LESSER-KNOWN AVATARS OF BHAGAVAN VISHNU
Bhagavan Vishnu takes avatar (incarnation) from time to time; whenever dharma in the creation declines and adharma increases He takes avatar. The ten avatars of Bhagavan Vishnu are known to all the bhaktas. Apart from this there are many avatars which are lesser known and in this article, I would like to share with you some of the lesser-known avatars of Bhagavan Vishnu.
1. Hayagriva avatar
Bhagavan Vishnu took the Hayagriva avatar, to kill a demon named Hayagriva. Hayagriva was a dhanava born to Rishi Kashyapa. He had a horse neck and a human body. He defeated the devas and ruled the world. He did not want the human race to learn the Vedas, because learning Vedas will elevate them and they will not listen to him; so, he took the Vedas from lord Brahma and hid it. Dhanava Hayagriva worshipped Devi Durga and obtained a boon that only another Hayagriva like him (one with a horse neck) can defeat and kill him. The devas worshipped Bhagavan Vishnu and Bhagavan knowing the secret of the boon took Hayagriva avatar and killed dhanava Hayagriva, saved the Vedas and Devas. Hayagriva avatar of Bhagavan is an embodiment of knowledge.
2. Mahahansa avatar (Golden swan avatar)
Sanakadi Rishis ( Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanat Kumara, ) were the mind born sons of Lord Brahma. They were created by Lord Brahma to help him in the creation. But from the time they were born, they were interested in Brahma vidya. They already had very deep knowledge and Lord Brahma could not teach them further. Knowing about their deep thirst for knowledge, Bhagavan Vishnu took the form of a golden swan (Hansa) and appeared in the Manasa Lake in the heights of Himalayas. This is the Hansa avatar of Bhagavan Vishnu. Bhagavan took the form of Hansa because among all the beings only Hansa has the ability to separate milk from the water; Just like how one knows to discriminate the illusory aspects of the material world from the Truth. The Sanakadi Rishis approached Bhagavan Hansa and Bhagavan Hansa cleared all their doubts in Brahma Vidya in the form of Hansa floating in the Manasa River.
3. Nara-Narayana Avatar
Nara-Narayana are the twin brother avatar of Bhavan Vishnu. They were born to preserve dharma in the world. They were born to Dharma, the mind born son of Lord Brahmaa and Murti, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati. Murti is the personification of Ahimsa. From the time they were born they dedicated their life for meditation and penance. They meditated in Badarikashrama. Their tapas were so deep that not even Lord Shiva could disturb their tapas. They did tapas to establish dharma in the world. It is said that in the Mahabharata, Arjuna is the incarnation of Nara and Narayana Himself appeared as Lord krishna. They worked together again to reestablish dharma.
4. Dhanvantari avatar.
During the Samudra madhana, churning the ocean of milk, by the asuras (demons) and the Devas (gods) there appeared amruta (divine elixir). Bhagavan Vishnu appeared in a very attractive form with four arms and dark shining complexion, holding the pot of amruta. This is the Dhanvantari avatar. The asuras greedily grabbed it and each asura wanted to consume it all alone. So, there was a fight going on among them and Bhagavan Vishnu took this as an advantage and disappeared, and appeared in another form to get that amruta from them and serve it to the devas. Before disappearing from them Bhagavan Dhanvantari said that he will appear on the earth in future.
The Raja of Kasi, King Dhirgatamas, had no son. He worshipped Bhagavan Vishnu, the Dhanvanrti avatar, to get a son. Bhagavan pleased by his bhakti was born as the son of Kasi Maharaj as prince Divodasa. He imparted the science of Ayurveda to the sages in His life time including the sage surgeon, Susruta and so Bhagavan Dhanvantari is called the Father of Ayurveda. It is believed that Lord Brahma created the science of Ayurveda before the creation of mankind. Bhagavan Dhanvantari compiled it according to topics and gave the knowledge to the sages. Any disease in this world can be cured by the science of ayurveda.
5. Mohini Avatar
Mohini is the only female avatar of Bhagavan Vishnu. Bhagavan took the avatar as a beautiful woman with the power of captivating everyone through her charm and beauty. During the Samudra madhana, churning the ocean of milk, by the asuras (demons) and the Devas (gods) appeared amruta (divine elixir). The Asuras took away the Amruta, and if they consume it then adharma will prevail in the creation. The Devas worshipped Bhagavan Vishnu, and Bhagavan appeared in a mohita rupa (deluding captivating form) and tricked the Asuras and gave the Amruta to the Devas. But two Asuras in the name of Ragu and Ketu in disguise consumed the Amruta and they became eternal and they continue to disturb the world.
6. Dattatreya Avatar
Bhagavan Dattatreya is believed to be the incarnation of the Trinity Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv, and so His form is believed to have three heads and six arms. He was born as the son of Sage Atri and Devi Anasuya. Some tradition considers Him as the incarnation of Shiva and some as the incarnation of Vishnu. It is believed that Bhagavan in this avatar imparted the secret of Yoga to the sages. He is known as the first teacher of Yoga. He is believed to be the author of Tripura Rahasya, which is a treatise in Advaita philosophy. He taught Tripura Rahasya to sage Parasurama.
7. Kapila Avatar
Sage Kapila was responsible for propagating the Sankhya Philosophy. He is the avatar of Bhagavan Vishnu and was born as the son of Kardama Prajapati and his wife Devahuti. Sankhya philosophy is spiritual knowledge combined with the elemental knowledge. It deals with Purusha (Brahman) and Prakriti (maya). Sage Kapila is the brother and guru of Devi Anasuya, the mother of Sage Dattatreya. He first taught this knowledge to his mother Devi Devahuti. His philosophy is recorded as sankhya philosophy.
8.Ved Vyasa Avatar
Sage Vyasa was the son of Rishi Parasara and Devi Satyavati. Satyavati was a fisher women engaged in Ferrying passengers across the river Yamuna. At one instance, Sage Parasara was her passenger and they both got married and Sage Vyasa was born. He was born on an island in River Yamuna and he was dark in complexion and was called as Krishna Dwaipayana (black man of the Island). Hinduism cannot have this glory without the effort and work of Ved Vyasa. He compiled and edited the Vedas into four sections as Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda. He taught the four sections to His four students Sage Sumantu, sage Vaisampayana, Sage Jaimini, Sage Paila.
Later He wrote the eighteen puranas. He wrote the Mahabharata and wrote the Truth of the Vedas in the form of Sutras (aphorisms) as Brahma Sutra.
These are some of the avatars of Bhagavan Vishnu that are lesser known among the many avatars and that are need to be known to the Bhaktas.