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A term used in Hindu religion to indicate the incarnation of a deity. Avatara is a Sanskrit word meaning "descent," and the Hindu gods take on animal or human form in different ages for the welfare of the world. In Hindu mythology, the god Brahma (originally known as the creator Prajapati) became successively incarnated as a boar, a tortoise, and a fish, to assist the development of the world in prehistory.

Certain Hindu scriptures ascribe these incarnations to the god Vishnu (the preserver), but since the manifestation of divine power takes many different forms in Hindu mythology, the distinction is academic. Various scriptures ascribe to Vishnu ten major incarnations: (1) Matsya (the fish), associated with legends of a great deluge in which Manu, progenitor of the human race, was saved from destruction; (2) Kurma (the tortoise), whose back supported great mountains while the gods and demons churned the ocean to retrieve divine objects and entities lost in the deluge; (3) Vahura (the boar), who raised up the earth from the seas; (4) Nara-sinha (the man-lion), who delivered the world from the tyranny of a demon; (5) Vamana (the dwarf), who recovered areas of the universe from demons; (6) Parasu-rama (Rama with the axe), who delivered Brahmins from dominion by the warrior caste during the second age of the world; (7) Rama, hero of the religious epic Ramayana, who opposed the demon Ravana; (8) Krishna popular incarnation chronicled in the religious epic Mahabharata (especially in theBhagavad-Gita section) and Srimad Bhagavatam; (9) Buddha, the great religious teacher; and (10) Kalki, an incarnation yet to come, who is prophesied to appear on a white horse with a sword blazing like a comet, to destroy the wicked, stabilize creation and restore purity to the world.

In other religious works, as many as 22 incarnations are listed, including various great saints and sages. According to Hindu belief, a perfected human soul has no further karma (action and reaction) and is absorbed into divinity at death, but may elect to be incarnated for the good of the world. The deity Shri Krishna, in the Bhagavad-Gita (4:7-8) specifically promises: "Arjuna, whenever there is decline of dharma (righteous duty), and unrighteousness is dominant, then I am reborn. For the protection of the virtuous, the destruction of evil-doers, and to reestablish righteousness, I am reborn from age to age." Belief in repeated divine reincarnations of the deities for the good of the world, as distinct from one unique Messianic event, is one of the major theological differences between Hinduism and Western religions such as Judaism and Christianity.

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av·a·tar / ˈavəˌtär/ • n. chiefly Hinduism a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher. ∎  an incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea: he set himself up as a new avatar of Arab radicalism. ∎ Comput. a movable icon representing a person in cyberspace or virtual reality graphics.

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"avatar." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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avatar

avatar In Hinduism, an incarnation of a god (especially Vishnu) in human or animal form that appears on Earth to combat evil and restore virtue. In Hindu tradition, there have been nine incarnations of Vishnu and a tenth is yet to come: these include Buddha, Krishna, and Rama.

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"avatar." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/avatar

avatar

avatar in Hindu belief, a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher. The word comes from Sanskrit avatāra ‘descent’.

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