Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of
Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.
Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (4.7)
AVATARA IS A WORD that is commonly heard but rarely understood. In English , the word has come to mean "an embodiment, a bodily manifestation of the Divine." However, the Sanskrit word Avatara means "the descent of God" or simply "incarnation." Here is the definition as mentioned in the Caitan ya-caritamrta:
"The Avatara, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for creating and maintaining the material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or Avataras. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When they descend to the material creation , they assume the name Avataras."
THE PURPOSE OF AVATARAS
Lord Krsna repeatedly appears in every yuga in this world in various forms to perform specific functions. Such Avataras distinguish themselves by performing extraordinary pastimes that remain exclusive to them. There lies a detailed mention of several prominent incarnations from the beginning of creation in diverse Vedic scriptures. Avataras of the Lord appear into this creation for profuse reasons. Avataras of Lord Krsna:
• Come to show spiritual practices for a specific age in cyclical time.
• Come to give a glimpse of life in the spiritual world, and their actions become topics for discussion to liberate devotees.
• Come to associate with His devotees in the setting of material world.
• Take charge of the universe's secondary creation (by Brahma), its maintenance (by Visnu), and its destruction (by Siva).
In fact, the Avataras exhibit The Lord's essential features: They are eternally existent and free from the laws of matter, time, and space. Although they have no obligation to come into contact with the material energy, the Avataras descend into this world for our own protection, instruction, and salvation. Although they may portray human weaknesses such as grief and anger, they are never to be considered as ordinary people. Human beings act out of earthly desire, fear, and anger. The Avatara , however, acts out of His own blissfully divine nature performing exuberant pastimes for the pleasure of His pure devotees.
THE ROLE OF AVATARAS
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna has emerged in so many fascinating forms just for His devotees; for their pleasure, protection, and learning. In each of His forms, Lord Krsna has performed miraculous pastimes to prove His love towards His devotees. Krsna has outlined Himself as: a fish – in His Matsyaavatara; a tortoise – in His Kurma-avatara; a boar – in His Varaha-avatara; a half'man, half- lion – in His Nrsimha avatara; a dwarf – in His Vamana-avatara; an Axe-weilder – in His Parasurama-avatara; Lord Rama; Himself – The Supreme Personality of Godhead; Balarama; Buddha; Kalki – who will appear marking the end of Kali yuga.
Krsna, just to awaken love in the hearts of His devotees, comes in the most inconceivable forms. This can be illustrated with an example. When Krsna was in Vrndavana performing His most loving pastimes with Srimati Radha Rani, He realized that His devotees experienced far more elation in serving Him, compared to what He experienced when He was being loved and served. To experience this ecstatic feeling, Krsna stepped into the age of Kali as a devotee of Himself and practiced service to Krsna as Lord Caitanya.
Krsna is the ultimate authority and need not await the right time, place, and circumstance to manifest into the earthly planet. His purpose to appear in Kali yuga was the redemption of fallen souls who got carried away by the powerful winds of material energy. Krsna, who took the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, delivered all the disturbed and unfortunate souls by offering them the holy name:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Although the Avataras of Lord Krsna appear differently according to time, place, and circumstance, it is important to understand the idea of His manifestation. The under current of each of His appearances is just one – to remind the creation of the Absolute Truth and arouse love of God in everyone's heart.
Rashi Parikh is a Bachelor in Mass Media specializing in Journalism. Currently she is working in the creative department at a FM Radio station in Mumbai.