Though Vyasa was credited as compiler of 18 puranas, 18 upa-puranas, Harivamsam and some more,one and only one purana named “Vishnu Purana“compiled by great sage Parashara (father of Vyasa) mentions that Vyasa entrusted his Puranasamhita to his disciple Lomaharshana who imparted to his disciples, three of whom compiled their own samhitas.These three together with Lomaharshana’s comprise Mulasamhita, from which eighteen puranas were derived. It is understood that these puranas are anonymus texts and might be work of the many authors over the centuries, hence they are highly inconsistent. The first versions of the puranas might have been composed between 3CE-10CE states Wendy Doniger, an indologist. Even after 10 million years Hindus believe that Ramayana which is available now was written by sage Vakmiki which is quite impossible. Composition of present version of Ramayana based on the oral reciting of folk tales about Ramayana cannot be earlier than 2BCE and not latter than 3CE.
Lord Vishnu had innumareble incarnations. No purana has given the exact clarification of time period of incarnations of Vishnu. According to Bhagavata purana, Lord Vishnu is the supreme who was the principal of creation (Brahma), preservence (Vishnu), dissolution (Shiva). Brahma’s hundred years makes one cycle. Infinite cycles have been elapsed. Even in first years of Brahma’s present cycle, number of Vishnu’s incarnations were unknown. Present period is the 51st year of Brahma’s 100 yrs (humans follow Brahma’s calendar, which consists of 268.2 billion years) cycle. As Brahma’s timeline was and is massive, it is obscure that how many forms Vishnu might have incarnated.Whenever needed in whichever form, Vishnu had incarnated to earth in that particular form. Though Dasa Avataras of Vishnu are famous, puranas states that remaining 14 incarnations which are Narada, chatur(4)-sanas, Nara-Narayana, Adi purusha, Kapila, Dattatreya,Yagya, Rishabha, Prithu, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Hayagreeva,Vyasa, Balarama are also more important in this present cycle.
Earth was formed by the fat of demons Madhu and Kaitabha who was in the form of insect – kita in Sanskrit – (who emerged from the Vishnu’s ears – Sri Devi Bhagavatam) when killed by Vishnu. These were the first creatures of evolution. Vishnu as Brahma created chatur-sanas, Narada. As they refused to procreate, Brahma had created nine rishis (Nava Brahmas) and Daksha Prajapati.To continue the process of creation, Brahma created 14 manus. In 1st manvantara which is named as Swayambhu manvantara Vishnu had incarnated as Varaha. No incarnations occurred in 2nd, 3rd, 4th manvantaras.In 5th manvantara, Vishnu as Varaha who appeared in 1st manvantara stayed in water, reappeared in 5th manvantara and killed Hiranyaksha. As Samudra-Manthan episode occured in chaksushi the 6th manvantara, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini incarnations appeared at the time of samudra-manthan. Some puranic experts presumed that incarnations of Vishnu occured in some chaturyugas and some assumed that they occured repeatedly in every chaturyuga.
Life (humans, reptiles, birds etc) started in Vaivaswata manvantara only by sage Kashyap. According to western experts the mammals (dinosaurs, lizards etc) existed billions of years ago, which is in comparison to manvantaras of Hinduism. Time line in kruta yuga was massive, physical structure of mammals (Meena, kurma, Varaha, Narasimha), the demons and humans were enormous. The life span of humans was 1,oo,ooo yrs in Kruta-yuga. Scientifically proved that human existence might have started 40,000 years ago approximately in the Dwapara-yuga of present 28th chaturyuga of Vaivaswata manvantara. First animal with human gene is called Neanderthal after gorilla, was quite big. Over the years the size of humans reduced to present normal size.
