Vamana Avatar – 1

We saw how The Supreme Being took Kurma Avatar and defeated King Bali to help the devas. True to the principle that in the cycle of Life, highs and lows come in measures depending on one’s Karma, Bali lost the war with devas which marked a low in his life.

After his defeat in the hands of the Devas, Bali lost all his luster and opulence and died. Sukracharya treated him and made him regain his powers and life.  After this, King Bali began to serve Sukracharya with great faith and devotion.  Happy with his devotion, Sukracharya and the other Brahmans who were the descendants of Bhrgu Muni engaged him in performing a yajna called Visvajit so that he could attain all that was needed to embark on an attack of Kind Indra and his kingdom.

At the end of the Yajna came a chariot which was covered with gold and silk, a flag marked with a lion, a bow, 2 quivers full of arrows and many yellow horses. Prahlada who was the grandfather of king Bali, gave him a garland made of eternal flowers.  His guru Sukracharya gave him a conch shell. Equipped with all these essentials, he reached the outskirts of indrapatna and waged a war. Indra on seeing Bali-and his army which contained a large number of soldiers and demon chiefs who were equal to Bali in strength and opulence-immediately realized that this battle could not be won by him. So he reached out to his guru, brhaspati, for counsel. Being the wise man he was, brhaspati asked him to go to Lord Hari and pray for help.  At the same time, all the demi-gods were asked to vacate and go to a distant place and be invisible till Indra could get help. With no one to defend, indrapatna soon became Bali’s.

After conquering Indra’s city, Bali engaged himself in doing one hundred asvamedha sacrifices. At the end of these sacrifices he became totally in control. Aditi-mother of the devas, realized that Bali could not be defeated and her sons could not gain whatever they lost. So she prayed to Lord Hari. He was very happy with her prayers and soon, agreed to be born to her and Kasyapa as their son. Thus started the Vamana Avatar.

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Kurma Avatar – 3

When the Lord himself took the avatar of Kurma and started churning the ocean, first came a fierce poison called halahala. It was so uncontrollable and fiercely that it started spreading to all the 3 worlds, engulfing them completely. The Brahman, along with demi-gods and demons went to Lord Shiva for help. Lord Sadashiva, who was in Kailash at that time, consented to help them. He held the poison in his palms and drank it. Halahala, being a poison, manifested its characteristics by marking Lord Shiva’s throat with the color of blue. After that incident, Lord Shiva came to be known as Neelakantan/Neelkanth. The day when this happened came to be known as pradosham which falls on the 13th day – tryodashi day-of every fortnight.

After the poison, came the cow called surabhi. It produced Yogurt, ghee and milk, all items necessary for performing Yagnas and other rituals as prescribed in the Vedas. Great sages, who knew everything about the Vedic way of life, took the cow for its purest ghee and curd.

Then came Uccaishrava which as white as the moon. King Bali, the king of asuras, wanted to have it. Although Indra would have protested under normal circumstances, did not do so according to the advice from Lord Vishnu.

Next came Airavata, the king of elephants. It was white in color and had 4 great tusks. Along with it came 8 great elephants, headed by Airavana and 8 she-elephants headed by Abhramu.

Generated next from the ocean were 2 gems – Kaustubha-maṇi and Padmarāga-maṇi. Lord Vishnu decided that they would adorn him.

Parijata tree came next. It is the flowers of this tree which decorate the celestial planets. The tree is also called Kalpavriksha tree. It is said that the Parijata tree is a wish fulfilling tree.

After Parijata tree, Apsaras came into being as a result of the churning of the ocean.

