In the basic Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva), Lord Vishnu represents the aspect of the Supreme Reality that preserves and sustains the universe. Vishnu is the picture of mercy and goodness, the self-existent, all-pervading power that preserves the universe and maintains it. According to Vishnu Sahasranama Vishnu is the all-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of all and beyond the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, sustains and manages the Universe and creates and develops all elements within.
Image of Vishnu:
Vishnuji is often represented resting on the coiled serpent Shesh Naag, with Vishnu's spouse Lakshmi massaging his feet. Vishnu never sleeps and is the deity of Shanti, the peaceful mood.
The four arms indicate Lord's omnipresence and omnipotence. The two front arms indicate His presence in the physical world and the two back arms indicate his presence in the spiritual world. The right side of the body represents the creativity of the mind. The left side symbolizes the activities of the heart; that is, love, kindness, and empathy.
The snake represents the mind and the thousand heads of the snake signify countless desires of an individual. Just as a snake kills its victim by its venom, an uncontrolled mind finishes the world by the venom of its greed. The Lord has controlled all desires, and this is symbolized by showing Him seated on the two coils of the snake.
The blue sky in the background suggests that He lives in the entire universe. The blue color symbolizes infinity. The blue body of the Lord signifies that He has infinite attributes. He is nameless, formless, and endless. The color yellow is associated with earthly existence and the yellow clothes of the Lord signify that He incarnates Himself on this earth to uphold morality and destroy evil.
A flower garland around the Lord's neck is a symbol of the devotee's love for Him. A gem decorating His neck signifies that He fulfils all genuine desires of His devotees and provides for their needs.
The crown is a symbol of the Lord's supreme power and authority. The two earrings signify the dual nature of creation, such as knowledge and ignorance, happiness and unhappiness, and pleasure and pain.
The first hand of Vishnu holds the conch or Sankha . A conch shell or Shankha, named "Panchajanya", held by the upper left hand, which represents Vishnu's power to create and maintain the universe. The Panchajanya represents the five elements - water, fire, air, earth and sky or space. It also represents the five airs or Pranas that are within the body and mind. The conch symbolizes that Vishnu is the basic divine sound (Om) of creation and universal maintenance.
In the second hand Vishnu holds the disc or Vaijra .The chakra, a sharp-spinning discus-like weapon, named "Sudarshana", held by the upper right hand, which symbolizes the purified spiritualized mind.
The chakra represents destruction of one's ego. It also represents the awakening of the souls.
The third hand of Vishnu holds the mace (gada) held by the lower left hand indicating the power and the punishing capacity of the God if one does the evil things (bad karma).
The fourth hand Vishnu holds the lotus or Padma held by the lower right hand, represents spiritual freedom, divine excellence and purity. The lotus opening its petals in the light of the Sun is indicative of the enlargement of our long inactive, spiritual awareness in the light of god. The lotus in Vishnu's hand symbolizes that god is the power and source from which the universe and the individual soul.
His vehicle (Vahan) is the bird Garuda which can spread the Vedic awareness.
Avatars of Vishnu:
Most of the time, good and evil forces are evenly matched in the world. But at times, the balance is destroyed and evil demons get the upper hand. Often in response to a request by the other gods, Vishnu then incarnates in a human form to set the balance right again.
According to VishnuPurana there are ten principal avatars. Among these ten principal avatara described, nine have occurred in the past and one will take place in the future, at the end of Kali yuga.
Following is an overview of the 10 principal avatars of Vishnu :
Matsya or the Fish incarnation: In His first avatar Vishnu saved the Saint Vaivaswata.
Kurma or the Turtle incarnation: It is second avatar. At the time of Samudra Manthan, Vishnu as Koorma offered his back as a spindle on which to rest the Mount Mandara, used as a churning stick by gods and demons.
Varaha or the Boar incarnation of Vishnu: It is third avatar. He killed the demon Hiranyaksha, recovered the stolen Veda's and released the Earth from the bottom of the ocean.
Narasingha or the Lion incarnation: As a fourth avatar in a creature half-lion and half-man, Vishnu killed the demon Hiranyashasipu, brother of Niranyaksha, who had gained the blessing of immunity from attacks by man, beast or god.
Vamana or the Dwarf incarnation: In his fifth avatar he killed the demon Bali, who had gained control over the Earth and had chased the gods from the heavens.
Parasurama: In his sixth avatar as a saint he killed the King Kartavirya, who had stolen the holy cow Kamadhenu, which could grant all desires.
Ram: In his seventh avatar he killed many demons and saved the saints from their cruelty. He also killed Tadka and King Ravana.
Krishna: In his eighth avatar he killed Kansa, son of a demon and the cruel King of Mathura.
Buddha: In his ninth avatar Vishnu incarnated to remove suffering from the world While some Hindus may oppose to seeing Buddha as a Vishnu incarnation, many other Hindus in fact embrace Buddha as such and worship Buddha both in Buddhist temples as in Hindu temples.
Kalki: still to come at the end of the Kaliyuga or the present age of decline, when Vishnu will appear in person on Earth, seated on a white horse, Kalki, which is his tenth incarnation. According to few scholars there is still 850 years left in Kaliyuga.
Lord Vishnu is worshiped by every Hindu, especially the followers of the Vaishnava tradition (Vaishnavism). He is the second member of the Hindu Trinity, with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva as the other two. Lord Vishnu is known by many other names, such as Vasudeva, Narayana, Govinda, Balaji, Damodara, Hari, Jagannatha, Keshwa, Madhva, Purushottama, Rama, Satyanarayana, Vamana, Madhisudana, Krishna, Upendra, Narsimha etc.
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