The first dynasty was called Surya vamsha, as 7th manu Vaivaswata was the son of Surya. Another dynasty Chandra vamsha was started by chandra, grand son of Brahma, and son of sage Atri and Anasuya. As Ikshvaku (Ishwaku literally means sugarcane) was the son of Vaivaswta, he ruled the kosala kingdom in satya yuga of 1st chatur yuga of vaivaswata manvantara. He was 1st king who executed Manusmruti (religious rules composed by his father Manu). After King Ikshvaku ruled kosala kingdom, the dynasty was called Ikshvaku dynasty. It is known that Sri Rama belongs to Surya vamsha, Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata belong to the Chandra vamsha. king Sagara was born in Ikshvaku dynasty in satya yuga of 3rd or 4th chaturyuga. He had 60,000 children who were burnt to ashes by sage Kapila (Kapila was incarnation Vishnu who was founder of samkhya philosophy of Hinduism). King Bhageeratha was great grand-son of King Sagara. He might have born in the treta yuga of 7th chaturyuga and ruled kingdom for many years.His main aim was the salvation of souls of his 60,000 ancestors.
King Mahabali or Bali, who was grandson of Prahlada learnt bhakti and rightiousness from his grand-father and expanded his kindom even to heaven and ruled righteously for number of chatur-yugas (unsure of number). By the request of Indra, Vishnu incarnated as Vamana(dwarf) in 7th chatur-yuga and suppressed Bali to patala (nether land), which was more prosperous than heaven, made him immortal. when Vishnu as Vamana (Brahmin boy) asked for three paces of land at the time of Aswamedhayaga, Vamana steps one foot on earth and other foot makes a hole in the shell of heavenly universe causing few drops of water from spiritual world to spill into universe.These sacred, divine, pure rare drops are called Ganga. As Ganga was born by the touch of Vishnu, she is called Vishnupadi and Bhagavatpadi, she was residing in heaven as cloud (Ganga was jalanabha, jala=water, nabha=sky)
As King Bhageeratha wanted to bring Ganga down to earth for salvation of souls of his ancestors, he performed penance for Brahma to release Ganga and performed penance for Shiva to hold her in Jhatajutam as the earth could not bare her pace. After Ganga was released from jhatajhutam of Shiva, who had changed his place from Kailasam to Himalayam mountain range in north of India (then Bharat, hence the name Mt. Kailash), to Gomukh or Gaumukh (gau=cow, mukh=face) which is terminus of Gangotri glaciers and source of River Bhageerathi and from there river flows through Gangotri which is the origin of Bhageerathi river (as it was brought by Bhageeratha here it is called Bhageerathi) and joins with Mandakini (calm), Alaknanda in Devaprayag to form Ganges River.
Whenever too much violence prevails (rules) the world, to spread the peace in the world Vishnu incarnates in peaceful form. In the treta yuga of 8th or 9th chatur yuga, Vishnu incarnated as Rishabhadev who started Jainism. According to Jain cosmology (science of origin and development of universe), the 10^1631 (10 ×10 ×…..1631 times) does not have a temporal beginning or end. Its universal history divides the time cycle into two halves named Avasarpini and Utsarpini with six aras (spokes) in each half cycle and the cycle repeats endless. In every half cycle 24 thirthankaras appear and first among them would usually establish Jainism. In the present time cycle Rishabhanatha was credited as first thirthankara who was born in present Avasarpini ara. Jina means knower (enlightened person). Though Rishadev belongs to Ishwaku dynasty and was king of Ayodhya for some years and enjoyed life with wife and hundred children, sudden death of one dancer from heaven triggered him to renounce his kingdom, family and material wealth to become an ascetic. He went to Mt.Ashtpad which is appr. 7 km from famous Mt.Kailash in the Himalayan mountain range, practiced meditation for thousand years (life span of humans in treteyuga was 10,000 yrs) and attained enlightenment to start Jainism. He preached Jainism for so many years and attained moksha in Mt. Ashtapad.
