Hotels in India » Religion-culture in India » Lord Vishnu - Divine Magnificence

Lord Vishnu - Divine Magnificence

“Sarvadeva namaskaraya Keshavam pratigachchathi: Prayers to all deities ultimately reach lord Vishnu

Vishnu can easily be described as the most important lord of the Hindu Trinity. Look to north India and you have Meera, the woman saint singing soulfully to her lord, Hari tum haro man ke pid. She invokes Vishnu by the name of Hari. O hari, the remover of all sorrow, come bless me, she sings. A devotee similar to her in South India called Andal sings the thirupavai again in praise of Lord Vishnu as Narayana. Kabir, the weaver poet, surrendered to the Lord while Tulsidas wrote volumes about the same lord. Thayagaraja gave body to a whole genre of music composed in praise of this god and Jayadeva gave a form of classical dance its lyrics and mood, all centering around the very same lord. Can we forget Valmiki the father of Sanskrit poetry who wrote the Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama? Or can we forget Vyasa who describes the wisdom of Lord Krishna in whose incarnation Vishnu appears? The story of Vishnu and his many incarnations, is all pervading. In fact the word Vishnu is said to mean, all pervading, deriving from the root word vis which in Sanskrit means to enter.

A long time ago when the world was very young, a small child lay on a banyan leaf and wondered as most of us keep doing, what his purpose in life was, “Who am I? Who created me? Why? What have I to perform?” True the baby was rather young for thoughts so profound but that was because the baby was none other than Lord Vishnu Himself. Lord Vishnu was then reminded of his all pervading powers, the foremost attribute of which was purity. His was the duty to preserve, to bring back purity into the world when it was being threatened. Brahma created while Siva, destroyed. The Puranas are very clear on one aspect: none of the three are superior to the other. To prove their equality stories abound and the versions are often confusing.

The Vedic Vishnu is believed to be a personification of the sun, Aditya. In this aspect he traverses the universe and pervades all. In yet another branch of religious literature, Narayana is the cosmic Purusha, in whose model the universe has been created, who is synonymous with sacrifice. There are many who offer different interpretations to the attributes of Vishnu as described in the Vedas, but the supremacy of Vishnu is undisputed. He stands above all, above even the king of the heavens. It is his pleasure that is the highest blessing that one can attain.

All through literature, whether it be amongst the Vaishnavites of Bengal or those of Tamil Nadu, Vishnu, the supreme stands handsome towering above all else. He is believed to be dark as the black cloud, the blue gem, the sea, the kayampu flower (memecylon Malabaricum) and the anjana (collyrium) His chest and shoulders are compared to the mountains, so vast and so strong. And he is very tall. He carries the magnificent chakra (discus) in his right hand and the shankha (conch) in the other.

Vishnu spells magnificence and grandeur. He is not like Shiva who wears ashes on his body and ties a leopard skin around his waist, wearing snakes for necklaces. Vishnu to is handsome as handsome can be, he is, however, more sophisticated. He wears a golden silk garment, pitambara as it is called. And he is adorned with ornaments, gems and garlands of gold and beads decorate his broad chest. Has anybody seem him, one wonders for all the texts says his face is like a lotus in bloom, his feet like the lotus itself, his eyes the shape of a lotus petal. Vishnu resides not on hill tops or caves but in the celestial city of Vaikunta. It is said to be 80000 miles in circumference and is entirely made of gold. All its buildings are made of jewels, There are five pools containing blue, red and white lotuses. On a seat as glorious as the meridian sun, sits Vishnu. Beside him is his consort, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Vaishnavites believe Vishnu is the unparalleled one. No wonder then that almost every incarnation of his has a following of its own! A temple of its own and a special significance too. Folklore that is partial to Vaishnavism is forever working to establish its supremacy over Saivism (the worship of Siva). Many tales tell of how Vishnu saves Siva from destruction.

Vishnu is purity and so there is balance in every aspect of him. He is slow to chide and swift to bless. His foremost attribute is sattva that is goodness. Siva’s foremost attribute is tamasa or inertia while Brahma’s is rajasa or activity. True to his purpose, Vishnu appeared each time there was need to revive goodness in the world. Some puranas or ancient texts describe twenty four incarnations of Lord Vishnu, more commonly ten of then are mentioned.

The first one is called the matsya avatar or the incarnation in the form of a fish. In this form, Vishnu saved the world from floods and brought back the sacred scriptures, the Vedas which had been stolen by a demon named Hayagriva. As kurma avatar or as the incarnation in the form of a tortoise, Lord Vishnu is said to have supported the mountain mandara which was being used to churn the ocean. Mythology says the churning of the ocean was undertaken to obtain the life giving elixir for the devas or the gods. Mandara, the mountain could not stand in the waters, it seemed to be sinking. To prevent this from happening, the tortoise lent its back for mandara to stand on. The third avatar was in the form of a boar. The earth tormented by a demon named Hiranyaksha had sunk into the waters. Lord Vishnu slew the demon and assuming the form of a boar brought up the earth on its horn once again in the varaha avatar. In the Narasimha avatar, the Lord appears as half man-half lion. This is the first time the man figure is introduced in the story of the descent of the lord Vishnu. Narasimha comes to slay yet another demon called Hiranyakahsyapu who was causing havoc in the world. As vamana, Lord Vishnu appears in the form of a dwarf. A dwarf that gradually grows in size to cover the entire universe. Story goes that he asks a boon of a king and the king had exhausted all his riches. The dwarf asks for but three steps and as each step grows larger than the other, the dwarf, in his form as Vishnu brings the end of the king Bali who aspired to be the king of heavens. As the sixth avatar, Lord Vishnu comes as Parasurama. Here there is lot of debate on whether Parasurama is really an incarnation or not. Parasurama was the son of sage Jamadagni. The more important incarnation is the one to follow: as Rama. The story of Rama has caught many people’s fancy and across the entire South Asia, you can see its impact. Some deify Rama, others treat it as literature, but Rama remains the ideal man. Poets have been inspired by his story and literature and the arts relies heavily on his for inspiration. In fact this is even truer of the following incarnation where he appeared as Krishna. The eighth incarnation where he appeared as Krishna. The eighth incarnation is that of Krishna. Krishna symbolizes many aspects of life and as a composite figure represents the past, present and the future. He forms the motif for dance, drama, and many other forms of art. Both Krishna and Rama have been so deeply adored by the people that they have acquired kaleidoscopic dimensions over time. As Rama, Vishnu took the form of a mortal. As Krishna, he was still divine in some aspects.

The ninth incarnation, is again under great debate. Some say it is Buddha and others says before the Krishna avatar came that of Balarama, the elder brother of Krishna. The tenth incarnation is yet to take place and here Lord Vishnu is believed will come riding on a white horse and save the world once again from deluge.

Here the incarnations have just been mentioned. Volumes are written about a single incarnation because it is seen at the physical level as the story of evolution, at the emotional level as the victory of goodness and at the metaphysical as the fountainhead of symbolism. Each act has so many lessons to teach, so many perspectives to lend to the human mind and between these three aspects, all manifestations of nature are found to derive from Vishnu himself, directly or indirectly.