Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Dashavatara Mean?

Dashavatara is a term that collectively describes the 10 main incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, who is the primary deity of the Vaishnava school of Hinduism and one of the Hindu trinity, along with Brahma and Shiva. The name comes from the Sanskrit dasha, meaning “ten” and avatar, meaning “incarnation.”

In Hindu mythology, Vishnu transforms into different avatars to serve different purposes or accomplish specific tasks. For example, as Rama, his wife Sita is abducted by the demon king Ravana. Rama kills Ravana and saves Sita. This story is told in the Ramayana, one of Hinduism's most popular sacred texts.


Yogapedia Explains Dashavatara

The avatars that make up the Dashavatara vary by region and tradition, but typically include:

  • Matsya – the fish
  • Koorma – the turtle
  • Varaaha – the boar
  • Narasimha – the lion, or powerful one
  • Vamana – the dwarf
  • Parasurama – the angry man
  • Rama – the heroic or perfect man
  • Balarama – Krishna's older brother
  • Krishna – the divine diplomat and statesman
  • Kalki – the mighty warrior, who has yet to appear

Traditions that worship Krishna as the supreme deity believe that the Dashavatara comprises avatars of Krishna, rather than Vishnu. Some traditions include Buddha as one of the incarnations of the Dashavatara, sometimes replacing Balarama. In some regions, Vithoba or Jagannath is the ninth avatar.

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