Who is Vishnu? The Preserver God

Vishnú is one of the main gods of Hinduism, considered the preserver of the universe in the triad (or Trimurti) that also includes Brahmā (the creator) and Shiva (the destroyer).

Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and beauty is the consort of Vishnu and is often depicted at his side.

In the Rigveda, Vishnú is mentioned, but does not have the prominence and prominence that he acquires in later texts. In these Vedic hymns, Vishnú is known primarily for his three steps or “three strides” with which he measures the cosmos. Although he is an important god in the Rigveda, his role is minor compared to other deities such as Indra, Agni and Varuna.

It is in the Puranas that Vishnu is elevated to one of the supreme gods within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity. In addition, the Puranas introduce the concept of the “avatars” of Vishnu: divine incarnations that he takes to descend into the world and restore the dharma or cosmic order when it is threatened.

In this article we will detail in depth the meaning of Lord Vishnu. We will also discuss his avatars, the worship of his figure, some of his mantras and festivals associated with him.

Symbols of God Vishnu

Símbolos asociados al dios Vishnú y su significado espiritual.

In Hinduism, the gods are represented with a large number of symbols. These symbols are not mere ornaments. They hide deep spiritual teachings that serve as a guide for devotees on the path to freedom or inner peace. In this section we will analyze the different symbols belonging to the iconography of Vishnu and what are the meanings that are usually associated with each of them:

Four Arms

The four arms of Vishnu are a symbol of his omnipotence and omnipresence. In each of his four hands he carries a different object. Each of these objects hides in itself profound spiritual teachings. The four symbols that Vishnu usually carries are the Shankha (Conch), the Sudarshana Chakra (Disk), the Gada (Scepter or mace) and the Padma (Lotus Flower)

Shanka (Conch)

The Shankha or conch is an iconic symbol in Hinduism and particularly associated with the god Vishnu.

It represents the primordial sound from which creation emerged. In Hindu cosmology, it is believed that before creation, there was only the sound“Om“, and the Shankha emits a sound that resembles this primordial mantra. By blowing the Shankha, the divine sound is invoked and a connection to the eternal and immortal is established. It is a call to divinity and spiritual elevation.

Associated with Vishnu, the Shankha symbolizes purity and auspiciousness. Vishnu is the preserver of dharma (cosmic order) and the well-being of the universe. By wearing the Shankha, Vishnú is calling upon the divine powers to maintain balance and harmony in the world. It is a reminder that despite whatever chaos and destruction there may be, order will always be restored.

In addition, the spiral shape of the Shankha represents the infinity of the cosmos and the continuous cycle of birth, life and death. The spiral can be seen as a metaphor for the spiritual evolution of the soul, which advances on an ascending path towards final liberation or moksha.

In Hindu rituals and ceremonies, Shankha is used to both initiate and conclude ceremonies. In doing so, it purifies the environment, driving away negative energies and attracting positive vibrations. It is a symbol of divine protection and is considered an amulet against evil.

Sudarshana Chakra or Disk

The Sudarshana Chakra is a spinning disc, with sharp edges, and is considered not only a weapon, but also a symbol of divine power and cosmic order

Literally,“Sudarshana” translates as “auspicious vision“, and “Chakra” means“wheel” or “disc“. Therefore, beyond being just a weapon, the Sudarshana Chakra also symbolizes the divine ability to see beyond the obvious, to perceive ultimate truth and to eliminate ignorance. It is an instrument that cuts through illusion and shows us reality as it is.

In mythology, this disc has been used by Vishnu on numerous occasions to defeat demons and protect dharma (the cosmic order). Its spinning nature, moving quickly and with precision, symbolizes the god’s ability to be everywhere at once, to be omnipresent and to restore balance whenever necessary.

On a deeper level, the Chakra represents the eternal cycle of life, death and reincarnation, reminding us of the impermanence of existence and the need for release (moksha) from this cycle. The revolving nature of the chakra can be interpreted as samsara, the continuous cycle of birth and rebirth that all beings experience until they reach liberation.

