Incarnations of Vishnu

Ten incarnations emanate from Vishnu. The last, Kalki, is yet to come. Rama, Krishna, and Buddha are His seventh, eighth, and ninth incarnations respectively. All three were originally historical personages, though the dates of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna’s lives are not established.

Rama and Krishna’s stories are told in the two grand Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These works came to full fruition after the Vedic era introduced by the Aryans, but they were centuries in the making. Many components of the epics antedate Aryan predominance in India, be they of Vedic or of indigenous origin. The chronology of the Aryan cultural sweep does not put the age of the Vedic literature at issue because its roots antedate its appearance in India.

Rama, the son of a King, is the hero of the grand Ramayana, which tells of his early life, his exile in the forest, and his battle to rescue his wife, Sita, who was abducted to Sri Lanka by the demon Ravana.

Lord Krishna was a cowherd, much-beloved from the time he was a baby filled with mischief. He was flutist and a charmer who teased the gopis milkmaids and who won the hearts of all whose hearts he touched. Krishna’s devotees worship Him with single-minded love, finding ecstasy in simply uttering his name. His dark blue skin comes from absorbing the poison of a five-headed snake he killed. Many worship Radha, Krishna’s beloved, as one with Him because her devotion both controlled and reflected His divinity.


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