An ‘Avatara’ (Incarnation) is like the lighting of a lamp from another lamp; like-wise, Bhagavan is a manifestation of same Bhagavan suited to specific purpose and particular end-use. Among such Avatars of Vishnu, the first well-known manifestation of Matsya which retrieved the Sacred Vedas stolen from Brahma by Makarasura, the son of Kashyapa Muni by Diti, one of his four wives besides Aditi, Kadru and Vineeta; Diti’s other sons included Hayagriva, Hiranyaksha, Hiranya kashipu, Jamba, Maya etc. Makarasura dived deep into the depths of ‘Maha Sagara’ (The Great Ocean) along with the Vedas and other Scriptures, in the absence of which the entire order of ‘Samsara’ (Universe) was totally affected: there were no ‘Chatur Varnas’; no Yagnas, Swadhaayas, Vashatkara and the Sacred Rites thus upsetting the Equilibrium of Universal Traditions and Religious / Spiritual Practices. This led to the inevitable Avatara as the Preserver of the Universal Order. By assuming the form of a huge Fish, Vishnu entered the Ocean, killed Makarasura and recovered Vedas and Dharma.
Following a curse given by Maharshi Durvasa, son of Sage Atri, to Indra as the latter ignored the Maharshi while passing by an elephant, Devi Lakshmi in the form of Rajya Lakshmi, deserted Indra Loka and the magnificence of Swarga vanished. As Devas, Indra and Brahma approached Vishnu, Narayana suggested that one way to recall Rajya Lakshmi to Swarga would be to resort to a massive churning of the Ocean involving not only Devas but also Danavas, Rakshasas, Gandhtavas and Yakshas. The temptation to Danavas etc. should be to obtain ‘Amrit’ although there might be several other products of lesser consequence that might emerge as deftly conveyed to the Danavas. The arrangement of the ‘Samudra Mathana’was that Manthara Mountain was to be set as the churning rod, Maha Sarpa Vasuki was the string with which to tie up the Mountain and Bhagavan himself as balancing Shakti as the Avatar of Kurma (Tortoise) to ensure that the Meru Mountain would be made stable and steady. As the churning started, innumerable of the proud Danavas who opted for the head of thousand faced Vasuki out of pride got perished due to the poisonous flames where as Devas were at the tail end. Eventally, a massive ‘Halahala’ or the sky-rocketing poisonous flames engulfed the Univerese and by the grace of Three Names of Lord Vishnu viz. Om Achyutaya Namah, Om Anantaya Namah and Om Govindaya Namah, Bhagavan Shankara gulped the blue poisonous flames in his throat thus giving him the epithet of Neela Kantha. By the power of the three names of Vishnu, there would never be any hardship faced: Achyutaananta Govinda iti naamatrayam Maha Mantram hareh/ yo japetpriyato Bhaktaayaa Pranavaadhyam namontakam/ Tasya Mrityu bhayam naasti visharogaagnijam mahat/ Naamatrayam Maha Mantramjapedyam prayatatmavaan/ Kaala Mrityu bhayam chaapi tasya naasti kimanyatah (Whoever recites the Three Names viz. Om Achyutaaya, Om Anantaaya, and Om Govindaaya sincerely and with dedication, none of the poisonous diseases or Agni- based frights/deaths would affect)! As the churning continued, Maha Lakshmi’s elder sister Daridra Devi appeared and was directed to stay in the homes of quarrels, Adharmas, violences and sins as also in the residences where residents of such homes in both the ‘Sandhya’ timings. As the further churning made progress, there emerged Varuni Devi, Nagaraja Ananta, GarudaPatni, Apsaras, Gandhavas, Iravata, Ucchaaishrava Ashwa, Dhanvantari, Parijaata Tree, Surabhi, Maha Lakhsmi, Chandra and Devi Tulasi. All the Devas and Brahma requested Maha Lakshmi to be seated on Maha Vishnu’s Lotus-like Heart where the whole World would worship on Ekadashi and Dwadashi days. Devas and Brahma eulogized Kurma Rupa Vishnu and requested him to provide shield to Sesha Nag and ‘Diggajaas’or the Four Directional Elephants as also Bhu Devi all reting on the permanent Avatar of Maha Kurma. While the primary reason in the Kurma Avatar was the resurgence of Maha Lakshmi and her manifestation of Rajya Lakshmi who disappeared in Swaraga pursuant to Durvasa’s curse to Indra Deva, another major fall-out of ‘Ksheera Sagara Mathana’was the emergence of ‘Amrit’ meant for Devas, which again was distributed by Devi Mohini, another manifestation of Vishnu.