It also represents purification. Just as a surgeon uses a scalpel to remove a disease, Vishnú uses his Chakra to remove evil and restore purity. It is a manifestation of divine power to preserve, protect and, when necessary, destroy to maintain the balance of the universe.

Gada (Mace)

The Gada is the mace or scepter usually carried by Vishnu. It is called “Kaumodaki” and, like other attributes of Vishnú, carries with it a deep symbolism and multiple interpretations.

  • Symbol of power and authority: In many cultures, a scepter or mace is an emblem of royal or divine authority. The Gada represents Vishnu’s unparalleled power and authority over creation. It is a reminder of his role as the preserver of the universe and his ability to maintain dharma or cosmic order.
  • Removal of obstacles and evil: Being a weapon, the Gada also symbolizes Vishnú’s ability to overcome and destroy the forces of evil and ignorance. It represents the strength with which the god faces and eliminates the adversities that disturb the harmony of the cosmos.
  • Manifestation of concentrated energy: With its weight and form, the Gada is a weapon of concentrated energy that can be used both to destroy and to establish order. Symbolically, it can be interpreted as the concentrated energy or tapas that spiritual practitioners accumulate through meditation and other acts of devotion.
  • Representation of spiritual knowledge: In some interpretations, the Gada is seen as a symbol of spiritual knowledge that can defeat ignorance. Just as the mace can crush any obstacle in its path, true knowledge can overcome confusion and illusion (maya).

Padma (Lotus)

The lotus flower, whose Sanskrit name is padma, is one of the Hindu and Buddhist symbols par excellence and appears constantly in the iconography of the various deities. Vishnu is usually represented with a lotus in one of his four hands. This is the spiritual meaning usually attributed to the lotus:

  • Purity and transcendence: the lotus grows in muddy waters and, despite its origins, blooms pure and unblemished on the surface of the water. This unique characteristic makes it a perfect symbol of purity, rebirth and transcendence. Like the lotus, Vishnu represents transcendence over the impurities of the material world and the bondage of samsara (cycle of birth, death and reincarnation).
  • Creation and cosmic origin: In Hinduism, the lotus also symbolizes creation. It is said that the god Brahma, the creator of the universe, was born from a lotus that emerged from Vishnu’s navel. This association reinforces the idea of the lotus as the origin of life and cosmic manifestation.
  • Spiritual evolution: The progression of the lotus, from the mud to the surface of the water where it blooms, is a metaphor for the spiritual evolution of the individual. From ignorance and materiality (represented by the mud) to enlightenment and spiritual realization (the blooming flower).
  • Beauty and prosperity: In addition to its spiritual significance, the lotus is also a symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. Vishnu is often associated with the preservation and well-being of the universe, and the lotus complements this idea by representing abundance and wealth in all its forms.

Shesha

Vishnú es representado con la serpiente Shesha.

Shesha, also known as Ananta (meaning “endless” or “eternal” in Sanskrit), is a thousand-headed primordial serpent that plays a prominent role in Hindu mythology, especially in relation to the god Vishnu.

  • Eternity and Infinity: As its name suggests, Ananta represents the eternal and infinite. As Vishnú rests upon it, this serpent embodies the eternity of time and the vastness of the universe, serving as a constant reminder of the infinity of the cosmos and divine perpetuity.
  • Cosmic support: In traditional representations, Shesha holds Vishnu, symbolizing the underlying support of the universe. In Hindu philosophy, the entire universe is believed to be sustained by divine energies, and Shesha acts as a metaphor for this essential cosmic support.
  • Cycles of creation and destruction: It is said that when the universe comes to an end in the cosmic cycle, only Shesha remains, testifying to the dissolution and subsequent recreation of the universe. In this way, Shesha also symbolizes the ceaseless cycle of creation, preservation and destruction that governs the cosmos.
  • Serpent as guardian and protector: The multiple heads of Shesha, often depicted with unfurled hoods, also indicate protection. While Vishnu rests, Shesha protects and watches over him, symbolizing divine protection and the safeguarding of cosmic balance.
  • Representation of Kundalini energy: In yoga, the snake is a symbol of kundalini energy, a primordial force that resides at the base of the spine. Shesha, being a snake, can also be interpreted as a representation of this vital and primordial energy.

