Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online

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(3,199 words)

The word avatāra literally means “descent” or “down-coming,” from the Sanskrit root tṝ-, “to pass across or over,” with the verbal prefix ava-, indicating a movement from the top downwards. Under the entry avatāra in Monier-William’s standard dictionary, one finds the following definition: “descent (especially of a deity from heaven), appearance of any dei…

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Couture, André, “Avatāra”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online, Editor-in-Chief Associate Editors Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, Vasudha Narayanan. Consulted online on 05 June 2023 <>
First published online: 2018

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