as Vasudeva, Bala Krishna and Gopala, existed as early as 4th century BC. The Krishna-bhakti movement spread to southern India by the 9th century AD, while in northern India Krishnaism schools were well established by 11th century AD. From the 10th century AD, with the growing bhakti movement, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Jagannatha in Orissa, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan.

Contents[hide]

1 Etymology and names 2 Iconography 3 Literary sources 4 Life

o 4.1 Birth o 4.2 Childhood and youth o 4.3 The prince o 4.4 Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita o 4.5 Later life

Page 7: Vishnu Avatars

5 Worship o 5.1 Vaishnavism o 5.2 Early traditions o 5.3 Bhakti tradition o 5.4 Spread of the Krishna-bhakti movement o 5.5 In the West

6 In the performing arts 7 In other religions

o 7.1 Jainism o 7.2 Buddhism o 7.3 Bahá'í Faith o 7.4 Ahmadiyya Islam o 7.5 Other

8 See also 9 Footnotes 10 References

11 External links

[edit] Etymology and names

Krishna as Jaganatha in a typical Oriya style, shown at the far right, with sister Subhadra in the center and brother Balarama on the left.Main article: List of titles and names of Krishna

The Sanskrit word kṛṣṇa means "black", "dark" or "dark-blue"[5] and is used as a name to describe someone with dark skin. Krishna is often depicted in murtis (images) as black, and is generally shown in paintings with a blue skin.

Some Hindu traditions often ascribe varying interpretations and powers to the names. Mahabharata's Udyoga-parva (Mbh 5.71.4) divides kṛṣṇa into elements kṛṣ and ṇa, kṛṣ (a verbal root meaning "to plough, drag") being taken as expressing bhū "being; earth" and ṇa being taken as expressing nirvṛti "bliss". In the Brahmasambandha mantra of the Vallabha sampradaya, the syllables of the name Krishna are assigned the power to destroy sin relating to material, self and divine causes.[6] Mahabharata verse

Page 8: Vishnu Avatars

5.71.4 is also quoted in Chaitanya Charitamrita and Prabhupada in his commentary, translates the bhū as "attractive existence", thus Krishna is also interpreted as meaning "all-attractive one".[7][8] This quality of Krishna is stated in the atmarama verse of Bhagavatam 1.7.10.[9]

The name Krishna is also the 57th name in the Vishnu Sahasranama and means the Existence of Bliss, according to Adi Sankara's interpretation.[10] Krishna is also known by various other names, epithets and titles, which reflect his many associations and attributes. Among the most common names are Govinda, "finder of cows", or Gopala, "protector of cows", which refer to Krishna's childhood in Vraja.[11][12] Some of the distinct names may be regionally important; for instance, Jagannatha (literally "Lord of the Universe"), a popular deity of Puri in eastern India.[13]

[edit] Iconography

Krishna with Gopis, painting from Smithsonian Institution

Krishna is easily recognized by his representations. Though his skin colour may be depicted as black or dark in some representations, particularly in murtis, in other images such as modern pictorial representations, Krishna is usually shown with blue skin. He is often shown wearing a yellow silk dhoti and peacock feather crown. Common depictions show him as a little boy, or as a young man in a characteristic relaxed pose, playing the flute.[14][15] In this form, he usually stands with one leg bent in front of the other and raises a flute to his lips, accompanied by cows, emphasising his position as the divine herdsman, Govinda, or with the gopis (milkmaids).

The scene on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, notably where he addresses Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, is another common subject for representation. In these depictions, he is shown as a man, often shown with typical god-like characteristics of Hindu religious art, such as multiple arms or heads, denoting power, and with attributes of Vishnu, such as the chakra or in his two-armed form as a charioteer.A 800 B.C. cave paintings in Mirzapur,U.P., North India, which show raiding horse-charioteers ,one of whom is about to hurl such a wheel could potentially be identified as Krishna. [16].

Page 9: Vishnu Avatars

Representations in temples often show Krishna as a man standing in an upright, formal pose. He may be alone, or with associated figures:[17] his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra, or his main queens Rukmini and Satyabhama.

Often, Krishna is pictured with his gopi-consort Radha. Manipuri Vaishnavas do not worship Krishna alone, but as Radha Krishna,[18] a combined image of Krishna and Radha. This is also a characteristic of the schools Rudra [19] and Nimbarka sampradaya,[20] as well as that of Swaminarayan faith. The traditions celebrate Radha Ramana murti, who is viewed by Gaudiyas as a form of Radha Krishna.[21]

Krishna is also depicted and worshipped as a small child (bāla k ṛṣṇ a , the child Krishna), crawling on his hands and knees or dancing, often with butter in his hand.[22][23] Regional variations in the iconography of Krishna are seen in his different forms, such as Jaganatha of Orissa, Vithoba of Maharashtra [24] and Shrinathji in Rajasthan.

[edit] Literary sources

See also: Krishna in the Mahābhārata

Yashoda bathing the child Krishna. (Western Indian illustrated Bhagavata Purana Manuscript)

The earliest text to explicitly provide detailed descriptions of Krishna as a personality is the epic Mahābhārata which depicts Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu.[25] Krishna is central to many of the main stories of the epic. The eighteen chapters of the sixth book (Bhishma Parva) of the epic that constitute the Bhagavad Gita contain the advice of Krishna to the warrior-hero Arjuna, on the battlefield. Krishna is already an adult in the epic, although there are allusions to his earlier exploits. The Harivamsa, a later appendix to this epic, contains the earliest detailed version of Krishna's childhood and youth.

Around 150 BC, Patanjali in his Mahabhashya quotes a verse: "May the might of Krishna accompanied by Samkarshana increase!" Other verses are mentioned. One verse speaks of "Janardana with himself as fourth" (Krishna with three companions, the three possibly being Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha). Another verse mentions musical instruments being played at meetings in the temples of Rama (Balarama) and Kesava (Krishna). Patanjali also describes dramatic and mimetic performances (Krishna-Kamsopacharam) representing the killing of Kamsa by Vasudeva.[26]

In the 1st century BC, there seems to be evidence for a worship of five Vrishni heroes (Balarama, Krishna, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Samba) for an inscription has been

Page 10: Vishnu Avatars

found at Mora near Mathura, which apparently mentions a son of the great satrap Rajuvula, probably the satrap Sodasa, and an image of Vrishni, "probably Vasudeva, and of the "Five Warriors".[27] Brahmi inscription on the Mora stone slab, now in the Mathura Museum.[28][29].

Many Puranas tells Krishna's life-story or some highlights from it. Two Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana, that contain the most elaborate telling of Krishna’s story and teachings are the most theologically venerated by the Gaudiya Vaishnava schools.[30] Roughly one quarter of the Bhagavata Purana is spent extolling his life and philosophy.

Yāska's Nirukta, an etymological dictionary around the 5th century BC, contains a reference to the Shyamantaka jewel in the possession of Akrura, a motif from well known Puranic story about Krishna.[31] Shatapatha Brahmana and Aitareya-Aranyaka, associate Krishna with his Vrishni origins.[32]

In early texts, such as Rig Veda, there are no references to Krishna, however some, like Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar attempted to show that "the very same Krishna" made an appearance, e.g. as the drapsa ... krishna "black drop" of RV 8.96.13.[31][33] Some authors have also likened prehistoric depictions of deities to Krishna. Thus, a steatite tablet excavated by Mackay in Mohenjo-daro 1927-31 depicts two persons holding a tree and tree god is extending his hands towards them, compared to the episode of Yamalarjuna-lila by the excavator.[34][35]

[edit] Life

This summary is based on details from the Mahābhārata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana. The scenes from the narrative are set in north India, mostly in the present states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi and Gujarat.

[edit] Birth

Krishna is carried by his father Vasudeva across river Yamuna to Vrindavana, mid 18th century painting.

Page 11: Vishnu Avatars

Traditional belief based on scriptural details and astrological calculations gives the date of Krishna's birth, known as Janmashtami,[36] as either 18 or 21 July 3228 BCE.[37][38][39] Krishna belonged to the royal family of Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki, and her husband Vasudeva. Mathura was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna's parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. The king Kamsa, Devaki's brother,[40] had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki's eighth son, he had locked the couple into a prison cell. After Kamsa killed the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh, being transferred to Rohini as Balarama, Krishna took birth.

Since Vasudeva believed Krishna's life was in danger, Krishna was secretly taken out of the prison cell to be raised by his foster parents, Yasoda [41] and Nanda in Gokula. Two of his other siblings also survived, Balarama (Devaki's seventh child, transferred to the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva's first wife) and Subhadra (daughter of Vasudeva and Rohini, born much later than Balarama and Krishna).[42] According to Bhagavata Purana it is believed that Krishna was born without a sexual union, by "mental transmission" from the mind of Vasudeva into the womb of Devaki. Hindus believe that in that time, this type of union was possible for achieved beings.[36][43][44]

[edit] Childhood and youth

Krishna holding Govardhan hill

Nanda was the head of a community of cow-herders, and he settled in Vrindavana. The stories of Krishna's childhood and youth tell how he became a cow herder,[45] his mischievous pranks as Makhan Chor (butter thief), his foiling of attempts to take his life,

Page 12: Vishnu Avatars

and his role as a protector of the people of Vrindavana. Krishna is said to have killed the demons like Putana, sent by Kamsa for Krishna's life. He tamed the serpent Kāliyā, who previously poisoned the waters of Yamuna river, thus leading to the death of the cowherds. In Hindu art, Krishna is often depicted dancing on the multi-hooded Kāliyā. Krishna is believed to have lifted the Govardhana hill and taught Indra, the king of the devas and rain, a lesson to protect native people of Vrindavana from persecution by Indra and prevent the devastation of the pasture land of Govardhan. Indra had too much pride and was angry when Krishna advised the people of Vrindavana to take care of their animals and their environment that provide them with all their necessities, instead of Indra.[46][47] In the view of some, the spiritual movement started by Krishna had something in it which went against the orthodox forms of worship of the Vedic gods such as Indra.[48]

The stories of his play with the gopis (milkmaids) of Vrindavana became known as the Rasa lila and were romanticised in the poetry of Jayadeva, author of the Gita Govinda. These became important as part of the development of the Krishna bhakti traditions worshiping Radha Krishna.[49]

[edit] The prince

On his return to Mathura as a young man, Krishna overthrew and killed his uncle, Kamsa, after avoiding several assassination attempts from Kamsa's followers. He reinstated Kamsa's father, Ugrasena, as the king of the Yadavas and became a leading prince at the court.[50] During this period, he became a friend of Arjuna and the other Pandava princes of the Kuru kingdom, who were his cousins. Later, he took his Yadava subjects to the city of Dwaraka (in modern Gujarat) and established his own kingdom there.[51]

Krishna married Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha, by abducting her from her wedding on her request. According to Bhagavata Purana, Krishna married with 16,108 wives,[52][53] of which eight were chief - collectively called the Ashta Bharya —including Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravrinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshana.[54][55] Krishna subsequently married 16,100 maidens who were being held in captivity by demon Narakasura, to save their honour. Krishna killed the demon and released them all. According to strict social custom of the time all of the captive women were degraded, and would be unable to marry, as they had been under the control of Narakasura, however Krishna married them to reinstate their status in the society.This wedding with 16100 abandoned daughters was more of a mass women rehabilitation.[56] In Vaishnava traditions, Krishna's wives are believed to be forms of the goddess Lakshmi—consort of Vishnu, or special souls who attained this qualification after many lifetimes of austerity, while his queen Satyabhama, is an expansion of Radha.[57]

[edit] Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita

Main articles: Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita

Page 13: Vishnu Avatars

Once battle seemed inevitable, Krishna offered both sides the opportunity to choose between having either his army or simply himself alone, but on the condition that he personally would not raise any weapon. Arjuna, on behalf of the Pandavas, chose to have Krishna on their side, and Duryodhana, chief of the Kauravas, chose Krishna's army. At the time of the great battle, Krishna acted as Arjuna's charioteer, since it was a position that did not require the wielding of weapons.

Krishna displays his Vishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Upon arriving at the battlefield, and seeing that the enemies are his family, his grandfather, his cousins and loved ones, Arjuna becomes doubtful about fighting. Krishna then advises him about the battle, with the conversation soon extending into a discourse which was later compiled as the Bhagavad Gita.[58]

[edit] Later life

At a festival, a fight broke out between the Yadavas who exterminated each other. His elder brother Balarama then gave up his body using Yoga. Krishna retired into the forest and sat under a tree in meditation. While Vyasa's Mahābhārata says that Krishna ascended to heaven, Sarala's Mahabhārata narrates the story that a hunter mistook his partly visible left foot for a deer and shot an arrow wounding him mortally.[59][60][61]

According to Puranic sources,[62] Krishna's disappearance marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga, which is dated to February 17/18, 3102 BCE.[63] Vaishnava teachers such as Ramanujacharya and Gaudiya Vaishnavas held the view that the body of Krishna is completely spiritual and never decays as this appears to be the perspective of the Bhagavata Purana. Krishna never appears to grow old or age at all in the historical depictions of the Puranas despite passing of several decades, but there are grounds for a debate whether this indicates that he has no material body, since battles and other descriptions of the Mahabhārata epic show clear indications that he seems to be subject to the limitations of nature.[64] While battles apparently seem to indicate limitations, Mahabharatha also shows in many places where Krishna is not subject to any limitations as through episodes Duryodhana trying to arrest Krishna where His body burst into fire

Page 14: Vishnu Avatars

showing all creation within Him.[65] Krishna is also explicitly told to be without deterioration elsewhere.[66]

[edit] Worship

[edit] Vaishnavism

Main articles: Vaishnavism and Krishnaism

The worship of Krishna is part of Vaishnavism, which regards Vishnu as the Supreme God and venerates his associated avatars, their consorts, and related saints and teachers. Krishna is especially looked upon as a full manifestation of Vishnu, and as one with Vishnu himself.[67] However the exact relationship between Krishna and Vishnu is complex and diverse,[68] where Krishna is sometimes considered an independent deity, supreme in his own right.[69] Out of many deities Krishna is particularly important, and traditions of Vaishnava lines are generally centered either on Vishnu or on Krishna, as supreme. The term Krishnaism has been used to describe the sects of Krishna, reserving term "Vaishnavism" for sects focusing on Vishnu in which Krishna is an avatar, rather than a transcended being.[70]

All Vaishnava traditions recognise Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu; others identify Krishna with Vishnu; while traditions, such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism,[71][72] Vallabha Sampradaya and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, regard Krishna as the svayam bhagavan, original form of God, or the Lord himself.[73][74][75][76][77] Swaminarayan, the founder of the Swaminarayan Sampraday also worshipped Krishna as God himself. "Greater Krishnaism" corresponds to the second and dominant phase of Vaishnavism, revolving around the cults of the Vasudeva, Krishna, and Gopala of late Vedic period.[78] Today the faith has a significant following outside of India as well.[79]

[edit] Early traditions

An image of Bala Krishna displayed during Janmashtami celebrations at a Swaminarayan Temple in London

The deity Krishna-Vasudeva (kṛṣṇa vāsudeva "Krishna, the son of Vasudeva") is historically one of the earliest forms of worship in Krishnaism and Vaishnavism.[31][80] It

Page 15: Vishnu Avatars

is believed to be a significant tradition of the early history of the worship of Krishna in antiquity.[81][82] This tradition is considered as earliest to other traditions that led to amalgamation at a later stage of the historical development. Other traditions are Bhagavatism and the cult of Gopala, that along with the cult of Bala Krishna form the basis of current tradition of monotheistic religion of Krishna.[83][84] Some early scholars would equate it with Bhagavatism,[81] and the founder of this religious tradition is believed to be Krishna, who is the son of Vasudeva, thus his name is Vāsudeva, he is belonged to be historically part of the Satvata tribe, and according to them his followers called themselves Bhagavatas and this religion had formed by the 2nd century BC (the time of Patanjali), or as early as the 4th century BC according to evidence in Megasthenes and in the Arthasastra of Kautilya, when Vāsudeva was worshiped as supreme deity in a strongly monotheistic format, where the supreme being was perfect, eternal and full of grace.[81] In many sources outside of the cult, devotee or bhakta is defined as Vāsudevaka.[85] The Harivamsa describes intricate relationships between Krishna Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha that would later form a Vaishnava concept of primary quadrupled expansion, or avatara.[86]

[edit] Bhakti tradition

Main article: Bhakti yoga

Bhakti, meaning devotion, is not confined to any one deity. However Krishna is an important and popular focus of the devotional and ecstatic aspects of Hindu religion, particularly among the Vaishnava sects.[71][87] Devotees of Krishna subscribe to the concept of lila, meaning 'divine play', as the central principle of the Universe. The lilas of Krishna, with their expressions of personal love that transcend the boundaries of formal reverence, serve as a counterpoint to the actions of another avatar of Vishnu: Rama, "He of the straight and narrow path of maryada, or rules and regulations."[72]

The bhakti movements devoted to Krishna became prominent in southern India in the 7th to 9th centuries AD. The earliest works included those of the Alvar saints of the Tamil country.[88] A major collection of their works is the Divya Prabandham. The Alvar Andal's popular collection of songs Tiruppavai, in which she conceives of herself as a gopi, is the most famous of the oldest works in this genre.[89][90] [91] Kulasekaraazhvaar's Mukundamala was another notable work of this early stage.

[edit] Spread of the Krishna-bhakti movement

The movement spread rapidly from northern India into the south, with the Sanskrit poem Gita Govinda of Jayadeva (12th century AD) becoming a landmark of devotional, Krishna-based literature. It elaborated a part of the Krishna legend—his love for one particular gopi, called Radha, a minor character in Bhagavata Purana but a major one in other texts like Brahma Vaivarta Purana. By the influence of Gita Govinda, Radha became inseparable from devotion to Krishna.[4]

Page 16: Vishnu Avatars

Gita Govinda by Jayadeva.

While the learned sections of the society well versed in Sanskrit could enjoy works like Gita Govinda or Bilvamangala's Krishna-Karnamritam, the masses sang the songs of the devotee-poets, who composed in the regional languages of India. These songs expressing intense personal devotion were written by devotees from all walks of life. The songs of Meera and Surdas became epitomes of Krishna-devotion in north India.

These devotee-poets, like the Alvars before them, were aligned to specific theological schools only loosely, if at all. But by the 11th century AD, Vaishnava Bhakti schools with elaborate theological frameworks around the worship of Krishna were established in north India. Nimbarka (11th century AD), Vallabhacharya (15th century AD) and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (16th century AD) were the founders of the most influential schools. These schools, namely Nimbarka Sampradaya, Vallabha Sampradaya and Gaudiya Vaishnavism respectively, see Krishna as the supreme god, rather than an avatar, as generally seen.

In the Deccan, particularly in Maharashtra, saint poets of the Varkari sect such as Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Janabai, Eknath and Tukaram promoted the worship of Vithoba,[24] a local form of Krishna, from the beginning of the 13th century until the late 18th century.[4] In southern India, Purandara Dasa and Kanakadasa of Karnataka composed songs devoted to the Krishna image of Udupi. Rupa Goswami of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, has compiled a comprehensive summary of bhakti named Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.[87]

[edit] In the West

Page 17: Vishnu Avatars

Krishna (left) with the flute with gopi-consort Radha, Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England

Since 1966, the Krishna-bhakti movement has also spread outside India. This is largely due to the Hare Krishna movement, the largest part of which is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).[92]

"Krishnology" is a term coined to highlight parallels between Krishnaism in Vaishnava theology and Christological dogma in Christianity.

[edit] In the performing arts

While discussing the origin of Indian theatre, Horwitz talks about the mention of the Krishna story in Patanjali's Mahabhashya (c. 150 BC), where the episodes of slaying of Kamsa (Kamsa Vadha) and "Binding of the heaven storming titan" (Bali Bandha) are described.[93] Bhasa's Balacharitam and Dutavakyam (c. 400 BC) are the only Sanskrit plays centered on Krishna written by a major classical dramatist. The former dwells only on his childhood exploits and the latter is a one-act play based on a single episode from the Mahābhārata when Krishna tries to make peace between the warring cousins.[94]

From the 10th century AD, with the growing bhakti movement, Krishna became a favourite subject of the arts. The songs of the Gita Govinda became popular across India, and had many imitations. The songs composed by the Bhakti poets added to the repository of both folk and classical singing.

Page 18: Vishnu Avatars

A Kathakali performer as Krishna.

The classical Indian dances, especially Odissi and Manipuri, draw heavily on the story. The 'Rasa lila' dances performed in Vrindavan shares elements with Kathak, and the Krisnattam, with some cycles, such as Krishnattam, traditionally restricted to the Guruvayur temple, the precursor of Kathakali.[95] The Sattriya dance, founded by the Assamese Vaishnava saint Sankardeva, extols the virtues of Krishna. Medieval Maharashtra gave birth to a form of storytelling known as the Hari-Katha, that told Vaishnava tales and teachings through music, dance, and narrative sequences, and the story of Krishna one of them. This tradition spread to Tamil Nadu and other southern states, and is now popular in many places throughout India.

Narayana Tirtha's (17th century AD) Krishna-Lila-Tarangini provided material for the musical plays of the Bhagavata-Mela by telling the tale of Krishna from birth until his marriage to Rukmini. Tyagaraja (18th century AD) wrote a similar piece about Krishna called Nauka-Charitam. The narratives of Krishna from the Puranas are performed in Yakshagana, a performance style native to Karnataka's coastal districts. Many movies in all Indian languages have been made based on these stories. These are of varying quality and usually add various songs, melodrama, and special effects.

[edit] In other religions

[edit] Jainism

The most exalted figures in Jainism are the twenty-four Tirthankaras. Krishna, when he was incorporated into the Jain list of heroic figures presented a problem with his activities which are not pacifist or non-violent. The concept of Baladeva, Vasudeva and Prati-Vasudeva was used to solve it. The Jain list of sixty-three Shalakapurshas or notable figures includes amongst others, the twenty-four Tirthankaras and nine sets of this triad. One of these triads is Krishna as the Vasudeva, Balarama as the Baladeva and Jarasandha as the Prati-Vasudeva. He was a cousin of the twenty-second Tirthankara, Neminatha.

Page 19: Vishnu Avatars

The stories of these triads can be found in the Harivamsha of Jinasena (not be confused with its namesake, the addendum to Mahābhārata) and the Trishashti-shalakapurusha-charita of Hemachandra.[96]

In each age of the Jain cyclic time is born a Vasudeva with an elder brother termed the Baladeva. The villain is the Prati-vasudeva. Baladeva is the upholder of the Jain principle of non-violence. However, Vasudeva has to forsake this principle to kill the Prati-Vasudeva and save the world. The Vasudeva then descends to hell as a punishment for this violent act. Having undergone the punishment he is then reborn as a Tirthankara.[97]

[98]

[edit] Buddhism

Depiction of Krishna playing flute in the temple constructed in AD 752 on the order of Emperor Shomu; Todai-ji Temple, Great Buddha Hall in Nara, Japan

The story of Krishna occurs in the Jataka tales in Buddhism,[99] in the Ghatapandita Jataka as a prince and legendary conqueror and king of India.[100] In the Buddhist version, Krishna is called Vasudeva, Kanha and Keshava, and Balarama is his younger brother, Baladeva. These details resemble that of the story given in the Bhagavata Purana. Vasudeva, along with his nine other brothers (each son a powerful wrestler) and one elder sister (Anjana) capture all of Jambudvipa (many consider this to be India) after beheading their evil uncle, King Kamsa, and later all other kings of Jambudvipa with his Sudarshana Chakra. Much of the story involving the defeat of Kamsa follows the story given in the Bhagavata Purana.[101]

As depicted in the Mahābhārata, all of the sons are eventually killed due to a curse of sage Kanhadipayana (Veda Vyasa, also known as Krishna Dwaipayana). Krishna himself is eventually speared by a hunter in the foot by mistake, leaving the sole survivor of their family being their sister, Anjanadevi of whom no further mention is made.[102]

Page 20: Vishnu Avatars

Since Jataka tales are given from the perspective of Buddha's previous lives (as well as the previous lives of many of Buddha's followers), Krishna appears as one of the lives of Sariputra, one of Buddha's foremost disciples and the "Dhammasenapati" or "Chief General of the Dharma" and is usually shown being Buddha's "right hand man" in Buddhist art and iconography.[103] The Bodhisattva, is born in this tale as one of his youngest brothers named Ghatapandita, and saves Krishna from the grief of losing his son.[100] The 'divine boy' Krishna as an embodiment of wisdom and endearing prankster is forming a part of worshipable pantheon in Japanese Buddhism.[104]

[edit] Bahá'í Faith

Bahá'ís believe that Krishna was a "Manifestation of God," or one in a line of prophets who have revealed the Word of God progressively for a gradually maturing humanity. In this way, Krishna shares an exalted station with Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus Christ, the Báb, and the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh.[105]

[edit] Ahmadiyya Islam

Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believe Krishna to be a great prophet of God as described by their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ghulam Ahmad also claimed to be the likeness of Krishna as a latter day reviver of religion and morality whose mission was to reconcile man with God.[106] Ahmadis maintain that the term Avatar is synonymous with the term 'prophet' of the middle eastern religious tradition as God's intervention with man; as God appoints a man as his vicegerent upon earth. In Lecture Sialkot, Ghulam Ahmed wrote:

Let it be clear that Raja Krishna, according to what has been revealed to me, was such a truly great man that it is hard to find his like among the Rishis and Avatars of the Hindus. He was an Avatar—i.e., Prophet—of his time upon whom the Holy Spirit would descend from God. He was from God, victorious and prosperous. He cleansed the land of the Aryas from sin and was in fact the Prophet of his age whose teaching was later corrupted in numerous ways. He was full of love for God, a friend of virtue and an enemy of evil.[106]

[edit] Other

Krishna worship or reverence has been adopted by several new religious movements since the 19th century, and he is sometimes a member of an eclectic pantheon in occult texts, along with Greek, Buddhist, Biblical and even historical figures.[107] For instance, Édouard Schuré, an influential figure in perennial philosophy and occult movements, considered Krishna a Great Initiate; while Theosophists regard Krishna as an incarnation of Maitreya (one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom), the most important spiritual teacher for humanity after Buddha.[108][109] Krishna was canonized by Aleister Crowley and is recognized as a saint in the Gnostic Mass of Ordo Templi Orientis.[110][111] Reviewers linked the imagery of the blue-skinned Na'vi in James Cameron's Avatar film to Krishna as one of possible conceptual prototypes for the film's Hindu theme.[

Page 21: Vishnu Avatars

KALKI

In Hinduism, Kalki (Devanagari: कुल्कि�कु; also rendered by some as Kalkin and Kalaki) is the tenth and final Maha Avatara (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time. The origins of the name probably lie in the Sanskrit word "kalka" which refers to mud, dirt, filth, or foulness and hence denotes the "destroyer of foulness," "destroyer of confusion," "destroyer of darkness," or "annihilator of ignorance."[1] Other similar and divergent interpretations based on varying etymological derivations from Sanskrit - including one simply meaning "White Horse" - have been made.[2]

In the Buddhist Kalachakra tradition, some 25 rulers of the legendary Shambhala Kingdom have the title of Kalki, Kulika or Kalki-king.[3]

Contents

[hide] 1 Maha Avatara 2 The prophecy and its origins 3 Kalki and Shambala 4 The marriage of Kalki 5 Modern interpretations of the Kalki prophecy 6 See also 7 References

8 External links

[edit] Maha Avatara

Hindu traditions permit numerous interpretations of what avatars are and to what purpose they act. Avatara means "descent" and indicates a descent of the divine awareness into manifestations of the mundane form. The Garuda Purana lists ten avatars, with Kalki being the tenth. The Bhagavata Purana initially lists twenty-two avatars, but mentions an additional three for a total of twenty-five avatars. He is presented as the twenty-second avatar in this list.

