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Full-blown trade wars, nuclear threats, violating nation’s sovereignty…are we dangerously at the crossroads of a world war that may even threaten entire humanity? Maybe we are, but fear not. Hindus believe that whenever cosmic balance is threatened, Vishnu descends into the world as an avatar of change. “I am born age after age,” says Krishna (Vishnu) in the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu has many avatars, but his top ten avatars are special and known as the Dashavataras. In this volume, we enter the most exciting part of Hindu mythology—the Dashavataras—and discuss the early avatars of Vishnu.
The avatar saga begins with a wicked demon stealing the Vedas while Brahma is sleeping. Vishnu takes the form of a giant fish and not only saves the Vedas but rescues mankind from a great deluge. As we progress through the avatars, you will come across Prahlada, whose story offers a shining example of the extent to which Vishnu would go to protect his devotees. In another incarnation of Vishnu, a generous king called Bali is dispatched to the netherworld for being too ambitious. While ambition is a virtue, not vice, this may seem unfair to the people of Kerala who hold Bali in high esteem. But Vishnu makes amends by bestowing the gift of longevity on Bali. Next, the axe-wielding Parashurama, a Brahmin by birth, embarks on a mission to exterminate the warrior caste from the face of Earth—and largely succeeds until he bumps into another avatar of Vishnu.
The highlight of this volume undoubtedly is Rama, the hero of the Ramayana and a name that is synonymous with dharma (religious duty). About half the book is dedicated to Rama as we dissect Ramayana in detail, particularly the controversies. Although Rama is famous for defeating the ten-headed demon king of Lanka, it seems he waged a bigger battle with the dictates of dharma—and lost. We meet the monkey-faced Hanuman for the first time in this book. He is closely associated with Rama and highly revered among Hindus. Also in the Ramayana, we encounter one of the ultimate villains of Hindu mythology—the mighty Ravana. Even though Ravana abducted Rama’s beloved wife, Sita, you will be surprised to know that not everyone regards Ravana as an antihero. In fact, at the end of the Ramayana, we are left with many bitter, thought-provoking questions that are debated even today.
Having lived more than two decades in India, Swami Achuthananda lives and breathes the culture. He is an exponent of Indian Carnatic music and researches Hindu mythology in his spare time. A born Hindu, Swami loves India passionately but lives outside the country, devours fries and burgers as much as curry and spices.
When Swami is not discussing Indian mythology, he's seen talking about India's other greatest religion - cricket.