Religion Past and Present

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(175 words)

[German Version]

(Sanskrit, masc., lit. “descent”) is the Sanskrit expression, already attested as early as around the 5th century bce, for the appearance or incarnation of a Hindu god, especially of the high god Viṣṇu. The Mahābhārata and Purāṇa texts disseminate the idea that the gods descend from their residences and assume human or animal form in order to preserve world order (Dharma). The concept of avatāra permitted the official tradition to assimilate numerous lesser or local cults. Consequently, there are various sectarian lists of avatāras. The te…

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Michaels, Axel, “Avatāra”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 10 August 2020 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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