Yesterday, we read about the similarities of the first five avatars of dashavatar with Darwin’s theory of evolution. Let us now go through the other five avatars to trace the cultural evolution of mankind.
The sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu was Parashuram, a rugged primitive warrior with a battle axe. This form could be a symbol of the cave-man stage of evolution and his usage of the axe could be seen as man’s evolution from the stone age to the iron age. Man had learnt the art of using tools and weapons and exploit the natural resources available to him.
The next avatar is that of Rama, a king who obeyed all the norms of the society as laid down, even at the cost of his personal discomfort. This form also displays a sense of altruism that was expected from a man amongst men – who was to set the ideals of living and even set an example of exemplary ethical standards. This also shows that society had started forming norms and rules and the life of savagery and might-is-right was over. Kings, government, rules and a distinct class system was beginning to fall in place.
This brings us to the next avatar of Lord Krishna, who was shown as a philosopher who taught the methods to deal with the contradictions of the society. He gave mankind the novel ways of handling ethics and evils both in an objective manner. Showing Lord Krishna’s childhood as a cowherd also depicts the fact that man had learnt the domestication of animals and had learnt to make use of the animal resources available to him and respect the same. Along with Krishna, is his brother Balarama, who is depicted with a plough, which goes on to show that man had also begun to depend on agriculture and had learnt to make use of land and earn from it. This also puts an end to the nomadic life style of the uncivilized man.
During the times of Rama and Krishna, there are a number of concepts introduced to man, which shows that man had begun to even think in a creative manner. The earlier avatars dealt with and depicted the baser instincts of man. But these two avatars had started giving wings to man’s thought process. Thus in Ramayana we find the mention of Pushpak Vimana (a flying machine), crossing of seas by Hanuman, sanjivani-buti (life saving drugs), etc. Similarly, in Mahabharata, which also deals with the life and times of Krishna, we see the evils of the society, games played by the people (chaupar), Sanjay relaying the battle from a distance through divya-drishti (divine-vision), mention and occasional usage of weapons of mass-destruction (brahmastra and divyastra), births which were not normal and which needed external help, all akin to modern methods of aided-reproduction, etc. (Please note that I am not saying that people had the ‘technology’ then; all I am saying is that man had evolved to a stage where he could allow his creative thoughts to think of such aspects of life – which too is a stage in the cultural evolution of mankind).
This brings us the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu, i.e. Lord Buddha. The story of Buddha symbolizes the emergence of non-violence and human rights as viable doctrines. Till the stage of Rama and Krishna we have seen man thinking of rules and norms of living in a society. We have seen aspects of politics and forms of governing and the life of battles and its repercussions. Buddha gives man a meaning of existence. He gave man the ideals of a class-less society and that all were equal, irrespective of status. Buddha taught man to think beyond material comforts of life. He introduced the concept of Moksha and Nirvana, and made them the ultimate goals of life. We are supposedly still in this stage of evolution and each one of us are seeking our own ways of achieving individual Moksha, though we have not quite found the formula of world-peace!
This completed the entire evolution of man, which started from nothing, to an evolved evolution.
The tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu, i.e. Kalki, is an imaginary incarnation and is still awaited. Kalki depicts a warrior mounted on a flying horse with a sword who is ready to fight any extra terrestrial invader. The symbolism here is not very clear. Different scholars have opined different regarding this avatar, some say that this avatar will bring a complete destruction which will take us back to where we started, whereas some say that this could be the idea of a single leader who will unify the world under a single rule/ruler. (We will have to wait and watch and if something happens during my lifetime, please be ready to find it in this Blog!).
To conclude – it is important to understand that Lord Vishnu’s dashavatar came much before Darwin propounded his theory of evolution. However, this does not undermine Darwin’s efforts in any way, as his theory is more granular and with a lot of scientific evidence that our rational mind has got used to. On behalf of Charles Darwin, I would also like to mention that he had never read the Hindu scriptures and in no way did he use this to formulate his theory of evolution!
Vishnu’s dashavatar has definitely eliminated some stages of evolution, but one can’t overlook the beauty of presenting what today is scientifically an acceptable theory. Moreover, Darwin stopped at the evolution of man, but the dashavatar goes beyond the physical evolution of man, it traces man’s cultural and cerebral evolution too. Needless to say, that the theory has some overlaps, like Parashuram making an appearance during the times of Rama and Krishna, but if you leave such things to the theorists and as aspects of ‘creative indulgence’, then one can’t help but agree that this is definitely one of the best theories of evolution.
Finally, my favourite statement, (at the cost of repetition) – all that we read in mythology is not without meaning and every aspect has more to it than what meets the eye!