Dashavatara: The 10 Incarnations of Lord Vishnu To Establish Dharma

Dashavatara is associated with the ten primary incarnations of Lord Vishnu (the preserver) on Mother Earth to establish Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is all about establishing Dharma (Righteousness).

In Sanatana Dharma, It is a belief that the Lord incarnates from time to time in the form of Humans or others to restore the Dharma and destroy evil.

“Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharata, Abhyuddhanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srujamyaham”

The above Gita Shlok means that whenever there is a fall in dharma on the earth I (Lord) descend upon there to restore the Dharma. The establishment of Dharma is the basis of all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Matsya Avatar: The fish incarnation

Matsya avatar was the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Satyug. In Matsya’s avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnated as a Matsya, a fish on the earth to establish Dharma. Lord Vishnu took the Matsya avatar to save the first man, Satyavrata who was later known as Manu. Lord Matsya has an upper body with four hands of a man and the lower body of a fish.

In Satyug when people started falling for Adharma, became irreligious, and forgot their Dharma (Duty). Then Trimurti, Brahma: The Creator, Shiva: The Destroyer, and Vishnu: The preserver collectively decided to flood the Earth and prepare it for the process of redevelopment.

One day when Satyavrata, a devotee of Lord Vishnu was washing his hands in a river a fish swam into his hands and asked him to save its life. Satyavarta put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. He then shifted the fish to a tank but again the same thing happened, then he moved it into a river and finally into the Ocean.

He understood that this is not a normal fish and prayed to Vishnu and then the fish revealed itself to be Lord Vishnu. Lord Matsya told Manu that within seven days a flood would come that would destroy all life.

He instructed Manu to build a boat in which he can take all medicinal herbs and all the varieties of seeds, and be accompanied by the seven saints along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals. 

When the flood came, Lord Matsya tied himself to Manu’s boat with the help of the serpent Vasuki and protected them from the storm and floods. Matsya, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu left Manu and others in the Himalayas, where they could begin human civilization again.

Kurma Avatar: The Turtle Incarnation

Kurma avatar was the 2nd incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a Turtle (Kurma). Lord Vishnu took the Kurma avatar to save Lord Indra and other Devas from the demons led by Bali and to establish the Dharma.

In Satyug, when Durvasa Rishi gifted a garland to Indra, the king of Devas, he placed it on the head of Airavata, Indra’s riding elephant. Airavata got irritated with the fragrance and threw the garland on the ground with its trunk.

Durvasa Rishi was so enraged by Indra’s act that he cursed Indra that he would be taken down from his position of dominion over the three worlds. Indra and devas were diminished in strength because of Durvasa Rishi’s curse. Demon king Bali encashed this golden opportunity and waged war against Indra and Devas.

Indra along with other Devas seek Lord Brahma’s help but Brahma Ji asks them to meet Lord Vishnu for help.  As per the plan of Lord Vishnu, Devas called for a truce with demons and offered them to churn the Ocean of Milk to obtain Amrit, the nectar of immortality on the condition of sharing. 

Devas and asuras started churning the Ocean of milk in order to get Amrit, the nectar of immortality, with serpent Vasuki as the rope and the mount Mandara as the churning staff. The mountain started to sink then Lord Vishnu took the form of a turtle to bear the weight of the mountain. 

From the churning of the Ocean, poison was produced first, then Lord Shiva helped them by drinking the poison. Since Shiva drank the poison his throat became blue which is why Shiva is also known as Neelkanth. Finally by the result of churning Amrit was produced but demons and Devas started fighting over who would drink Amrit first.

Lord Vishnu took the form of Apsara Mohini and appeared in front of the demons. Mohini seduced the demons and asked them that she will distribute Amrit to them one by one to which the demons agreed. She asked to make two rows, one of the Devas and the other of the demons. 

Mohini very smartly served the Amrit to devas first and then smartly changed the pot so that demons do not get any Amrit. This is how the Kurma avatar of Lord Vishnu saved Indra and devas from the demons.

Varaha Avatar: The Boar Incarnation

Varaha avatar was the 3rd incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a Boar (Varaha). Lord Vishnu took the Varaha avatar to rescue mother Earth (Bhudevi) from the demon called Hiranyaksha.

Demon Hiranyaksha stole the Prithvi and hid her where no one could find her because he wanted to make Devas weaker in strength. Devas used to live in heaven, the source of their power on Earth. He stole the Prithvi because if Devas will not be able to access the Prithvi they will become weak and Hiranyaksha will go unchallenged.

