The Myths of Narasimha and Vamana: Two Avatars in Cosmological Perspective
The Sanskrit Puranas and epics are replete with stories of the avatars, incarnations of the god Visnu in various forms to rid the universe of malevolent forces and to restore the proper cosmic balance. As Narasimha, half-man half-lion, Visnu finds a loophole in the pact of invulnerability the demon Hiranaipu has received from god Brahma, and rends the demon apart with his claws. As the brahmin dwarf, Vamana, Visnu deceives the demon Bali with his diminutive appearance and thwarts Bali's attempt to gain universal sovereignty.
After carefully analyzing the myths of Vamana and Narasimha, Deborah Soifer grounds her study in the textual history of each avatar and its myth, in their religious contexts, and in the intricate cosmology of the classical period of Hinduism. Contrasting the bestial persona of Narasimha with Vamana's priestly appearance and his associations with early cosmologic themes, she finds complementarity and significance in this pair as they are viewed in the larger context of periodic cosmic destructions and recreations.
While focusing primarily on these two mythological figures, Soifer's work explores the relationship between dharma and the 'devious' acts of gods; the interplay between cosmic and 'sociocosmic' levels of reality; and the relationship between cosmology, theology, and soteriology in a religious worldview.
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abode Aditi appears assembly hall Asuras avatara avatara myths Bali Bali's Baskali battle become bhakti Bhg.P Biardeau Blessed boon born Br.P Brahma spoke Brahmaloka Brahmanas brahmin celestial chief of gods conquered cosmic cosmogonic cosmological creation Daitya Daitya chief Danavas demons desire destruction devotion dharma Diti divine dwarf dwelling earth fire fruit Gahga Gandharvas gift give given guru Hari heaven Hiranyakasipu homage Indra Janardana kalpa Kasyapa kill king Krsna land Lord of Gods man-lion mighty moon motifs mountain mythology Namuci Narada Narasimha Narasirhha Narayana O'Flaherty ocean Patala Prahlada praised Prajapati pralaya Purana Purusa Raksases role rsis Rudra sacri sacrifice Sakra seen Siva Sk.P sons soul sovereignty strides structure Sukra supreme tapas tejas texts theophany three steps three worlds tirthas trailokya trees triple world universe Vam.P Vamana Vamana myth Vayu Vedas Vedic versions Virocana Visnu Vrtra weapon words worshiped Yaksas yuga