The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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In Hinduism, an avatar /ˈævətɑr/ (Hindustani: əʋt̪aːr, from Sanskrit अवतार avatāra "descent") is a deliberate descent of a deity to Earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being (i.e., Vishnu for Vaishnavites), and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".
The phenomenon of an avatar (descent of God in human and other forms) is observed in Hinduism, Ayyavazhi, and Sikhism only. Thus Avataravada is one of the core principles of Hinduism along with Ekeshwaravada (One Supreme Divine Reality), Veda Praman (Authority of the Vedas), Atman, Karma, Murti Pooja, Ahimsa, and Punarjanma (Reincarnation).
The term is most often associated with Vishnu, though it has also come to be associated with other deities.Varying lists of avatars of Vishnu appear in Hindu scriptures, including the ten Dashavatara of the Garuda Purana and the twenty-two avatars in the Bhagavata Purana, though the latter adds that the incarnations of Vishnu are innumerable. The avatars of Vishnu are a primary component of Vaishnavism. An early reference to avatar, and to avatar doctrine, is in the Bhagavad Gita.
Shiva and Ganesha are also described as descending in the form of avatars. The various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism, are also described as avatars or incarnations by some scholars and followers of Shaktism. The avatars of Vishnu carry a greater theological prominence than those of other deities, which some scholars perceive to be imitative of the Vishnu avatar lists.
In Sikhism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a soul to earth in any form. Guru Granth Sahib believes in the existence of Dasavtara. In Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh wrote three composition on historical avatars which include Vishnu Avatar, Brahma Avatar, and Rudra Avatar.