Book by Ganga Somany ( 2004)
Avatar origin : (“descent”), in Hinduism, the incarnation of a deity in human or animal form to counteract some particular evil in the world. The term usually refers to these 10 appearances of Vishnu: Matsya (fish), Kūrma (tortoise), Varāha (boar), Narasiṃha (half man, half lion), Vāmana (dwarf), Paraśurāma (Rāma with the axe), Rāma (hero of the Rāmāyaṇa epic), Krishna (the divine cowherd), Buddha, and Kalkin (the incarnation yet to come). The number of Vishnu’s avatars is sometimes extended or their identities changed, according to local preferences.
avatar av·a·tar noun
Etymology: Sanskrit avatāraḥ descent, from avatarati he descends, from ava- away + tarati he crosses over.
1 : the incarnation of a Hindu deity (as Vishnu)
2 a : an incarnation in human form b : an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person
3 : a variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity
4 : an electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in a computer game)
Daśāvatāra refers to the ten principal avatars. In Vaishnava philosophy, an avatar (Sanskrit: अवतार, avatāra), most commonly refers to the ‘descent’ and daśa refers to ‘ten’ in number. The ten most famous incarnations of Vishnu or sometimes Krishna are collectively known as the Dashavatara.
Also see: New York Times article on the word avatar
Published: August 8, 2008