Tilaka

Vaishnava devotees, who worship Vishnu and his various incarnations (such as Krishna and Rama) wear a Tilaka which is vertical and usually consists of two vertical lines with a line or mark in the middle. This shape is said to represent the foot of Vishnu and his abode, Vaikuntha. Common materials used for this Tilaka include clay from the Yamuna River or sandalwood paste.

On occasion, Vishnu himself is depicted wearing one of these marks on his forehead. This specific Tilaka, known as the“Urdhva Pundra“, is a distinctive mark that is in the shape of a“V” or two vertical lines with a horizontal line or mark in the middle.

This sign can be interpreted in several ways:

  • Representation of Vishnu: The “V” shape or the two vertical lines on Vishnu’s forehead represent Lord Vishnu himself and his conserving energy in the cosmos.
  • The Heavenly Abode: The mark in the middle of the two vertical lines, often represented as a leaf or a horizontal line, symbolizes“Vaikuntha“, the heavenly abode of Vishnú.
  • The Feet of the Lord: The two vertical lines are also interpreted by some as the sacred feet of the Lord. By depicting Him with these lines, the notion that Vishnu is the ultimate refuge for His devotees is emphasized.
  • Duality and unity: The two vertical lines may represent the duality inherent in creation: day and night, good and evil, male and female, etc. The line or mark in the middle symbolizes the unity or transcendental principle that underlies and unites these dualities.
  • Protection and grace: As a mark on the Lord, the Tilaka also symbolizes his function as the protector of the cosmos and his grace descending upon the devotees.
  • Spiritual awareness: The forehead is the location of the “third eye” or “ajna chakra“, a center of wisdom and spiritual awareness. By bearing this mark on his forehead, Vishnu highlights the importance of spiritual awareness and divine connection.

Garuda, the Vahana or Vehicle of Vishnu

Garuda es el vehículo o vahana del dios Vishnú.

Garuda, often described as the king of birds, is a half-man, half-eagle creature and a symbol of devotion, virtue and purity.

To fully understand the relationship between Garuda and Vishnú, it is essential to address the myth of his origin. According to ancient scriptures, Garuda was born of the great sages Kashyapa and Vinata. He was born with the goal of freeing his mother from slavery by confronting the formidable race of snakes called Nāgas to obtain the elixir of immortality, or amrita. Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, Garuda succeeded in obtaining the amrita and, at the same time, earned the respect of the gods for his bravery and devotion.

Vishnu himself, impressed with Garuda’s determination and power, offered to grant him a wish. Instead of asking for something for himself, Garuda requested to always remain the vehicle (vahana) of Vishnú. This decision reflected his humility and selfless devotion. From that moment on, Garuda became the vahana of Vishnú, carrying the god on his back throughout the kingdoms and heavens, symbolizing the union of divine power with duty and devotion.

Vaishnavism or Visnuism: The Cult of Vishnú

Seguidor de Vishnú con una Tilaka en la frente.

Broadly speaking, Vaishnavism or Visnuism is centered on the veneration of Vishnu, one of the primordial gods of the Hindu triad, and his various incarnations, particularly Rama and Krishna. Over the centuries, this tradition has significantly influenced the culture, philosophy and spirituality of India and other regions of the subcontinent.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly Vaishnavism emerged, the roots of this tradition can be traced back to ancient Vedic texts. Vishnu is mentioned in the Rigveda, but his role is amplified in the Puranas, especially in the Bhagavata Purana, where his avatars and associated legends are narrated.

