Vishnu

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Vishnu

(vĭsh`no͞o), one of the greatest gods of HinduismHinduism
, Western term for the religious beliefs and practices of the vast majority of the people of India. One of the oldest living religions in the world, Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it had no single founder but grew over a period of 4,000 years in
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, also called Narayana. First mentioned in the Veda as a minor deity, his theistic cults, known as Vaishnavism, or Vishnuism, grew steadily from the first millennium B.C., absorbing numerous different traditions and minor deities. By his worshipers Vishnu is regarded as the supreme God, of whom other gods are secondary manifestations. The early epics the MahabharataMahabharata
, classical Sanskrit epic of India, probably composed between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200. The Mahabharata, comprising more than 90,000 couplets, usually of 32 syllables, is the longest single poem in world literature.
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 and the RamayanaRamayana
[story of Rama], classical Sanskrit epic of India, probably composed in the 3d cent. B.C. Based on numerous legends, it is traditionally the work of Valmiki, one of the minor characters.
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 show considerable Vaishnavite influence. The later Puranas fully elaborate the myths of Vishnu and his avataraavatara
[Skt.,=descent], incarnations of Hindu gods, especially Vishnu. The doctrine of avatara first occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna declares: "For the preservation of the righteous, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of dharma [virtue], I come into
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 (incarnations): Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the tortoise), Varaha (the boar), Narasimha (the man-lion), Vamana (the dwarf), Parashurama (Rama with the ax), Rama, KrishnaKrishna
[Sanskrit,=black], one of the most popular deities in Hinduism, the eighth avatar, or incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna appears in the Mahabharata epic as a prince of the Yadava tribe and the friend and counselor of the Pandava princes.
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, BuddhaBuddha
[Skt.,=the enlightened One], usual title given to the founder of Buddhism. He is also called the Tathagata [he who has come thus], Bhagavat [the Lord], and Sugata [well-gone]. He probably lived from 563 to 483 B.C.
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, and Kalkin (who is yet to appear). Vishnu is generally depicted as dark blue in color, crowned, and bearing in his four hands his emblems—the conch, discus, mace, and lotus. His mount is the eagle Garuda, and his consort is Lakshmi, or Shri, the goddess of wealth.

Vishnu

 

with Brahma and Siva the highest deity of Brahmanism and Hinduism; the supreme deity of Vishnuism. Vishnu is the protector god, the embodiment of eternally living nature. He is mentioned as the sun god again in the Rig-Veda. Vishnu is worshiped mainly in the form of avatars (his earthly incarnations)—Rama (the hero of the epic Ramayana) and Krishna.

Vishnu

Hinduism the Pervader or Sustainer, originally a solar deity occupying a secondary place in the Hindu pantheon, later one of the three chief gods, the second member of the Trimurti, and, later still, the saviour appearing in many incarnations
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