Page 22: Vishnu Avatars

Kalki as Vajimukha, horse-faced

Popular images depict him riding a white horse with wings known as Devadatta (God-given.) In these images, Kalki is brandishing a sword in his right hand and is intent on eradicating the corrupt destitution and debauchery of Kali Yuga. Others represent him as an amalgam of a horse's head and a man's body.

[edit] The prophecy and its origins

One of the earliest mentions of Kalki is in the Vishnu Purana, which is dated generally to be after the Gupta Empire around the 7th century A.D.[4] In the Hindu Trimurti, Vishnu is the preserver and sustainer of life, balancing the processes of creation and destruction. Kalki is also mentioned in another of the 18 major Puranas, the Agni Purana. Agni is the god of fire in the Hindu pantheon, and symbolically represents the spiritual fire of life and the processes of transformation. It is one of the earliest works declaring Gautama Buddha to have been a manifestation of Vishnu, and seems to draw upon the Vishnu Purana in its mention of Kalki. A later work, the Kalki Purana, a minor Purana, is an extensive exposition of expectations and predictions of when, where, and why it is said he will come, and what he is expected to do. It has a militant perspective, and celebrates the defeat of traditions that are deemed heretical for not adhering closely enough to the

Page 23: Vishnu Avatars

traditions of the Vedas, such as Buddhism and Jainism[citation needed]. A few other minor Purana also mention him.

The Agni Purana explains that when the non-Aryans who pose as kings begin devouring men who appear righteous and feed on human beings, Kalki, as the son of Vishnuyasha, and Yajnavalkya as His priest and teacher, will destroy these non-Aryans with His weapons. He will establish moral law in the form of the fourfold varnas, or the suitable organization of society in four classes. After that people will return to the path of righteousness. (16.7-9) The Agni Purana also relates that Hari, after giving up the form of Kalki, will go to heaven. Then the Krita or Satya Yuga will return as before. (16.10)

The Vishnu Purana also explains that, "When the practices taught in the Vedas and institutes of law have nearly ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists of His own spiritual nature, and who is the beginning and end, and who comprehends all things, shall descend upon earth. He will be born in the family of Vishnuyasha, an eminent brahmana of Shambhala village, as Kalki, endowed with eight superhuman faculties. By His irresistible might he will destroy all the mlecchas and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will reestablish righteousness upon earth, and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as clear as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who will follow the laws of the Krita age or Satya Yuga, the age of purity. As it is said, 'When the sun and moon, and the lunar asterism Tishya, and the planet Jupiter, are in one mansion, the Krita age shall return.'" (Book Four, Chapter 24)

The Padma Purana relates that Lord Kalki will end the age of Kali and will kill all the wicked mlecchas and, thus, destroy the bad condition of the world. He will gather all of the distinguished brahmanas and will propound the highest truth. He will know all the ways of life that have perished and will remove the prolonged hunger of the genuine brahmanas and the pious. He will be the only ruler of the world that cannot be controlled, and will be the banner of victory and adorable to the world. (6.71.279-282)

The Bhagavata Purana states, "At the end of Kali Yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen of the three higher castes, and when the power of government is transferred to the hands of ministers elected from the lowborn shudra class or those less than them, and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser. (2.7.38) It further describes Lord Kalki's activities as follows: "Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift white horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings." (12.2.19-20)

The Kalki Purana combines all of the elements from the puranas above. He is one who has power to change the course of time stream in the favour of the good.He will be one to

Page 24: Vishnu Avatars

whom the power to change the destiny of the world will be given.It states the evil family of the demon Kali will spring from the back of Brahma. They will descend to earth and cause mankind to turn towards depravity. When man stops offering yagna to the gods, Vishnu himself will descend to earth to rid the world of evil. He will be reborn as Kalki to noted Brahmin family in the city of Shambhala. As a young man, He will be mentored in the arts of war by Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu.[5] He will then set out across the world battling evil kings and false prophets. He finally defeats Kali and brings about the Satya yuga. Having completed His mission, He will assume his four-armed form and return to heaven as Vishnu.

Followers of Tibetan Buddhism have preserved the Kalachakra Tantra in which "Kalkin" is a title of 25 rulers of the mystical realm of Shambhala. The aims and actions of some of these are prophesied in portions of the work.

[edit] Kalki and Shambala

The Kalachakra tantra was first taught by the Buddha to King Suchandra, the first dharmaraja of Shambhala.[6] "Lord Kalki will appear in the home of the most eminent brahmana of Shambhala village, the great souls Vishnuyasha and Sumati." (Srimad-Bhagavatam Bhag.12.2.18)[7]

Literal translation:

शम्भल ग्राम म�ख्यस्य ब्राह्मणस्य महत्मन�।भवन� विवष्ण�यशसः� कुल्कि�कु� प्रादुभ�विवष्यवि!।।Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana – 12:2:18

शम्भल ग्रा�म म�ख्यस्य ब्रा�ह्मणस्य महा�त्मनः�।शम्भ� Shambhu (Shiv Shambhu Bhola)[6][7] + ल or ल� (of) + ग्राम Grama (Community/Village) + म�ख्यस्य Mukhyasya (Principally) + ब्राह्मणस्य Brahmanasya (of the Brahmins) + महत्मन� Maha Atman (Great Souls) Shiva Durga[8] worshipping community principally of great souls Brahmins.

भवनः� विवष्ण�यशसः� कल्किः�क� प्रा�दुभ�विवष्यवि�।।भवन� Bhavanê (At the home of) + विवष्ण� Vishnu + यशसः� Yáśas (Worthy) + कु�कु Kalk ( Mud or Sediment) + इ i (to arise from, come from) + प्रादुरा# Prādúr (Arise/Born) भविवष्यवि! Bhavishyati (In the future)In the future at the home of Vishnu worthy, one from the mud/sediment will arise/be born.This points to a name equivalent to mud or sediment born.[9]

द्वादश्य' श�क्ल-पक्षस्य मधव� मसिसः मधवम#।जा!' ददृश!�� प�त्रं' विप!रा0 हृष्ट-मनसः0।। (1:2:15 Kalki Purna)

द्वा�दश्य�# श�क्ल-पक्षस्य म�धव� म�सिसः म�धवम)।द्वादश्य' - द्वा dvA (two) + दश्य' dashya (tens/10's) meaning 20 श�क्ल-पक्षस्य - श�क्ल Shukla (bright) + पक्षस्य(pakshaya) parts (the first part of the moon cycle) + मधव� madhva is Hindu month of Chaitra (First day of Chaitra is when Lord Brahma created the universe) March/April + मसिसः masi

Page 25: Vishnu Avatars

(month of) + मधवम# madhavam it is a point of reference to the birthday of Lord Krishna celebrated as Krishna Janmashtami which is observed on the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhaadra (parts of August and september).Alternativelyद्वादश्य' - द्वा dvA (two) + दश्य' dashya (tens/10's) meaning 12 श�क्ल-पक्षस्य - श�क्ल Shukla (bright) + पक्षस्य(pakshaya) parts (the first part of the moon cycle) + मधव� madhva is hindu month of Chaitra[10] (First day of Chaitra is when Lord Brahma created the universe, Hindu new year starts) March/April + मसिसः masi (month of) + मधवम# Lord Krishna (as Kalki) arrived. जा��# ददृश��� प�त्रं# विप�रौ. हृष्ट-म�नःसः.।।जा!' jatam (born - brought into existence) + ददृश!�� dadastu (then) + प�त्रं' putram (a son) + विप!रा0 pitarau (parents [were]) + हृष्ट hrshta (thrilling with rapture, rejoiced, pleased, glad, merry) + मनसः0 manasau (mental feeling).Twenty, first fortnights of the moon cycles from the birthday of Krishna (Krishna Janmashtami - Bhaadra/August) then in the month of Chaitra (March/April) the father was mentally overwhelmed by the son being born. This points to the sun sign of Aries.or12th of the first part of the moon cycle in the month of Chaitra (March/April, Hindu new year) Lord Krishna (as Kalki) arrived then the father was mentally overwhelmed by the son being born This also points to the sun sign of Aries.In Chaitra month, the fifteen days in Shukla paksha (first fortnight / first half of the month) are dedicated to fifteen gods or deities. Each day of Chaitra month is dedicated to each God. People worship a God on each day, the 12th day (Chaitra Dwadashi) is dedicated to Lord Sri Maha Vishnu.

[edit] The marriage of Kalki

Kalki Purna:

मत्तो4 विवद्यां' सिशवद# अस्त्रं' लब्ध्व व�द-मय' श�कुम#।सिंसः:हल� च विप्राय' पद्मां' धम�न# सः'स्थापयियष्यसिसः।। 1:3:9!!4 दिदग्#-विवजाय� भAपन# धम�-हBनन# कुसिल-विप्रायन#।विनग् ह्य बौ0द्धान# द�वपिंप: मरुञ्# च स्थापयियष्यसिसः।। 1:3:10श्रु�त्व�वि! वचन' कुल्कि�कु� श�कु� न सःविह!4 म�द।जाग्म त्वरिरा!4 ऽश्वे�न सिशव-दत्तो�न !न्मन�।। 2:1:39 सःम�द्र-पराम# अमल' सिंसः:हल' जालसः'कु� लम#। («=सिंसः:हलद्वाOप»)नन-विवमन-बौहुल' भस्वरा' मणिण-कुञ्चनS�।। 2:1:40प्रासःदसःदनग्रा�षु� प!कु-!4राणकु� लम#।श्रु�णB-सःभ-पणट्#!ल-प�रा-ग्4प�रा-मण्दिWद!म#।। 2:1:41

The beloved of Kalki is named Padma who lives at द्वाOप dweep (island) सिंसः:हल� Sinhale[11]

(सिंसः:ह shiha (Lion) + ल�(of))= "the island of the lion"(1:3:9).The spotless/clean land of the lion one which is surrouned by a excellent/supreme ocean at the other side of this ocean. (Line 1 2:1:40).Abundance of different kinds of chariot of the gods (Air-Crafts) brilliant wealth and prosperity.(Line 2 2:1:40).

[edit] Modern interpretations of the Kalki prophecy

Page 26: Vishnu Avatars

Stone plaque of Kalki from the 18th century.

Many modern writers have attempted to link figures in comparatively recent history to Kalki. Given the traditional account of the Kali Yuga lasting 432,000 years [12] and having started in 3102 BCE [13], which makes these claims problematic. Some scholars such as Sri Yukteswar Giri and David Frawley have claimed that there are intermediate cycles within the 432,000 year cycle.[14][15]

Shree Veera Brahmendra Maha Swami, writing about 1,000 years ago in "Divya Maha Kala Jnana" (literally: "Divine Knowledge of the Time") claims that Kalki would arrive when the Moon, Sun, Venus and Jupiter have entered the same sign; such occurrences are not rare and the next is expected in the year 2012 or afterwards.[16]

Pandit Ved Prakash Upadhyay has argued in his book Kalki Autar aur Muhammad Sahib that Muhammad completed all the prophecies of the Kalki avatar.[17] The book Muhammad in the Hindu Scriptures claims Muhammad to be Kalki based on research from all Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads.[18]

Ismaili Khojas, a Shia Muslim group from Gujarat and Sindh and followers of Aga khan, believe in the 10 incarnations of Vishnu. According to their tradition Imam Ali, the son-in-law of prophet Muhamad was Kalki.[1] [2]

Members of the Bahá'í Faith have interpreted the prophecies of Kalki's arrival as being references to the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh,[19][20] which has played a major role in the growth of the Bahá'í Faith in India.[21]

Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believe their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the Kalki Avatar.[22]

In his book The Aquarian Message Samael Aun Weor claims to be the Kalki Avatar.[23]

In their books The Avatar of What Is by Carolyn Lee PhD and Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein, they identify claims that Adi Da was the Kalki Avatar.[24]

Page 27: Vishnu Avatars

In 16th century Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh wrote that Kalki is the Vivek Budhi(Intelligent and Spiritual mind) i.e. Gurmat. When the Sins(Manmatt/Manmukhs) emerge only Gurmat acts as Kalki and vanish all Manmatt of world. Gobind Singh where narrated whole Kalki Avtar of Hindu belief in Chobis Avtar, there he ended with this belief that Kalki is none other than Gurmat. Page 1468/Last Line

BUDDHA

Buddha giving the Sermon in the Deer Park, depicted at Wat Chedi Liem.

The Buddha in Hinduism is sometimes viewed as an Avatar of Vishnu. In the Puranic text Bhagavata Purana, he is the twenty-fourth of twenty-five avatars, prefiguring a forthcoming final incarnation.[1] Similarly, a number of Hindu traditions portray Buddha as the most recent (ninth) of ten principal avatars, known as the Daśāvatāra (Ten Incarnations of God). The Buddhist Dasharatha Jataka (Jataka Atthakatha 461) represents Rama as a previous incarnation of the Buddha as a Bodhisattva and supreme Dharma King of great wisdom.

Buddha's teachings deny the authority of the Vedas and consequently Buddhism is generally viewed as a nāstika school (heterodox, literally "It is not so"[2]) from the perspective of orthodox Hinduism.

Contents

[hide]

Page 28: Vishnu Avatars

1 Views of the Buddha in Hinduism o 1.1 Hindu reactions to the Buddha o 1.2 In Hindu scriptures

2 See also 3 References

4 External links

[edit] Views of the Buddha in Hinduism

Due to the diversity of traditions within Hinduism there is no specific viewpoint or consensus on the Buddha's exact position in reference to the Vedic tradition:

In the Dasavatara stotra section of his Gita Govinda, the influential Vaishnava poet Jayadeva Goswami (13th C AD) includes the Buddha amongst the ten principal avatars of Vishnu and writes a prayer regarding him as follows:

O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories to You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, you decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.[3]

This viewpoint of the Buddha as an avatar who primarily promoted non-violence (ahimsa) remains a popular belief amongst a number of modern Vaishnava organisations, including ISKCON.[4]

Other prominent modern proponents of Hinduism, such as Radhakrishnan and Vivekananda, consider the Buddha as a teacher of the same universal truth that underlies all religions of the world:

Vivekananda:- May he who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrians, the Buddha of Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heavens of Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble ideas![5]

Radhakrishnan: If a Hindu chants the Vedas on the banks of the Ganges, ... if the Japanese worship the image of Buddha, if the European is convinced of Christ's mediatorship, if the Arab reads the Koran in the mosque ... It is their deepest apprehension of God and God's fullest revelation to them.[6]

Steven Collins sees such Hindu claims regarding Buddhism as part of an effort - itself a reaction to Christian proselytizing efforts in India - to show that "all religions are one", and that Hinduism is uniquely valuable because it alone recognizes this fact.[7]

Within Hinduism, avatars such as Rama or Krishna are popularly worshipped as the Supreme God, but it is much less common to find Buddha the avatar being worshipped by Hindus in the same way.

Page 29: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Hindu reactions to the Buddha

Hinduism regards Buddha (bottom centre with multiple arms) as one of the 10 avatars of VishnuMain article: Buddhism and Hinduism

A number of revolutionary figures in modern Hinduism, including Gandhi have been inspired by the life and teachings of the Buddha and many of his attempted reforms.[8]

Buddhism finds favor in contemporary Hindutva movement, with Lama Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama being honored at Hindu events, like the Vishva Hindu Parishad's second World Hindu Conference in Allahabad in 1979.[9]

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar denied that Buddha was incarnation of Vishnu. While taking Buddhism & giving Buddhism to Lakhs of people in 1956 at Nagpur & Chandrapur in Maharashtra (India) he gave 22 vows to the neo-Buddhists. 2nd vow is " I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God nor shall I worship them." And 4th vow is " I do not believe in the incarnation of God." Now Buddhists, Atheists and many other people don't believe that Buddha was incarnation of Vishnu.[10]

[edit] In Hindu scriptures

The Buddha is described in important Hindu scriptures, including almost all the Puranas. However, not all of them refer to the same person: some of them refer to other persons, and some occurrences of "buddha" simply mean "a person possessing buddhi". Most of them, however, refer to the founder of Buddhism.[11] They portray him with two roles: preaching false views in order to delude demons or others, and criticizing animal sacrifice as prescribed in the Vedas.[12] A partial list of Puranas mentioning the Buddha is as follows:

Page 30: Vishnu Avatars

Harivamsha (1.41) Vishnu Purana (3.18) Bhagavata Purana (1.3.24, 2.7.37, 11.4.23) [13] Garuda Purana (1.1, 2.30.37, 3.15.26)[14] Agni Purana (16) Narada Purana (2.72) Linga Purana (2.71) Padma Purana (3.252) etc. (Dhere Ramchandra Chintaman) [15]

In the Puranic texts, he is mentioned as one of the ten Avataras of Vishnu, usually as the ninth one.

Another important scriptures that mentions him as an Avatar is Rishi Parashara's Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (2:1-5/7).

He is often described as a yogi or yogācārya, and as a sannyāsi. His father is usually called Śuddhodhana, which is consistent with the Buddhist tradition, while in a few places the Buddha's father is named Añjana or Jina. He is described as beautiful (devasundara-rūpa), of white or pale-red complexion, and wearing brown-red or red robes.[16]

Only a few statements mention the worship of Buddha, e.g. the Varahapurana says states that one desirous of beauty should worship him.[17]

In some of the Puranas, he is described as having taken birth to "mislead the demons":

mohanārthaṃ dānavānāṃ bālarūpī pathi-sthitaḥ । putraṃ taṃ kalpayām āsa mūḍha-buddhir jinaḥ svayam ॥ tataḥ saṃmohayām āsa jinādyān asurāṃśakān । bhagavān vāgbhir ugrābhir ahiṃsā-vācibhir hariḥ ॥

—attributed to Brahmanda Purana, quoted in Bhāgavatatātparya by Madhva, 1.3.28

Translation: To delude the demons, he [Lord Buddha] stood on the path in the form of a child. The foolish Jina (a demon), imagined him to be his son. Thus the lord Sri Hari [as avatara-buddha] expertly deluded Jina and other demons by his strong words of non-violence.

In the Bhagavata Purana Buddha is said to have taken birth to restore the devas to power:

tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte sammohāya sura-dviṣām । buddho nāmnāñjana-sutaḥ kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati ॥

—srimad-bhagavatam 1.3.24

Translation: Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, for the purpose of confusing the enemies of the devas, [he] will become the son of Anjana, Buddha by name, in the Kīkaṭas.[13]

Page 31: Vishnu Avatars

In many Puranas, the Buddha is described as an incarnation of Vishnu who incarnated in order to delude either demons or mankind away from the Vedic dharma. The Bhavishya Purana contains the following:

At this time, reminded of the Kali Age, the god Vishnu became born as Gautama, the Shakyamuni, and taught the Buddhist dharma for ten years. Then Shuddodana ruled for twenty years, and Shakyasimha for twenty. At the first stage of the Kali Age, the path of the Vedas was destroyed and all men became Buddhists. Those who sought refuge with Vishnu were deluded.[18]

According to Wendy Doniger, the Buddha avatar, which occurs in different versions in various Puranas, may represent an attempt by orthodox Brahminism to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the demons.[19] Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vaishnavism and also to account for the fact that such a significant heresy could exist in India.[20]

The times ascribed to one "Buddha" figure are contradictory and some put him in approximately 500 CE, with a lifetime of 64 years, describe him as having killed some persons, as following the Vedic religion, and having a father named Jina, which suggest that this particular figure might be a different person from Siddhārta Gautama.

PARASHURAMA

Parashurama (Sanskrit: पराश�राम, Paraśurāma) (also known as Parasurama, Bhṛgupati, Bhargava, Bhargava Rāma, Jamadagnya (Sanskrit: जामदज्ञ्य़) as Jamadagni's son), a Brahmin, the sixth avatar of Vishnu, belongs to the Treta yuga, and is the son of Jamadagni and Renuka. Parashu means axe, hence his name literally means Rama-with-the-axe. He received an axe after undertaking a terrible penance to please Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of warfare and other skills. He fought the advancing ocean back thus saving the lands of Konkan and Malabar. The coastal area of Kerala state along with the Konkan region, i.e., coastal Maharashtra and Karnataka, is also sometimes called Parashurama Kshetra (Parashurama's country). Parashurama is said to be a "warrior Brahman", the first warrior saint. His mother is descended from the Kshatriya Suryavansha clan that ruled Ayodhya and Lord Rama also belonged to.

Contents

[hide] 1 History

o 1.1 Haihaya-Kshatriya Background o 1.2 Extermination of the Haihaya-kshatriya caste o 1.3 Legends o 1.4 Evidence in the Mahabharata of conflict spanning generations

Page 32: Vishnu Avatars

o 1.5 Shiva's Bow o 1.6 The Mahabharata o 1.7 Later life

2 The Sixth Avatara o 2.1 Jain Version

3 Kalki Purana 4 Temples 5 Parashurama Kshetras

o 5.1 Further Kshetra Legend o 5.2 Reclamation of Konkan coast (coastal Maharashtra, Karnataka) &

Kerala 6 See also 7 References

8 External links

[edit] History

[edit] Haihaya-Kshatriya Background

Parashurama belonged to Srivatsasa Gotra. It appears that the Haihayas may have been enemies and at war with several groups, including other Kshatriyas themselves. For example the Haihayas sacked Kashi during the reigns of King Haryaswa and King Sudeva (whom they killed), King Divodas and his son Pratarddana (who finally expelled them outside of the Vatsa Kingdom). All these kings were born in the Solar Dynasty and the Haihayas were a Lunar Dynasty.

The hostile Haihaya King Arjuna Kartavirya also defeated the Nāga Kshatiryas led by Karkotaka Naga and made Mahishmati (present day Maheshwar) the capital of his own kingdom.

According to numerous Puranas, the military corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as five hordes (pānca-ganah), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku King Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra) of his Ayodhya kingdom.

A generation later, Bahu's son, Sagara recaptured Ayodhya after totally destroying the Haihaya and Talajangha Kshatriyas in the battle. King Sagara had punished these foreign hordes by ordering their 'heads shaved' (a common practice used to humiliate and shame the enemy in the ancient and modern world) and turning them into degraded Kshatriyas.[1]

Page 33: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Extermination of the Haihaya-kshatriya caste

Parashurama is said to have cut off 1,000 of King Kartavirya Arjuna's arms

The enmity between the Haihaya and the Bhargavas is mentioned in the Mahabharata Hindu text numerous times. In the Bhagavata Purana SB 9.8.5-6, the Haihaya are mentioned as "the uncivilized".[2]

Once, when Parashurama returned home, he found his mother crying hysterically. When asked why she was crying, she said his father had been killed mercilessly by Kartavirya Arjuna. She beat her chest 21 times in sorrow and anguish at her husband's death. In a rage, Parashurama vowed to exterminate the world's Haihaya-Kshatriyas 21 times. He killed the entire clan of Kartavirya Arjuna (or Sahasrarjuna), thus conquering the entire earth. He then conducted the Ashvamedha sacrifice, done only by sovereign kings, and gave the entire land he owned to the head-priest who performed at the yagya, viz. Kashyapa.

Parashurama then became responsible for killing the world's corrupted Haihaya kings and warriors who came to attack him in revenge for the killing of Kartavirya Arjuna, to prevent a Brahmin from being emperor and threatening their position. The Ashvamedha demanded that the kings either submit to Parashurama's imperial position or thwart the sacrifice by defeating him in battle. They did neither and were killed. Parashurama exterminated the world's Haihaya-Kshatriyas 21 times, thus fulfilling his vow.

