Dashavatar – 10 stories of the Protector

I was recently asked to speak and perform the Dashavatar. I was delighted when my co-host selected Dashavatar as our theme. Not only it is the most favorite of all the dances I learned as a child, and although each story in itself has great teachings, the collection of stories is a great teaching about the evolution of our consciousness, which we are still unable to measure and define with all of our current scientific methods.

The stories of the ten (Dasha) incarnations (Avatar) of Vishnu are in times when the cosmic lord and protector takes birth to assist in rebalance of the forces of good and evil. The first birth is of a fish who swims in the primordial ocean of Jnana (knowledge), the perfect state of undivided consciousness and Atman. Next comes the amphibious tortoise who live in the duality between the primordial ocean and individual land activity. After him comes the white boar, who lives on land, but who can also swim when necessary… the boar is so more closely related a human, w tissues and whose body has taught us much about our own, is a primative animal who lives instinctually. Narishima the half man half lion represents our transformational stage between the primitive animal and rational human, he is fearce gutting his enemy on his lap using his claws, yet compassion and kind to his devotee for whom he appears. Next is the dwarf who comes as a man, but short in stature, and asks for three steps of land, rather than to give something. Then Parashuram, a man of full stature, yet is a wild and primitive bringing bloodshed and killing warriors in the world many times over until he is vanquished by Rama who is the avatar that comes next. He is a perfect king, yet his personal life was so miserable. he is banished from his kingdom causing the heartbreak and death of his father, he also loses his wife and misses the birth and youth of his sons. But then Krishna comes, who the entire play of the exists within… He who was beyond all limitations, except that of death. It is after Krishna leaves the earth that Kali yuga is said to begin… the time of great temptation. Buddhi means discrimination or intellect and Buddha, the next avatar born as a prince rejects the comfort of sensory aesthetics and achieves the ultimate knowledge of life… moksha, yet he chooses compassion and helps others regardless of class, color, or origin. Kalki, is the one who will come next. He is the one without any stain. He will come when our world is at its worst and will eliminate all but a very few. He will change their consciousness so that they remember their true selves and Satya Yuga, a time of peace will begin again.

I was asked to complete a very small synopsis of each avatar’s story, so I have included it here for you. There are so many great questions that can arise and be answered by these stories. Too much for me to write here… I am especially grateful to Robert Svobodha and Dr. Bhagyalipi Malla for their writing on this subject and hope this topic will enchant you as it has me.


1. Matsya
The first avatar was a giant fish that protected the world from a great deluge. In this form, after rescuing the Vedas (sacred texts), he guided many seeds of life forms and the septa-rishis seven sages, to safety by pulling them in a great boat until the flood waters receded.

2. Koorma
In a quest to regain their powers, the Gods, with the help from the Demons, churned the cosmic ocean. The second avatar, a tortoise, supported a mountain on his back as a churning stick while a giant serpent served as a rope while many great gifts came forth and until the nectar of immortality was obtained.

3. Varaha
Tormented by demons, the earth was dragged deep into primordial waters. The third avatar, in the form of a wild boar, retrieved the earth carrying her gently on his tusks, and then slayed the demon responsible with those very same tusks.

4. Narasimha
A demon king was gifted to not be killed by a human or animal, indoors or outdoors, day or night, with the use of any weapon. To protect his devotee, the fourth avatar appears from a pillar as half human-half lion and killed the king at his doorstep during twilight using bare claws.

5. Vamana
The fifth avatar appeared as a dwarf and requested three steps of land to teach the superpower, King Bali, a lesson. The dwarf then grew into a giant and took over the earth and heavens in two steps. With no other place to step, Bali offered his head for the third step.

6. Parasurama
A power-hungry king steals a celestial cow from a humble forest dwelling couple and murders them. Their son Parasurama, takes up an axe as the sixth avatar and pledges to kill the king and all other rulers in the warrior caste wrongfully enforcing their supremacy on citizens.

7. Rama
In the seventh avatar, Prince Rama endures exile and the abduction of his wife by the demon king Ravana. With the help of his great devotee Hanuman, and an army of monkey warriors, he defeats Ravana, rescues his wife, and becomes a righteous king.

8. Krishna
The multifaceted eighth avatar Krishna, is depicted in his leela, or play as a prankster in childhood, a lover in his youth, and an advisor for the epic battle Mahabharata in his adulthood. He is portrayed with a peacock feather in his crown and a flute in his hand.

9. Buddha
Born as a prince, the ninth avatar renounced palatial pleasures and family ties after seeing sickness, old age, death, and a holy man to lead an ascetic life. His compassion and teachings offer a path of enlightenment for all souls regardless of caste, color, or origin.

10. Kalki
The prophesied future avatar, Kalki is the one without any stain. He is depicted as riding a white horse and carrying a comet as his sword. He will eliminate evil forces and wrong-doers in three nights to bring an end to the darkness and beginning of a new age of peace.

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