The Fate of Hiranyaksha: A tiny Boar emerged from the nostrils of  Brahma-The Creator. The Boar started growing and soon it grew as large as a mountain.

Varaha retrieved the Earth from the ocean, lifted it on his tusks, and restored the Earth to its place in the universe. The Varaha and Hiranyaksha fought a battle in which Varaha ultimately slew the Hiranyaksha.

Narasimha Avatar: The Half Man/Half Lion Incarnation

Narasimha avatar was the 4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of Half-man/Half-lion. The upper body of Lord Narasimha was of a lion and the lower body was of a man. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Narasimha to save Prahlad, a true devotee of Lord Vishnu.

In Satyug, Rishi Kashyap and his wife Diti had two sons-Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyaksha was killed by the Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu because he stole Prithvi and hid her in the deep ocean. Hiranyakashipu wanted to take revenge on Vishnu Ji as he killed his brother Hiranyaksha.

Hiranyakashipu went deep into the forest and prayed to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma was so pleased with his devotion that he granted him a boon. Hiranyakashipu told Brahma Ji that he wanted to be immortal in response to which Brahma Ji replied that he cannot fulfil this boon because it is against the balance of Life.

Hiranyakashipu thought for a while and asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that would allow no man, god, or animal created by Brahma to kill him. Nobody could kill him day or night, and no one could kill him in heaven or on earth. Also, no one could kill him with a weapon, or kill him either inside or outside his house.

Brahma Ji granted him the boon. Overjoyed, Hiranyakashipu went back to his kingdom. Over time Hiranyakashipu found his son, Prahlad singing the praises of Lord Vishnu and got angry at him. He asked Prahlad to stop singing the praises of Lord Vishnu but he didn’t.

Hiranyakashipu, filled with anger, asked his guards to kill Prahlad. When nothing worked and Prahlad was still alive, Hiranyakashipu took him to a room and asked if Lord was present in the room with them. Prahlad replied that the Lord is everywhere.

Hiranyakashipu got frustrated and to mock Prahlad, he asked if the Lord was present in the pillar next to them, Prahlad with a smile replied that Narayan is everywhere. Enraged, Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar from which Lord Narasimha came out who was half man and half lion.

Lord Narasimha dragged him to the threshold of the door, which was neither outside nor inside his house. He placed him on his lap, which was neither sky nor the earth, and killed him with his claws at twilight, without using any weapons. This is how Lord Narasimha rescued his true devotee Prahlad and also killed the demon Hiranyakashipu.

Vamana Avatar: The Dwarf Incarnation

Vamana avatar was the 5th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the 1st incarnation of Vishnu Ji in Treta Yug. Vishnu Ji incarnated as Vamana to protect the Devas, who have been homeless since Mahabali was reigning over the three worlds.

Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlad, a true devotee of Lord Vishnu. He defeated Lord Indra with his true devotion and extended his rule over the three worlds. Since Mahabali was the new king and ruler of the three worlds, Devas became homeless and approached Lord Vishnu for help.

Mahabali was well known for his charity work, so during a yajna of King Mahabali, the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu approached him and asked for three paces of land measured by his feet. He agreed to Vaman’s request unaware of Vaman’s real identity.

The Vamana avatar changed his size to that of a giant, with the first step he measured all the empires of Mahabali on earth and the underworld. With the second step, he measured Mahabali’s empire in Heaven and asked Mahabali where he should take his third step.

Mahabali realized that Vamana was incarnate of Vishnu-The Preserver and offered his head to place the third step. Vamana avatar did so and granted immortality to Mahabali and made him the ruler of Sutala. Vaamana gave the three worlds he had received as a gift to Indra.

Parshuram Avatar: The Brahman Warrior Incarnation

Parshuram avatar was the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Treta Yug. Vishnu Ji incarnated as Parshuram to stop the cruelty of the Kshatriya clan done on innocent people and saints. Lord Parshuram killed all the adult Kshatriya on earth 21 times single-handedly.

Parshuram was the son of sage Jamadagni and Renuka. Once a Kshatriya king named Kartavirya Arjun visited the sage Jamadagini’s ashram along with his army. Rishi Jamadagni fed the king and his soldiers as well with the help of the divine cow Kamdhenu.

The king was so impressed with the capabilities of Kamdhenu that he demanded it but Rishi Jamadagini refused. Kartavirya Arjun took the cow forcibly and also destroyed the ashram. Filled with anger Parshuram destroyed the whole army of Kartavirya Arjun and also killed him with his axe.

