a. “Visnu”: possibly from the Snskr verbal root vis (to enter) – Visnu is ‘he who enters’ or pervades the universe.
Rg Veda: benevolent, solar
deity, often coupled with warrior god Indra. In one
hymn: Visnu takes three strides and separates earth
from sky. Basis of later Puranic myth: Visnu incarnated as
Vamana the dwarf, covers universe with three strides
and so destroys power of demon
2. By the 4th-6th century CE: Visnu depicted two major ways:
a. Dark blue youth, standing upright, 4 arms holding: conch shell (origin of existence, primeval sound from which creation developed), discus (wheel of time, limitless power, circle around wheel is maya), mace (power of knowledge, time), lotus (the universe, unfolds from formless ocean).
b. Visnu lying asleep on coils of a great cosmic snake, Sesa, that floats on the cosmic ocean. When he awakes he creates the universe. Lotus from navel, flower and Brahma, who manifests the universe that is maintained by Visnu, destroyed by Siva, withdraws into Visnu’s navel and Visnu falls asleep once more.
c. Visnu married to Lakshmi and Sri:
a single being (goddess of good fortune and prosperity), originally distinct.
Visnu has, traditionally, 10 avatara, or “descent forms”. Each story of the avataras
of Visnu describes Visnu as
taking a particular form to come down to earth and save all from evil or adharma.
Rama – the prince who was banished from his kingdom for
14 years. Wife Sita
and brother Laxmana went with him. Sita was abducted
by the demon king Ravana. Rescued by Rama and his armies but later
tested for her fidelity.
5. Krishna: As child; as youth