As Hiranyaakasha, the mighty son of Devi Diti pulled up Bhu Devi and dragged her into the depths of the Ocean down deep into the netherland of Rasatala, Lord Vishnu assumed the incarnation of Maha Varaha and killed him. Devi Prithvi heaved a great sigh of relief and prayed to Him saying that he was her rediscovery, her mighty ‘Adhara’ or the Hold, his unique rescuer and without her existence was unreal. Since Devi Prithvi was about to sink but for his timely mercy, she was popularly called Madhavi or the Lord as Madhava. Siince Maha Varaha roared as an acknowledgement of her ‘Stuti’, the resultant sounds were heard as Sama Veda and he lifted the Earth by his horns in one single ‘go’ and leapt up from Rasatala to restore her back into her original position when Devas showered flowers and Maharshis recited Vedas, describing the Lord’s playful deeds.They said that the distance between the Underworld, Prithi and Sky was the only comprehensible Place that one’s imagination knew as spread over by Him, but the Unknown still remained a great mystery or Maya! Even as Maha Varaha placed Bhu Devi as a mammoth ship on the endless water, Bhagavan made divisions of Sapta Dwipas and materialized the four Lokas afresh viz. Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Swarloka and Maharloka and Lord Brahma resumed his task of Creation.
As Hiranyaaksha was killed, his brother Hiranyakashipu reached Meru Giri and did ruthless Tapasya for thousand ‘Deva’years and pleased Parama Shiva with the Panchakshari Mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaaya’ and secured the very exhaustive boon of victory over ‘Mrityu’(death) from Devatas, Asuras, Human Beings, Gandharvas, Nagas, Rakshasas, Animals, Birds, Reptiles, Siddhas, Yakshas, Vidyadharas, and Kinnaras, Diseases and ‘Astra-Shastras’. Armed by the all comprehensive boon, Hiranyakashipu had truly turned to be the Over-Lord of the whole Universe keeping all the Lokas under his control, commanding Devas and even‘Pancha Bhutas’. He had declared that he should be worshipped in Temples and Yagnas be performed in his name! In course of time, he was blessed with a son named Prahlada and as the latter came of the tender age of a boy was sent to Gurukula where all the glories of Danavas were taught. But Prahlada was a staunch Vaishnava with supreme dedication to Narayana. When he returned from his early spell of Gurukula to his father, he stunned the latter when he was all praise for Vishnu and affirmed that Vishnu was the unique driving force of Universal Existence and that he was the Eternal, Timeless, Indestructible, All- Pervading, Omni Potent and Omni-scient Paramatma. Hiranyakashipu was in great rage that his opponent Vishnu who killed his brother Hiranyaksha was being praised in his presence and was about to kill the boy’s Guru; Prahlada confirmed that his Guru tried his very best to divert him from Narayana to his own father as the Supreme but failed and thus the Guru was spared. Then Hiranyakashipu himself sought to tutor the boy by cajoling him, endearing him, self-praising his own achievements and so on. He utilized the Sama (Advice and Mild reproach), Bheda (seeking to divide Vishnu as an Evil Force and himself as an Almighty), Daana (gifts of whatever nature on Earth or elsewhere) and even ‘Danda’ by way of punishment. But, Prahlada never ever relented and continued to extol the virtues of Vishnu. As his father lost all his patience, he resorted to measures of deadly nature and Prahlada’s conviction too got redoubled. The paternal care and affection of Hiranya -kashipu were totally replaced by hatred, vengeance and retaliation for his son who turned out to be his sworn enemy; he exposed him to poisonous snakes which gave him the kiss of death but Prahlada survived while extolling Narayana; he threw him into the cages of tigers which ate up his limbs but still the Parama Bhakta survived singing hymns of Govinda; he got the tender boy crushed under elephants but still the matchless follower of Madhusudana survived praising the Leelas of Keshava; he threw him from high mountain tops but still the most trusted devotee survived rejoicing the ecstasy of Madhava’s glories! Finally, Hiranyakashipu got on to his wits’ end; he said that if Vishnu were ‘Sarva Vyapi’ (All Pervasive), he asked Prahlada to show that Narayana any where, say in that Pillar and broke it with his mace, or otherwise he would most certainly stop Prahlada’s breathing. As though there were earth quakes and storms, there emerged the most fearful Man-Lion, Narasimha, who had half-body as a giant- like Lion roaring in a manner that the whole World trembled and the other half like a colossal human being as a personification of ‘Mrityu’ with mighty thighs and legs; the Strange Creation which was neither human nor leonine lifted the massive body of the Danava on his thighs and tore him into pieces with sharp nails and hefty hands, rejoicing the drink of the victim’s blood and eating chunks of his meat! No doubt, Devatas were overjoyed at the death of the Danava but were terrified to vision the unusual form of Nrisimha and prayed to him to cool down; they prayed to Devi Lakshmi to pacify the Lord who made efforts to pacify his anger; Prahlada who too was in shock was declared the King to revive Dharma again.
