The Bhagavata Purana says that whenever evil, darkness, and tyranny overwhelm the world, Lord Vishnu will take birth on earth to restore Dharma and show people the right path. Though most people have heard of the 10 avatars of Vishnu, there are, in fact, numerous incarnations of Vishnu. Some of the important ones find mention in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Totally, Vishnu has reincarnated 23 times, and each time, he assumed a different form. It has been predicted that he will appear for the last time at the end of Kaliyuga, as Kalki, his 24th incarnation.
This is the first as well as the primary avatar of Vishnu. Also called Lord Narayana, he is depicted lying on the folds of a serpent. He is the all-powerful, the fount of all creation in the universe. From his navel, the lotus sprouts, where Brahma resides.
These were the first four conscious beings created by Lord Brahma. Their names were Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanat Kumara. They looked like infants, and their role was to assist Brahma in the creation of life.
Narada looks like a sage and has a khartal and tambura in his hands. He has a special ability to travel between realms in a matter of moments. He is a good storyteller and musician and also serves as the messenger of the gods. One could also call him the first journalist.
These two are the two twin sage avatars of Vishnu. They were born in order to ensure truth, justice, righteousness, and other key elements of Dharma on Earth. The brothers were so strong that they overpowered Pashupathastra, a powerful, destructive weapon of Shiva, through meditation.
Kapila is a Vedic sage who appears in the Mahabharata. He is believed to have founded the Samkhya School of Philosophy. Samkhya is the formula for gaining knowledge, including inference, perception, and testimony of the sources.
Dattatraya, also called Trimurti, is a sage and the master of Yoga. He is Often depicted as a saint having three heads. Each head represents Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and he has six hands. He is a combination of the three major Hindu deities.
Also called Yajneshwara, he is the personification of the Yajna ritual where a fire is lit, and a sacrifice is made to make wishes to a deity. In some texts, Indra, the king of gods, is also referred to as Yajna.
Rishabha was a preacher as well as a spiritual leader. He is the founder of Jainism. Supposedly, he escaped the cycle of birth and death and guided people to the path of salvation.
He was the first sacred king. He is responsible for all the greenery and the cultivation of crops on earth. All his life, he served God and taught people about religion.
He is the God who emerged from the Milky Ocean with a pot of Amrit (nectar of immortality), after the gods and the demons had finished churning the ocean. He is also referred to as the God of Ayurveda and is worshipped by those who seek good health.
This is a female avatar of Vishnu. He took this form to trick the demons into handing over the Amrit, which they took from the gods by force after the churning of the ocean. She, then, gave it to the gods. Vishnu as Mohini also cut off the head of Rahu with the Sudarshan chakra.
He is revered as the God of wisdom and knowledge. He has a man’s body, with a horse’s head. He defeated darkness and restored light and wisdom by recovering the Vedas that had been stolen by two demons called Madhu and Kaitaba.
Also called Veda Vyasa, he is an immortal sage who is believed to have compiled and composed many Vedas. He wrote the Mahabharata epic and was also a character in it - the father of Pandu and Dhritarashtra.
Matsya avatar is half fish, half-human. Matsya Purana says that Matsya warns Manu, the leader of the first humans, about the great flood and helps him to save all living things, the Vedas, and the seeds of all plants.
Koorma avatar is half tortoise and half-man. When the churning of the Milky Ocean took place, he balanced Mount Mandara on his shell to help the gods, and the demons churn the ocean for Amrit, the elixir of immortality. He is also said to have carried the cosmos on his back.
Varahi avatar is half-man and half-boar. In Hindu dharma, he kills the demon Hiranyaksha to save Bhudevi, the personification of the earth. He also rescues her from sinking in the ocean and brings her back to the surface, using his tusks.
Narasimha avatar is half-lion and half-human. He was born to slay the demonic king, Hiranyakashipu, and restore peace, order, and righteousness on earth.
Vamana avatar was in the form of a dwarf Brahmin. This avatar was to stop the growing might of the demon king, Mahabali. Vishnu tricked him during a sacrificing ceremony and sent him to Patal Lok.
He was a Brahmin Kshatriya and is depicted as a sage holding an ax in his hand. He took birth to end the tyranny of the Kshatriyas, who abused their powers and tormented other people, and bring them to justice.
He is one of the most powerful Hindu deities and the main character of the epic Ramayana. He kills the evil demon king Ravana and also freed his wife, Sita, whom Ravana had abducted.
In the Mahabharata, he is the elder brother of Krishna. He is very strong and carries a plow. He was the guru of Duryodhana and Bhima and taught them to use the ‘Gada’ or mace. He and Krishna had many adventures, including bringing the tyrant Kamsa, Krishna’s uncle, to justice.
He is yet another major avatar of Vishnu. He ended the rule of his tyrannical maternal uncle Kamsa. In the Mahabharata, he was the friend and advisor of the Pandavas and also Arjuna’s guide and charioteer.
He was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam, but he left his family and all material possessions seeking enlightenment. He was the founder of Buddhism and taught people to get freedom from all suffering by following his Eightfold Path.
He is the last avatar and yet to be born. It is believed that he will destroy all evil by defeating the demon Kali and begin a new Satya yuga or Kalki yuga. Kali represents all negative emotions. Kalki is often depicted as a warrior riding a white horse and carrying a shining sword.
Though Vishnu’s avatars are different in form, they had a common goal, which was to destroy evil forces and restore Dharma. This is why Vishnu is called the protector and preserver of the universe.
Dashavatar Homam is usually performed to invoke the powers of the ten avatars of Vishnu. Dashavatar Homam is believed to remove planetary doshas, protect one from enemies and provide Moksha or salvation.