Over time, Vaishnavism diversified and gave rise to different sects and philosophical schools. For example, the Ramanuja tradition emphasizes the concept of personal devotion to God (bhakti) and proposes a model of qualitative relationship between the individual soul and the divine. On the other hand, the Gaudiya tradition, centered on the figure of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, emphasizes loving worship of Krishna and Radha.

At the core of Vaishnavism lies the belief in Vishnu as the supreme god. Vishnu is conceived as the preserver of the universe, and his avatars, or incarnations, descend to Earth in times of cosmic crisis to restore dharma (order and justice). Of his ten principal avatars, called Dasavatara, Rama and Krishna are especially revered.

Devotion (bhakti) is essential in this tradition. Through acts of love, worship and surrender, devotees seek to draw closer to Vishnu and ultimately attain liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death. This devotion is expressed through chants, prayers, rituals and festivals.

Vaishnavism is steeped in rituals and celebrations. Janmashtami, which commemorates the birth of Krishna, and Rama Navami, the birth anniversary of Rama, are two of the most popular festivals. During these festivals, theatrical performances of the legends of Krishna and Rama, devotional singing and dancing are common.

The act of chanting mantras, especially the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is central to some Vaishnava traditions. This chanting is believed to purify the soul and create a direct link with the divine.

Vaishnavism is based on a wide range of texts. Although the Vedas are the basis of the entire Hindu tradition, Vaishnavism gives particular importance to the Puranas, such as the aforementioned Bhagavata Purana. Another fundamental text is the Bhagavad Gita, part of the epic Mahabharata. In this dialogue between Krishna and Prince Arjuna, the main philosophical and ethical teachings of Vaishnavism are presented.

The 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu

Vishnu is said to descend to earth in various forms to restore dharma or cosmic order when threatened by chaos and adharma (injustice). There are ten main avatars, collectively known as“Dasavatara“. Let us briefly describe each of these avatars of the god Vishnu:

Matsya

Matsya es el primer Avatar de Vishnú y es representado como un pez.

Matsya, literally translated as “fish” in Sanskrit, represents the first avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, one of the supreme deities of Hinduism. This fish-like form is not only symbolic in nature, but also represents divine intervention at critical moments to preserve essential wisdom and knowledge for mankind.

The story of Matsya is commonly related to the great flood, a narrative that has parallels in many religious traditions around the world. According to Hindu texts, there was a period when a great cataclysm was predicted in the form of a flood that threatened to destroy all of creation and eliminate the sacred knowledge contained in the Vedas.

Sensing this imminent threat, Vishnu took the form of Matsya and warned King Manu, the first human, of the coming deluge. He instructed the king to build a boat and take with him the Saptarishi, or seven sages, as well as the semen of each animal species and the sacred scriptures, the Vedas. When the waters began to rise, Matsya guided Manu’s boat through the turmoil, ensuring its safety. Once the waters receded, Manu was able to repopulate the land and, with the help of the Vedas, restore dharma or order and justice to the world.

The depiction of Matsya is not only a reminder of destruction and renewal, but also of the importance of preserving knowledge and wisdom through adversity. Matsya, in its essence, symbolizes divine guidance in times of darkness and the impermanence of life on earth, highlighting the cyclical nature of creation and destruction in the Hindu universe.

Kurma

Kurma es el segundo avatar de Vishnú y es representado como una tortuga.

Kurma, the second avatar of Vishnu, like other incarnations of the god, manifests at a crucial time to restore balance in the cosmos, demonstrating how the divine can take any form, even that of an animal, to preserve dharma.

The most famous story related to Kurma centers on the “Samudra Manthan” or churning of the ocean of milk. The gods (Devas) and demons (Asuras) decided to join forces to churn the ocean of milk in search of “amrita“, the nectar of immortality. To do this, they used Mount Mandara as a churning rod and the serpent Vasuki as a rope. However, as they began the process, they realized that Mount Mandara was sinking into the ocean.