According to Garuda Purana, Brahma Purana,Sattwata Samhita, Vishnu had incarnated as Dattatreya to start and spread Guru bhakti in treta yuga of 10th chaturyuga to pious couple sage Atri, Anasuya. According to some other puranas he was the incarnation of three forms of Narayana (Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara). According to puranas most of incarnations occured in just down Himalaya mountain range only. Dattatreya might have born in present Kashmir jungles near Amarnath temple. He left home at very young age to lead monostic life. Though he was born in North India, he is more popular in west (Gujarat). Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka in South India. He is revered as Adi-Guru (first-teacher). Upanishads, Avadhuta gita (song of free) are attributed to Dattatreya. Philosophy of Dattatreya is present in Dattatreya Upanishad (tantra-focussed), in Darshana Upanishad (yoga-focussed), Avadhuta Upanishad (written by Dattatreya on principles of advaita Vedanta) and Sandilya Upanishad (text on yoga). He is mentioned in Jabala Upanishad, Naradaparivrajaka Upanishad, Bikshuka Upanishad. Yajnavalaka Upanishad mentions Dattatreya’s name in the path of renunciation.He is mentioned in Mahabharata and Ramayana. He is immortal and presently he is meditating in Gandhamadhana mountains (presently Garhwal-Himalayan mountains).
Vishnu incarnated as Parushurama (parashu in sanskrit means axe, who holds axe in hand) in 19th chaturyuga to slain all the evil kings of earth. Though he was born before Rama and Krishna, he appeared in Mahabharata, Ramayana. According to Bhagavata purana, he served as mentor to Bhishma, Drona and Karna. As he is immortal presently he is living in Mahendra mountains(part of eastern ghats mountain range in Odisha).
Most important incarnation of Vishnu is Rama. Vishnu incarnated in 24th chaturyuga as Rama. He was portrayed as perfect son, perfect father, perfect king. The purpose of this incarnation was to set characteristics of ideal person for humans. He was, is and forever be a role model for human beings for billons of years ahead. He was perfect human being. As Vishnu had to slain Ravana -Brahma, a demon king, Vishnu had to incarnate in human form and born to the pious couple king Dasaratha and Kausalaya of Ishwaku dynasty who ruled Kosala kingdom.
Ravana brahma was the son of sage Vishravasu (son of sage Paulatsya who was one of the 10 prajapatis or Brahma manasaputras) and daitya princess Kaikasi (daughter of demon king Sumali and Thataka). As Kaikasi wanted exceptional powerfull heir, she married sage Vishravasu and gave birth to 10 headed baby named Dasagreeva and also called Dasaanana (dasagreeva =dasa+greeva =10+neck, dasaanana=dasa+aanana=10+face). He was staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. As he could not satisfy Lord Shiva though he perfomed penance for so many years, he started chopping of his head and every time he does by the grace of lord new head arose thus permitting him to continue the penance. Thus pleased by effort, Shiva granted him celestial nector of immortality which would be stored in his navel. lord granted him some more boons such as supremacy over three worlds (devas, serpents etc) except nara and vanara and 10 severed heads. Hence the name Dasamukha or Dasaanana. As he became more powerful by these boons, he went to Kailasa – abode of Shiva – to conquer his benefactor.Having become blind with ego, he started turning mountain with his toes. Then Shiva became angry, pressed mountain top with his toe and Ravana’s toes stuck under the mountain. As he could not bear the pain, he started screaming loudly, then lord appeared before him and named him Ravana (ravana in Sanskrit means yelling loudly). As Ravana is half Brahmin, he is called Ravana Brahma and half asura, he is called Ravanaasura (Ravana+asura).
By the order of Lord Shiva and Parvati, celestial architect Vishwakarma built a beautiful city with gold named Lanka Puri (island city). It was presented to Vishravas – the Brahmin who performed house warmining ceremony – as dakshina and Vishravas tranfered it to Kubera (Vishrava’s son by another wife and half brother of Ravana Brahma) and lateron asurped by Ravana. As Ravana ruled tri-bhuvanas for 14 chatur-yugas and Ramayana occured in 24th chatur-yuga, it is understood that he might have born in 8th or 9th or 10th chatur-yuga. Ravana was a great scholar and learnt all the four Vedas. He also learnt astrology and authored “Ravana Samhita “.
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