One day when Lord Parshuram was not present in the ashram king Kartavirya Arjun’s son killed Rishi Jamadagni. Furious at his father’s murder Parshuram killed all the sons of King Kartavirya Arjun and his aides. He went on killing every adult Kshatriya on earth 21 times and filled 5 ponds with their blood.

Read About: History of Bhagwan Parshuram, Who Defeated The Kshatriya Clan 21 Times

Ultimately, Rishi Richeek appeared and stopped him, Rishi Richeek was the grandfather of Lord Parshuram. Bhagwan Parshuram donated the whole of the earth won from the Kshatriyas to Brahmins. He is a Chiranjeevi (immortal).

Rama Avatar: Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram

Rama avatar was the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Treta Yug. Bhagwan Vishnu took Ram’s avatar to kill the demon king of Lanka, Ravan. Sri Ram fought a battle with the demon king of Lanka to rescue Mata Sita from his clutches with the help of Sugriva’s Monkey Army.

Sri Ram was the eldest son of Ayodhya’s King Dasrath. Ram had to go into exile for 14 years, he was accompanied by Mata Sita and his younger brother Lakshman. While in the forest of Panchavati Mata Sita was abducted by the demon King of Lanka, Ravan.

Ram and Lakshman travelled to Lanka along with Hanuman, Sugriva, and his monkey army. Sri Ram asked Ravan to let Mata Sita go with all due respect but Ravan didn’t agree. So Ram had to fight a battle with Ravan in which ultimately Ram Ji killed Ravan and freed Mata Sita from Ravan’s clutches.

Read About: Ram Setu: A Symbol of Love in a True Sense

Sri Ram handed over the Lanka to Vibhishan, the younger brother of Ravan, and returned back to Ayodhya along with the monkey army. The day Sri Ram returned to Ayodhya is being celebrated as Diwali, the festival of lights that symbolizes the win of good over evil.

Krishna Avatar

Lord Krishna was the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Dwapar Yug. Krishna was the 8th child of Ma Devaki and Vasudev Yadav and he was born on Ashtami (8th day of Krishna Paksha). Krishna is also known as Dwarkadhish (The king of Dwarka city).

Two main aspects of Krishna’s life were Kansa Vadh (The cruel King of Mathura) to relieve the people of Braj from his torture and tyranny and Mahabharat (The Kurukshetra war) where he helped the Pandavs to establish Dharma in Aryavart.

Read About: How did Dwarka city dip into the sea? Sri Krishna’s death and annihilation of the Yadav clan

Sri Krishna ruled Dwarka city for 36 Years after Mahabharat and after that, he was slain by an arrow. Soon after Krishna died, a great tsunami came and the surging sea waters submerged Dwarka city.

Buddha Avatar: The Preacher of Non Violence

Buddha avatar was the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Kal Yug. Buddha avatar of Vishnu Ji teaches us the path of ahinsa (non-violence). Lord Gautam Buddha, was the founder of the Buddhism Religion. 

Buddha’s original name was Siddhartha Gautam. Siddhartha Gautam was born in the Lumbini province near the Kapilavastu city in the Himalayan ranges within Nepal, in 560 BC and died in 480BC at the age of 80 years.

Siddhartha Gautam was the founder of the Buddhism religion and the philosophical system that evolved into a great culture over a period of time. His only goal was to know, how to end the suffering and became a wandering monk in search of truth.

On a full Moon-Day, he sat under the Bodhi tree and went into deep Meditation. During the night Mara, the evil visited him and tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path.

Gautama defeated the army of Mara, the evil one by one with his virtue. As the struggle ended he came to know the causes of suffering and how to get rid of them. He understood things as they truly are. He became the Buddha, The Awakened One.

After his enlightenment, Buddha went to the holy city of Banaras and shared his understanding with five holy men. They understood his teachings and became disciples of Buddha. This was the beginning of the Buddhism Religion.

Kalki Avatar: The Incarnation That Would End Kal Yug

Kalki avatar would be the 10th and final incarnation of Lord Vishnu to end the Kal Yug and start the new cycle of existence. As said by Lord Krishna in Gita, whenever there is a fall in dharma on the earth I descend upon there to restore the Dharma.

Kalki avatar would be taken by Lord Vishnu when Dharma would vanish, evil and persecution prevail. Then Vishnu Ji will incarnate as Kalki, atop a white horse and his sword will be drawn, blazing like a comet.


Sanatan Dharma is all about establishing Dharma. The establishment of Dharma is the basis of all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu on earth. That’s why whenever there is a rise in Adharma, Lord incarnates from time to time in the form of humans or others to restore the Dharma and destroy evil.

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