To prevent Mount Mandara from sinking and to ensure the success of the process, Vishnu took the form of the turtle Kurma and plunged into the ocean, offering his back as a stable base on which Mount Mandara rested. Thanks to Kurma’s intervention, the mount stood firm and the churning could continue until finally the precious amrita emerged, along with other divine treasures.

The avatar Kurma, beyond his mythological narrative, symbolizes endurance and unwavering support. The stable and sturdy nature of the turtle reflects the idea that, in times of upheaval and change, a solid foundation is needed to ensure success. In addition, Kurma represents divine sacrifice and Vishnu’s commitment to maintain cosmic harmony and assist in the realization of righteous goals, even if that requires taking humble or unusual forms.

Varaha

Varaha es el tercer avatar de Vishnú en la mitología.

The myth of Varaha is intrinsically linked to the demon Hiranyaksha. This powerful and ambitious demon, through his penance, gained formidable powers and decided to submerge the Earth, personified as the goddess Prithvi, in the primordial waters of the cosmos. This symbolic act not only represented a physical abduction of the Earth, but also a deviation from cosmic order and righteousness.

To combat this disturbance and rescue the goddess Prithvi, Vishnu took the form of Varaha, the boar. Varaha plunged into the cosmic waters and fought fiercely against Hiranyaksha. After an epic battle, Varaha slew the demon with his tusks and raised the Earth, restoring it to its original place in the universe with Prithvi safely in his tusks.

Beyond the action and drama, the Varaha avatar symbolizes restoration and revival. The form of the boar, an animal known for its ability to dig and uncover what is hidden, is emblematic of the divine effort to unearth truth and dharma from the depths of darkness and adversity.

Narasimha

Narasimha es el cuarto avatar de Vishnú y toma forma de león.

The story of Narasimha centers on the demon Hiranyakashipu, who, through intense austerities, obtained a special blessing from Brahmā. The blessing stated that he could not be killed by day or night, inside or outside a building, in heaven or on earth, by human or animal. Armed with this blessing, Hiranyakashipu became tyrannical, demanding that all worship him as the only god.

However, his own son, Prahlada, remained steadfast in his devotion to Vishnu. Despite Hiranyakashipu’s attempts to persuade, threaten and finally try to kill Prahlada, the young man remained unwavering in his faith. Enraged by Prahlada’s devotion to Vishnu and after a particularly vicious attempt to murder his son, the nearby pillar broke and from it emerged Narasimha.

Narasimha, being neither fully man nor fully animal, attacked Hiranyakashipu at dusk (neither day nor night) at the threshold of his palace (neither inside nor outside), placed him on his knees (neither in heaven nor on earth) and tore him to pieces with his claws.

Vamana

Vamana es un brahman enano y quinta reencarnación de Vishnú.

Unlike previous incarnations, who took epic and fiercely powerful forms to face adversity, Vamana, a dwarf Brahmin, symbolizes the greatness that can reside in humility.

Vamana’s story revolves around the demon king Bali, who, through his power and mercy, had managed to dominate the three worlds: heaven, earth and the underworld. Although Bali was just and generous, his dominion over heaven unbalanced the cosmic order, since the Devas (gods) had been displaced from their abode.

To correct this imbalance, Vishnú took the form of Vamana. He appeared before Bali as a young dwarf Brahmin, with an umbrella and a begging bowl. Recognizing Vamana as a venerable Brahmin, Bali offered him whatever he asked for. Vamana, in his humble request, asked for only three steps of land.

When Bali agreed, Vamana began to expand to a cosmic size. With the first step, he covered the entire earth; with the second, the sky; and having nowhere to place the third step, Bali, in an act of humility and recognition of his destiny, offered his own head. Vamana then placed it in the underworld, symbolizing not only his defeat, but also his liberation and spiritual elevation.

Vamana’s story teaches that one does not need a grandiose form to achieve grandiose feats. It symbolizes the vastness of the cosmos, the power of the divine in any form and, perhaps most importantly, the virtue of keeping promises and the inevitability of dharma in restoring cosmic order.

