“All revolutions are impossible until they happen. Then they become inevitable.” – Albie Sachs
I grew up with Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comics – like many in the 1970s and 1980s. I remember going out with my parents and buying every new comic when it was released. They brought history and mythology to life. Until the TV serials came along, the Gods were as depicted in the ACK comics.
One of my favourite comics was Dasha Avatar. It came out in the late 1970s. It brought to life the ten avatars of Vishnu. From the description in the comic:
The Avatar concept 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. The Avatar concept is closely related to the measurement of time in Hindu theology which has its basis on one working day of Brahma. According to the Bhagwat Purana, Brahma, the creator, is the causal effect of the predetermined periodic creation and dissolution of the universe. Each creation or Kalpa is equal to one day and each dissolution or Pralaya is equal to one night in the life of Brahma. A Kalpa and a Pralaya last for 4,320 million human years each. Every Kalpa has 1000 cycles of 4 Yugas (ages). Each cycle of 4 Yugas is completed in 4,320,000 human years. The Yugas are called Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. The Avatars which are considered most significant are ten in number and they form the ‘Dasha Avatar’. These ten avatars start with the form of a lowly fish and work up to the noble man, cast in the image of God. The fanciful find a parallel to Darwin’s theory of evolution in the progression of these Avatars. The Avatars enable the common folk to speak of or listen to stories of divine doings which is a simple way of proceeding towards Godhead; particularly in our Kali Yuga with its ‘sick hurry and divided aims’.
In each case, Vishnu takes on different forms to fight against evil and restore order. Here is a brief from Wikipedia:
The Dashavatara refers to the ten primary (i.e. full or complete) incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation which has Rigvedic origins. Vishnu is said to descend in the form of an avatar to restore cosmic order. The word Dashavatara derives from daśa, meaning ‘ten’, and avatar (avatāra), roughly equivalent to ‘incarnation’…Most draw from the following set of figures, in this order: Matsya; Kurma; Varaha; Narasimha; Vamana; Parashurama; Rama; Krishna or Balarama; Buddha or Krishna; and Kalki…All avatars have appeared except Kalki, who will appear at the end of the Kali Yuga. The order of the ancient concept of Dashavataras has been interpreted to be reflective of modern Darwinian evolution.
I read Dasha Avatar many times. Each avatar was covered in a few pages and showed Vishnu in different forms creatively taking on wrongdoers and winning. Among all the avatars, the one I was most fascinated by was Vishnu’s Narasimha Avatar.
Tomorrow: Part 5