In this article, I will briefly talk some of the most famous stories about Lord Vishnu and his incarnations.
Lord Vishnu is the preserver. He lives in the Ocean of Milk called Vaikunta. His consort is Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Lakshmi sits by the feet of Lord Vishnu which shows that she is a dutiful wife. Lord Vishnu rests on the serpent Adisesha. His mount is Garuda, which resembles an eagle. He carries the Sudharshana Chakra and a mace. According to popular belief, Lord Vishnu has ten incarnations. He has incarnated nine times and will assume an avatar at the end of the Kali Yuga. He has more than ten incarnations, but these ten are said to be the most important for us.
Dashavataram means ten incarnations. These are Matysa, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Narsimha, Rama, Krishna, Parashurama, Buddha, Kalki. These avatars will be discussed in detail in another article. Lord Vishnu takes an avatar to establish dharma when unrighteousness prevails in every age.
How Garuda came to be Lord Vishnu’s vahana:
Garuda was the son of Sage Kashyap and Vinuta. His brother is Arun, who became the charioteer of Surya. The story of how Garuda came to be Lord Vishnu’s vahana goes like this: Vinuta and Kadru were having an argument about whether the tail of the flying horse Ucchairavas was black or white. Kadru insisted that the tail was black whereas Vinuta said it was white. They then made a bet: the loser of the bet would have to serve the other for the rest of her life. At night, Kadru asked her sons, the snakes to hang onto the tail of the horse. The next morning, when the wives looked at the tail of the horse again, it was black. Kadru had won the bet by deceit. When Garuda heard of this, he felt that it was very unfair that he and his mother would have to serve Kadru and her sons for the rest of their lives. Garuda then asked his half-brothers to free him. The snakes agreed but on one condition: He would have to bring the nectar of immortality. Garuda agreed and set off on his journey. On the way, he fed on a tribal group, a monstrous elephant and tortoise, who were creating trouble for the sages. He then proceeded to meet his father Kashyap and sought his blessings. He defeated quite a few celestials, before defeating a pair of fiery snakes who were guarding the amrit. Garuda then proceeded take the nectar to the snakes. Lord Vishnu, who was very pleased that Garuda had not taken a sip of the amrit, asked Garuda to ask for a boon. Garuda wished to be with Lord Vishnu forever to which Lord Vishnu readily agreed. Garuda then offered Lord Vishnu a boon, who in turn asked Garuda to be his vahana to which Garda agreed. On his way, he was struck by the lightning bolt of Indra, the Vajra. Garuda respectfully said that the Vajra did not cause him any pain, but out of respect for the weapon he took a single feather from his wings. Indra then requested Garuda not to give the nectar. Garuda replied that he was taking the nectar for a purpose. Indra could take the nectar back after that. Indra offered Garuda a boon. Garuda said: “Let the snakes be my food”. Indra agreed. Then, Garuda took the nectar and placed it on the Kusha grass. He asked his half-brothers to take a purifying bath before consuming the nectar. Right after the snakes left, Indra took the nectar away. He liberated his mother from being a slave to Kadru in exchange for bringing the nectar of immortality and left to be with Lord Vishnu forever.
How Adisesha became Lord Vishnu’s bed.
Adisesha is Garuda’s half-brother and Kadru’s son. When Kadru asked her serpent sons to suspend themselves on the horse Ucchairavas’ tail, Adisesha and a few other snakes refused to do so. Kadru then cursed them that they would all die in King Janmeyjaya’s sacrifice. Afraid, Adisesha prayed to Lord Brahma who then told him to go to the netherworld and bear the earth on his hood. By doing so, Adisesha’s coils formed the bed of Lord Vishnu. It is said that when Adisesha uncoils, time moves forward and when he coils back, the universe will cease to exist and only Anantha will remain. In a way, Adisesha is Lord Vishnu himself. In the Bhagwat Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: “Of the Nagas, I am Anantha”. It is believed that Adisesha is a primordial creature and that he is the only one who can survive the end of the world.
Pundalik and Vittala
There was once a brahmin named Pundalik who was travelling to Kashi. On the way there, he reached the ashram of Sage Kutkut and asked him for the way. When the sage replied that he did not know, Pundalik made fun of him. Later, he observed that three women were cleaning the sage’s ashram. Upon taking a closer look, he realized that these women were the great rivers: Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. He asked them why they were cleaning the ashram of the rishi. They replied saying that the sage had accumulated Punya only by doing good deeds. They also explained that it was not necessary to go to holy places to attain moksha.
Pundalik realized his mistake and rushed back home to take his parents to Kashi and look after them diligently. Lord Vishnu was extremely pleased with his devotion and decided to visit him. Time passed and Pundalik had reached a stage of devotion towards serving his aged parents that it did not matter whether his guest was a human or God. He gave Vishnu a brick to stand on and requested him to wait until he had completed his duty towards his parents. After serving his parents, Pundalik begged for forgiveness for asking the Lord to wait. Lord Vishnu insisted that he ask for a boon. Then Pundalik requested that Lord Vishnu should remain on earth and look after his devotees forever. A temple was built in that place and Lord Vishnu became an idol of that temple.
Gajendra was the king of elephants. Once, he and his herd went to pick lotuses from a lake. When Gajendra set foot in the lake a crocodile grabbed it. He screamed and cried for help. The members of the herd tried to help him, but it was all in vain. They realized that it was time for Gajendra to die. With the last bit of energy he had, Gajendra prayed to Lord Vishnu to free him from the crocodile. Hearing the prayer, Lord Vishnu came to the scene riding on Garuda, his vahana, and chopped the crocodile’s head, liberating the elephant and granting him moksha.
This was just a brief recount of the stories around Lord Vishnu. I hope you enjoyed reading some of the stories as much as I did to write this article.
Thank you for reading.
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