Parashurama

Parashurama es un gran guerrero. Sexto avatar de lord Vishnú.

While other manifestations of Vishnú arose to deal with specific threats or restore dharma in extraordinary circumstances, Parashurama was born on earth as a brahmin with a specific mission: to confront and correct the tyranny of the warrior class, the kshatriyas.

The name “Parashurama” translates as “Rama with the axe“, and it is precisely this axe, bestowed by the god Shiva, that becomes the instrument of his justice. He was born as the son of the sage Jamadagni and Renuka, and from a young age demonstrated extraordinary skills and abilities.

Parashurama’s enmity with the kshatriyas began when the Kartavirya king Arjuna stole his father’s cow Kamadhenu . This was no ordinary cow, but a divine cow that could grant any wish. Enraged by this action and by the subsequent murder of his father at the hands of the same king, Parashurama vowed revenge. He undertook a series of campaigns against the Kshatriyas and, according to some sources, he traveled the land twenty-one times, eradicating the tyranny of the Kshatriyas and restoring justice.

What makes Parashurama especially interesting is his duality: being a Brahmin, the caste traditionally associated with learning and nonviolence, he becomes an unstoppable warrior. However, despite his anger and violent mission, he is also a scholar and teacher, passing on knowledge and techniques to future warriors and kings, including the famous Bhishma of the Mahabharata epic.

Rama

Rama es el séptimo avatar de Vishnú y una de sus encarnaciones más veneradas.

Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is one of the most celebrated and revered incarnations in Hindu tradition. His life and adventures are narrated in detail in the “Ramayana“, written by the sage Valmiki. Rama, beyond being simply a divine manifestation, is a symbol of virtue, righteousness and dharma.

Born in the city of Ayodhya as the crown prince of King Dasharatha, Rama is portrayed from an early age as an individual of outstanding abilities and impeccable character. Although it was evident that he was destined to be king, fate had other plans for him. Due to palace intrigues and past promises, Rama was exiled to the forest for 14 years. Accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, Rama accepted this fate with grace and resignation, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to dharma and honor.

Rama’s greatest test came when Sita was abducted by the demon king Ravana. This led to an epic quest and battle in which Rama, with the help of his devoted Hanuman and an army of monkeys, fought Ravana and ultimately defeated him, rescuing Sita.

Rama is not only a heroic figure because of his exploits on the battlefield, but also because of his character and virtue. He is a role model as son, brother, husband and king. His life raises profound questions about duty, justice and morality.

Krishna

Krishna es el avatar más querido del señor Vishnú.

Like Rama, Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu is one of the most beloved and revered incarnations within Hinduism.

Unlike other avatars who took on specific roles to address cosmic challenges, Krishna played multiple roles throughout his life: a beloved mischievous child, a charming teenage flute player, a passionate lover, and finally a wise warrior and counselor.

The story begins in Mathura, where King Kamsa was informed by a heavenly voice that his sister Devaki’s eighth son would be his cause of death. Tormented by fear, Kamsa imprisoned Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, and killed their sons one after another. However, when Krishna was born, on a dark and stormy night, a miracle occurred: the chains that bound Vasudeva broke and the prison doors opened by themselves. Vishnu, in a vision, instructed Vasudeva to take the newborn Krishna to Gokul and exchange him for the newborn daughter of Nanda and Yashoda.

In a feat of bravery, Vasudeva carried the child Krishna in a basket and crossed the Yamuna River, which at that time was raging due to the storm. It is said that the divine serpent Sheshnaga protected Krishna with his hood while Vasudeva crossed the river. Upon reaching Gokul, Vasudeva made the exchange of babies and returned to the prison with the girl.

The next day, Kamsa tried to kill the baby, thinking it was Devaki’s eighth child. However, the girl rose to heaven and transformed into the goddess Yogamaya, warning Kamsa of her inevitable fate.

