CONCEPT OF DIVINE INCARNATIONS IN HINDU THEOLOGY
The concept of Incarnation (avataara) is the very cornerstone of Hindu theology.According to it, the Supreme power manifests itself in animal or human forms on earth,with the divine mission of cleansing it of the periodically increasing evil. Avataaraconcept has given scope for personal gods. Hindus believe in the concept of PersonalGod (Ishta Devata).The incarnation concept is closely related to the measurement of time in Hindu theologywhich has its basis on one working day of Brahma, the creator. According to BhaagavataPuraana, Brahma, the creator, is the casual effect of the predetermined periodic creationand dissolution of the Universe.Each creation or Kalpa is equal to one day and each dissolution or Pralaya is equal to onenight in the life of Brahma. A Kalpa and Pralaya last for 4,320 million human years each.Every Kalpa has 1000 cycles of four yugas (ages). Each cycle of 4 yugas is completed in4,320, 000 human years. These are called Satya (Krita), Treta, Dwaapara and Kali.Lord Krishna declares in Bhagawad-Gita thus;
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir-bhavati Bhaarata / Abhyuttaana-madharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham // Paritraanaaya saadhoonam vinaasaaya cha dushkritaam / Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavami yuge yuge //
“Whenever, O descendant of Bhaarata, there is decline of
dharma and rise of adharma,then I body myself forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked,and for the establishment of dharma, I
come into being in every yuga (age)”. This aspect
of the Lord is called Incarnation or Avataara in Samskrit. The Samskrit word avataara has
two syllables „ava‟ meaning to protect and „taara‟ meaning conquering or crossing over.
“The doctrine that God can
be incarnated in human form is found in most of the principlehistoric expositions of the perennial philosophy
in Hinduism, in Mohammedanism of
Sufis, Mahaayaana Buddhism, in Christianity……every human being thus can become anavataara by adoption” to quo
te Aldus Huxley from his Perennial Philosophy.There are several beliefs regarding the divine incarnation. They are: a) Supreme God-head comes down from the heaven and assumes the form of human beings; b) All humanbeings evolve by leading a highly righteous and pious life. They get enlightened andbecome noble souls and finally release the people from worldly bondage (samsaara).They transform the society for a new world order. Hindus believe in both and there areumpteen illustrations for both views in Hinduism; c) There is a theory of Avataaravaada.According to it the full development of avataaravaada seems to have been influenced byBuddhist conception of the former Buddhas, some of whom were worshipped in theirown Stupas as early as 300 B.C., that a large number of Buddhists were admitted into thefold of Vaishnavism towards the close of Hindu period as suggested by the inclusion of Buddha in the list of Vishnu Avataaras.