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avatara (ăvˌətârə) [key] [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 being from age to age." Vishnu is believed to have taken nine avatara, in both animal and human form, with a tenth yet to come. The avatara of Shiva are imitations of those of Vishnu.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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