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Now one of the two principal gods of hinduism, but originally a solar deity of no great importance in the Vedas. Later he was identified with Vāsudeva, a non-Aryan hero, and with Nārāyana, a cosmic deity, and came to be worshipped as the Supreme God, the Creator and Preserver of the world. He is represented sleeping in the primeval ocean on the thousand-headed snake Śea, while Brahmā, the demiurge, is born from a lotus that springs from his navel. He is usually depicted as four-armed, bearing in his hands the conch, the discus, the mace, and the lotus, which are his emblems, and riding on the eagle, Garua. His spouse, Lakmī, is the goddess of wealth. Vishnu is believed to have manifested himself by his descent (avatāra ) in different forms to save mankind. His descent in the form of Krishna is celebrated in the Bhagavad Gītā and later in the Vishnu and Bhāgavata Purāas.

[b. griffiths]

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