A systematic understanding of the evolution of Hindu deities in the development of the concept of avatara

M Sukdaven

Abstract


Within the primary and secondary Hindu scriptures, especially the Vedas, Epics and Puranas, many gods are mentioned. At times a hierarchy of deities is distinguishable, and at other times these deities assume each others’ names and functions. Then there are some deities that manifest themselves in other forms such as a bird, an animal, a human, or both animal and human. These manifestations are at times clearly construed as avataras. To determine the transformation (metamorphosis), progression and/or regression of Hindu deities from the Vedas through to the Puranas, the researcher applied the systematic literature review methodology. He argued that this evolution of Hindu deities is the result of changes in the specific needs of the community in their quest for immortality. Accompanying this metamorphosis of Hindu deities is the notion of avatara which gained significant prominence in the Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas, although there are indications that the notion of avatara can be read into the Vedas. Considering these complexities, the researcher defined the term avatara and traced the origins and evolution of these Hindu deities through the various Hindu scriptures. This study consolidated this process systematically, resulting in sufficient proof that there was a decline in certain Vedic deities, a rise to prominence of other ‘unimportant’ deities and the appearance of other deities not mentioned in the Vedas.

Keywords


Hinduism; Avatara; Deities

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5952/53-1-130

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ISSN 2226-2385 (online); ISSN 0028-2006 (print)

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