The Avataras of lord Vishnu are Matsya (the Fish), Kurma-the Turtle, Varaha- the Boar, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Sri Ramachandra, Balarama, Sri krishna, and Kalki. Lets take a look at the slokas (sanskrit verses) and know how each of these gods are represented by a mudra.
1. Matsya Avatara
Vishnu took the form of a big fish. There is a story about this in Hindu scriptures. The Asuras or the demons snatched the Vedas, the holy books of the Hindus, and went deep inside the sea. At this point, Vishnu changed his form. He became a matsya, that is, a fish. He entered the sea and brought back the Vedas.
Matsyahasta darshayitva tatah skandasamau karau
Dhrutavu matsyavatarasya hasta etyabhidhiyate
It says that when hands are held in Matsya gesture, the Matsya avatara is depicted. Also after showing this particular incarnation, it is suggested that both hands in tripataka hasta at shoulder level be used as an inference to show lord Vishnu.
2. Kurma Avatara
Here Vishnu took the form of a Turtle (kurma) and then goes the story of the samudra manthan or the churning of the ocean.
Kurma hasta darsha eitva tatah skandasamau karau
Dhrutav kurmavatarasya etybhidhiyate
Lord Vishnu takes the form of a Boar(varaha). Here the Lord kills the demon Hiranyaksha and saves the vedas.
darshaeyitva varaham tu katiparshva samau karau
Dhrutau varahavatarasya devasya kara eshyate
The Varaha hasta is depicted with the use of varaha hand gesture at the stomach level and then placing the hands on the hips.
4. Narasimha Avatara
Here the lord takes the form of half man and half beast. He assumes the form of lion headed man and proves how the little boy Prahalad was a true devotee.
vame simhamukham dhrutva dakshine tripatakika
narasimha avataraya hasta etyuchate budhaih
5. Vamana Avatara
Here the lord incarnates himself as a dwarf priest to restore Indra’s authority over the heavens, which was taken away by force by the demon king Bali and liberates the Asura king Bali.
urdhvadho dhruta mushthibhya syanyabhyam yadi sthitaha
sa vamanavatarasya hasta etybhidiyate
Vamana avatara is shown by holding left hand in mushti hasta at the shoulder level (to show the umbrella that he carried) and right hand also in mushti at the level of the the thigh. The inner side to the palm is facing down.
Parashu means an axe, so the word literally means Rama with an axe. The purpose of the sixth incarnation of Vishnu is considered by religious scholars to be to relieve the earth’s burden by exterminating the sinful, destructive and irreligious monarchs that pillaged its resources, and neglected their duties as kings.
vamam katitate nyasya dakshinerdha patakika
dhrutau parashuramasya hasta Etyabhidhiyate.
The right hand is held in Ardhapataka. This hand is raised up to show the axe. The left hand is kept at the hips.
Here the lord takes birth as a son of Dhasharataha and kaushalya in Ayodhya. And later leads the life with strict adherence of satya (truth) and Dharma despite hardship and personal travails.
kapityo dakshine haste vame tu shikharah karaha
urdhva dhruto ramachandrahasta etyuchate
Balarama is known as the elder brother of krishna. He is known for his imence power and hence the name balrama where “bal” means power in sanskrit.
patako dakshine haste mrushirvamakare tatha
balaramavatarasya has etyuchate
In sanskrit the word ‘Krishn’ means black or dark and and is used as a name to describe someone with dark skin. Krishna is often depicted as a baby, as a young boy playing a flute. Main purpose of this avatar was to provide the mankind with a manual of life – The Bhagavat Gita.
mrugashirshe tu hastabhyam nyonyabhimukhe krute
asyopakanthe krushnasya hasta etychate
Bring left hand near right cheek. Left hand in mrigashirsa hasta facing inwards and the right hand is also in mrigashirsha but facing outwards. This is to show the flute that he carries.
It is said in the scriptures that lord Vishnu will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. Some represent him as an amalgam of a horses head and a man’s body.
patako dakshine vame tripatakah karo dhrutaha
kalkya khasyavatarasya hasta etyuchate
I shall try putting up the pictures for each of the Hastas soon.