An illustration of the Avatars of Vishnu.

What are the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu?

In his eternal duty to sustain order and righteousness, Vishnu is said to have taken ten distinct forms or avatars, each with its unique tale.


The Hindu pantheon beholds the revered deity Lord Vishnu, a divine guardian of dharma. Legend narrates that whenever evil grows rampant, Vishnu descends on Earth in an avatar, manifesting a part of himself to restore balance. In his eternal duty to sustain order and righteousness, Vishnu is said to have taken ten distinct forms or avatars, each with its unique tale. So what are the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu? Here they are below.

An illustration by Simon E. Davies of the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu.
An illustration by Simon E. Davies of the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu.

Matsya: The Massive Fish Rescuer

The first avatar, Matsya, embodied the form of a giant fish or a human-fish hybrid, akin to a merman. Matsya came to the rescue of Manu, the first man, saving him from a catastrophic flood, bearing remarkable resemblance to the Noah’s Ark tale.


Kurma: The Mighty Ocean-Bearing Turtle

Next was Kurma, the grand turtle avatar, instrumental in the tale of the ocean’s churning. With the ocean floor unable to bear the mountain’s weight during the churning, Vishnu assumed the form of a turtle, bearing the mountain on his back.

Varaha: The Enormous Earth-Rescuing Boar

The third incarnation was Varaha, the colossal boar, whose lover was the Earth itself, known as Bhudevi. During a time when the universe was drowned in primordial waters and Earth was diminutive, Varaha dived in, rescued the earth goddess, and the two became eternal lovers.

Narasimha: The Lion-Man Protector

Next came Narasimha, the lion-man avatar who safeguarded his devotees. He protected a devotee’s son from a demon gifted with immortality by overcoming the demon in a form that was both man and beast.


Vamana: The Cosmic Dwarf Trickster

Vamana, the cosmic dwarf, tricked the demon king Bali who had seized the universe. By requesting for land he could cover in three steps, Vamana outsmarted Bali by expanding into a giant and stepping over the earth and heavens, and finally stepping on Bali, banishing him to the netherworld.

Parasurama: The Supreme Warrior

Parasurama, the sixth avatar and supreme warrior, was a descendant of Brahma and a pupil of Shiva. After undertaking penance to please Shiva, he received a potent axe and learned the martial arts, eventually mastering kalaripayattu, considered the first martial art.

Rama: The Embodiment of Virtue

The seventh avatar, Rama, epitomized virtue and respect. Rama, along with his servant Hanuman, rescued his wife Sita from a demon, marking him as an embodiment of chivalry and virtue and making him a widely worshipped deity.

Krishna: The Divine Enchanter

Krishna, the eighth incarnation, grew from a mischievous child to a charismatic herdsman whose music charmed women. He fulfilled a prophecy by overthrowing an evil king and vanquishing an army of demons. Krishna later evolved into a heroic warrior, teacher, and philosopher.

Buddha: The Enlightened Sage

The ninth avatar, Buddha, born as the Hindu prince Siddhartha, renounced his royal life in pursuit of truth and enlightenment. After six years of meditation, he attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.


Kalki: The Future Harbinger

The tenth avatar, Kalki, is prophesied to appear at the end of the current Kali Yuga. Kalki will arrive on a white horse, brandishing a flaming sword to purge the darkness of the last age.

(Featured image: An illustration of the Avatars of Vishnu.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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