An incarnation or manifestation of Vishnu or God as the Preserver and Sustainer of the Universe. Within the anvantara or cycle stretching (according to Christian symbolism) from the Earthly Paradise (the state of Adam before the fall) to the Heavenly Jerusalem (the consummation after the second coming of Christ) there are 10 avatars. The seventh is Rama, commemorated in the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic; the eighth is Krishna, commemorated in the Bhagavad Gita; the ninth is described as the non-Hindu avatar and is identifi ed as Buddha or Christ or both, the 10th is Kalki, the destroyer of sin with whose coming the Kali Yuga or dark age will end. He is still to come and is equivalent to the second coming of Christ awaited by the Christians and Muslims and the Maitreya Buddha of the Buddhists. Sometimes the term avatar is used more loosely to indicate a divine manifestation.
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