In Gokul and later in Vrindavan, Krishna’s childish antics and flute-playing skills made him everyone’s delight. His stories with the ‘gopis’ (shepherdesses), especially Radha, are regarded not only as stories of romantic love but also as allegories of devotional love between the human soul and the divine.

However, Krishna’s most significant role is revealed on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, as narrated in the epic Mahabharata. As charioteer and advisor to Arjuna, one of the Pandava princes, Krishna delivers the Bhagavad Gita, a spiritual dialogue that addresses profound ethical and philosophical dilemmas. The Gita, with Krishna as its speaker, has become one of the most revered and studied texts in Hindu philosophy.

Buddha

Siddharta Gautama el Buda, fundador del budismo.

The Buddha, commonly associated with the birth of Buddhism, is often considered by various traditions of Hinduism to be the ninth incarnation of Vishnu.

Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, was born as a prince in the kingdom of Shakya in Lumbini (present-day Nepal). From his birth, it was prophesied that he would become a great king or spiritual renunciant. His early life in the palace was one of luxury and pleasure, but a series of encounters with old age, illness and death led him to deep introspection about human suffering. Abandoning his princely life, he embarked on a journey in search of truth and enlightenment. After years of meditation and asceticism, he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya.

From the Hindu perspective, the Buddha’s incarnation can be seen as a divine response to the spiritual and moral decline of society. It is said that Vishnu, seeing the decline of the dharma and the rise of rituals and sacrifices without true spiritual understanding, incarnated as Buddha to guide humanity to a path of understanding, compassion and self-realization. His teaching was based on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, emphasizing detachment, ethics and meditation.

Although Buddhism and Hinduism followed different routes, the inclusion of Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu shows an attempt at integration and recognition. It represents Hinduism’s respect for Buddhist teachings and the deep interconnection between these two great spiritual traditions of India.

Kalki

Kalki es el décimo avatar del dios Vishnú que llegará en la Kali Yuga.

Within Hindu cosmology, the concept of time is cyclical. The universe is believed to go through a series of ages or ‘yugas‘, each of which represents a gradual descent in morality and dharma (righteousness). At present, according to this tradition, we live in the Kali Yuga, the darkest period, characterized by decadence, corruption and a turning away from spiritual truth. It is here that the prophecy of Kalki, the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu, appears.

Kalki, often depicted riding a white horse and wielding a flaming sword, is the future warrior-avatar who is said to come at the end of the Kali Yuga to destroy evil, purify the world and restore dharma. His arrival will not only mark the end of this era, but will also initiate a new cycle, beginning again with the Satya Yuga, an era of truth and righteousness.

What sets Kalki apart from other avatars is that he is unique because he has not yet arrived. His narrative is based on the anticipation and promise of a future renewal. This expectation of a divine savior is a recurring theme in many religions, reflecting a universal human hope for redemption and a new beginning.

The prophecy of Kalki, present in texts such as the Bhagavata Purana and the Garuda Purana, offers an optimistic perspective on the future: however dark the age in which we live, there is a promise of renewal and a return to righteousness. This hope for the restoration of cosmic balance underscores the Hindu belief in the eternal play of creation, preservation and destruction, and in the irreplaceable role of the divine in the guidance and protection of humanity.

Vishnu Mantras

There are a large number of mantra dedicated to Vishnu and his various avatars, especially Krishna. Below we will detail some of these mantras and their meaning:

Om Namo Bhagavate Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya” is one of the most popular mantras in Hinduism, especially among devotees of Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. It is widely used for meditation, worship and devotion.

  • Om: It is the primordial sound, the universal sound of being or the source of all that exists. It symbolizes the supreme and the sacred.
  • Namo: It is a Sanskrit expression meaning ‘I bow to’ or ‘reverence’.
  • Bhagavate: This term can be translated as‘Divine‘ or‘Lord‘. It is a form of addressing the supreme or divine aspect.
  • Vasudevaya:“Vasudeva” is another name for Lord Krishna, who is an incarnation of Vishnu.“Vasudeva” is also the name of Krishna’s father, but in this context, it refers to Krishna himself.