[edit] Legends

It is said that when Parashuram saved and reclaimed some coastal parts of Kerala from the retreat of the sea, that was the beginning of the Kollam Era (AD 825) (possibly named after the city Kollam) for the Malayalam Calendar.[3]

According to one legend, Parashurama also went to visit Shiva once but the way was blocked by Ganesha. Parashurama threw the axe at him and Ganesha, knowing it had been given to him by Shiva, allowed it to cut off one of his tusks. The goddess Parvati (wife of Shiva) on finding her son's tusk being cut by Parashurama fills with rage and declares that if Parashurama's thirst for Kshatriya's blood is still not over, she will put a stop on this and will teach him a final lesson. She will severe both of his arms and will kill him. The Goddess Parvati, then takes a form of Shakti (Goddess Durga) becomes the

Page 34: Vishnu Avatars

ultimate source of Power and no other divine power can resist or match to her Supreme power. Luckily, Shiva arrived at the scene and pacified Parvati after a lot of convincing to not to harm Parashurama as he is also like her son in a way and she should forgive him as a Mother on her child’s mistake. Parashurama also asks for her forgiveness. Parvati finally forgives Parashurama at the request of Ganesha. Parashurama then gifts his divine axe weapon to Ganesha and blesses him.

There is another interesting legend with regards to Parashurama's retreat of the seas. It is said that he fired an arrow from his mythical bow that landed in Goa, at a place called Benaulim creating what is known locally as "Salkache Tollem", literally meaning "lotus Lake".

There is an interesting side to Parashurama's conquest of Kshatriyas. After one of his conquests, he returns to Aihole (Badami Taluka, Bagalkot district in Karnataka) which, some say was where he lived. The river Malaprabha does a near 180 degree turn there. While Parashurama washed his blood soaked axe upriver, beyond the bend, there were village belles washing clothes downriver. The axe was so bloody that it turned the entire river red. This, the women washing clothes saw and exclaimed "Ai hole!" (oh, what a river!). The name stuck and the village is now known as Aihole. There is another legend that Nairs (Nagas)of Kerala removed their sacred thread and hid in the forests to avoid Parasuramas revenge against Kshatriyas. Parashurama donated the land to Nambuthiri Brahmins and Nambuthiris denied the Nairs Kshatriya status (though they did Kshatriya duties and almost all the royal houses in Kerala come from them.

[edit] Evidence in the Mahabharata of conflict spanning generations

Reflections of Aurva, the Great-Grandfather of Parashurama (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 182) While lying unborn, I heard the doleful cries of my mother and other women of the Bhrigu race who were then being exterminated by the Kshatriyas. When those Kshatriyas began to exterminate the Bhrigus together with unborn children of their race, it was then that wrath filled my soul. My mother and the other women of our race, each in an advanced state of pregnancy, and my father, while terribly alarmed, found not in all the worlds a single protector. Then when the Bhrigu women found not a single protector, my mother held me in one of her thighs.

(Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 153) The mighty Kshatriya Talajangala was destroyed by a single Brahmana. viz., Aurva. (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 2) In the interval between the Treta and Dwapara Yugas, Rama (the son of Jamadagni) great among all who have borne arms, urged by impatience of wrongs, repeatedly smote the noble race of Kshatriyas. And when that fiery meteor, by his own valour, annihilated the entire tribe of the Kshatriyas, he formed at Samanta-panchaka five lakes of blood.

(Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 64) The son of Jamadagni (Parasurama), after twenty-one times making the earth bereft of Kshatriyas wended to that best of mountains Mahendra and there began his ascetic penances. Mahendra Mountains are in central India, the northern end of the Eastern Ghats of India, situated in the western part of Orissa.

Page 35: Vishnu Avatars

(Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 104) In olden days, Rama, the son of Jamadagni, in anger at the death of his father, slew with his battle axe the king of the Haihayas. Haiheya was a central Indian kingdom in Madhya Pradesh of India, on the banks of Narmada River. Its capital was Mahishmati, the modern day town named Maheswar. (Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 85) One proceeds to Surparaka, where Jamadagni’s son (Parasurama) had formerly dwelt. Surparaka also is in central India with the modern name Sopara.

(Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 115) Akritavrana (a disciple of Parashurama) said, ‘With pleasure shall I recite that excellent history, of the godlike deeds of Rama, the son of Jamadagni, who traced his origin to Bhrigu’s race. I shall also relate the achievements of the great ruler of the Haihaya tribe. That king, Arjuna by name, the mighty lord of the Haihaya tribe was killed by Rama. By the favour of Dattatreya he had a celestial car made of gold. (Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 117) Rama, the leader, thrice smote down all the Kashatriya followers of Kartavirya’s sons. And seven times did that powerful lord exterminate the military tribes of the earth.

The above shown extracts from Mahabharata shows the conflict between the Bhargavas and the Kshatriyas spanning at least for four generations.

[edit] Shiva's Bow

Parashurama(left) with Rama

In the Ramayana, Parashurama came to the betrothal ceremony of the seventh Avatara, Rama, to the princess Sita. As a test of worthiness the suitors were required to lift and string the bow of Shiva, given to the King Janaka by Parashurama. Rama successfully strung the bow, but in the process it broke in two, producing a tremendous noise that reached the ears of Parashurama.

In one such version, played in ramlilas across India, Parashurama arrived after hearing the sound of the bow of Shiva breaking. The Kshatriyas were advised by Brahmarishi Vasistha not to confront the sage, but Sita approached the sage. He blessed her, saying "Dheergha Sumangali bhavah", literally meaning "you will have your husband alive for your lifetime, you wont see his death". So when he turned to confront Rama, the destroyer of Shiva's bow, he could not pick up his axe to do so as he pacifies by the brilliance of rama (vishnuavatara). This was also because, as he blessed Sita with good luck, he could not cause any harm to her husband which was a part of his own (Shri

Page 36: Vishnu Avatars

Vishnu). After recognising Rama for what he truly was, namely, the avatar of Vishnu as his bow went flying in the hands of Lord Rama.

[edit] The Mahabharata

When Amba came to Parashurama for help because Bhishma refused to marry her, he decided to slay Bhishma and fought with him for twenty three days. It was a long and fierce combat between the two greatest men-at-arms of the age. Bhishma had knowledge of one divine and the most deadly weapon namely "Pashwapastra". Parashurama had no knowledge of this weapon. When Bhishma was about to use it against Parashurama, all Gods rushed to Bhishma and requested him not to use this weapon against Parshurama as it will humiliate Parshurama. Bhishma refrained it from using it. Parashurama's father, Jamadagni and grandfather, Richika, then appeared before Parashurama ordering, O son, never again engage in battle with Bhishma or any other kshatriya. Heroism and courage in battle are the qualities of a warrior, and study of the Vedas and the practice of austerities are the wealth of the brahmanas. Previously you took up weapons to protect the brahmanas, but this is not the case now. Let this battle with Bhishma be your last. The sages once again spoke to Rama, O son of the Bhrigu race, it is not possible to defeat Bhishma, nor is it possible for Bhishma to defeat you. In the end Pitris (a class of demigods) appeared on the scene and obstructed the chariot of Rama. They forbade him to fight any longer. In the end, all Gods and Parshuram himself showered praise on Bhishma and acknowledged that Bhishma is truly invincible. Parshurama then told Amba: "I have done all that I could and I have failed. Throw yourself on the mercy of Bhishma. That is the only course left to you."

Parashurama was giving away his earning and wealth of a lifetime to brahmanas, Drona approached him. Unfortunately by the time Drona arrived, Parashurama had given away all his belongings to other brahmanas. Taking pity upon the plight of Drona, Parashurama said you can choose any of my weapons, which one would you like to have? The clever Drona said I will like to have your weapons with their mantars as and when I need them. Parashurama said so be it. In other words Drona decided to impart his knowledge of combat which made him supreme in the science of arms.

In the Mahabharata, Parashurama was the instructor of the warrior Karna, born to a Kshatriya mother but raised as the son of a charioteer, or lower class of Kshatriyas. Karna came to Parashurama after being rejected from the school of Drona, who taught the five Pandava and one hundred Kaurava princes. Parashurama agreed to teach Karna, who said was a brahmin[citation needed], and gave him the knowledge of the extremely powerful Brahmastra weapon. But an incident would render the Brahmastra almost useless to Karna.

One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head resting on Karna's thigh, when a scorpion crawled up and bit Karna's thigh, boring into it. In spite of the bleeding and the pain, he neither flinched or uttered a cry so that his teacher could continue his rest. However, the blood trickled down, reaching Parashurama and awakening him. Convinced that only a Kshatriya could have borne such pain in silence and that Karna had therefore

Page 37: Vishnu Avatars

lied in order to receive instruction, he cursed Karna that his knowledge of the Brahmastra would fail him when he needed it most. Later, during the Kurukshetra war, Karna had a dream at night when he thought of his guru and asked him to take back the curse he had warranted years back. Parashurama explained that he knew that the day would come; he knew that Karna was a Kshatriya[citation needed], but deemed him to be a worthy student and instructed him nevertheless. However, the outcome of the war would have left the world in ruins if Duryodhana were to rule, as opposed to Yudhishthira. For that reason, Parashurama requested that Karna accept the curse and fall at the hands of Arjuna, inadvertently saving the world.[citation needed]

Parashurama was the guru of Bhishma (Devavrata), Dronacharya and Karna.

[edit] Later life

In the later life of Parashurama, he gave up violence, became an ascetic and practiced penances, mainly on the Mahendra Mountains. The territories he received from the Kshatriyas he slew, were distributed among a clan of Brahmins called the Brahmrishi Brahmins. They ruled these lands for many centuries. The kingdoms like Dravida, Karnata and Konkana were among them. Parashurama also retrieved from the sea a virgin-land which was a stretch of coastal-area to the west of Western Ghats of India, giving rise to the myth of Parashurama, saving a part of the land of Kerala from the sea. This happened in Surparaka Kingdom (Coastal Area of Southern Gujarat), from where the myth spread to Kerala, by migration. This land also was given to Brahmin rulers.

[edit] The Sixth Avatara

The purpose of the sixth incarnation of Vishnu is considered by religious scholars to be to relieve the Earth's burden by exterminating the sinful, destructive and irreligious monarchs that pillaged its resources, and neglected their duties as kings.

Parashurama is of a martial Shraman ascetic. However, unlike all other avatars, Parashurama still lives on earth, even today[citation needed]. Secondly, he is an Avesha Avatara, a secondary type of Avatara. In such an Avatara, Vishnu does not directly descend as do Rama or Krishna but instead enters the soul of a man with His form. Accordingly, unlike Rama and Krishna, Parashurama is not worshipped. But in South India, at the holy place Pajaka, there exists one major temple commemorating Parashurama.

Parshurama, the creator of the Konkan coast, is also worshipped in a temple at Lote Parshurama , chiplun in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district.The people of the Konkan call their land 'Parshurama Bhoomi' or the land of Parashurama in accordance with the legend that the sage reclaimed the land from the sea.

There are several Parashurama temples throughout the western coast of India as well as North India, but especially more in the costal areas from Bharuch(ancient name of Bharuch is Bhrugu Kutchchh) in the west Indian state of Gujarat right up to Kerala, the

Page 38: Vishnu Avatars

southern tip of India. One can see a Parashurama Temple with a Agni Mandir in Shivpuri - Akkalkot, Khopoli in Maharashtra and Fort Songadh in Gujarat.

A temple of Parashurama is also situated at Akhnoor, 18 km away from Jammu city, J&K. Every year, in the month of May, an enormous fete in the form of a parade, referred as Parshuram Jayanti, with hundreds of tableaux, thronged through the main city of Jammu. Local community leaders and followers arrange for the celebrations and it is celebrated with great enthusiasm.

[edit] Jain Version

According to Jain version of Parashurama, he was killed by Chakravati Subhoum.[4]. Subhoum was the son of Sahasrarjun and 8th Chakravarti (Emperor)of the total 12 Chakravartis. The Jain version is available in Trishasti Shalaka Purush, the famous Jain book on 63 great people of ancient times.

[edit] Kalki Purana

The Kalki Purana states Parashurama will be the martial guru of Sri Kalki, the 10th and final avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is he who instructs Kalki to perform a long penance to Shiva to receive celestial weaponry.

[edit] Temples

In the Kanyakumari Temple in Kanyakumari town, Parashurama installed the Idol made of blue stone. Parashurama installed the idol of Dharma Sastha (Ayyappa) on the peak on the Sabarimala Hill in the forest.[5] Parashurama trained Ayyappa[6] just as he had trained Karna in the Mahabharata and is believed will train the future Kalki.

He created a temple of worship right after he resurfaced Kerala from the sea. He placed statues of various deities in 108 different places and introduced martial arts ("Kalari Payattu") to protect the temple from the evils.[7]

Also, while the other pilgrimages created by Parashurama are devoted to Lord Shiva, Lord Subramanya and Lord Ganesha, Kollur is the only one devoted to goddess Parvati.[8]

There are "Seven Mukti Stalas" of Karnataka, which were created by Parashurama and some of the above such as Kollur belong to them.

There is temple dedicated to Lord Parashurama in Khatti, near Phagwara in Punjab, India.

[edit] Parashurama Kshetras

Eight kshetras are popularly known as Parashurama kshetras and a.k.a. 'Parashurama Srishti'.

Page 39: Vishnu Avatars

"Seven Mukti Sthalas"

1. Chiplun 2. Udupi 3. Subramanya 4. Kollur 5. Shankaranarayana 6. Koteshwara 7. Kumbasi (Annegudde) 8. Gokarna

[edit] Further Kshetra Legend

There is a legend that in one of the kshetras a King called Ramabhoja worshipped Lord Parashurama[9] He was the ruler of the lands between Gokarna and Kanyakumari and was proclaimed king of the entire Parashurama Kshetra.[10] Once he decided to perform the aswamedha yajna and plowed the land but mistakenly killed a serpent. However, the serpent was a demon. To repent this sin, King Rambhoja was directed by Lord Parashurama to build a big silver pedestal with the image of a serpent at each of its four corners and to worship Him who would be seated in spirit on the pedestal and also to distribute gold equal to his own weight (Tulabhara) to deserving persons. Rambhoja did likewise and performed the ashwamedha yajna successfully. At its conclusion, Lord Parashurama appeared and declared that he was pleased with the Yajna and that henceforth the sacrificial land 'Roopya Peetha' (silver pedestal) would become a famous centre of pilgrimage. This land is also known as 'Thoulava' land and because Rambhoja performed 'Tulabhara'. This is, in brief, the legend of the land.

[edit] Reclamation of Konkan coast (coastal Maharashtra, Karnataka) & Kerala

Lord Parashurama with Saraswat brahmin settlers commanding Lord Varuna to make the seas recede to make the Konkan and Kerala.

Page 40: Vishnu Avatars

There is also the Panhala Fort founded by Raja Bhoja in the late 12th century[11] which Chhatrapati Shivaji had used and is said to be the only fort in which he stayed for 500 days! This fort is said to have a connection with Parashurama.

Konkan is the karmabhumi of Parashurama (the land founded by him)[citation needed], but very few people know about his janmabhumi (birthplace). there is one view that his birthplace was Mahoor gadh, which is at the border of Marathwada and Vidharbha in Maharastra. At Mahoor on the left hand side of main Renuka Mata temple there is a temple which is believed to be Parashurama's birthplace. However, there is also one belief that the birthplace of Lord Parashurama is Janapao or Jaana pau in present day Madhya Pradesh, a central Indian State.[12] Parashurama had spent most of his childhood time in and around the Mandagni Parvath near Vajreshwari in Maharashtra. You can see a Bala Parashurama temple believed to be built by Bhima on the edge of the Mandagni Parvath.There is also a temple for Renuka devi and Sage Jamadagni.This makes us to believe that the birth place of Lord Parashurama could be around this place.

RAMA

Rama (IAST: rāma, Devanāgarī: राम; Burmese: ရမ; Khmer: ព្�រាម; Lao: ພຣະຣາມ; Malay: Megat Seri Rama; Tagalog: Rajah Bantugan; Thai: พระราม) or Ramachandra रामच'द्र, రామచం�ద్ర� [1] is the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism,[2] and a legendary king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian mythology.

Rama is one of the many popular figures and deities in Hinduism, specifically Vaishnavism and Vaishnava religious scriptures in South and Southeast Asia.[3] Most of the details of Rama's life come from the Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India.[4] Born as the eldest son of Kausalya and Dasharatha, king of Ayodhya, Rama is referred to within Hinduism as Maryada Purushottama,[5] literally the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. Rama is the husband of Sita, whom Hindus consider to be an avatar of Lakshmi and the embodiment of perfect womanhood.[5][6]

Rama's life and journey is one of perfect adherence to dharma despite harsh tests of life and time. He is pictured as the ideal man and the perfect human. For the sake of his father's honour, Rama abandons his claim to Kosala's throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest.[7] His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, being unable to live without Rama, decide to join him, and all three spend the fourteen years in exile together. This leads to the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana, the Rakshasa (Asura) monarch of Lanka. After a long and arduous search that tests his personal strength and virtue, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana's armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama slays Ravana in battle and liberates his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) and eventually becomes emperor,[7] after which he reigns for eleven thousand years – an era of perfect happiness, peace, prosperity and justice known as Rama Rajya.

Page 41: Vishnu Avatars

Rama's courage in searching for Sita and fighting a terrible war to rescue his wife and their honour is complemented by Sita's absolute devotion to her husband's love, and perfect chastity despite being Ravana's captive. Rama's younger brothers, namely Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata strongly complement his piety, virtue and strength,[7] and they are believed by many to belong to the Maryada Purushottama and the Seventh Avatara, mainly embodied by Rama. Rama's piety and virtue attract powerful and devoted allies such as Hanuman and the Vanaras of Kishkindha, with whose help he rescues Sita.[7] The legend of Rama is deeply influential and popular in the societies of the Indian subcontinent and across South East Asia. Rama is revered for his unending compassion,[8] courage and devotion to religious values and duty.

Contents[hide]

1 Etymology 2 Literary sources 3 Avatara 4 Prince of Ayodhya 5 Initiation of the Avatara 6 Dharma of exile 7 Rama and Sita

o 7.1 Agni pariksha o 7.2 Sita's banishment o 7.3 Children

8 Maryada Purushottama 9 Companions

o 9.1 Bharata and Lakshmana o 9.2 Jatayu, Hanuman and Vibheeshana

10 Rama in war o 10.1 Sagara o 10.2 Facing Ravana

11 Rama Rajya 12 International Influence

o 12.1 Festivals 13 Notes 14 See also 15 References

16 External links

[edit] Etymology

Part of a series on

Hinduism

Page 42: Vishnu Avatars

History · DeitiesDenominations

Mythology

Beliefs and practicesPhilosophy · Dharma

Artha · Kama · MokshaKarma · Samsara

Yoga · Bhakti · MayaPuja · Temple

ScripturesVedas · Upanishads

Ramayana · MahabharataBhagavad Gita · Puranas

Dharmaśāstra · others

Related topicsHinduism by country

Gurus and saintsReforms · Criticism

Calendar · Hindu lawAyurveda · Jyotisha

Festivals · Glossary Persecution

This box: view • talk • edit

10.3.3cd Agni, far-spreading with conspicuous lustre, hath compassed Night [Rama] with whitely shining garments.

As a personal name it appears in RV 10.93.14:

10.93.14ab This to Duhsima Prthavana have I sung, to Vena, Rama, to the nobles [Asuras], and the King.

The feminine form of the adjective, rāmīˊ is an epitheton of the night (Ratri), as is kṛṣṇīˊ, the feminine of k ṛṣṇ a , viz. "the dark one; the black one". Two Ramas are mentioned in the Vedas, with the patronymics Mārgaveya and Aupatasvini; another Rama with the patronymic Jāmadagnya is the supposed author of a Rigvedic hymn. According to Monier-Williams, three Ramas were celebrated in post-Vedic times,

1. Rāma-chandra ("Rama-moon"), son of Dasaratha, believed to have descended from Raghu. (The Rama of this article).

2. Parashu-rāma ("Rama of the Battle-axe"), the Sixth Avatara of Vishnu, sometimes also referred to as Jāmadagnya, or as Bhārgava Rāma (descended from Bhrigu), a "Chiranjeevi" or Immortal.

Page 43: Vishnu Avatars

3. Bala-rāma ("the strong Rama"), also called Halāyudha (Wielder of the Plough as Weapon), the older brother and close companion of Krishna, the Eighth Avatara of Vishnu.

In the Vishnu sahasranama, Rama is the 394th name of Vishnu. In the interpretation of Adi Sankara's commentary, translated by Swami Tapasyananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, Rama has two meanings: the supreme Brahman who is the eternally blissful spiritual Self in whom yogis delight, or the One (i.e., Vishnu) who out of His own will assumed the enchanting form of Rama, the son of Dasaratha.

[edit] Literary sources

The primary source of the life and journey of Rama is the epic Ramayana as composed by the Rishi Valmiki. The Vishnu Purana also recounts Rama as Vishnu's seventh avatara, and in the Bhagavata Purana, ninth skandha, adhyayas 10 & 11, the story of the Ramayana is again recounted in brief up to an including the slaying of Ravana and Prince Rama's return to Ayodhya. Additionally, the tales of Rama are reverently spoken of in the epic Mahabharata.

The epic had many versions across India's regions. However, other scriptures in Sanskrit reflect the life of Ramayana. The followers of Sri Madhvacharya believe that an older version of the Ramayana, the mula-Ramayana, previously existed but is no longer extant. They consider it to be more authoritative than the version by Valmiki. Another important shortened version of the epic in Sanskrit is the Aadhyaatma Ramayana. The seventh century CE Sanskrit "Bhatti's Poem" Bha ṭṭ ikāvya of Bhaṭṭi who lived in Gujarat, is a retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for Pā ṇ ini's A ṣṭ ādhyāyī as well as the major figures of speech and the Prakrit language.[9] Versions of the Ramayana exist in most major Indian languages; examples that elaborate on the life, deeds and divine philosophies of Rama include the epic poem Kambaramayanam by the 12th century poet Kamban in Tamil, and Ramacharitamanasa, a Hindi version of the Ramayana by the 16th century Saint Tulsidas. Contemporary versions of the Ramayana include Sri Ramayana Darshanam by Kuvempu in Kannada and Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu by Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu, both of which have been awarded the Jnanpith Award. The epic has transformed across the diverse regions of India, which boast their own unique languages and cultural traditions.[10]

The essential tale of Rama has also spread across South East Asia, and evolved into unique renditions of the epic – incorporating local history, folktales, religious values as well as unique features from the languages and literary discourse. The Kakawin Ramayana of Java, Indonesia, the Ramakavaca of Bali, Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Maradia Lawana of the Philippines, Ramakien of Thailand (which calls him Phra Ram) are great works with many unique characteristics and differences in accounts and portrayals of the legend of Rama. The legends of Rama are witnessed in elaborate illustration at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok. The national epic of Myanmar, Yama Zatdaw is essentially the Burmese Ramayana, where Rama is named Yama. In the

Page 44: Vishnu Avatars

Reamker of Cambodia, Rama is known as Preah Ream. In the Pra Lak Pra Lam of Laos, Buddha is regarded as an incarnation of Rama.

[edit] Avatara

Main article: Avatars of VishnuSee also: Daśāvatāra

The Ramayana speaks of how the Goddess Earth (Bhumidevi), came to the Lord Creator, Brahma begging to be rescued from evil kings who were plundering her resources and destroying life through bloody wars and evil conduct. The Devas also came to Brahma fearful of the rule of Ravana, the ten-headed rakshasa emperor of Lanka. Ravana had overpowered the Devas and now ruled the heavens, the earth and the netherworlds. Although a powerful and noble monarch, he was also arrogant, destructive and a patron of evil doers. He had boons that gave him immense strength and was invulnerable to all living and celestial beings, except man and animals.[11]

Brahma, Bhumidevi and the Devas worshipped Vishnu, the Preserver, for deliverance from Ravana's tyrannical rule. Vishnu promised to kill Ravana by incarnating as a man – the eldest son of Kosala's king Dasaratha.[11] His eternal consort, Lakshmi took birth as Sita and was found by king Janaka of Mithila while he was ploughing a field. Vishnu's eternal companion, the Ananta Sesha is said to have incarnated as Lakshmana to stay at his Lord's side on earth. Throughout his life, no one, except himself and a few select sages (among which are included Vasishta, Sharabhanga, Agastya and Vishwamitra) know of his destiny. Rama is continually revered by the many sages he encounters through his life, but only the most learned and exalted know of his true identity. At the end of the war between Rama and Ravana, just as Sita passes her Agni pariskha, Lord Brahma, Indra and the Devas, the celestial sages and Lord Shiva appear out of the sky. They affirm Sita's purity and ask him to end this terrible test. Thanking the Avatara for delivering the universe from the grips of evil, they reveal Rama's divine identity upon the culmination of his mission.[12]

[edit] Prince of Ayodhya

Birth of Rama

Page 45: Vishnu Avatars

King Dasaratha performs a putrakameṣṭi yajña, a sacrifice to obtain offspring by pleasing the gods. He gives the sacred, sacrificial nectar to his three wives according to their seniority: Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. On the night of the ninth day after Amavasya, under the asterism of Punarvasu and the cardinal sign of the Crab, Rama was born in the city of Ayodhya, which is the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala. The city and the area are located in the central region of the modern state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Rama was the prince of the Suryavamsha (Sun Dynasty) House of Ikshvaku, descendant of great monarchs like Ikshvaku, Raghu and Bhagiratha. He is the eldest brother to Bharata, son of Kaikeyi, and the twin sons of Sumitra, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama is dark-complexioned, mainly bluish – a symbol of divinity.[13] In Ramayana Rama is referred to as Aryaputra (son of an Aryan).

