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Vaishavism is a sect of Hinduism whose followers believe in the deity Vishnu, who is seen as an incarnation of the supreme God (or creator of the universe) Brahman.
Vishnu is known as the caretaker of the universe. He is also associated with restoring and preserving all things within the universe. It is said that Vishnu is quite concerned with the welfare of his human followers and because of this he is often referred to as the god of love. He is thought to destroy evil and restore order and dharma. Vishnu is usually depicted as a man with blue skin and four arms who is sitting on a lotus flower.
Vaishnas are characterized by their belief that God incarnates many times in order to combat the onslaught of evil so that righteousness and good can be restored.
Vishnu is one of the three members of the Trimurti (the Holy Trinity of Hinduism). But unlike the other two members Vishnu is believed to have numerous incarnations, which are known as avatars. Many Vaishnas believe that there are ten defined avatars of Vishnu.
The Ten Avatars of Vishnu:
Varaha (depicted as a boar)
Matsya (depicted as a fish)
Kurma (depicted as a turtle or tortoise)
Vamana (depicted as a dwarf)
Krishna (often depicted as a man with blue skin playing a flute)
Rama (often depicted as a king)
Kalki (often depicted as a warrior riding a horse)
Narasimha (often depicted as part-man, part-lion)
Parashurama (often depicted as a warrior carrying an axe)
All of the incarnations of Vishnu are thought to have existed on earth at one point in time. Some, such as Parashuma, are thought to still live on earth, while others, such as Kalki, are anticipated to arrive on earth at some point in the future.
Avatars are extremely important to Vaishnavism because they provide a connection between the earthly, human world and that of the supernatural. Avatars, therefore, make Vaishnavism one of the most accessible of the Hindu sects.