Then came Goddess Rama or Lakshmi. Everyone present there was bewildered on seeing the exquisite beauty and opulence of the Goddess. Lord Indra got her a seat. All the great rivers like Ganges and Yamuna got her water. The great sages who were present performed her bathing ceremony, according to the Vedic rituals. All the elephants carried sacred water and sprayed on the Goddess. All the rain clouds present there, sounded like the various instruments like mridangas, panavas, murajas, anakas and the conch shells. The sound thus generated was tumultuous and uplifting at the same time.  After the sacred bathing ceremony, Varuna gave her the silk garment along with the flower garland. Viswakarma presented her with various ornaments. After all the ceremonies, she approached Lord Vishnu and placed the garland around his neck and took him to be her husband.  Thus concluded Lakshmi Kalyanam – the main objective for which Vishnu took Kurma Avatar.

If noticed, one would observe that everything that came out of the ocean till then and everyone who was present there contributed to the celestial marriage of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. But then, there was still no sign of amrita. Now that his original objective has been fulfilled, would Lord Vishnu continue to help the devas and asuras to achieve theirs?

Varaha Avatar

All of us know that Varaha is the 3rd Avatar of Lord Vishnu. He incarnated as the Varaha Avatar (The Boar) to save Bhoomi Devi/Mother Earth from an Asura – Hiranyakshan who grabbed Her and hid Her in the Ocean.

First let us look at the Incarnation. The oft repeated story goes something like this – One day Hiranyakshan hides Bhoomi Devi or Mother Earth under an ocean. All the Devas, knowing fully well, the implications of a missing Bhoomi Devi, goes to Brahma who in turn prays to Lord Vishnu. Suddenly a wild boar or Varaha jumps from the Nostrils of Brahma. It grows in size. It then goes into the ocean, kills Hiranyaksha and brings back Mother Earth.

Now let us look at the most popular questions about this Avatar which learned people ask.

If Bhoomi Devi (and essentially the Bhoomi) is inside the ocean, then what happened to all the living things in the Bhoomi?

Was the ocean itself not part of that Bhoomi? If so how could It be hidden inside the ocean?

Why did Vishnu jump out of Brahma’s Nostril and not from anywhere else?

To answer these questions, we need to understand the setting of the Avatar first.

After the Supreme Being creates Brahma He creates the World from the Golden Egg in which everything is in an embryonic state.  – Mother Earth is created.

After that He creates Asuras and Devas. – Hiranyakshsan is born.

Next He needs to create all the living things. For this He has a checklist in which He needs to tick-off all the right boxes. Devas – check, Asuras – Check, Golden Egg – Check, Gross Elements – Check, Subtle Elements – Check, Mother Earth – No Check. How can He create the living things, if Mother Earth is not there? He panics. He is sure to lose His Brahma post if something goes amiss here! (There was one other  situation, when Brahma almost lost his post. We will see about it in another post)

At the same time, Devas come rushing to Brahma, saying that Bhoomi Devi has gone missing. He does not have anything else to do other than praying to Vishnu. He does that. Vishnu answers his prayers, comes out of the Nostril, kills Hiranyakshan and brings back the Earth from the ocean.

So now, to the answers to the questions given in the beginning.

Mother Earth goes missing BEFORE the creation of living things can begin.

The Ocean in which the asura hides Bhoomi Devi is not the Ocean of the world, but the Primordial Ocean containing primordial waters that is the main cause of the dissolution or Pralay. (Our ancient scriptures say that the water is viscous in nature unlike the water of our oceans which is watery). We have already seen about this ocean here.

It is Mother Earth or Prithvi who goes missing. The subtle element associated with Prithvi – the Gross element – is the Scent. The character of Scent is associated with the sense organ of Nose and hence Vishnu jumps out of Brahma’s Nostrils!!

This version of the story is not very interesting and also not anything similar to what has been narrated in our ancient scriptures. Also in the normal narrations, the story ends with Varaha bringing out Bhoomi Devi. But the essence of the Avatar is not featured anywhere in the story. Is it? If you thought that killing Hiranyaksha was the main goal of the Avatar, You are wrong. Then, what is the objective?

Let us see the alternate version of this story and about the main objective, in the next post.