The Ramayana describes the relationship between the brothers as intensely loving and devotional, although Rama and Lakshmana share a special, inseparable bond, while Bharata is especially close to Shatrughna. The four brothers enjoy an undiscriminating love from Dasaratha and his three queens, but Dasaratha's main affections are affixed upon Rama. Rama and his brothers are trained by Rishi Vasishta in the Vedas, religion, philosophy and the sciences. They are described as taller than the tallest men of modern times, possessive of exceptional acumen and prowess in the military sciences and arts.[14]

[edit] Initiation of the Avatara

Rama breaking the bow, Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906)

Sage Vishwamitra takes the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, to his ashram, as he needs Rama's help in slaying several Rakshasas that have been harassing him and several other sages living in the area. Rama's first encounter is with a Rakshasi named Taataka, who is a celestial nymph cursed to take the form of a demoness. Vishwamitra explains that she has polluted much of the habitat where the sages reside and there will not be any contentment until she is destroyed. Rama has some reservations about killing a woman,

Page 46: Vishnu Avatars

but since Taataka poses such a big threat to the rishis and he is expected to follow their word, he fights with Taataka and kills her with a poisoned arrow. After her death, the surrounding forest becomes greener and cleaner.

Vishwamitra presents Rama with several astras and sastras (divine weapons) that will be of use to him in the future, and Rama masters all the knowledge of the weapons and their uses. Vishwamitra then tells Rama and Lakshmana that soon, he along with some of his disciples, will perform a yagna for seven days and nights that will be of great benefit to the world, and the two princes must keep close watch for the two sons of Taataka, Mareecha and Subahu, who will try to defile the yagna at all costs. The princes therefore keep a strong vigil for all of the days, and on the seventh day they spot Mareecha and Subahu come with a whole host of Raakshasas ready to pour bones and blood into the fire. Rama points his bow at the two, and with one arrow kills Subahu, and with the other arrow flings Mareecha thousands of miles away into the ocean. Lakshmana deals with the rest of the demons. The yagna is completed successfully

Rama also frees Ahalya, the wife of sage Gautama, from a curse. She was cursed to turn into stone by her husband after a displeasing incident. However, the dust on Rama's feet touched the stone and turned it back into a woman again. Sage Gautama was gratified that everything was back to normal again.

Sage Vishwamitra then takes the two princes to the Swayamvara ceremony for Sita. The challenge is to string the bow of Shiva, and shoot an arrow with it. This task is considered impossible for any ordinary king or living being, as this is the personal weapon of Shiva, more powerful, holy and of divine creation than conceivable. While attempting to string the bow, Rama breaks it in two. This feat of strength spreads his fame across the worlds and seals his marriage to Sita.[15]

After Rama weds Sita and the entire royal family and the Ayodhya army begin their journey back, the great rishi Parashurama Bhargava appears before them, having descended from his mountainous hermitage. Parashurama is an extremely powerful rishi, responsible for killing all of the world's tyrannical and oppressive emperors and kings 21 times. He was the sixth Avatara of Vishnu, and finds it unbelievable that anybody could break the bow of Shiva. Considering himself to still be the most powerful warrior-rishi on earth, he brings with them the bow of Vishnu, and intends to challenge Rama to prove his strength by stringing it, and then fighting a battle with him to prove superiority.[16] Although the entire Ayodhya army is forestalled by his mystical power, Rama is himself angered. He respectfully bows to Parashurama, and within a twinkling of an eyelid snatches the bow of Vishnu, strings it, places an arrow and points it straight at the challenger's heart. Rama asks Parashurama what he will give as a target to the arrow in return for his life? At this point, Parashurama feels himself devoid of the tremendous mystical energy he possessed for so long. He realizes that Rama is Vishnu incarnate, his successor and definitely his superior. He accepts Rama's superiority, devotes his tapasya to him, pays homage to Rama and promises to return to his hermitage and leave the world of men.[17]

Page 47: Vishnu Avatars

Rama then shoots the arrow up into the sky with Vishnu's bow, performing a feat true to his supreme, divine nature with his natural weapon. His overpowering of Parashurama and using the supreme weapon with incredible ease and perfection dazzle the spectators and his relatives, but no one save Parashurama and Vasishta associate this with his true identity. It is said that the Rama's arrow is still flying across space, across time and across all of the universe. The day it will return to earth, it is said, it will bring the end of the world. Others say that the flying arrow destroys all evil on earth to uphold dharma and righteousness.[17]

[edit] Dharma of exile

King Dasaratha announces to Ayodhya that he plans to crown Rama, his eldest child the Yuvaraja (crown prince). While the news is welcomed by everyone in the kingdom, the mind of queen Kaikeyi is poisoned by her wicked maid-servant, Manthara. Kaikeyi, who is initially pleased for Rama, is made to fear for the safety and future of her son Bharata. Fearing that Rama would ignore or possibly victimize his youngest brother for the sake of power, Kaikeyi demands that Dasaratha banish Rama to a forest exile for fourteen years, and that Bharata be crowned in Rama's place. She had been granted two boons by the king when she had saved his life a long time ago in battle, and the queen now used them to serve her purpose.[18] The king's court and the people are outraged at this turn of events. Dasaratha loved and cherished Rama dearly, and was in personal turmoil. Completely estranged now from his younger wife, he abhors the prospect of separation from Rama. But Rama realizes that the king must not break a solemn promise at any time, and neither should a son disobey his father's command. Sita joins her husband in exile despite his discouraging her, as it is her duty and out of love for Rama that she must be at his side at all times. His younger brother Lakshmana also immediately decides to join Rama rather than remain in the city.[19]

As he leaves for exile, the people of Ayodhya are deeply saddened and angered at Dasaratha and Kaikeyi. Dasaratha's heart is broken and he collapses and dies by the next day, unable to bear the agony of separation from Rama. Despite the reasoning of Vasishtha and the pleas of his brothers, Rama refuses to return. Although horrified at the news of his father's death, Rama finds it impossible that he should break his dead father's word. Rama does not bear any anger towards Kaikeyi, believing firmly in the power of destiny.[20] According to the explanation of the classic, this exile actually presents Rama the opportunity to confront Ravana and his evil empire.

[edit] Rama and Sita

See also: Sita

Page 48: Vishnu Avatars

Rama with Sita on the throne, their children Lava and Kusha on their laps. Behind the throne, Lakshamana, Bharata and Shatrughna stand. Hanuman bows to Rama before the throne. Valmiki to the left

Rama and Sita are the protagonists in one of the most famous love stories of all time. Described as being deeply in love, Sita and Rama are theologically understood as avatars of Lakshmi and Vishnu respectively. When Rama is banished from the kingdom, he attempts to convince Sita not to join him in a potentially dangerous and certainly arduous existence in the jungle, but Sita rejects this. When Rama orders her in his capacity as husband, Sita rejects it, asserting that it was an essential duty of a wife to be at her husband's side come good or ill.[19] Rama in turn is assiduously protective and caring for Sita throughout the exile.

When Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, both Sita and Rama undergo great personal hardships during their separation. Sita protects her chastity assiduously, and survives over a year in captivity on the strength of her love and attention to religious values and duty. She is completely unfettered in her resolve despite Ravana's courting, cajoling and threats. Meanwhile Rama, not knowing who had kidnapped Sita or where was she taken, often succumbs to despair and tears, denouncing himself for failing to defend her and agonizing over her safety and pain. Sita knows that it is in Rama's destiny to fight to rescue her (she refuses to be rescued thus by Hanuman, who discovers her), but is deeply anxious for his safety and fearful of Ravana's power.

[edit] Agni pariksha

Lord Rama was sending a messenger to Ravana that come to me and I will forgive you before he slays RavanaUnclear Grammar. After Rama slays Ravana and wins the war, Sita wants to come before him in the state which over a year's imprisonment had reduced her to,

Page 49: Vishnu Avatars

Rama arranges for Sita to be bathed and given beautiful garments before they are re-united. But even as Sita comes before him in great excitement and happiness, Rama does not look at her, staring fixedly at the ground. He tells her that he had fought the war only to avenge the dishonour that Ravana had inflicted on Raghuvamsa and Sita. At this sudden turn of events, all the vanaras, rakshasas, Sugriva, Hanuman and Lakshmana are deeply shocked.[21]

Sita begs Lakshmana to build her a pyre upon which she could end her life, as she could not live without Rama. At this point, Lakshmana is angered at Rama for the first time in his life, but following Rama's nod, he builds a pyre for Sita. At the great shock and sorrow of the watchers, Sita walks into the flames. But to their greater shock and wonder, she is completely unharmed. Instead, she glows radiantly from the centre of the pyre. Immediately Rama runs to Sita and embraces her. He had never doubted her purity for a second, but, as he explains to a dazzled Sita, the people of the world would not have accepted or honoured her as a queen or a woman if she had not passed this Agni pariksha before the eyes of millions, where Agni would destroy the impure and sinful, but not touch the pure and innocent.[22]

Another version of this, used in Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan, was that Rama had known Sita was going to be abducted by Ravana ahead of time. So, he entrusted her to Agni Dev, or the God of Fire. Rama did this so that he, who in reality was Vishnu, could kill Ravana. Sita, in turn, left behind a "shadow", or twin-like version of herself behind. The "shadow" Sita had been abducted by Ravana. Therefore, the lila of Agni Pariksha was to retrieve the genuine Sita from the temporary care of Agni Dev. Rama explains this to Lakshmana before the "Pariksha" is done. This version has also been written in the Ram Charit Manas.

[edit] Sita's banishment

In the Uttara Kanda, Rama banishes his wife Sita, even as she is pregnant, asking Lakshmana to deliver her safely to Rishi Valmiki's ashram. He does so when it is reported to him that some subjects of his in Ayodhya believed that Sita was not fit due to her long captivity in Ravana's city. As a king is expected to uphold moral principles, Rama reluctantly banished Sita in order to uphold his duty as a king.

A legend by Rishi Agastya in the epic states that Vishnu in a previous age had been cursed by a rishi, whose wife had been killed by Vishnu for sheltering his enemies escaping from battle. The Rishi condemns Vishnu to be denied for a long age the companionship of his soul mate, just as Vishnu, by an inadvertent display of anger, had deprived the rishi of his loving wife. Thus Rama, Vishnu's incarnation, must live the rest of his life without Sita.[23]

Many Hindus, such as the followers of Sri Vaishnavism, consider this entire section of the Ramayana to be interpolated, and thus they do not accept the authenticity of this story claiming that Sita was banished.

Page 50: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Children

Main articles: Kusha (Ramayana) and Lava (Ramayana)

According to legend, Kusha and Lava are the twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita. Born in the forest after the banishment of Sita from Ayodhya, the twins were educated and trained in military skills as their mother took refuge in Sage Valmiki's ashram, located in a forest on the banks of the River Tamsa.

As Rama performed the Ashvamedha Yajna, a horse strayed into their forest, Rama sent Hanuman to retrieve the horses. Rama's sons Luv and Kush captured the horses. Hanuman, seeing Luv and Kush recognised that they were the son's of Rama. He let them capture him and tie him up. There Hanuman started meditating on the name Rama. Worried Rama sent his brothers to look for the horses. As his saw Hanuman tied up and two boys guarding him, they thought that the two boy had stolen the horses. So Ramas brothers started attacking Luv and Kush. In theory Rama's brothers should have won, but Luv and Kush defeated them all knocking them unconscious. Luv and Kush were protected by Hanuman. Then Rama himself went looking for the horses fearing that Hanuman and his brothers had been attacked. Rama found his brothers on the floor. He was enraged. He then started fiercely attacking Luv and Kush not knowing they were his children. Though his attacks had no effect on them he saw Hanuman meditating. At that moment he knew that Hanuman was protecting them. Rama then started attacking Hanuman. But none of his weapons had any effect on him either. The sage Valmiki then awoke the brothers and Hanuman, explaining to Rama that Luv and Kush were his sons.

When Devi Sita found out that Lava and Kusha had defeated Ayodhya's forces, she proudly revealed their/her identity. Once she had witnessed the acceptance of her children by Rama, Sita sought final refuge in the arms of her mother Bhumidevi, the Goddess Mother Earth.

[edit] Maryada Purushottama

As a person, Rama personifies the characteristics of an ideal person (purushottama) who is to be emulated. He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfils all his moral obligations (maryada). Rama's purity and piety in his intentions and actions inspires affection and devotion for him from a variety of characters from different backgrounds. For example, he gave up his rightful claim to the throne, and agreed to go into exile for fourteen years, to fulfill the vow that his father had given to Kaikeyi, one of King Dashratha's wives. This is in spite of the fact that Kaikeyi's son, Bharat, begged him to return back to Ayodhya and said that he did not want to rule in place of Rama. But Rama considered his dharma as a son above that of his own birthright and his life's ambition. For such supreme sacrifices, and many other qualities, Rama is considered a maryada purushottam. Some of his ideals are as follows:

1. At the time when it was normal for kings to have more than one wife, Rama gave ideal of having a single wife. After Sita was banished, he was doing penance with a gold statue

Page 51: Vishnu Avatars

of Sita. In Balakanda of Valmiki Ramayana it is written that Rama and Sita resided in each others heart.

2. Rama always followed his promise at any cost. In fact, he went to forest to make his father's promise to Kaikeyi true. Another instance was when, he had promised the Spirit of Time that during their conversation, if anyone was to intrude, Rama would have pronounce an instant death sentence upon the individual. They were intruded upon by his beloved younger brother Lakshmana, and to keep his part of the promise, pronounced the death sentence. There are many examples of Rama's promises which he kept. Most important are the promise to sages to save their lives from Rakshasas, getting back Sugreeva's kingdom, making Vibhishana the king of Lanka.

3. Excellent friend: Rama had very touching relations with his friends irrespective of their status. Some of his friends are Nishada-raja Guha, King of Nishaadas (a caste whose profession was hunting the birds), Sugreeva (the Vanar king) and Vibhishana a Rakshasa.

4. Even towards his enemies, Rama showed great nobility and virtue. To gather information about the enemy army's strengths and weaknesses, Ravana sent two of his spies, Suka and Sarana, to the Vanara camps. Disguised as Vanaras they blended into the enemy camp, but Vibhishana saw through their deceit and presented the two spies to Rama. Rama then asked them what their mission was and whether they fulfilled it. After listening to them, he sent for a Vanara to give them a proper tour of all the Vanara camps and give them all the information they desired about the major soldiers and their strengths. He then told the spies to give this message to Ravana. "Tomorrow morning, I will destroy all of Lanka. Keep all sides of your palace well defended and be ready will all of your men by sunrise." The spies were greatly astonished with Rama's charisma, courage, and adherence to the codes of war. After Rama gave them leave, they knew that their king was bound to lose against this virtuous and courageous man. When Ravana first fought with Rama, Rama defeated him to such an extent that Ravana lost his charioteer, horses, chariot, flag, armour, weapons, and armor. Though the situation was at his advantage, Rama instead praised Ravana for a great fight that day, and asked him to retire and take rest, as he must be quite tired. Ravana was greatly embarrassed at this, but he was also gratified that Rama saved his life, and this led him to consider for a moment whether to retreat and give Sita back.

[edit] Companions

Even as Rama is the ideal conception of manhood, he is often aided and complemented in different situations by the characteristics by those who accompany him. They serve Rama devotedly, at great personal risk and sacrifice.

[edit] Bharata and Lakshmana

Main articles: Bharata (Ramayana) and LakshmanaSee also: Shatrughna

Page 52: Vishnu Avatars

Absent when Rama is exiled, upon his return Bharata is appalled to learn of the events. And even though Kaikeyi had done all this for his benefit, Bharata is angered at the suggestion that he should take Ayodhya's throne. Denouncing his mother, Bharata proclaims to the city that he would go to the forest to fetch Rama back, and would serve out his term of exile himself. Although initially resentful and suspicious, the people of Ayodhya hail Bharata's selfless nature and courageous act. Despite his fervent pleas to return, Rama asserts that he must stay in the forest to keep his father's word. He orders Bharata to perform his duty as king of Ayodhya, especially important after Dasaratha's death, and orders Shatrughna to support and serve him. Returning saddened to the city, Bharata refuses to wear the crown or sit on the throne. Instead, he places the slippers of Rama that he had taken back with him on the throne, and rules Ayodhya assiduously keeping Rama's beliefs and values in mind. When Rama finally returns, Bharata runs personally to welcome him back.

Bharata is hailed for his devotion to his elder brother and dharma, distinguished from Lakshmana as he is left on his own for fourteen years. But he unfailingly denies self-interest throughout this time, ruling the kingdom only in Rama's image.[24] Vasishtha proclaims that no one had better learnt dharma than Bharata,[25] and for this piety he forms an essential part of the conception of perfect manhood, of the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu. Shatrughna's role to Bharata is akin to that of Lakshmana to Rama. Believed to be one-quarter of Vishnu incarnated, or as the incarnation of his eternal companion, Ananta Sesha, Lakshmana is always at Rama's side.[26] Although unconstrained by Dasaratha's promise to Kaikeyi, Lakshmana resists Rama's arguments and accompanies him and Sita into the forest. During the years of exile, Lakshmana constantly serves Rama and Sita – building huts, standing guard and finding new routes. When Sita is kidnapped, Rama blazes with his divine power and in his immense rage, expresses the desire to destroy all creation. Lakshmana prays and pleads for Rama to calm himself, and despite the shock of the moment and the promise of travails to come, begin an arduous but systematic search for Sita. During times when the search is proving fruitless and Rama fears for Sita, and expresses despair in his grief and loneliness, Lakshmana encourages him, providing hope and solace.

When Rama in his despair fears that Sugriva has forgotten his promise to help him trace Sita, Lakshmana goes to Kishkindha to remind the complacent monarch of his promise to help. But Lakshmana kicks down the city gate and threatens to destroy Sugriva and the monkey kingdom with his own divine power. Lakshmana is unable to tolerate Sugriva breaking his vow to Rama while enjoying material and sensual pleasures while Rama suffers alone. It is only through the diplomatic intervention of Queen Tara, Sugriva's wife, that Lakshmana is pacified. Tara then scolds and galvanises Sugriva into honoring his promise to Rama. Sugriva and Rama are then reconciled with the help of Lakshmana and Tara. And finally Sugriva appoints Hanuman to find the location of Sita and lead the monkey army into battle against the demonic forces of Ravana.[27]

Lakshmana is uniquely responsible for slaying Indrajit, the invincible son of Ravana who had humiliated Indra and the Devas, and outwitted the brothers and the Vanaras on several occasions. Rishi Agastya later points out that this victory was the turning point of

Page 53: Vishnu Avatars

the conflict. Rama is often overcome with emotion and deep affection for Lakshmana, acknowledging how important and crucial Lakshmana's love and support was for him. He also trusts Lakshmana to carry out difficult orders – Lakshmana was asked to take Sita to the ashrama of Valmiki, where she was to spend her exile. Lakshmana's deep love for Rama, his unconditional service and sacrifice, as well as qualities of practical judgment and clear-headedness make him Rama's superior in certain situations and perspectives. Lakshmana symbolizes a man's duty to his family, brothers and friends, and forms an essential part of the conception of ideal manhood, that Rama primarily embodies.

[edit] Jatayu, Hanuman and Vibheeshana

Main articles: Jatayu (Ramayana), Hanuman, and Vibheeshana

When Rama and Lakshmana begin the desperate search to discover where Sita had been taken. After traversing a distance in many directions, they come across the magical eagle Jatayu, who is dying. They discover from Jatayu that a rakshasa was flying away with a crying, struggling Sita towards the south. Jatayu had flown to the rescue of Sita, but owing to his age and the rakshasa's power, had been defeated. With this, Jatayu dies in Rama's arms. Rama is overcome with love and affection for the bird which sacrificed its own life for Sita, and the rage of his death returns to him in the climactic battle with Ravana.

Rama's only allies in the struggle to find Sita are the Vanaras of Kishkindha. Finding a terrified Sugriva being hunted by his own brother, king Vali, Rama promises to kill Vali and free Sugriva of the terror and the unjust charge of plotting to murder Vali. The two swear everlasting friendship over sacred fire. Rama's natural piety and compassion, his sense of justice and duty, as well as his courage despite great personal suffering after Sita's kidnapping inspire devotion from the Vanaras and Sugriva, but especially Hanuman, Sugriva's minister. Devoted to Rama, Hanuman exerts himself greatly over the search for Sita. He is the first to discover that Sita was taken to Lanka, and volunteers to use his divine gifts in a dangerous reconnaissance of Lanka, where he is to verify Sita's presence. Hanuman hands Rama's ring to Sita, as a mark of Rama's love and his imminent intention of rescuing her. Though captured, he candidly delivers Rama's message to Ravana to immediately release Sita, and when his tail is burned, he flees and sets Lanka on fire. When Lakshmana is struck down and near death and Rama overcome with love and concern for his brother, Hanuman flies to the Himalayas on the urgent mission to fetch the sanjeevani medicinal herbs, bringing the entire mountain to Lanka so that no time is lost in saving Lakshmana.[28] The Vanaras fight the rakshasas, completely devoted to Rama's cause. They angrily dismiss Ravana's efforts to create divisions by suggesting that Rama considered them, monkeys, as mere animals. At the end of the war, Rama worships Brahma, who restores life to the millions of fallen Vanaras.[29]

Before the onset of war, rakshasa prince Vibheeshana, Ravana's youngest brother comes to join Rama. Although he loves his brother and Lanka, he fails in repeated efforts to make Ravana follow religious values and return Sita. Vibheeshana believes that Ravana's arrogance and callousness will cause the destruction of Lanka, which is a gross violation

Page 54: Vishnu Avatars

of a king's duty, and that Ravana's actions have only propagated evil. Vibheeshana refuses to defend the evil of Ravana's ways and inspired by Rama's compassion and piety, leaves Lanka to join the Vanara Army.[30] His knowledge of rakshasa ways and Ravana's mind help Rama and the Vanaras overcome black magic and mystical weapons. At the end of the war, Rama crowns Vibheeshana as the king of Lanka. Vibheeshana, and to a greater extent Hanuman, embody the perfect devotee in the wider conception of perfect manhood.

[edit] Rama in war

The epic story of Ramayana was adopted by several cultures across Asia. Shown here is a Thai historic artwork depicting the battle which took place between Rama and Ravana.

When Rama is sixteen years old, he and his brother Lakshmana are taken by Vishwamitra to the forests, with the purpose of killing rakshasas who are wrecking the tapasya and sacrifices of brahmins. Rama and Lakshmana are taught the advanced military arts and given the knowledge of all celestial weapons by Vishwamitra. Rama proceeds to slay Tadaka, a cursed yaksha demoness. When asked to slay the demoness, Rama demurs, considering it sinful to kill a woman. But Vishwamitra explains that evil has no gender. The killing of Tadaka liberates the yaksha soul who was cursed for a sin, and had to adopt a rakshasi's body. It restores the purity of the sacrifices of the brahmins who live nearby, and protects the animals who live in the forest, and travelers. The main purpose of Vishwamitra's exursion is to conduct his yagna without interruption from two evil demons, Maricha and Subahu. Rama and Lakshmana guard the sacrifice, and when the two demons appear, Rama shoots an arrow that carries Maricha across the lands and into the ocean, but does not kill him. Rama and his brother then proceed to kill Subahu and accompanying demons. Rama explains to Lakshmana that leaving Maricha alive was an act of compassion, but the others did not heed the point and chose to attack.[31] During the forest exile, sages plead for protection and help against evil rakshasas who spoil their sacrifices and religious activities and terrorize them. Many rakshasas had even killed and eaten sages and innocent people. At Janasthana, Rama uses his exceptional prowess to single-handedly kill over fourteen thousand demon hordes led by the powerful Khara, who is a cousin of Ravana.

Page 55: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Sagara

Raja Ravi Varma Painting – 'Rama Conquers Varuna'

Faced with the dilemma of how to cross the ocean, Rama performs a penance tapasya, fasting and meditating in perfect dhyana for three days and three nights to Varuna, the Lord of Oceans. The ocean god does not respond out of arrogance, and Rama on the fourth morning, pointed the brahmastra towards the ocean. The Vanaras are dazzled and fearful at witnessing the enraged Rama demolish the oceans, and Lakshmana prays to calm Rama's mind. Just as Rama invokes the brahmastra, considered the most powerful weapon capable of destroying all creation, Saagara arises out of the oceans. He bows to Rama, and begs for pardon. Since lord Rama had to use the weapon, he suggests Rama re-direct the weapon at a demonic race that lives in the heart of the ocean. Rama's arrows destroys the demons, and establishes a purer, liberated environment there. Saagara promises that he would keep the oceans still for all of Rama's army to pass, and Nala constructs a bridge (Rama's Bridge) across to Lanka. Rama justifies his angry assault on the oceans as he followed the correct process of petitioning and worshipping Saagara, but obtaining the result by force for the greater good.[32] In another version of the story, Lord Rama redirected his missile to the barren Island, and as a result huge volcanic eruption resulted. This volcano is the one which is found till today at the southern part of Indian peninsula .

[edit] Facing Ravana

See also: Ravana

Page 56: Vishnu Avatars

Ravana, Demon King of Lanka

Rama asserts his dedication to dharma when he undertakes to offer Ravana a final chance to make peace, despite his heinous actions and patronage of evil, by immediately returning Sita and apologizing to both Rama and Sita, but Ravana refuses. In the war, Rama slays the most powerful rakshasa commanders, including Prahasta, Atikaya and with Ravana's brother, Kumbhakarna along with hundreds of thousands of rakshasa soldiers. He outfights Ravana in their first battle, destroying his chariot and weapons, and severely injuring him, but due to this, he allows him to live and return to fight another day. But as a human being, Rama also proves vulnerable on occasion to his enemies. He is put to a deep sleep with Lakshmana by the nagapash of Indrajit, but they recover when Hanuman obtains the magical medicine according to Vibheesana's advice.