As the grandson of King Prahlada, the illustrious Danava King Bali (son of Virochana), was born as a devout Vaishnava and ‘Dharmajna’ but at the same time as an enormous warrior who defeated Devas and Marudganas and controlled the Three Lokas. But in King Bali’s regime, his ‘Praja’ (the Public) was extremely happy when Lord Varuna gave optimal rains, Devi Prithvi yielded excellent crops, cows gave maximum milk, and there was alround Prosperity and Peace.As King Bali was a highly dedicated to Srihari, the usual bitterness among the Pubic and the Establishment was absent and the values of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Nyaya’ (Virtue and Justice) in the Society were intact. But Lord Indra was dislodged from his throne and so were the various Devas. Sage Kashyapa and Devi Aditi prayed to Shrihari and requested to do justice to Devas and Indra as King Bali used ‘Maya’ to worship Vishnu and at the same time kept Indra and Devas aloof from Swarga cleverly and keeping the best of all the Three worlds with him! Kashyapa thus requested Vishnu to be born to the former and Aditi and by resorting the same kind of Maya, bestow his Throne and Indratwa to to Indra! Bhagavan agreed to be born to Aditi and Kashyapa as Vamana Avatar. As Vamana grew up as a Brahmachari, he learnt Vedas and other Scriptures and sporting ‘Mriga Charma’ (Skin of a Deer), Danda (Stick) and wooden footwear appeared at the Yagna being performed by King Bali and asked for a mere three feet of land as Bhu daan (charity of Land).Daithya Guru Shukracharya warned that this short man Vamana was a fake and was Bhagavan Vishnu himself. King Bali stated that if the Brahmachari was Vishnu himself, which other greater fortune there could be! Vamana then assumed a sky-high proportion of body and measured one foot as the entire Prithvi with land, Samudra, Parvat, Dwip, etc totalling fifty koti Yojanas (13-16 kilo mtr. perYojana); by way of the ‘Dwiteeya Pada’(second foot space), Vamana Deva counted the Nakshtras, Grahas (Planets), Devalokas, Brahmaloka etc. But the second foot still fell short of the required size of the second foot.Brahma had the opportunity of Vishnu’s ‘Maha Vishwa Darshan’. As there was no space for the third foot, Vishnu Deva pushed Bali’s head down to Rasatala and made him the King of Danavas, Nagas and water-based Beings till the end of the Kalpa!
Maharshi Jamadagni of Bhrugu Vamsha did Tapsya and pleased Surabhi the Celestial Cow and was extremely contented as the Holy Cow fulfilled all his desires and enjoyed a contented life. He married Devi Renuka and performed a Putra Kaameshti Yagna and was blessed with the son named Parashu Rama. After his ‘Upanayana Samskara’ and Gayatri Upadesha, he performed rigorous Tapasya, pleased Kashyapa who taught the Avinashi Mantra Om Namo Narayanaya Namah and performed Yagnas, Daanaas etc. One day, Haihaya King Kartavirya happened to visit the Ashram of Jagadagni and was impressed with Surabhi as the Cow that could fulfil all desires and wished to take it away by force. Surabhi killed the King’s army and reverted back to Swargaloka. The King grew angry and killed Jamadagni. There Parashurama secured from Lord Vishnu, a ‘Parashu’ (axe), Vaishnava Dhanush and Shastra-Astras and instructed him to lessen the weight on Earth of highly crazy and egoistic Kshatriyas by killing them. On return to the Ashram, he found his father killed by Kartaviryarjuna and rushed to the latter’s Kingdom, killed him, and went all out on a spree of killing Kshatriayas to completely uproot their clans (except Ikshvaku Vamsa as per his mother’s request). As Shi Rama pulled down Shiva Dhanush, Parashu Rama surfaced again and challenged Rama to break Vaishnava Dhanush and when Rama did it, retired to the Ashram of Nara-Narayana thereafter.