Therefore, as a whole, the mantra“Om Namo Bhagavate Bhagavate Vasudevaya” can be roughly translated as “I bow to the divine Lord Krishna” or “Om, reverence to Lord Vasudeva“.

Vishnu Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the oldest and most powerful mantras in Hinduism, originally dedicated to Savitar, the sun god. However, over time, versions of the Gayatri Mantra have been adapted to worship various deities within the Hindu pantheon, including Vishnu. The Gayatri Mantra dedicated to Vishnu is known as the “Vishnu Gayatri Mantra“.

These are the lyrics of the Vishnu Gayatri Mantra:

Om Narayanaya Vidmahe

Vasudevaya Dhimahi

Tanno Vishnu Prachodayat

This is the approximate translation of each of the parts of the Vishnu Gayatri Mantra:

  • Om: It is the primordial sound, the universal vibration representing the Absolute and the Infinite. It is the beginning and the end, the all in all.
  • Narayanaya Vidmahe:“Narayana” is another name of Vishnu,“Vidmahe” means“we understand” or“wecomprehend“. Together, these words mean “We understand the divine nature of Narayana”.
  • Vasudevaya Dhimahi:“Vasudeva” is another name that refers to both Lord Krishna and Lord Vishnu.“Dhimahi” means“we meditate“. So, this part can be translated as“We meditate on Vasudeva“.
  • Tanno Vishnu Prachodayat: “Tanno” means “that one” or “that one“. “Vishnu” is the preserver god of the Hindu triad.“Prachodayat” means “can inspire” or “enlighten“. Therefore, this part roughly translates as “May Vishnu inspire or enlighten our mind and understanding.”

The essence of the mantra is to seek enlightenment, wisdom and understanding through meditation on Lord Vishnu. Devotees recite it with faith and devotion to seek Vishnu’s blessings and achieve peace, protection and clarity in their lives.

Vaikuntha Ekadashi

Vaikuntha Ekadashi holds a special place in the hearts of devotees of Lord Vishnu. It is not only a day of fasting and worship, but also a journey towards spiritual realization and the pursuit of moksha (liberation).

The term “Ekadashi” refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight in the Hindu calendar. There are 24 Ekadashis in a year, but the Vaikuntha Ekadashi, which occurs during the month of Margazhi (December-January), is considered the most auspicious. Vaikuntha is the celestial realm of Lord Vishnu, and it is believed that the gates of this realm open on this particular day, offering devotees a direct opportunity to attain liberation.

There are several legends associated with Vaikuntha Ekadashi, all deeply rooted in Hindu scriptures. One of the most popular is that of the demon Muran, who was a threat even to the gods. Vishnu entered into a fierce battle against him and, during the combat, retired to a cave called“Himavati” in Badrikashrama to rest. It was then that Muran attempted to harm Lord Vishnu while he was sleeping. At that crucial moment, a divine damsel emerged from Vishnu’s body and beheaded Muran. Grateful, Vishnu gave her the name “Ekadashi” and bestowed upon her the power to absolve sins. Therefore, it is believed that fasting on this day can purify the soul and free it from the bondage of the cycle of birth and death.

On Vaikuntha Ekadashi, temples dedicated to Vishnu, especially in South India, see a massive influx of devotees. In many temples, such as the famous Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple, a special gate called “Vaikuntha Dwaram” is opened only on this day, symbolizing the entrance to heaven. Passing through this gate is a highly meritorious act and is believed to guarantee salvation.

Devotees observe a rigorous fast, abstaining from grains and pulses. They spend the day reciting mantras, chanting bhajans and listening to the glories of Vishnu. Reading the “Bhagavad Gita“, which is the dialogue between Prince Arjuna and Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, is a common practice on this day.

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