In the grand finale of the battle, Rama engages Ravana, who through the devastation of losing his sons, his brothers and friends and millions of his warriors, arouses his awesome and magical powers and makes full use of the boons of Siva and Brahma, and the magical knowledge of warfare possessed by the greatest of rakshasas. Rama and Ravana compete fiercely, inflicting severe injuries on one another with the most powerful weapons that could destroy the universe. After a long and arduous battle, Rama successfully decapitates Ravana's central head, but an ugly head, symbolic of all of Ravana's evil powers arises in its place. After another long battle, Rama decapitates it, only to find another growing in its place. This cycle continues, and as darkness approaches, Ravana's magical powers increase in force. Vibheeshana, seeing this then tells Rama something vital. Ravana had obtained amrita, the nectar of immortality, from the gods. Though he could not consume it, he nevertheless stored a vessel of it in his stomach. This amrit was causing his heads to regenerate as soon as they were cut off. Upon the advice of Agastya, Rama worships Lord Aditya, the Sun, with the famous Aditya Hridayam prayer and then invokes the most powerful weapon, the Brahmastra. Rama fires the great arrow that enters Ravana's chest/stomach and destroys the store of amrit, finally killing him.[33] Following Ravana's death, Rama is immediately compassionate. After investing

Page 57: Vishnu Avatars

Vibheeshana as the next king of Lanka, he asks the new king and the surviving rakshasas to properly cremate their dead king, who he acknowledges was a great being worthy of respect and admiration, despite his patronage of evil.[34]

[edit] Rama Rajya

Coronation of Rama with Sita (center on the throne), surrounded by his brothers and other deities including Hanuman (bottom left)

The end of the war coincides with the end of Rama's tenure of exile. Flying home on the Pushpaka Vimana, Rama returns to a joyous Ayodhya. His mothers, brothers and the people joyously welcome him. Kaikeyi is repentant of her deeds, and Rama forgives her. The next day, Rama is invested as the King of Ayodhya, and Emperor of the World. Although he first asks Lakshmana to become the yuvaraja, upon the advice of Lakshmana he invests the position to Bharata, who has had fourteen years of experience as the ruler of Ayodhya. Rama performs the holy Ashwamedha sacrifice, purifying and establishing religion across earth.[35]

Beyond the Ramayana, the eleven thousand years of Rama's rule over the earth represent to millions of modern Indians a time and age when God as a man ruled the world. There was perfect justice and freedom, peace and prosperity. There are no natural disasters, diseases, ailments or ill-fortune of any nature for any living being. There are no sins committed in the world by any of his people. Always attentive and accessible to his people, Rama is worshipped and hailed by all – the very symbol of moksha, the ultimate goal and destination of all life, and the best example of perfect character and human conduct, inspiring human beings for countless succeeding ages.

Rama like other Indian kings went undercover every night to hear the pleas of his subjects and have a common man's perspective of his rule. During Rama's tenure as King,

Page 58: Vishnu Avatars

the people apparently had no locks on their doors as they feared no burglaries or other such misfortunes.

[edit] International Influence

Deities of Sri Sri Sita (far right), Rama (center), Lakshmana (far left) and Hanuman (below seated) at Bhaktivedanta Manor, a temple in Watford England

Be it as a manifestation of God or simply as a legendary hero of myths and folktales, Rama is an immensely revered and inspirational figure to people across the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia, as well as increasingly across Western civilization, where the Hindu epics and values are gaining recognition and popularity. In Jainism, Rama is enumerated among the nine white Balas.

Rama is a great hero to the adherents of Agama Hindu Dharma and to the Muslims who practice Abangan, a syncretic form of Islam and Hinduism, in Indonesia. He is revered by the people throughout Indochina who otherwise adhere to different forms of Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. His regal bearing and fighting prowess is emulated in various Indian martial arts which in turn influenced various Southeast Asian fighting systems such as Muay Thai and silat. The Rama Leela is performed across South East Asia in numerous local languages and the story has been the subject of art, architecture, music, folk dance and sculpture. The ancient city of Ayutthaya stands in Thailand, as the tribute of an ancient Thai kingdom to the great legend. Many ancient and medieval era kings of India and South East Asia have adopted Rama as their name.

A Buddhist version of the tale is found in the Jataka stories, in the Dasharatha Jataka (Jataka Atthakatha 461) in the Pali vernacular. Here Rama is represented as a former life of the Buddha as a Bodhisatva and supreme Dharma King of great wisdom. In the Buddhist tale, he is the king of Varanasi and not Ayodhya, which is traditionally the capital of Kosala.

Reviewers linked the imagery of the blue-skinned Na'vi in James Cameron's Avatar film to Rama as one of their possible conceptual prototypes.[36][37][38]

Page 59: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Festivals

Main article: Rama NavamiSee also: List of Hindu festivals

Rama's day and time of birth, as well as marriage to Sita are celebrated by Hindus across the world as Rama Navami. It falls on the ninth day of a Hindu lunar year, or Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami. This day is observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita as well as the birthday of Rama. People normally perform Kalyanotsavam (marriage celebration) for small statues of Rama and Sita in their houses and at the end of the day the idols are taken in a procession on the streets. This day also marks the end of nine day utsavam called Vasanthothsavam (Festival of Spring), that starts with Ugadi. Some highlights of this day are:

1. Kalyanam (Ceremonial wedding performed by temple priests) at Bhadrachalam on the banks of the river Godavari in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.

2. Panakam, a sweet drink prepared on this day with jaggery and pepper. 3. Procession of idols in the evening that is accompanied with play of water and

colours. 4. For the occasion, Hindus are supposed to fast (or restrict themselves to a specific

diet). 5. Temples are decorated and readings of the Ramayana take place. Along with

Rama, people also pray to Sita, Lakshmana and Hanumana.

The occasion of victory over Ravana and the rakshasas is celebrated as the 10-day Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra. The Ram Leela is publicly performed in many villages, towns and cities in India. Rama's return to Ayodhya and his coronation are celebrated as Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. The latter two are the most important and popular festivals in India and for Hindus across the world. In Malaysia, Diwali is known as Hari Deepavali, and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period. Here, though the festival is celebrated for five days, the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day, cows are worshipped and given offerings. On the second day, dogs are revered and offered special food. On the third day, celebrations follow the same pattern as in India, with lights and lamps and much social activity. On the fourth day Yama, the Lord of Death, is worshipped and appeased. On the fifth and final day, brothers sisters meet and exchange pleasantries. In Guyana, Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with a lot of fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the world and some ministers of the Government also take part in the celebrations publicly.

NARASIMHA

Page 60: Vishnu Avatars

Narasimha (IAST:Narasiṃha, Sanskrit:नरासिंसः:ह), also spelt as Narasingh and Narasinga, is an avatara of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism,[1] and one of Hinduism's most popular deities, as evidenced in early epics, iconography, and temple and festival worship for over a millennium.[2]

He is often visualized as half-man/half-lion, having a human-like torso and lower body, with a lion-like face and claws.[3] This image is widely worshiped in deity form by a significant number of Vaishnava groups, particularly in Southern India. He is known primarily as the 'Great Protector' who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need.[4]

Contents

[hide] 1 Scriptural sources

o 1.1 References from Vedas o 1.2 Narasimha and Prahlada

2 Mode of worship o 2.1 Prayers

3 Symbolism 4 Significance 5 Places of pilgrimage 6 Temples dedicated to Narasimha 7 See also 8 References

9 External links

[edit] Scriptural sources

References to Narasimha are found in a wide variety of the Puranic scriptures, with seventeen versions of the main narrative,[5] some in more detail than others. The Bhagavata Purana (Canto 7), Agni Purana (4.2-3), Brahmanda Purana (2.5.3-29), Vayu Purana (67.61-66), Harivamsa (41 & 3.41-47), Brahma Purana (213.44-79), Vishnudharmottara Purana (1.54), Kurma Purana (1.15.18-72), Matsya Purana (161-163), Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda 5.42), Shiva Purana (2.5.43 & 3.10-12), Linga Purana (1.95-96), Skanda Purana 7 (2.18.60-130) and Vishnu Purana (1.16-20) all contain depictions of the Narasimha avatar. There is also a short reference in the Mahabharata (3.272.56-60) and a Tapani Upanishad (Narasimha tapani Upanisad), earliest of Vaishnava Upanishads named in reference to him.

Page 61: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] References from Vedas

One phrase of the Rig Veda appears to indicate an epithet that can be rightly attributed to the form of Vishnu as Narasimha it clearly calls the qualities of Vishnu that are seen only in this avatara as "like some wild beast, dread, prowling, mountain-roaming" (RV.I 154.2a). There is a reference or an allusion to knowledge of Namuci story in RV.VIII 14.13: "With waters' foam you tore off, Indra, the head of Namuci, subduing all contending hosts." This short reference is believed to have culminated in the full puranic story of this highly popular Narasimha form. [2]

[edit] Narasimha and Prahlada

Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu, as Prahlada and his mother bow before Lord Narasimha

The story of Narasimha as described in the Bhagavata Purana is as follows:

In his previous avatara of Varaha, Vishnu killed a rakshasa known as Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha's brother Hiranyakashipu, greatly angered by this, started to abhor Vishnu and his followers. To which end he decides to attempt to kill Vishnu by gaining mystical powers, which he believes Brahma, the chief among the devas will award him if he undergoes many years of great austerity and penance. This initially seems to work as planned with Brahma becoming pleased by Hiranyakashipu's austerities.[6] Brahma thus appears before Hiranyakashipu and offers him a boon that he will personally make true anything he wishes for. In reply to which Hiranyakashipu requests the following:

O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you. Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets. Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.[7]

Page 62: Vishnu Avatars

Narasimha statue

One day while Hiranyakashipu was performing austerities at Mandaracala Mountain, his home was attacked by Indra and the other devas.[8] At this point the divine sage, Narada intervened to protect Kayadu, whom he describes as 'sinless'.[9] Following this event Narada takes Kayadu into his care and while under the guidance of Narada, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu's son) Prahlada, became affected by the transcendental instructions of the sage even at such a young stage of development. Thus, Prahlada when later growing as a child began to show symptoms of this earlier training by Narada, gradually becoming recognised as a devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father's disappointment.[10]

Hiranyakashipu eventually becomes so angry and upset at his son's devotion to Vishnu (whom he sees as his mortal enemy) that he decides he must kill him,[11] but each time he attempts to kill the boy, Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is all-pervading and omnipresent. To which Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if 'his Vishnu' is in it:

"O most unfortunate Prahlada, you have always described a supreme being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is the controller of everyone, and who is all-pervading. But where is He? If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this pillar?"[12]

Page 63: Vishnu Avatars

Narasimha claws Hiranyakasipu at Banteay Srei in Cambodia.

Prahlada then answers, He was, He is and He will be. In an alternate version of the story, Prahlada answers He is in pillars, and he is in the smallest twig. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and then following a tumultuous sound, Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and in defence of Prahlada moves to attack his father. In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not upset the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha was chosen. Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, deva or animal, Narasimha is neither one of these, as he is a form of Vishnu incarnate as a part-human, part-animal. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs (neither earth nor space). Using his sharp fingernails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.[13] Kurma Purana describes the preceding battle between the Purusha and demoniac forces in which he escapes powerful weapon called, pashupata and it describes how Prahladas brothers headed by Anuhrada and thousands of other demons "were led to the valley of death (yamalayam) by the lion produced from the body of man-lion" avatara.[2] The same episode occurs in the Matshya Purana 179, several chapters after its version of the Narasimha advent.[2]

The Bhagavata Purana further narrates: even after killing Hiranyakashipu none of the present demigods were able to calm Narasimha's fury, not even Shiva. So all the gods and goddesses called his consort, Lakshmi, but she was also unable to do so. Then, at the request of Brahma, Prahlada was presented to Narasimha, and finally, he was calmed by the prayers of his devotee.[14] Before parting, Narasimha rewards the wise Prahlada by crowning him as the king.[2]

Page 64: Vishnu Avatars

Sharabha (right) with Narasimha

In the Shiva Purana, there is a distinctly Shaiva version of a traditional avatar myth: Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that fails, Shiva manifests as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. The story concludes with Narasimha becoming a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. The Sharabha story is also retold in the Linga Purana.[15] However, Vaishnava followers including Dvaita scholars, such as Vijayindra Tirtha (1539-95) dispute this view of Narasimha based on their reading of Sattvika Puranas and Śruti texts.[16]

Based on this story, it is believed by followers that Narasimha protects his sincere devotees when they are in extreme danger. He saved Adi Sankara from being sacrificed to the goddess Kali by a Kapalika. Thus Adi Sankara composed the powerful Laksmi-Narasimha stotra.

[edit] Mode of worship

Due to the nature of Narasimha's form (divine anger), it is essential that worship be given with a very high level of attention compared to other deities. In many temples only life-long celibates (brahmacarya) will be able to have the chance to serve as priests to perform the daily puja. Forms where Narasimha appears sitting in a yogic posture, or with the goddess Lakshmi are the exception to this rule, as Narasimha is taken as being more relaxed in both of these instances compared to his form when first emerging from the pillar to protect Prahlada.

[edit] Prayers

A number of prayers have been written in dedication to Narasimha avatar. These include:

The Narasimha Maha-Mantra

Om Hreem Kshraum Ugram Veeram Mahaa-Vishnum, Jwalantham Sarvatho Mukham Nrisimham Bheeshanam Bhadram Mrityu-Mrityum Namaamyaham.

"O' Angry and brave Maha-Vishnu, your heat and fire permeate everywhere. O Lord Narasimha, you are everywhere. You are the death of death and I surrender to You."

ito nrsimhah parato nrsimho, yato yato yami tato nrsimhah, bahir nrsimho hrdaye nrsimho, nrsimham adim saranam prapadye

"Lord Nrsimha is here and also there. Wherever I go Lord Narasimha is there. He is in the heart and is outside as well. I surrender to Lord Narasimha, the origin of all things and the supreme refuge." (Narasimha Pranama)[17]

Page 65: Vishnu Avatars

Narasimha deity in Bhaktapur Darbar, Nepaltava kara-kamala-vare nakham adbhuta-srngam, dalita-hiranyakasipu-tanu-bhrngam, kesava dhrta-narahari-rupa jaya jagadisa hare

"O Kesava! O Lord of the universe. O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of half-man, half-lion! All glories to You! Just as one can easily crush a wasp between one's fingernails, so in the same way the body of the wasplike demon Hiranyakasipu has been ripped apart by the wonderful pointed nails on your beautiful lotus hands." (from the Dasavatara-stotra composed by Jayadeva)[18]

Tvayi Rakshathi Rakshakai: Kim Anyai:, Tvayi Cha Arakshati Rakshakai: Kim Anyai:, Ithi Nischita Dhee: Srayaami Nityam, Nruhareh: Vegavathee Tataasrayam Tvam!

"O kamasikha Narasimha! you are sarva sakthan. When you are resolved to protect some one, where is the need to seek the protection of anyone else? When you are resolved not to protect some one, which other person is capable of protecting us?. There is no one. Knowing this fundamental truth, I have resolved to offer my saranagati at your lotus feet alone that rest at the banks of Vegavathi river." (Kamasika Ashtakam by Vedanta Desika)

ADi ADi agam Karaindhu isai PADip PADik KaNNIr Malgi engum ' nADi nADi narasingA endru, VADi VADum ivvAL nuthalE!

Page 66: Vishnu Avatars

"I will dance and melt for you, within my heart, to see you, I will sing in praise of you with tears in joy, I will search for Narasimha and I am a householder who still searches to reach you(to attain Salvation)." (Divya Prabandha 2954)

[edit] Symbolism

Narasimha indicates God's omnipresence and the lesson is that God is everywhere. For more information, see Vaishnava Theology.

Prahlada's devotion indicates that pure devotion is not one of birthright but of character. Prahlada, although born a rakshasa, demonstrated greatest bhakti to God.

[edit] Significance

In South Indian art – sculptures, bronzes and paintings – Vishnu's incarnation as Narasimha is one of the most chosen themes and amongst Avatars perhaps next only to Rama and Krishna in popularity.

MAHABHARAT

Manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra

Page 67: Vishnu Avatars

Krishna, Arjuna at Kurukshetra, 18-19th century painting.

The Mahabharata (Sanskrit Mahābhārata महभरा!) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāya ṇ a . The epic is part of the Hindu itihāsa (or "history").

Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas (12.161). The latter are enumerated as dharma (right action), artha (purpose), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation). Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The earliest parts of the extant text are not appreciably older than around 400 BCE.[1] The text probably reached its final form by the early Gupta period (ca. 4th c. CE).[2] The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty". According to the Mahabharata itself, the tale is extended from a shorter version of 24,000 verses called simply Bhārata.[3].

With about one hundred thousand verses, long prose passages, or about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Rāmāya ṇ a .[4][5]

Contents

[hide] 1 Textual history and structure

o 1.1 Accretion and redaction o 1.2 Historical references o 1.3 Comparative mythology

Page 68: Vishnu Avatars

o 1.4 The 18 parvas 2 Historical context 3 Synopsis

o 3.1 The older generations o 3.2 The Pandava and Kaurava princes o 3.3 Lāk ṣ ag ṛ ha (The House of Lac) o 3.4 Marriage to Draupadi o 3.5 Indraprastha o 3.6 The dice game o 3.7 Exile and return o 3.8 The battle at Kurukshetra o 3.9 The end of the Pandavas

4 Versions, translations, and derivative works o 4.1 Critical Edition o 4.2 Modern interpretations o 4.3 English translations o 4.4 Abridged versions

5 Kuru family tree 6 Cultural influence 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References

10 External links

Textual history and structure

Part of a series on

Hindu scriptures

Vedas

Rigveda · Yajurveda · Samaveda · Atharvaveda

DivisionsSamhita ·

Brahmana ·

Page 69: Vishnu Avatars

Aranyaka · Upanishad

Upanishad

Aitareya · Brihadaranyaka · Isha · Taittiriya ·

Chandogya · Kena · Maitri · Mundaka · Mandukya · Katha ·

Kaushitaki · Prashna ·

Shvetashvatara

Vedanga

Shiksha · Chandas · Vyakarana ·

Nirukta · Jyotisha · Kalpa

Itihasa

Mahabharata · Ramayana

Other scriptures

Smriti · Śruti · Bhagavad Gita · Purana · Manu

Smriti · Agama · Pancharatra ·

Tantra · Akilathirattu · Sūtra · Stotra ·

Dharmashastra · Divya Prabandha ·

Tevaram · Ramacharitamanas 

·Yoga Vasistha

This box: view • talk • edit

The epic is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa, who is also a major character in the epic. The first section of the Mahabharata states that it was Ganesha who, at the request of Vyasa, wrote down the text to Vyasa's dictation. Ganesha is said to have agreed to write it only on condition that Vyasa never pause in his recitation. Vyasa agreed, provided Ganesha took the time to understand what was said before writing it down.

Page 70: Vishnu Avatars

The epic employs the story within a story structure, otherwise known as frametales, popular in many Indian religious and secular works. It is recited to the King Janamejaya who is the great-grandson of Arjuna, by Vaisampayana, a disciple of Vyasa. The recitation of Vaisampayana to Janamejaya is then recited again by a professional storyteller named Ugrasrava Sauti, many years later, to an assemblage of sages.

Accretion and redaction

Research on the Mahabharata has put an enormous effort into recognizing and dating various layers within the text. The background to the Mahabharata suggests a time "after the very early Vedic period" and before "the first Indian 'empire' was to rise in the third century B.C.," so "a date not too far removed from the eighth or ninth century B.C."[6] It is generally agreed, however, that "Unlike the Vedas, which have to be preserved letter-perfect, the epic was a popular work whose reciters would inevitably conform to changes in language and style."[6] The earliest surviving components of this dynamic text are believed to be no older than the earliest external references we have to the epic, which may include an allusion in Panini's fourth century grammar (Ashtādhyāyī 4:2:56).[6][1] It is estimated that the Sanskrit text probably reached something of a "final form" by the early Gupta period (about the 4th century CE).[6] Vishnu Sukthankar, editor of the first great critical edition of the Mahabharata, commented: "It is useless to think of reconstructing a fluid text in a literally original shape, on the basis of an archetype and a stemma codicum. What then is possible? Our objective can only be to reconstruct the oldest form of the text which it is possible to reach on the basis of the manuscript material available."[7] That manuscript evidence is somewhat late, given its material composition and the climate of India, but it is very extensive.

The Mahabharata itself (1.1.61) distinguishes a core portion of 24,000 verses, the Bharata proper, as opposed to additional secondary material, while the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (3.4.4) makes a similar distinction. At least three redactions of the text are commonly recognized: Jaya (Victory) with 8,800 verses attributed to Vyasa, Bharata with 24,000 verses as recited by Vaisampayana, and finally the Mahabharata as recited by Ugrasrava Sauti with over 100,000 verses.[8][9] However, some scholars such as John Brockington, argue that Jaya and Bharata refer to the same text, and ascribe the theory of Jaya with 8,800 verses to a misreading of a verse in Adiparvan (1.1.81).[10] The redaction of this large body of text was carried out after formal principles, emphasizing the numbers 18[11] and 12. The addition of the latest parts may be dated by the absence of the Anushasana-parva and "Virat-parva" from MS Spitzer, the oldest surviving Sanskrit philosophical manuscript dated to Kushan Period (200 CE)[12], that contains among other things a list of the books in the Mahabharata. From this evidence, it is likely that the redaction into 18 books took place in the first century. An alternative division into 20 parvas appears to have co-existed for some time. The division into 100 sub-parvas (mentioned in Mbh. 1.2.70) is older, and most parvas are named after one of their constituent sub-parvas. The Harivamsa consists of the final two of the 100 sub-parvas, and was considered an appendix (khila) to the Mahabharata proper by the redactors of the 18 parvas.[citation needed]

Page 71: Vishnu Avatars

According to what one character says at Mbh. 1.1.50, there were three versions of the epic, beginning with Manu (1.1.27), Astika (1.3, sub-parva 5) or Vasu (1.57), respectively. These versions would correspond to the addition of one and then another 'frame' settings of dialogues. The Vasu version would omit the frame settings and begin with the account of the birth of Vyasa. The astika version would add the sarpasattra and ashvamedha material from Brahmanical literature, introduce the name Mahabharata, and identify Vyasa as the work's author. The redactors of these additions were probably Pancharatrin scholars who according to Oberlies (1998) likely retained control over the text until its final redaction. Mention of the Huna in the Bhishma-parva however appears to imply that this parva may have been edited around the 4th century[citation needed].

The snake sacrifice of Janamejaya

The Adi-parva includes the snake sacrifice (sarpasattra) of Janamejaya, explaining its motivation, detailing why all snakes in existence were intended to be destroyed, and why in spite of this, there are still snakes in existence. This sarpasattra material was often considered an independent tale added to a version of the Mahabharata by "thematic attraction" (Minkowski 1991), and considered to have a particularly close connection to Vedic (Brahmana) literature. The Panchavimsha Brahmana (at 25.15.3) enumerates the officiant priests of a sarpasattra among whom the names Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya, two main characters of the Mahabharata's sarpasattra, as well as Takshaka, the name of a snake in the Mahabharata, occur.[13]

The state of the text has been described by some early 20th century Indologists as unstructured and chaotic. Hermann Oldenberg supposed that the original poem must once have carried an immense "tragic force", but dismissed the full text as a "horrible chaos."[14] The judgement of other early 20th century Indologists was even less favourable. Moritz Winternitz (Geschichte der indischen Literatur 1909) considered that

Page 72: Vishnu Avatars

"only unpoetical theologists and clumsy scribes" could have lumped the various parts of disparate origin into an unordered whole.

Historical references

The earliest known references to the Mahabharata and its core Bharata date back to the Ashtadhyayi (sutra 6.2.38) of Pā ṇ ini (fl. 4th century BCE), and in the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (3.4.4). This may suggest that the core 24,000 verses, known as the Bharata, as well as an early version of the extended Mahabharata, were composed by the 4th century BCE.

Later, the copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja Sharvanatha (533-534 CE) from Khoh (Satna District, Madhya Pradesh) describes the Mahabharata as a "collection of 100,000 verses" (shatasahasri samhita).

The Greek writer Dio Chrysostom stated that the Mahabharata was well-known in South India in 50 CE [15] .

Comparative mythologyFurther information: Comparative mythology

The Greek writer Dio Chrysostom (ca. 40-120) reported, "it is said that Homer's poetry is sung even in India, where they have translated it into their own speech and tongue. The result is that...the people of India...are not unacquainted with the sufferings of Priam, the laments and wailings of Andromache and Hecuba, and the valor of both Achilles and Hector: so remarkable has been the spell of one man's poetry!"[16],Despite the passage's evident face-value meaning—that the Iliad had been translated into Sanskrit—some scholars have supposed that the report reflects the existence of a Mahabharata at this date, whose episodes Dio or his sources syncretistically identify with the story of the Iliad. Christian Lassen, in his Indische Alterthumskunde, supposed that the reference is ultimately to Dhritarashtra's sorrows, the laments of Gandhari and Draupadi, and the valor of Arjuna and Duryodhana or Karna.[17] This interpretation, endorsed in such standard references as Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature, has often been repeated without specific reference to what Dio's text says.[18]

The 18 parvas

The division into 18 parvas is as follows:

Parva titlesub-parvas

contents

1 Adi Parva (The Book 1-19 How the Mahabharata came to be narrated by

Page 73: Vishnu Avatars

of the Beginning)

Sauti to the assembled rishis at Naimisharanya. The recital of the Mahabharata at the sarpasattra of Janamejaya by Vaishampayana at Tak ṣ aśilā . The history of the Bharata race is told in detail and the parva also traces history of the Bhrigu race. The birth and early life of the Kuru princes. (adi means first)

2Sabha Parva (The Book of the Assembly Hall)

20-28

Maya Danava erects the palace and court (sabha), at Indraprastha. Life at the court, Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, the game of dice, and the eventual exile of the Pandavas.

