Avatar or Avatara (Sanskrit: अवतार): The Sanskrit word avatara literally means "descent" (avatarati) and usually implies a deliberate descent from higher spiritual realms to lower realms of existence for special purposes.


Avatara (Sanskrit) is often inaccurately translated into English as incarnation.

Descents that are of importance are mainly that of the Supreme Being which are plenary and marked with superhuman qualities.

The term Avatar is used primarily in Hinduism for descents of Vishnu whom Vaishnava Hindus (one of the largest branches of Hinduism) worship as the Supreme God, a distinctive feature of Vaishnavism.


While Shiva and Ganesha are also described as descending in the form of avatars, with the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana detailing Ganesha's avatars specifically, the avatars of Vishnu carry a greater theological prominence than those of Shiva or Ganesha and upon examination relevant passages are directly imitative of the Vaishnava avatara lists.

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