Evolutionary Significance of the Eight Avataars

Eight avataar (distinct or blessed appearances) could also reflect the evolution of life on earth. The following eight avataar (representative appearances) reflect eight distinct categories of life evolving from the water based organisms to present humans in relation to and involving habitat (environmental) and societal influences. Note that the broad categories of life, listed below and reflecting different stages of evolution in terms of special characteristics or qualities, are identified through familiar and specific names or animals belonging to each group (category).

  1. Matsya or Fish: During the first stage, animal life originated in water (sea) as a form of fish. Here, the creatures could live and survive only under water.
  2. Kurma or Tortoise: This is the second stage of evolution, unlike fish (the first evolutionary state) but comprising a number of amphibious and reptilian features, capable of living in water and on land and having a body with distinct parts, specifically with well-defined (distinguishable) head and back.
  3. Varah or Boar: It was the third stage of animal evolution making it fully capable of living and breathing on land. The distinct nose (snout) is a clear mark of it.
  4. Nara-singha or Man-lion: Human-animal combination indicating evolution in the direction of human-like physical characteristics.
  5. Vaamana or Dwarf: Corresponds to the appearance of human characteristics.
  6.  Parsurama: Man first tried to bring order.
  7.  Rama: Man’s need and struggle for a social and moral order.
  8.  Krishna: Full realization of mind and consciousness and their subsequent application in life.

The evolutionary criterion for eight avataar (important appearances), in contrast to the natural selection in Darwin’s case, is the habitat (environment) and related socio-intellectual interactions involving various life forms. It is the most important and logical consideration, based on the major categories of life, depicting that the life originated in water and then progressed to present intellectual humans in eight stages.

Note also the manner in which the water borne life is given the number one on evolutionary scale in relation to amphibians and land based animals. This means that people who set up the order of avataar, according to the above criterion, knew or understood rightly that the life moved out of sea (water) to amphibian state and then to the air breathing forms and so on. Moreover, notice the evolution of snout (air breathing apparatus) as the life becomes adapted to land during the third stage.

Since the ancients did not have access to magnifying devices (microscopes etc.) to account for all forms of life, especially the minute ones, their evolutionary breakdown into eight major categories seems logical and satisfactory. Needless to say, this very broad categorization, in terms of habitat and socio-intellectual interactions, has a high degree of validity. For example, in the first stage of Matsya, the entire water based life could be considered (including even the small organisms which existed in water anyway) and not just the fish. Similarly, note the fourth stage of man-animal combination, which indicates an important evolutionary milestone of human-animal before the appearance of a totally separate and distinct human like form.

In conclusion, by considering the evolution in terms of habitat (water only, water + land, land) and various socio-intellectual capabilities and interactions (hunter, nomadic, social etc.) the eight stages or eight avataar (appearances) fully and properly describe the development of modern humans from preliminary water borne life. This in a way is a natural evolution and transformation of life brought on by the overall conditions (including changes) of habitat and society and represents the natural transformation or ‘selection’ in the broadest sense.

~ Dr. Subhash C. Sharma 



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  • This may be modern concept. Because in Rigveda the evolution of animals is not referred in this way. Pl. go to Rudram.

  • These Avathars came to destroy humans of asuric nature and the Vedic scriptures mention about all other forms of life, which implies that this has nothing to do with evolution.

    The purpose of showing Avathars in the forms of different species is to VALIDATE THE PRINCIPLE THAT ALL SPECIMENS OF LIFE FORMS ARE HAVING DIVINE CONSCIOUSNESS…..