3

Vana Parva also Aranyaka-parva, Aranya-parva (The Book of the Forest)

29-44 The twelve years of exile in the forest (aranya).

4Virata Parva (The Book of Virata)

45-48 The year in incognito spent at the court of Virata.

5Udyoga Parva (The Book of the Effort)

49-59Preparations for war and efforts to bring about peace between the Kurus and the Pandavas which eventually fail (udyoga means effort or work).

6Bhishma Parva (The Book of Bhishma)

60-64The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander for the Kauravas and his fall on the bed of arrows.

7Drona Parva (The Book of Drona)

65-72

The battle continues, with Drona as commander. This is the major book of the war. Most of the great warriors on both sides are dead by the end of this book.

8Karna Parva (The Book of Karna)

73 The battle again, with Karna as commander.

Page 74: Vishnu Avatars

9Shalya Parva (The Book of Shalya)

74-77

The last day of the battle, with Shalya as commander. Also told in detail is the pilgrimage of Balarama to the fords of the river Saraswati and the mace fight between Bhima and Duryodhana which ends the war, since Bhima kills Duryodhana by smashing him on the thighs with a mace.

10Sauptika Parva (The Book of the Sleeping Warriors)

78-80

Ashvattama, Kripa and Kritavarma kill the remaining Pandava army in their sleep. Only 7 warriors remain on the Pandava side and 3 on the Kaurava side.

11Stri Parva (The Book of the Women)

81-85Gandhari, Kunti and the women (stri) of the Kurus and Pandavas lament the dead.

12Shanti Parva (The Book of Peace)

86-88

The crowning of Yudhisthira as king of Hastinapura, and instructions from Bhishma for the newly anointed king on society, economics and politics. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata (shanti means peace).

13Anushasana Parva (The Book of the Instructions)

89-90The final instructions (anushasana) from Bhishma.

14Ashvamedhika Parva (The Book of the Horse Sacrifice)[19]

91-92

The royal ceremony of the Ashvamedha (Horse sacrifice) conducted by Yudhisthira. The world conquest by Arjuna. The Anugita is told by Krishna to Arjuna.

15Ashramavasika Parva (The Book of the Hermitage)

93-95

The eventual deaths of Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti in a forest fire when they are living in a hermitage in the Himalayas. Vidura predeceases them and Sanjaya on Dhritarashtra's bidding goes to live in the higher Himalayas.

Page 75: Vishnu Avatars

16Mausala Parva (The Book of the Clubs)

96The infighting between the Yadavas with maces (mausala) and the eventual destruction of the Yadavas.

17Mahaprasthanika Parva (The Book of the Great Journey)

97

The great journey of Yudhisthira and his brothers across the whole country and finally their ascent of the great Himalayas where each Pandava falls except for Yudhisthira.

18Svargarohana Parva (The Book of the Ascent to Heaven)

98Yudhisthira's final test and the return of the Pandavas to the spiritual world (svarga).

khilaHarivamsa Parva (The Book of the Genealogy of Hari)

99-100

Life of Krishna which is not covered in the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata.

Historical context

Further information: Epic India

Page 76: Vishnu Avatars

English language map of "Bharatvarsha" (Kingdom of India) during the era of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The historicity of the Kurukshetra War is unclear. Some historians like A L Basham estimate the date of the Kurukshetra war to Iron Age India of the 10th century BCE.[20]

Other historians like M Witzel have corroborated that the general setting of the epic has a historical precedent in Iron Age (Vedic) India, where the Kuru kingdom was the center of political power during roughly 1200 to 800 BCE.[21] A dynastic conflict of the period could have been the inspiration for the Jaya, the foundation on which the Mahabharata corpus was built, with a climactic battle eventually coming to be viewed as an epochal event.

Puranic literature presents genealogical lists associated with the Mahabharata narrative. The evidence of the Puranas is of two kinds. Of the first kind, there is the direct statement that there were 1015 (or 1050) years between the birth of Parikshit (Arjuna's grandson) and the accession of Mahapadma Nanda, commonly dated to 382 BCE, which would yield an estimate of about 1400 BCE for the Bharata battle.[22] However, this would imply improbably long reigns on average for the kings listed in the genealogies.[23] Of the second kind are analyses of parallel genealogies in the Puranas between the times of Adhisimakrishna (Parikshit's great-grandson) and Mahapadma Nanda. Pargiter accordingly estimated 26 generations by averaging 10 different dynastic lists and, assuming 18 years for the average duration of a reign, arrived at an estimate of 850 BCE for Adhisimakrishna, and thus approximately 950 BCE for the Bharata battle.[24]

B. B. Lal used the same approach with a more conservative assumption of the average reign to estimate a date of 836 BCE, and correlated this with archaeological evidence from Painted Grey Ware sites, the association being strong between PGW artifacts and places mentioned in the epic.[25]

Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy have produced, depending on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted, estimates ranging from the late 4th to the mid 2nd millennium BCE.[26] The late 4th millennium date has a precedent in the calculation of the Kaliyuga epoch, based on planetary conjunctions, by Aryabhata (6th century). His date of February 18 3102 BCE has become widespread in Indian tradition (for example, the Aihole inscription of Pulikeshi II, dated to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that 3735 years have elapsed since the Bharata battle.[27]) Another traditional school of astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira (author of the Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana (author of the Rajatarangini), place the Bharata war 653 years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.[28]

Synopsis

The core story of the work is that of a dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan. The two collateral branches of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurava and the Pandava. Although the Kaurava is the

Page 77: Vishnu Avatars

senior branch of the family, Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, is younger than Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava. Both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to be first in line to inherit the throne.

The struggle culminates in the great battle of Kurukshetra, in which the Pandavas are ultimately victorious. The battle produces complex conflicts of kinship and friendship, instances of family loyalty and duty taking precedence over what is right, as well as the converse.

The Mahabharata itself ends with the death of Krishna, and the subsequent end of his dynasty and ascent of the Pandava brothers to heaven. It also marks the beginning of the Hindu age of Kali (Kali Yuga), the fourth and final age of mankind, in which great values and noble ideas have crumbled, and man is heading toward the complete dissolution of right action, morality and virtue.

Arshia Sattar states that the central theme of the Mahabharata, as well as the Ramayana, is respectively Krishna's and Rama's hidden divinity and its progressive revelation.[29]

The older generations

Bhishma's Oath, a paintingby Raja Ravi Varma

Janamejaya's ancestor Shantanu, the king of Hastinapura, has a short-lived marriage with the goddess Ganga and has a son, Devavrata (later to be called Bhishma), who becomes the heir apparent. Many years later, when King Shantanu goes hunting, he sees Satyavati, the daughter of a fisherman, and asks her father for her hand. Her father refuses to consent to the marriage unless Shantanu promises to make any future son of Satyavati the king upon his death. To resolve his father's dilemma, Devavrata agrees to relinquish his right to the throne. As the fisherman is not sure about the prince's children honouring the

Page 78: Vishnu Avatars

promise, Devavrata also takes a vow of lifelong celibacy to guarantee his father's promise.

Shantanu has two sons by Satyavati, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Upon Shantanu's death, Chitrangada becomes king. He lives a very short uneventful life and dies. Vichitravirya, the younger son, rules Hastinapura. Meanwhile, the King of Kāśī arranges a swayamvara for his three daughters, neglecting to invite the royal family of Hastinapur. In order to arrange the marriage of young Vichitravirya, Bhishma attends the swayamvara of the three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, uninvited, and proceeds to abduct them. Ambika and Ambalika consent to be married to Vichtravirya.

The oldest princess Amba, however, informs Bhishma that she wishes to marry Shalvaraj (king of Shalva) whom Bhishma defeated at their swayamvar. Bhishma lets her leave to marry Shalvaraj, but Shalvaraj refuses to marry her, still smarting at his humiliation at the hands of Bhishma. Amba then returns to marry Bhishma but he refuses due to his vow of celibacy. Amba becomes enraged and becomes Bhishma's bitter enemy, holding him responsible for her plight. Later she is reborn to King Drupada as Shikhandi (or Shikhandini) and causes Bhishma's fall, with the help of Arjuna, in the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Pandava and Kaurava princes

When Vichitravirya dies young without any heirs, Satyavati asks her first son Vyasa to father children with the widows. The eldest, Ambika, shuts her eyes when she sees him, and so her son Dhritarashtra is born blind. Ambalika turns pale and bloodless upon seeing him, and thus her son Pandu is born pale and unhealthy (the term Pandu may also mean 'jaundiced'[30]). Due to the physical challenges of the first two children, Satyavati asks Vyasa to try once again. However, Ambika and Ambalika send their maid instead, to Vyasa's room. Vyasa fathers a third son, Vidura, by the maid. He is born healthy and grows up to be one of the wisest characters in the Mahabharata. He serves as Prime Minister (Mahamantri or Mahatma) to King Pandu and King Dhritarashtra.

When the princes grow up, Dhritarashtra is about to be crowned king by Bhishma when Vidura intervenes and uses his knowledge of politics to assert that a blind person cannot be king. This is because a blind man cannot control and protect his subjects. The throne is then given to Pandu because of Dhritarashtra's blindness. Pandu marries twice, to Kunti and Madri. Dhritarashtra marries Gandhari, a princess from Gandhara, who blindfolds herself so that she may feel the pain that her husband feels. Her brother Shakuni is enraged by this and vows to take revenge on the Kuru family. One day, when Pandu is relaxing in the forest, he hears the sound of a wild animal. He shoots an arrow in the direction of the sound. However the arrow hits the sage Kindama, who curses him that if he engages in a sexual act, he will die. Pandu then retires to the forest along with his two wives, and his brother Dhritarashtra rules thereafter, despite his blindness.

Page 79: Vishnu Avatars

The central figure is Yudhishthira; the two to his left are Bhima and Arjuna. Nakula and Sahadeva, the twins, are to his right. Their wife, at far right, is Draupadi. Deogarh, Dasavatar temple.

Pandu's older queen Kunti, however, had been given a boon by Sage Durvasa that she could invoke any god using a special mantra. Kunti uses this boon to ask Dharma the god of justice, Vayu the god of the wind, and Indra the lord of the heavens for sons. She gives birth to three sons, Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna, through these gods. Kunti shares her mantra with the younger queen Madri, who bears the twins Nakula and Sahadeva through the Ashwini twins. However, Pandu and Madri indulge in sex, and Pandu dies. Madri dies on his funeral pyre out of remorse. Kunti raises the five brothers, who are from then on usually referred to as the Pandava brothers.

Dhritarashtra has a hundred sons through Gandhari, all born after the birth of Yudhishtira. These are the Kaurava brothers, the eldest being Duryodhana, and the second Dushasana. Other Kaurava brothers were Vikarna and Sukarna. The rivalry and enmity between them and the Pandava brothers, from their youth and into manhood, leads to the Kurukshetra war.

Lākṣagṛha (The House of Lac)

After the deaths of their mother (Madri) and father (Pandu), the Pandavas and their mother Kunti return to the palace of Hastinapur. Yudhisthira is made Crown Prince by Dhritarashtra, under considerable pressure from his kingdom. Dhritarashtra wanted his own son Duryodhana to become king and lets his ambition get in the way of preserving justice.

Shakuni, Duryodhana and Dusasana plot to get rid of the Pandavas. Shakuni calls the architect Purvanchan to build a palace out of flammable materials like lac and ghee. He then arranges for the Pandavas and the Queen Mother Kunti to stay there, with the intention of setting it alight. However, the Pandavas are warned by their wise uncle, Vidura, who sends them a miner to dig a tunnel. They are able to escape to safety and go into hiding. Back at Hastinapur, the Pandavas and Kunti are presumed dead.[31]

Page 80: Vishnu Avatars

Marriage to Draupadi

Arjuna piercing the eye of the fish

During the course of their hiding the Pandavas learn of a swayamvara which is taking place for the hand of the Pāñcāla princess Draupadī. The Pandavas enter the competition in disguise as Brahmins. The task is to string a mighty steel bow and shoot a target on the ceiling, which is the eye of a moving artificial fish, while looking at its reflection in oil below. Most of the princes fail, many being unable to lift the bow. Arjuna succeeds however. The Pandavas return home and inform their mother that Arjuna has won a competition and to look at what they have brought back. Without looking, Kunti asks them to share whatever it is Arjuna has won among themselves. Thus Draupadi ends up being the wife of all five brothers.

Indraprastha

After the wedding, the Pandava brothers are invited back to Hastinapura. The Kuru family elders and relatives negotiate and broker a split of the kingdom, with the Pandavas obtaining a new territory. Yudhishtira has a new capital built for this territory at Indraprastha which is now Delhi. Neither the Pandava nor Kaurava sides are happy with the arrangement however.

Shortly after this, Arjuna elopes with and then marries Krishna's sister, Subhadra. Yudhishtira wishes to establish his position as king; he seeks Krishna's advice. Krishna advises him, and after due preparation and the elimination of some opposition, Yudhishthira carries out the rājasūya yagna ceremony; he is thus recognised as pre-eminent among kings.

Page 81: Vishnu Avatars

The Pandavas have a new palace built for them, by Maya the Danava.[32] They invite their Kaurava cousins to Indraprastha. Duryodhana walks round the palace, and mistakes a glossy floor for water, and will not step in. After being told of his error, he then sees a pond, and assumes it is not water and falls in. Draupadi laughs at him and ridicules him by saying that this is because of his blind father Dhritrashtra. He then decides to avenge his humiliation.

The dice game

Draupadi humiliated. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Shakuni, Duryodhana's uncle, now arranges a dice game, playing against Yudhishtira with loaded dice. Yudhishtira loses all his wealth, then his kingdom. He then even gambles his brothers, himself, and finally his wife into servitude. The jubilant Kauravas insult the Pandavas in their helpless state and even try to disrobe Draupadi in front of the entire court, but her honour is saved by Krishna who miraculously creates lengths of cloth to replace the ones being removed.

Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, and the other elders are aghast at the situation, but Duryodhana is adamant that there is no place for two crown princes in Hastinapura. Against his wishes Dhritarashtra orders for another dice game. The Pandavas are required to go into exile for 12 years, and in the 13th year must remain hidden. If discovered by the Kauravas, they will be forced into exile for another 12 years.

Exile and return

The Pandavas spend thirteen years in exile; many adventures occur during this time. They also prepare alliances for a possible future conflict. They spend their final year in disguise in the court of Virata, and are discovered just after the end of the year.

At the end of their exile, they try to negotiate a return to Indraprastha. However, this fails, as Duryodhana objects that they were discovered while in hiding, and that no return of their kingdom was agreed. War becomes inevitable.

Page 82: Vishnu Avatars

The battle at KurukshetraMain article: Kurukshetra war

Bhishma on his death-bed of arrows with the Pandavas and Krishna. Folio from the Razmnama (1761 - 1763), Persian translation of the Mahabharata, commissioned by Mughal emperor Akbar. The Pandavas are dressed in Persian armour and robes.[33]

The two sides summon vast armies to their help, and line up at Kurukshetra for a war. The Kingdoms of Panchala, Dwaraka, Kasi, Kekaya, Magadha, Matsya, Chedi, Pandya, Telinga, and the Yadus of Mathura and some other clans like the Parama Kambojas were allied with the Pandavas. The allies of the Kauravas included the kings of Pragjyotisha, Anga, Kekaya, Sindhudesa (including Sindhus, Sauviras and Sivis), Mahishmati, Avanti in Madhyadesa, Madra, Gandhara, Bahlikas, Kambojas and many others. Prior to war being declared, Balarama, had expressed his unhappiness at the developing conflict, and left to go on pilgrimage, thus he does not take part in the battle itself. Krishna takes part in a non-combatant role, as charioteer for Arjuna.

Before the battle, Arjuna, seeing himself facing his great grandfather Bhishma and his teacher Drona on the other side, has doubts about the battle and he fails to lift his Gāndeeva bow. Krishna wakes him up to his call of duty in the famous Bhagavad Gita section of the epic.

Though initially sticking to chivalrous notions of warfare, both sides soon adopt dishonourable tactics. At the end of the 18-day battle, only the Pandavas, Satyaki, Kripa, Ashwathama, Kritavarma, Yuyutsu and Krishna survive.

Page 83: Vishnu Avatars

The end of the Pandavas

After "seeing" the carnage, Gandhari who had lost all her sons, curses Krishna to be a witness to a similar annihilation of his family, for though divine and capable of stopping the war, he had not done so. Krishna accepts the curse, which bears fruit 36 years later.

The Pandavas who had ruled their kingdom meanwhile, decide to renounce everything. Clad in skins and rags they retire to the Himalaya and climb towards heaven in their bodily form. A stray dog travels with them. One by one the brothers and Draupadi fall on their way. As each one stumbles, Yudhishitra gives the rest the reason for their fall (Draupadi was partial to Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were vain and proud of their looks, Bhima and Arjuna were proud of their strength and archery skills, respectively). Only the virtuous Yudhisthira, who had tried everything to prevent the carnage, and the dog remain. The dog reveals himself to be the god Yama (also known as Yama Dharmaraja), and then takes him to the underworld where he sees his siblings and wife. After explaining the nature of the test, Yama takes Yudhishthira back to heaven and explains that it was necessary to expose him to the underworld because (Rajyante narakam dhruvam) any ruler has to visit the underworld at least once. Yama then assures him that his siblings and wife would join him in heaven after they had been exposed to the underworld for measures of time according to their vices.

Arjuna's grandson Parikshit rules after them and dies bitten by a snake. His furious son, Janamejaya, decides to perform a snake sacrifice (sarpasattra) in order to destroy the snakes. It is at this sacrifice that the tale of his ancestors is narrated to him.

Versions, translations, and derivative works

Many regional versions of the work developed over time, mostly differing only in minor details, or with verses or subsidiary stories being added. These include some versions from outside the Indian subcontinent, such as the Kakawin Bharatayuddha from Java. The plays of the Tamil street theatre, terukkuttu, use themes from the Tamil language versions of Mahabharata, focusing on Draupadi.[34]

Critical Edition

Between 1919 and 1966, scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, compared the various manuscripts of the epic from India and abroad and produced the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, on 13,000 pages in 19 volumes, followed by the Harivamsha in another two volumes and six index volumes. This is the text that is usually used in current Mahabharata studies for reference.[35] This work is sometimes called the 'Pune' or 'Poona' edition of the Mahabharata.

Page 84: Vishnu Avatars

Modern interpretations

Krishna as depicted in Yakshagana from Karnataka which is based largely on stories of Mahabharata

The Tamil writer S. Ramakrishnan has written a critically-acclaimed book based on the Mahabharata called "Uba Paandavam". It discusses the story in a non-linear manner from a traveller's point of view.

The Kannada novelist S.L. Bhyrappa wrote a novel in Kannada (now translated into most Indian languages and English) titled Parva, giving a new interpretation to the story of Mahabharata. He tried to understand the social and ethical practices in these regions and correlate them with the story of Mahabharata.

Malayalam writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair's novel Randamoozham (English: Second Turn) tells the Mahabharata from Bhima's point of view. Mrityunjay (English: Triumph Over Death) written by Shivaji Sawant is a novel with Karna as the central character of Mahabharata.

In Indian cinema, several film versions of the epic exist, dating back to 1920.[36] The internationally-acclaimed parallel Bengali film director Satyajit Ray also intended to direct a theatrical adaptation of the epic, but the project was never realized.[37]

In the late 1980s, the Mahabharat TV series , directed by Ravi Chopra,[38] was televised and shown on India's national television (Doordarshan). In the Western world, a well-known presentation of the epic is Peter Brook's nine-hour play, which premiered in Avignon in 1985, and its five-hour movie version The Mahabharata (1989) .[39]

Page 85: Vishnu Avatars

Among literary reinterpretations of the Mahabharata the most famous is arguably Sashi Tharoor's major work entitled "The Great Indian Novel", an involved literary, philosophical, and political novel which superimposes the major moments of post-independence India in the 20th century onto the driving events of the Mahabharata epic.

Mahabharata was also reinterpreted by Shyam Benegal in Kalyug. Kalyug is a modern-day replaying of the Mahabharata.[40]

Western interpretations of the Mahabharata include William Buck's Mahabharata and Elizabeth Seeger's Five Sons of King Pandu.

English translations

The first complete English translation was the Victorian prose version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli,[41] published between 1883 and 1896 (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers) and by M. N. Dutt (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers). Most critics consider the translation by Ganguli to be faithful to the original text. The complete text of Ganguli's translation is in the public domain and is available online.[42]

Another English prose translation of the full epic, based on the Critical Edition, is also in progress, published by University Of Chicago Press, initiated by Chicago Indologist J. A. B. van Buitenen (books 1-5) and, following a 20-year hiatus caused by the death of van Buitenen, is being continued by D. Gitomer of DePaul University (book 6), J. L. Fitzgerald of Brown University (books 11-13) and W. Doniger of the University of Chicago (books 14-18).

A poetic translation of the full epic into English, done by the poet P. Lal is complete, and in 2005 began being published by Writers Workshop, Calcutta. The P. Lal translation is a non-rhyming verse-by-verse rendering, and is the only edition in any language to include all slokas in all recensions of the work (not just those in the Critical Edition). The completion of the publishing project is scheduled for 2010. Sixteen of the eighteen volumes are now available:

A project to translate the full epic into English prose, translated by various hands, began to appear in 2005 from the Clay Sanskrit Library, published by New York University Press. The translation is based not on the Critical Edition but on the version known to the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. Currently available are 15 volumes of the projected 32-volume edition.

Abridged versions

Many condensed versions, abridgements and novelistic prose retellings of the complete epic have been published in English, including work by William Buck, R.K. Narayan, C. Rajagopalachari, Krishna Dharma, Romesh C. Dutt, and Bharadvaja Sarma.

Page 86: Vishnu Avatars

A Kawi version is found on the Indonesian island of Bali and was translated by Dr. I. Gusti Putu Phalgunadi. Of the eighteen parvas, only eight Kawi manuscripts remain.

Kuru family tree

                Kurua                                     

                                                             

Gangā         

Shāntanua              Satyavat

i

             

Pārāshara                                           

                                                                   

       

Bhishma

             

                     

     

Vyāsa

   

                     

Ambikā                  Vichitravir

ya

        Ambālikā

 

Chitrāngada

     

                             

               

           

                                   

         

 

Dhritarāshtrab

 

Gāndhāri

  Shakuni  

 

Kunti

 

Pāndub

             

Mādri  

                         

               

                 

                      

         

     

     

                       

                       

                      

             

             

 

   

                                   

           

Karnac

 

Yudhishthirad

  Bhimad 

Arjunad

 

Subhadrā

 

Nakulad

 

Sahadevad

 

   

                               

                     

                                 

Duryodhanae

  Dussalā   Dushāsana   (98 sons)                              

                                     

Abhimanyu

     

Uttarā    

       

                                                     

                                           

Parikshit

     

 

       

                                                           

                                                 

Janamejaya

Page 87: Vishnu Avatars

Key to Symbols

Male: blue border

Female: red border Pandavas : green box Kauravas : yellow box

Notes

a: Santanu was a king of the Kuru dynasty or kingdom, and was some generations removed from any ancestor called Kuru. His marriage to Ganga preceded his marriage to Satyavati.

b: Pandu and Dhritarashtra were fathered by Vyasa after Vichitravirya's death. Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were the sons of Vyasa with Ambika, Ambalika and a maid servant respectively.

c: Karna was born to Kunti through her invocation of Surya, before her marriage to Pandu.

d: The Pandavas were acknowledged sons of Pandu but were begotten by Kunti's invocation of various deities. They all married Draupadi (not shown in tree). In particular:

o Yama or Dharma (Dharmadeva), for Yudhishtira o Vayu , for Bhima o Indra for Arjuna o The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva were born to Madri through her

invocation of The Ashvins e: Duryodhana and his siblings were born at the same time, and they were of the

same generation as their Pandava cousins.

The birth order of siblings is correctly shown in the family tree (from left to right), except for Vyasa and Bhishma whose birth order is not described, and Vichitravirya who was born after them. The fact that Ambika and Ambalika are sisters is not shown in the family tree. The birth of Duryodhana took place after the birth of Karna, Yudhishtira and Bhima, but before the birth of the remaining Pandava brothers.

Some siblings of the characters shown here have been left out for clarity; these include Chitrangada, the eldest brother of Vichitravirya. Vidura, half-brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu.

Cultural influence

In the Bhagavd Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic [43] and Vedantic philosophies, with examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu philosophy and a practical, self-contained guide to life.[44] In modern times, Swami Vivekananda, Bal

Page 88: Vishnu Avatars

Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and many others used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement

KURUKSHETRA WAR

The Kurukshetra War (Devangari: कु� रुक्ष�त्रं य�द्धा) is the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, which forms an essential component of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. According to Mahābhārata, a dynastic struggle between sibling clans of Kauravas and the Pandavas for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in a battle in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of the rival clans. The location of the battle was Kurukshetra in the modern state of Haryana in India.

Mahābhārata states that the war lasted eighteen days during which vast armies from all over the Indian Subcontinent fought alongside the two rivals. Despite only referring to these eighteen days, the war narrative forms more than a quarter of the book, suggesting its relative importance within the epic, which overall spans decades of the warring families.

The narrative describes individual battles of various heroes of both sides, battle-field deaths of some of the prominent heroes, military formations employed on each day by both armies, war diplomacies, meetings and discussions among the heroes and commanders before commencement of war on each day and the weapons used. The chapters (parvas) dealing with the war (from chapter six to ten) are considered amongst the oldest in the entire Mahābhārata. Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Vedic philosophy, which recounts the conversation between the Pandava Arjuna and Krishna arising out of Arjuna's reluctance to fight members of his own family, is considered a later addition to Mahābhārata.

The Kurukshetra War is believed to date variously from 5561 BC to 800 BC, based on the astronomical and literary information from Mahābhārata. The history of the Kurukshetra War is also traced to the Battle of the Ten Kings mentioned in Rigveda.[2]

Contents

[hide] 1 Background 2 Krishna's peace mission 3 War preparations

o 3.1 Pandava army o 3.2 Kaurava army o 3.3 Neutral parties o 3.4 Army divisions and weaponry o 3.5 Military formations

Page 89: Vishnu Avatars

o 3.6 Rules of engagement 4 Course of war

o 4.1 Before the battle o 4.2 Day one o 4.3 Day two o 4.4 Day three o 4.5 Day four o 4.6 Days five through nine o 4.7 Day 10 o 4.8 Day 11 o 4.9 Day 12 o 4.10 Day 13 o 4.11 Day 14 o 4.12 Day 15 o 4.13 Day 16 o 4.14 Day 17 o 4.15 Day 18 o 4.16 Aftermath

5 Historicity 6 References

7 External links

[edit] Background

Main article: Mahābhārata

Page 90: Vishnu Avatars

India during the time of Mahābhārata.

Mahābhārata, one of the most important Hindu epics, is an account of the life and deeds of several generations of a ruling dynasty called the Kuru clan. Central to the epic is an account of a great war that took place between two sibling families belonging to this clan. Kurukshetra (literally "field of the Kurus"), was the battleground on which this war, known as the Kurukshetra War, was fought. Kurukshetra was also known as "Dharmakshetra" (the "field of Dharma"), or field of righteousness. Mahābhārata tells that this site was chosen for the war because a sin committed on this land was forgiven on account of the sanctity of this land.

The two sides to the war were the families of Pandavas and the Kauravas. The dispute between the Kauravas and the Pandavas arose from a game of dice, which the Kauravas won by deceit, forcing their Pandava cousins to go into exile for thirteen years. The dispute escalated into a full scale war when Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, driven by jealousy, refused to restore the Pandavas their throne after the exile.

Prior to the war, the Pandavas, advised by Krishna, tried to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the conflict. Balarama, Krishna's older brother, advised the Pandavas to send an emissary to get the support of the elders of the family like Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, Drona, Karna, and even Shakuni, with the message "Let us avoid armed conflict as much as possible. Only that which is accrued in peace is worthwhile. Out of war, nothing but wrong can issue".[3] While the emissary was in the Kaurava court, the Pandavas continued with war preparations. They sent messages requesting assistance to a number of neighbouring kingdoms. Their ambassador of peace was insulted and turned away by

Page 91: Vishnu Avatars

Duryodhana, who was intent on war, defying the counsel of elders like Bhishma. After several failed attempts on peace, war seemed inevitable.

[edit] Krishna's peace mission

As a last attempt at peace, Krishna traveled to Hastinapur to persuade the Kauravas to embark upon a peaceful path with him. At Hastinapur, Krishna took his meals and stayed at the house of the minister, Vidura, a religious man and a devotee of Krishna. Duryodhana was insulted that Krishna had turned down his invitation to dine with him and stay in his royal palace. Determined to stop the peace mission, Duryodhana plotted to arrest Krishna.

At the formal presentation of the peace proposal by Krishna at the court of Hastinapur, Krishna's peace proposals were ignored, and Duryodhana publicly ordered his soldiers to arrest Krishna. Krishna laughed and displayed his divine form, radiating intense light. Furious at the insult inflicted upon Him, Lord Krishna cursed Duryodhana that his downfall was certain and He, as Lord Narayana's Divine Form, will see to it that his entire clan is destroyed from the Universe much to the shock of Dhirtharastra who tried to pacify the Lord. But Sri Krishna would have none of it. The beautiful divine form of the Lord could be perceived only by those pure in heart, Bhishma, Drona, and Vidura. The peace mission rejected by Duryodhana, Krishna returned to Upaplavya to inform the Pandavas that the only course left to uphold the principles of virtue and righteousness was inevitable - war.

[edit] War preparations

Krishna and Arjun on the chariot, 18th-19th century painting.

Krishna had one of the largest armies and was Himself a great warrior. Duryodhana and Arjuna thus both went to Krishna at Dwarka to ask for His help. This is a famous part of the story, especially dear to Krishna devotees. Duryodhana arrived first, and found Krishna asleep. Being arrogant and viewing himself as equal to Krishna, Duryodhana chose a seat at Krishna's head and waited for Him to rouse. Arjuna arrived later, and being a humble devotee of Krishna, chose to sit and wait at Krishna's feet. When Krishna woke up, He saw Arjuna first and gave him the first right to make his request. Krishna

Page 92: Vishnu Avatars

told Arjuna and Duryodhana that He would give His mighty Narayani sena, 'opulent, Lordly army' to one side, and Himself unarmed to the other. Since Arjuna was given the first opportunity to choose, Duryodhana was worried that Arjuna would choose the mighty army of Krishna. When given the choice of either Krishna's army or Krishna Himself on their side, Arjuna on behalf of the Pandavas chose Krishna, unarmed on His own, relieving Duryodhana, who thought Arjuna to be the greatest fool. Later Arjuna requested Krishna to be his charioteer, and Krishna, being an intimate friend of Arjuna, agreed wholeheartedly, and hence received the name Paarthasaarthy, or 'charioteer of the son of Prithaa'. Both Duryodhana and Arjuna returned satisfied.

While camping at a place called Upaplavya, in the territory of Virata, the Pandavas gathered their armies. Contingents arrived from all parts of the country and soon the Pandavas had a large force of seven divisions. The Kauravas managed to raise an even larger army of eleven divisions. Many kingdoms of ancient India such as Dwaraka, Kasi, Kekaya, Magadha, Matsya, Chedi, Pandya and the Yadus of Mathura were allied with the Pandavas; while the allies of the Kauravas comprised the kings of Pragjyotisha, Anga, Kekaya, Sindhudesa, Mahishmati, Avanti in Madhyadesa, Madras, Gandharas, Bahlikas, Kambojas (with the Yavanas, Sakas and Tusharas) and many others. At this point Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to pray to Goddess Durga the Goddess of Warriors and Warfare, and seeks Her Divine blessings. Pleased with Arjuna's devotion to Her the Goddess grants him that She will be at the side of Pandavas and will ensure that not single weapon can harm them. This is considered a decisive point leading to the war.

An ancient measure of man power, Akshohini is used to enumerate the armies on both sides. One Akshohini consists of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot soldiers.

[edit] Pandava army

A manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra, fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahābhārata.

Page 93: Vishnu Avatars

Seeing that there was now no hope for peace, Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, asked his brothers to organize their army. The Pandavas accumulated seven Akshauhini army with the help of their allies.Each of these Akshohinis or divisions were led by Drupada, Virata, Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi, Satyaki, Chekitana and Bhima. After consulting his commanders, the Pandavas appointed Dhristadyumna as the supreme commander of the Pandava army. Mahābhārata says that kingdoms from all over ancient India supplied troops or provided logistic support on the Pandava side. Some of these were: Kekaya, Pandya, Cholas, Keralas, Magadha, and many more.

[edit] Kaurava army

The Kaurava army was consisted of eleven Akshauhinis or divisions. Duryodhana requested Bhishma to command the Kaurava army. Bhishma accepted on the condition that, while he would fight the battle sincerely, he would not harm the five Pandava brothers. In addition, Bheeshma said that Karna would not fight under him as long as he is in the battlefied. It is believed by many that Bhishma pushed Karna into taking this decision due to his affection towards the Pandavas - the Kauravas would be overwhelmingly powerful if both he and Karna appeared in battle simultaneously. However the excuse he used to prevent their simultaneous fighting was that his guru (Parshurama) was insulted by Karna. But the real fact was that Bhisma knew that Karna was a Kaunteya(Son of Kunti) from the day he met him in Ranakshetra when Karna offered Arjuna to fight against him. Regardless, Duryodhana agreed to Bhishma's conditions and made him the supreme commander of the Kaurava army, while Karna was debarred from fighting. . Apart from the one hundred Kaurava brothers, headed by Duryodhana himself and his brother Dushasana, the second eldest son of Dhritarashtra, the Kauravas were assisted on the battlefield by Drona and his son Ashwathama, the Kaurava's brother-in-law Jayadratha, the brahmin Kripa, Kritavarma, Shalya, Sudakshina, Bhurisravas, Bahlika, Shakuni, and many more who were bound by their loyalty towards either Hastinapura or Dhritarashtra.

[edit] Neutral parties

The kingdom of Vidarbha, with its King Rukmi, and Balarama were the only neutrals in this war.[4]

[edit] Army divisions and weaponry

Each army consisted of several divisions; the Kauravas had 11 while the Pandavas controlled 7. A division (akshauhini) includes 21,870 chariots and chariot-riders, 21,870 elephants and riders, 65,610 horses and riders, and 109,350 foot-soldiers (in a ratio of 1:1:3:5). The combined number of warriors and soldiers in both armies was approximately 3.94 million.[5] Each Akshohini was under a commander or a general, apart from the Commander in chief or the generalissimo who was the head of the entire army.

Page 94: Vishnu Avatars

During the Kurukshetra War, the weapons used included: the bow and arrows, the weapon of choice for Arjuna, Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Abhimanyu; the mace, chosen by Bhima and Duryodhana, the spear and the dagger or sword.

If the text is taken as historically accurate, this war was the bloodiest in history as most of the warriors and soldiers perished during a period of only eighteen days. Arjuna, in a fit of extreme anger over the death of his son Abhimanyu, alone killed one akshauhini of Kaurava soldiers in a single day. The war left an extremely large number of widows and orphans and led to an economic depression and beginning of Kali Yuga.

[edit] Military formations

Intricate rock carvings showing Abhimanyu entering the Chakra vyuha.

At various times during battle, the supreme commander of either army ordered special formations ("vyuhas"). Each formation had a specific purpose; some were defensive while others were offensive. Each formation had its specific strengths and weaknesses. Mahābhārata' list the following:

1. Krauncha vyuha (heron formation) 2. Makara vyuha (crocodile formation) 3. Kurma vyuha (tortoise or turtle formation) 4. Trishula vyuha (the trident formation) 5. Chakra vyuha (wheel or discus formation) 6. Kamala vyuha or Padma vyuha (lotus formation) 7. Garud vyuha (Eagle formation) 8. Oormi vyuha (Ocean formation) 9. Mandala vyuha (Galactic formation) 10. Vajra vyuha (diamond/ thunderbolt formation) 11. Shakata vyuha (Box/Cart formation) 12. Asura vyuha (Demon formation) 13. Deva vyuha (Divine formation) 14. Soochi vyuha (Needle formation) 15. Sringataka vyuha (Horned formation)

Page 95: Vishnu Avatars

16. Chandrakala vyuha (Crescent/ Curved Blade formation)

It is not clear what the formations actually indicate. They may be formations bearing resemblance to animals, or they may be names given to strategies and formations.[6]

[edit] Rules of engagement

The two supreme commanders met and framed "rules of ethical conduct", dharmayuddha, for the war. The rules included:

Fighting must begin no earlier than sunrise and end exactly at sunset. Multiple warriors may not attack a single warrior. Two warriors may "duel", or engage in prolonged personal combat, only if they

carry the same weapons and they are on the same mount (no mount, a horse, an elephant, or a chariot).

No warrior may kill or injure a warrior who has surrendered. One who surrenders becomes a prisoner of war and will then be subject to the

protections of a prisoner of war. No warrior may kill or injure an unarmed warrior. No warrior may kill or injure an unconscious warrior. No warrior may kill or injure a person or animal not taking part in the war. No warrior may kill or injure a warrior whose back is turned away. No warrior may attack a woman. No warrior may strike an animal not considered a direct threat. The rules specific to each weapon must be followed. For example, it is prohibited

to strike below the waist in mace warfare. Warriors may not engage in any "unfair" warfare.

Most of these laws were broken at least once by both sides.

[edit] Course of war

The Kurukshetra War lasted eighteen days. It was fought only during daylight hours; fighting ceased at sunset. The armies met on a vast field in Kurukshetra; each day the battle was characterised by numerous individual combats, as well as mass raids against entire enemy divisions. The victor or the vanquished on each day was determined not by any territories gained, but by the body count. This was a war to the death. The victor was the survivor.

[edit] Before the battle

It has been observed that the year in which the Mahabharata War took place, the year had three eclipses on earth in a span of thirty days. Eclipses are considered ill for the life giving planets such as Sun and Moon in Hindu Mythology. Lunar and Solar Eclipses bring Sun-Earth-Moon in one line one way or the other so that the earth experiences some kind of imbalance to the environment as well as inhabitants on earth. It is widely

Page 96: Vishnu Avatars

noted that though such year with three eclipses causes great harm, it can cause great benefit to mankind. This war, resulted into a gift called Bhagavad Gita to the mankind.

On the first day of the war, as would be on all the following days, the Kaurava army stood facing west and the Pandava army stood facing east. The Kaurava army was formed such that it faced all sides: elephants formed its body; the kings, its head; and the steeds, its wings. Bhishma, in consultation with his commanders Drona, Bahlika and Kripa, remained in the rear.

The Pandava army was organised by Yudhisthira and Arjuna in the Vajra formation. Because the Pandava army was smaller than the Kaurava's, they decided to employ the tactic of each warrior engaging as many enemies as possible. This involved an element of surprise, with the bowmen showering arrows from hidden behind the frontal attackers. The attackers in the front were equipped with short-range weapons like maces, battle-axes, swords and lances.

Ten divisions (Akshauhinis) of the Kaurava army were arranged in a formidable phalanx. The eleventh was put under the immediate command of Bhishma, partly to protect him. The safety of the supreme commander Bhishma was central to Duryodhana's strategy, as he had placed all his hope on the great warrior's abilities. Dushasana, the younger brother of Duryodhana, was the military officer in-charge of Bhishma's protection.

When the war was declared and the two armies were facing each other, Arjuna realised that he would have to kill his dear great-granduncle (Bhishma), on whose lap he had played as a child, and his respected teacher (Drona), who had held his hand and taught him how to hold the bow and arrow, making him the greatest archer in the world. Arjuna felt weak and sickened at the prospect of killing his entire family, including his 100 cousins, and friends such as Ashwathama. Despondent and confused about what is religious, what is right and what is wrong, Arjuna turned to Krishna for divine advice and teachings. Krishna, who Arjuna chose as his charioteer, advised him of his duty. This conversation forms the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most respected religious and philosophical texts in the Hindu religion. Krishna instructs Arjuna not to yield to degrading impotence and to fight his kin, for that was the only way to righteousness. He also reminded him that this was a war between righteousness and unrighteousness (dharma and adharma), and it was Arjuna's duty to slay anyone who supported the cause of unrighteousness, or sin. Krishna then revealed his divine form and explained that he is born on earth in each aeon when evil raises its head. It also forms one of the foremost treatise on the several aspects of Yoga and mystical knowledge.

Page 97: Vishnu Avatars

Krishna giving 'Updesham'(advice) to Arjuna on the battlegrounds of Kurukshetra.

Before the battle began, Yudhisthira did something unexpected. He suddenly dropped his weapons, took off his armour and started walking towards the Kaurava army with folded hands in prayer. The Pandava brothers and the Kauravas looked on in disbelief, thinking Yudhisthira was surrendering before the first arrow was shot. Yudhisthira's purpose became clear, however, when he fell on Bhishma's feet to seek his blessing for success in battle. Bhishma, grandfather to both the Pandavas and Kauravas, blessed Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira returned to his chariot and the battle was ready to commence.

[edit] Day one

Shalya kills Uttara

When the battle commenced, Bhishma went through the Pandava army wreaking havoc wherever he went. Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son, seeing this went straight at Bhishma, defeated his bodyguards and directly attacked the commander of the Kaurava forces. The Pandavas suffered numerous losses and were defeated at the end of the first day. Virata's sons, Uttara and Sweta, were slain by Shalya and Bhishma. Krishna consoled the distraught Yudhisthira saying that eventually victory would be his.

[edit] Day two

The second day of the war commenced with a confident Kaurava army facing the Pandavas. Arjuna, realising that something needed to be done quickly to reverse the Pandava losses, decided that he must try to kill Bhishma. Krishna skillfully located Bhishma's chariot and steered Arjuna toward him. Arjuna tried to engage Bhishma in a duel, but the Kaurava soldiers placed around Bhishma to protect him attacked Arjuna to

Page 98: Vishnu Avatars

try to prevent him from directly engaging Bhishma. Arjuna and Bhishma fought a fierce battle that raged for hours. Drona and Dhristadyumna similarly engaged in a duel during which Drona broke Dhristadyumna's bow numerous times. Bhima intervened and rescued Dhristadyumna. Duryodhana sent the Kalinga forces to attack Bhima and most of them lost their lives at his hands. Bhishma immediately came to relieve the battered Kalinga forces. Satyaki, who was assisting Bhima, shot at Bhishma's charioteer and killed him. Bhishma's horses, with no one to control them, bolted carrying Bhishma away from the battle field. The Kaurava army had suffered great losses at the end of the second day.

[edit] Day three

On the third day, Bhishma arranged the Kaurava forces in the formation of an eagle with himself leading from the front, while Duryodhana's forces protected the rear. Bhishma wanted to be sure of avoiding any mishap. The Pandavas countered this by using the crescent formation with Bhima and Arjuna at the head of the right and the left horns, respectively. The Kauravas concentrated their attack on Arjuna's position. Arjuna's chariot was soon covered with arrows and javelins. Arjuna, with amazing skill, built a fortification around his chariot with an unending stream of arrows from his bow. Abhimanyu and Satyaki combined to defeat the Gandhara forces of Shakuni. Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha attacked Duryodhana in the rear. Bhima's arrows hit Duryodhana, who swooned in his chariot. His charioteer immediately drove them out of danger. Duryodhana's forces, however, saw their leader fleeing the battlefield and soon scattered. Bhishma soon restored order and Duryodhana returned to lead the army. He was angry at Bhishma, however, at what he saw as leniency towards the five Pandava brothers and spoke harshly at his commander. Bhishma, stung by this unfair charge, fell on the Pandava army with renewed vigour. It was as if there were more than one Bhishma on the field.[7] The Pandava army soon began to retreat in chaos.

Arjuna and Krishna attacked Bhishma trying to restore order. Arjuna and Bhishma again engaged in a fierce duel, however Arjuna's heart was not in the battle as he did not like the idea of attacking his great-uncle. During the battle, Bhishma killed numerous soldiers of Arjuna's armies. This enraged Lord Krishna, who grabbed a chariot wheel to kill Bhishma. Bhishma wanted Lord Krishna to break his vow not to pick up any weapon in the battle. Bhishma at once fell at his feet and requested Krishna to kill him, as there would be nothing greater than attaining death at the hands of the supreme lord himself. Seeing this, Krishna calmed down and smiled and the battle between Arjuna and Bhishma continued.

[edit] Day four

The fourth day battle was noted for the valour shown by Bhima. Bhishma commanded the Kaurava army to move on the offensive from the outset. Arjuna's son, Abhimanyu, was surrounded and attacked by a number of Kaurava princes. Arjuna joined the fray in aid of Abhimanyu. Bhima appeared on the scene with his mace aloft and started attacking the Kauravas. Duryodhana sent a huge force of elephants at Bhima. When Bhima saw the mass of elephants approaching, he got down from his chariot and attacked them single

Page 99: Vishnu Avatars

handedly with his iron mace. They scattered and stampeded into the Kaurava forces killing many. Duryodhana ordered an all-out attack on Bhima. Bhima withstood all that was thrown at him and attacked Duryodhana's brothers, killing eight of them. Bhima was soon struck by an arrow on the chest and sat down in his chariot dazed. Ghatotkacha seeing this, fell upon the Kaurava army in anger. Bhishma, realizing that no one could stand against the angry Ghatotkacha, sounded retreat. Duryodhana was distraught at the loss of his brothers.

Duryodhana, overwhelmed by sorrow at the loss of his brothers, went to Bhishma at the end of the fourth day of the battle, and asked his commander how could the Pandavas, facing a superior force against them, still prevail and win. Bhishma replied that the Pandavas had justice on their side and advised Duryodhana to seek peace.

[edit] Days five through nine

When the battle resumed on the fifth day, the slaughter continued. The Pandava army again suffered against Bhishma's attacks. Satyaki bore the brunt of Drona's attacks and soon could not withstand them. Bhima drove by and rescued Satyaki. Arjuna fought and killed thousands of soldiers sent by Duryodhana to attack him. The unimaginable carnage continued during the ensuing days of the battle. The sixth day was marked by a prodigious slaughter. Drona caused immeasurable loss of life on the Pandava side. The formations of both the armies were broken. On the eighth day Bhima killed eight of Dhritarashtra's sons and Arjuna's son Iravan was killed by the Kauravas. On the ninth day Krishna, once again overcome by anger at the apparent inability of Arjuna to defeat Bhishma, rushed towards the Kaurava commander, but Arjuna stopped him. Realising that the war could not be won as long as Bhisma were standing, Krishna suggested the strategy of placing a woman in the field to face him.

[edit] Day 10

Bhishma on a deathbed of arrows, from a collection of the Smithsonian Institution

On the tenth day the Pandavas, unable to withstand Bhishma's prowess, decided to put Shikhandi, who had been a woman in a prior life in front of Bhishma, as Bhishma has taken a vow not to attack a woman. Shikhandi's arrows fell on Bhishma without hindrance. Arjuna positioned himself behind Shikhandi, protecting himself from Bhishma's attack, and aimed his arrows at the weak points in Bhishma's armour. Soon, with arrows sticking from every part of his body, the great warrior fell from his chariot.

Page 100: Vishnu Avatars

His body did not touch the ground as it was held aloft by the arrows protruding from his body.

The Kauravas and Pandavas gathered around Bhishma and, at his request, Arjuna placed three arrows under Bhisma's head to support it. Bhishma had promised his father, King Shantanu, that he would live until Hastinapur were secured from all directions. To keep this promise, Bhishma used the boon of "Ichcha Mrityu" (self wished death)given to him by his father. After the war was over, when Hastinapur had become safe from all sides and after giving lessons on politics and Vishnu Sahastranama to the Pandavas, Bhishma died on the first day of Uttarayana.

[edit] Day 11

With Bhishma unable to continue, Karna entered the battle field, much to Duryodhna's joy. He made Drona the supreme commander of the Kaurava forces. Karna and Duryodhana wanted to capture Yudhisthira alive. Killing Yudhisthira in battle would only enrage the Pandavas more, whereas holding him as hostage would be strategically useful. Drona formulated his battle plans for the eleventh day to this aim. He cut down Yudhisthira's bow and the Pandava army feared that their leader would be taken prisoner. Arjuna rushed to the scene, however, and with a flood of arrows made Drona retreat.

[edit] Day 12

With his attempts to capture Yudhisthira failed, Drona confided to Duryodhna that it would be difficult as long as Arjuna was around. The king of Trigartadesa, Susharma along with his 3 brothers and 35 sons who were fighting on the Kaurava side made a pact that they would kill Arjuna or die. They went into the battle field on the twelfth day and challenged Arjuna. Arjuna gave them a fierce fight in which the brothers fell dead after fighting a brave fight. Drona continued to try and capture Yudhisthira. The Pandavas however fought hard and delivered severe blows to the Kaurava army.

[edit] Day 13

Duryodhana summoned King Bhagadatta, the monarch of Pragjyotisha (modern day Assam, India). Bhagadatta had thousands of gigantic elephants in his stable and was considered the strongest warrior on this planet in elephant warfare. Bhagadatta attacked Arjuna with his gigantic elephant named Suprateeka. It was a fierce battle in which Bhagadatta matched Arjuna astra for astra.

On the other side of the battlefield, the remaining four Pandavas and their allies were finding it impossible to break Dronacharya's Chakravyuha formation. As Arjuna was busy fighting with the Trigartadesa princes and the Prajayogastha monarch on the other side of the battlefield, he could not be summoned to break the Chakravyuha formation, which could only be broken by entering and exiting the formation. Yudhisthira instructed, Abhimanyu, one of Arjuna's sons to break the Chakravyuha formation. Abhimanyu knew

Page 101: Vishnu Avatars

the secret of entering the Chakravyuh formation, but did not know how to exit it. Eventually he was trapped in the Chakravyuha, which led to his death.

Upon learning of the death of his son, Arjuna vowed to kill Jayadratha on the morrow before the battle ended at sunset, otherwise he would throw himself into the fire.

[edit] Day 14

While searching for Jayadratha on the battlefield, Arjuna slew an akshouhini (hundreds of thousands (109,350)) of Kaurava soldiers. The Kaurava army tightly protected Jayadratha, however, preventing Arjuna from attacking him. Finally, in late afternoon, Arjuna found Jayadratha guarded by the mighty kaurav army. Seeing his friend's plight, Lord Krishna raised his Sudarshana Chakra to cover the sun, faking a sunset. Arjuna fought a powerful battle with Jayadrtha and finally defeated him. Then, Arjuna shot a powerful arrow decapitating Jayadratha.

The battle continued past sunset. When the bright moon rose, Ghatotkacha, son of Bhima slaughtered numerous warriors, attacking while flying in the air. Karna stood against him and both fought fiercely until Karna released the Indrastra, a celestial dart given to him by Indra. Ghatotkacha increased his size and fell dead on the Kaurav army killing thousands of them.

[edit] Day 15

After King Drupada and King Virata were slain by Drona, Bhima, and Dhristadyumna fought him on the fifteenth day. Because Drona was very powerful and inconquerable having the irresistible brahmadanda, Krishna hinted to Yudhisthira that Drona would give up his arms if his son Ashwathama was dead. Bhima proceeded to kill an elephant named Ashwathama, and loudly proclaimed that Ashwathama was dead. Drona approached Yudhisthira to seek the truth of his son's death. Yudhisthira proclaimed Ashwathama Hatahath, naro va Kunjaro va, implying Ashwathama had died but he was nor sure whether it was a Drona's son or an elephant, The latter part of his proclamation (Naro va Kunjaro va) were drowned out by trumpets sounded in triumph, on Krishna's instruction (a different version of the story is that Yudhisthira pronounced the last words so feebly that Drona could not hear the word elephant). Prior to this incident, the chariot of Yudhisthira, proclaimed as Dharma raja (King of righteousness), hovered a few inches off the ground. After the event, the chariot landed on the ground as he had knowingly uttered a falsehood.

Drona was disheartened, and laid down his weapons. He was then killed by Dhristadyumna to avenge his father's death and satisfy his vow. Later, the Pandava's mother Kunti secretly met her abandoned son Karna and requested him to spare the Pandavas, as they were his younger brothers. Karna promised Kunti that he would spare them except for Arjuna.

Page 102: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Day 16

On the sixteenth day, Karna became supreme commander of the Kaurava army, killing countless warriors during the day.

Karna fought valiantly but was surrounded and attacked by Pandava generals, who were unable to prevail upon him. Karna inflicted heavy damage on the Pandava army, which fled. Then Arjuna successfully resisted Karna's weapons with his own, and also inflicted casualties upon the Kaurava army. The sun soon set, and with darkness and dust making the assessment of proceedings difficult, the Kaurava army retreated for the day. [8] On the same day, Bhima swung his mace and shattered Dushasana's chariot. Bhima seized Dushasana, ripped his right hand from shoulder and killed him, tearing open his chest and drinking his blood and carrying some to smear on Draupadi's untied hair, thus fulfilling his vow made when Draupadi was humiliated.

[edit] Day 17

Karna (right) confronts Arjuna, who will later kill Karna, in the Kurukshetra war.

On the seventeenth day, Karna defeated Bhima and Yudhisthira in battle but spared their lives. Later, Karna resumed duelling with Arjuna. During their duel, Karna's chariot wheel got stuck in the mud and Karna asked for a pause. Krishna reminded Arjuna about Karna's ruthlessness unto Abhimanyu while he was similarly left without chariot and weapons. Hearing his son's fate, Arjuna shot his arrow and decapitated Karna. Before the day's battle, Karna's sacred armour ('Kavacha') and earrings ('Kundala') were taken from him by Lord Indra, which resulted in his death by Arjuna's arrows.

[edit] Day 18

On the 18th day, Yudhishthira killed king Shalya, Sahadeva killed Shakuni, and Bhima killed Duryodhana's remaining brothers. Realizing that he had been defeated, Duryodhana fled the battle field and took refuge in the lake, where the Pandavas caught up with him. Under the supervision of the now returned Balarama, a mace battle took place between Bhima and Duryodhana in which Duryodhana was mortally wounded. Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritavarma met Duryodhana at his deathbed and

Page 103: Vishnu Avatars

promised to avenge him. They attacked the Pandavas' camp later that night and killed all the Pandavas' remaining army, besides Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi, Udhamanyu and Uttamauja.

[edit] Aftermath

At the end of the 18th day, only Twelve warriors survived the war—the five Pandavas, Krishna, Satyaki, Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, Yuyutsu, Vrishakethu and Kritvarma. Vrishakethu was the only son of Karna who survived the horrific slaughter. He later came under the patronage of the Pandavas. During the campaign that preceded the Ashvamedha –yaga, Vrishakethu accompanied Arjuna and participated in the battles with Sudhava and Babruvahana. During that campaign Vrishakethu married the daughter of king Yavanatha (perhaps a king of the western regions). It is said, Arjuna developed great affection for Vrishakethu, his nephew. Yudhisthira was crowned king of Hastinapur. He renounced the throne after ruling for more than 30 years, passing on the crown to Arjuna's grandson Parikshit. He then left for the Himalayas with Draupadi and his brothers in what was to be their last journey. Draupadi and four Pandavas—Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva—died during the journey. Yudhisthira, the lone survivor and being of pious heart, was invited by Dharma to enter the heavens as a mortal.

RAMAYANA

The Ramayana (Devanāgarī: रामयण, Rāmāyaṇa) is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon (sm ṛ ti ). The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India, the other being the Mahabharata.[1] It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.

The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rāma and ayana ("going, advancing"), translating to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāṇḍas) and 500 cantos (sargas),[2] and tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu preserver-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. Thematically, the epic explores the tenets of human existence and the concept of dharma.[3]

Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anustubh. The epic was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture, particularly through its establishment of the shloka meter. Like its epic cousin the Mahābhārata, the Ramayana is not just an ordinary story: it contains the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them in narrative allegory with philosophical and the devotional elements interspersed. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.

Page 104: Vishnu Avatars

There are other versions of the Ramayana, notably Buddhist (Dasaratha Jataka No. 461) and Jain in India, and also Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malay versions of the tale.

Contents

[hide] 1 Textuality

o 1.1 Period 2 Characters 3 Synopsis

o 3.1 Bala Kanda o 3.2 Ayodhya Kanda o 3.3 Aranya Kanda o 3.4 Kishkindha Kanda o 3.5 Sundara Kanda o 3.6 Yuddha Kanda o 3.7 Uttara Kanda

4 Influence on culture and art 5 Variant versions

o 5.1 Within India o 5.2 In Nepal o 5.3 Southeast Asian versions

6 Theological significance 7 See also 8 Footnotes 9 References 10 Further reading 11 External links

o 11.1 Translations (English)

o 11.2 Research articles

[edit] Textuality

Traditionally, the Ramayana is ascribed to Valmiki, regarded as India's first poet.[4] The Indian tradition is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is the work of a single poet, the sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Rama and a peripheral actor in the epic drama.[5] The story's original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana, dating to approximately the 4th century B.C.[6] According to Hindu tradition, the Ramayana takes place during a period of time known as Treta Yuga.[7]

In its extant form, Valmiki's Ramayana is an epic poem of some 50,000 lines. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of which appears to date from the 11th century A.D.[8] The text has several regional renderings,[6] recensions and subrecensions. Textual scholar Robert P. Goldman differentiates two

Page 105: Vishnu Avatars

major regional recensions: the northern (N) and the southern (S).[8] Famous recensions include the Ramayanam of Kamban in Tamil (ca. 11th-12th century), Shri Rama Panchali or Krittivasi Ramayan by Krittibas Ojha in Bengali (ca. 15th Century), and Ramacharitamanas by Tulasidas in Awadhi which is a dialect of Hindi (c. 16th century).[6] Scholar Romesh Chunder Dutt writes that "the Ramayana, like the Mahabharata, is a growth of centuries, but the main story is more distinctly the creation of one mind."[9]

There has been speculation as to whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki's Ramayana were written by the original author. Raghunathan writes that many experts believe they are integral parts of the book in spite of some style differences and narrative contradictions between these two chapters and the rest of the book.[10][11]

[edit] Period

According to literary scholarship, the main body of the Ramayana first appeared as an oral composition somewhere between 750 and 500 BCE[citation needed]. Some cultural evidence (the presence of sati in the Mahabharata but not in the main body of the Ramayana) suggests that the Ramayana predates the Mahabharata.[12] However, the general cultural background of the Ramayana is one of the post-urbanization period of the eastern part of North India (c. 450 BCE), while the Mahabharata reflects the Kuru areas west of this, from the Rigvedic to the late Vedic period [13]

By tradition, the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, one of the four eons (yuga) of Hindu chronology. Rama is said to have been born in the Treta Yuga to King Daśaratha in the Ikshvaku vamsa (clan).[14]

The names of the characters (Rama, Sita, Dasharatha, Janaka, Vasishta, Vishwamitra) are all known in Vedic literature such as the Brahmanas which are older than the Valmiki Ramayana.[15] However, nowhere in the surviving Vedic poetry is a story similar to the Ramayana of Valmiki.[16] According to the modern academic view, Brahma, one of the main characters of Ramayana, and Vishnu, who according to Bala Kanda was incarnated as Rama, are not Vedic deities, and come first into prominence with the epics themselves and further during the 'Puranic' period of the later 1st millennium CE. There is also a version of Ramayana, known as Ramopakhyana, found in the epic Mahabharata. This version, depicted as a narration to Yudhishtira, does not accord divine characteristics to Rama.[17]

There is general consensus that books two to six form the oldest portion of the epic while the first book Bala Kanda and the last the Uttara Kanda are later additions.[18] The author or authors of Bala Kanda and Ayodhya Kanda appear to be familiar with the eastern Gangetic basin region of northern India and the Kosala and Magadha region during the period of the sixteen janapadas as the geographical and geopolitical data is in keeping with what is known about the region. However, when the story moves to the Aranya Kanda and beyond, it seems to turn abruptly into fantasy with its demon-slaying hero and fantastic creatures. The geography of central and South India is increasingly vaguely described. The knowledge of the location of the island of Sri Lanka also lacks detail.[19]

Page 106: Vishnu Avatars

Basing his assumption on these features, the historian H.D. Sankalia has proposed a date of the 4th century BC for the composition of the text.[20] A. L. Basham, however, is of the opinion that Rama may have been a minor chief who lived in the 8th or the 7th century BC.[21]

[edit] Characters

Rama seated with Sita, fanned by Lakshmana, while Hanuman pays his respects. Rama is the hero of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh incarnation of the god

Vishnu, he is the eldest and favorite son of the King of Ayodhya, Dasharatha, and his wife Kousalya. He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi, one of his wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile.

Sita is the beloved wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka. She is the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka until Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava and Kusha, the heirs of Rama.

Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is portrayed as an incarnation of the god Shiva (the Eleventh Rudra) and an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as the son of Kesari, a vanara king, and the goddess Anjana. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle.

Lakshmana , the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is portrayed as an incarnation of the Shesha, the nāga associated with the god Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama. He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon him leaving her.

Ravana , a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-god Brahma that he could not be killed by gods, demons or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king, who disturbs the penances of Rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.

Page 107: Vishnu Avatars

Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi, and three other sons: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen, forces him to make his son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.

Bharata is the son of Dasharatha. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama's sandals and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years.

Shatrughna is the son of Dasharatha and his third wife Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana.

[edit] Synopsis

The poem is traditionally divided into several major kandas or books, that deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama—Bala kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Aranya Kanda, Kishkinda Kanda, Sundara Kanda, Yuddha Kanda, and Uttara Kanda.[6] The Bala Kanda describes the birth of Rama, his childhood and marriage to Sita.[22] The Ayodhya Kanda describes the preparations for Rama's coronation and his exile into the forest.[22] The third part, Aranya Kanda, describes the forest life of Rama and the kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana.[22] The fourth book, Kishkinda Kanda, describes the meeting of Hanuman with Rama, the destruction of the vanara king Vali and the coronation of his younger brother Sugriva to the throne of the kingdom of Kishkindha.[22] The fifth book is Sundara Kanda, which narrates the heroism of Hanuman, his flight to Lanka and meeting with Sita.[22] The sixth book, Yuddha Kanda, describes the battle between Rama's and Ravana's armies.[22] The last book, Uttara Kanda, describes the birth of Lava and Kusha to Sita, their coronation to the throne of Ayodhya, and Rama's final departure from the world.[22]

[edit] Bala KandaMain article: Balakanda

The birth of the four sons of Dasharatha

Dasharatha was the king of Kosala, the capital of which was the city of Ayodhya. He had three queens: Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra. He was childless for a long time and,

Page 108: Vishnu Avatars

anxious to produce an heir, he performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagna.[23] As a consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi, and Sumitra gives birth to twins named Lakshmana and Shatrughna.[24][25] These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the god Vishnu; Vishnu had opted to be born into mortality in order to combat the demon Ravana, who was oppressing the gods, and who could only be destroyed by a mortal.[26] The boys are reared as the princes of the realm, receiving instructions from the scriptures and in warfare. When Rama is 16 years old, the sage Vishwamitra comes to the court of Dasharatha in search of help against demons, who were disturbing sacrificial rites. He chooses Rama, who is followed by Lakshmana, his constant companion throughout the story. Rama and Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural weapons from Vishwamitra, and proceed to destroy the demons.[27]

Janaka was the king of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by this plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the king regarded the child as a "miraculous gift of god". The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow.[28] Sita grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm. When Sita was of marriageable age, the king decided to have a swayamvara which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the god Shiva: whoever could wield the bow could marry Sita. The sage Vishwamitra attends the swayamvara with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama wields the bow and breaks it. Marriages are arranged between the sons of Dasharatha and daughters, nieces of Janaka. The weddings are celebrated with great festivity at Mithila and the marriage party returns to Ayodhya.[27]

[edit] Ayodhya Kanda

Bharata Asks for Rama's paduka-footwear

After Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, Dasharatha who had grown old expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects

Page 109: Vishnu Avatars

express their support.[29][30] On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi—her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant—claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exile into wilderness for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi's demands.[31] Rama accepts his father's reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterizes him throughout the story.[32] He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. When he asks Sita not to follow him, she says, "the forest where you dwell is Ayodhya for me and Ayodhya without you is a veritable hell for me."[33] After Rama's departure, king Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away.[34] Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. Bharata refuses to profit from his mother's wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. However, Bharata carries Rama's sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.[31][34]

[edit] Aranya Kanda

Ravana striking down Jatayu, in a painting by Raja Ravi Varma

Rama, Sita and Lakshmana journeyed southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they built cottages and lived off the land. At the Panchavati forest they are visited by a rakshasa woman, Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana. She attempts to seduce the brothers and, failing in this, attempts to kill Sita. Lakshmana stops her by cutting off her nose and ears. Hearing of this, her demon brother, Khara, organizes an attack against the princes. Rama annihilates Khara and his demons.[35]

When news of these events reaches Ravana, he resolves to destroy Rama by capturing Sita with the aid of the rakshasa Maricha. Maricha, assuming the form of a golden deer,

Page 110: Vishnu Avatars

captivates Sita's attention. Entranced by the beauty of the deer, Sita pleads with Rama to capture it. Rama, aware that this is the play of the demons, is unable to dissuade Sita from her desire and chases the deer into the forest. After some time Sita hears Rama calling out to her; afraid for his life she insists that Lakshmana rush to his aid. Lakshmana tries to assure her that Rama is invincible, and that it is best if he continues to follow Rama's orders to protect her. On the verge of hysterics Sita insists that it is not she but Rama who needs Lakshmana's help. He obeys her wish but stipulates that she is not to leave the cottage or entertain any strangers. Finally with the coast clear, Ravana appears in the guise of an ascetic requesting Sita's hospitality. Unaware of the devious plan of her guest, Sita is then forcibly carried away by the evil Ravana.[35][36]

Jatayu, a vulture, tries to rescue Sita, but is mortally wounded. At Lanka, Sita is kept under the heavy guard of rakshasis. Ravana demands Sita marry him, but Sita, eternally devoted to Rama, refuses.[34] Rama and Lakshmana learn about Sita's abduction from Jatayu, and immediately set out to save her.[37] During their search, they meet the demon Kabandha and Shabari, a woman ascetic who direct them towards Sugriva and Hanuman.[38][39]

[edit] Kishkindha Kanda

A stone bas relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts the combat between Vali and Sugriva (middle). To the right, Rama fires his bow. To the left, Vali lies dying.

The Kishkindha Kanda is set in the monkey citadel Kishkindha. Rama and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the greatest of monkey heroes and an adherent of Sugriva, the banished pretender to the throne of Kishkindha.[40] Rama befriends Sugriva and helps him win over his brother Vali and regain the kingdom of Kiskindha.[41] In exchange for the help received from Rama, Sugriva sends search parties to the four corners of the earth, only to return without success from north, east and west.[42] The southern search party under the leadership of Angad and Hanuman learns from a vulture named Sampati that Sita was taken to Lanka.[42][43]

[edit] Sundara KandaMain article: Sundara Kanda

Page 111: Vishnu Avatars

Ravana is meeting Sita at Ashokavana. Hanuman is seen on the tree.

The Sundara Kanda forms the heart of Valmiki's Ramayana[44] and consists of a detailed, vivid account of Hanuman's adventures.[40] After learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap across the ocean to Lanka. Here, Hanuman explores the demon's city and spies on Ravana. He locates Sita in Ashoka grove, who is wooed and threatened by Ravana and his rakshasis to marry Ravana. He reassures her, giving Rama's signet ring as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry Sita back to Rama, however she refuses, reluctant to allow herself to be touched by a male other than her husband. She says that Rama himself must come and avenge the insult of her abduction.[40]

Hanuman then wreaks havoc in Lanka by destroying trees and buildings, and killing Ravana's warriors. He allows himself to be captured and produced before Ravana. He gives a bold lecture to Ravana to release Sita. He is condemned and his tail is set on fire, but he escapes his bonds and, leaping from roof to roof, sets fire to Ravana's citadel and makes the giant leap back from the island. The joyous search party returns to Kishkindha with the news.[40][45]

[edit] Yuddha Kanda

The War of Lanka by Sahibdin.It depicts monkey army of the protagonist Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting the demon-king of the king of Lanka, Ravana in order to save Rama's kidnapped wife Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the three-headed demon general Trisiras, in bottom left - Trisiras is beheaded by the monkey-companion of Rama - Hanuman.

Page 112: Vishnu Avatars

This book describes the battle between the forces of Rama and Ravana. Having received Hanuman's report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana. The monkeys construct a bridge (known as Rama Setu) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka. A lengthy battle ensues and Rama kills Ravana. Rama then installs Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.[46]

On meeting Sita, Rama asks her to undergo agni Pariksha (test of fire) to prove her purity, since she had stayed at the demon's palace. When Sita plunges into the sacrificial fire, Agni the lord of fire raises Sita, unharmed, to the throne, attesting to her purity.[47] The episode of agni pariksha varies in the versions of Ramayana by Valmiki and Tulsidas.[48] At the expiration of his term of exile, Rama returns to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana, where the coronation is performed.[46]

[edit] Uttara Kanda

Sita in the Hermitage of Valmiki

The Uttara Kanda concerns the final years of Rama, Sita, and Rama's brothers. After being crowned king, many years passed pleasantly with Sita. However, despite the agni pariksha (fire ordeal) of Sita, rumors about her purity are spreading among the populace of Ayodhya.[49] Rama yields to public opinion and banishes Sita to the forest, where the sage Valmiki provides shelter in his ashrama (hermitage). Here she gives birth to twin boys, Lava and Kusha, who became pupils of Valmiki and are brought up in ignorance of their identity.

Valmiki composes the Ramayana and teaches Lava and Kusha to sing it. Later, Rama holds a ceremony during Ashwamedha yagna, which the sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attends. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Sita's exile, Rama becomes grievous, and Valmiki produces Sita. Sita calls upon the Earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it.[49][50] Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his children. Later a messenger from the gods appears and informs Rama that the mission of his incarnation was over. Rama returns to his celestial abode.[47] The Uttara Kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original story by Valmiki.[6]

Page 113: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] Influence on culture and art

A Ramlila actor wears the traditional attire of Ravana

One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Brahminical temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam by the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century, the Telugu-language Molla Ramayana, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayan, and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidas.

The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramlila, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian diaspora. The Ramayana has inspired works of film as well, most prominently the North American Sita Sings the Blues, which tells the story supporting Sita through song.

[edit] Variant versions

Page 114: Vishnu Avatars

The epic story of Ramayana was adopted by several cultures across Asia. Shown here is a Thai historic artwork depicting the battle which took place between Rama and Ravana.

As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the Ramayana survive. In particular, the Ramayana related in North India differs in important respects from that preserved in South India and the rest of South-East Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the Ramayana in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Maldives.[citation needed] Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana.[51]

[edit] Within India

The seventh century CE "Bhatti's Poem" Bha ṭṭ ikāvya of Bhaṭṭi is a Sanskrit retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for Pā ṇ ini 's A ṣṭ ādhyāyī as well as the major figures of speech and the Prakrit language.[52]

There are diverse regional versions of the Ramayana written by various authors in India. Some of them differ significantly from each other. During the 12th century AD, Kamban wrote Ramavatharam, known popularly as Kambaramayanam in Tamil. Valmiki's Ramayana inspired the Sri Ramacharit Manas by Tulasidas in 1576, an epic Awadhi (a dialect of Hindi) version with a slant more grounded in a different realm of Hindu literature, that of bhakti. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of India, popularly known as Tulsi-krita Ramayana. Gujarati poet Premanand wrote a version of Ramayana in the 17th century. Other versions include a Bengali version by Krittivas in the 14th century, in Oriya by Balarama Das in the 16th century, in Marathi by Sridhara in the 18th century, a Telugu version by Ranganatha in the 15th century, a Torave Ramayana in Kannada by the 16th century poet Narahari and in 20th century Rashtrakavi Kuvempu's Sri Ramayana Darshnam, Kotha Ramayana in Assamese by the 14th century poet Madhava Kandali and Adhyathma Ramayanam Kilippattu, a Malayalam version by Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan in the 16th century.

There is a sub-plot to Ramayana, prevalent in some parts of India, relating the adventures of Ahi Ravana and Mahi Ravana, the evil brother of Ravana, which enhances the role of Hanuman in the story. Hanuman rescues Rama and Lakshmana after they are kidnapped by the Ahi-mahi Ravana at the behest of Ravana and held prisoner in a subterranean cave, to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali.

Mappillapattu—a genre of song popular among the Muslims belonging to Kerala and Lakshadweep—has incorporated some episodes from the Ramayana into its songs. These songs, known as Mappila Ramayana, have been handed down from one generation to the next orally.[51] In Mappila Ramayana, the story of the Ramayana has been changed into that of a sultan, and there are no major changes in the names of characters except for that of Rama which is `Laman' in many places. The language and the imagery projected in the Mappilapattu are in accordance with the social fabric of the earlier Muslim community.[51]

Page 115: Vishnu Avatars

[edit] In Nepal

Two versions of Ramayana are present in Nepal. One is written by Mahakabhi Siddhidas Mahaju in Nepali Bhasa. The other one is written by Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Acharya. The Nepal Bhasa version by Siddhidas Mahaju marks a great point in the renaissance of Nepal Bhasa whereas the one of Bhanubhakta Acharya is the first epic of Nepali.[citation

needed]

[edit] Southeast Asian versions

The Javanese dance of Ramayana describe Shinta held as prisoner in Alengka palace surrounded by ladies in waiting.

Many other Asian cultures have adapted the Ramayana, resulting in other national epics. Kakawin Ramayana is an old Javanese rendering; Yogesvara Ramayana is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Sriwijaya. It has 2774 stanzas in manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit and Archaic prose Javanese language. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya. The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu prototype.

Phra Lak Phra Lam is a Lao language version, whose title comes from Lakshmana and Rama. The story of Lakshmana and Rama is told as the previous life of the Buddha. In Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Dasharatha is the great-grandson of the Prophet Adam. Ravana receives boons from Allah instead of Brahma.[53] In many Malay language versions, Lakshmana is given greater importance than Rama, whose character is considered somewhat weak.[citation needed]

The Khmer retelling of the tale, the Reamker, is popularly expressed in traditional regional dance theatre.

Page 116: Vishnu Avatars

The Cambodian version of Ramayana, the Reamker, is the most famous story of Khmer Literature since the Funan era. It adapts the Hindu concepts to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. The Reamker has several differences from the original Ramayana, including scenes not included in the original and emphasis on Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha, a retelling which influences the Thai and Lao versions. Reamker in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, such as sculpture, Khmer classical dance, theatre known as Lakhorn Luang (the foundation of the royal ballet), poetry and the mural and bas reliefs seen at the Silver Pagoda and Angkor wat.

Thailand's popular national epic Ramakien ("Glory of Rama") is derived from the Hindu epic. In Ramakien, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodari (T'os'akanth (=Dasakanth) and Mont'o). Vibhisana (P'ip'ek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts calamity from the horoscope of Sita. So Ravana has her thrown into the waters, who, later, is picked by Janaka (Janok). While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style. It has an expanded role for Hanuman and he is portrayed as a lascivious character. Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate illustration at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.

Other Southeast Asian adaptations include Ramakavaca of Bali (Indonesia), Maharadya Lawana and Darangen of Mindanao (Philippines), and the Yama Zatdaw of Myanmar. Aspects of the Chinese epic Journey to the West were also inspired by the Ramayana, particularly the character Sun Wukong, who is believed to have been based on Hanuman.[citation needed]

[edit] Theological significance

Deities Sita (far right), Rama (center), Lakshmana (far left) and Hanuman (below seated) at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England.

Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is a popular deity worshipped in the Hindu religion. Each year, many devout pilgrims trace his journey through India, halting at each of the holy sites along the way. The poem is not seen as just a literary monument, but serves as an integral part of Hinduism, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or

Page 117: Vishnu Avatars

hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed by Hindus to free them from sin and bless the reader or listener.

According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an incarnation (Avatar) of the god Vishnu. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on earth.

Arshia Sattar states that the central theme of the Ramayana, as well as the Mahabharata, is respectively Ram's and Krishna's hidden divinity and its progressive revelation.