Book 1: Chapter 3
Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 1: Chapter 3: Verses 15-31
At the end of the Caksusa Manwantara, when all the three worlds were beingdeluged by the ocean, He took the form of a fish (during His tenth manifestation) and rescued the future Vaivaswata Manu (the lord of the present Manwantara), picking him up on the earth, which had been transformed into a boat. During His eleventh manifestation, when the gods and the demons began churning the ocean (with Mount Mandara), the Lord assumed the form of a tortoise and supported Mount Mandara on His back. In His twelfth descent He took the form of Dhanwantari (and emerged from the ocean with a jar full of nectar ); while during His thirteenth manifestation He assumed the form of an enchanting woman and gave the gods the nectar to drink, keeping the others (the demons) spell-bound all the while. In His fourteenth manifestation He took the form of a man-lion and tore with His claws the bosom of the most powerful demon king (Hiranyakasipu) even as a maker of straw mats would tear a reed. Assuming the form of a dwarf in His fifteenth descent He visited the sacrificiaI performance of Bali (the demon king) and asked him for three paces of land with the covert intention of robbing him of (his kingdom of) heaven. In His sixteenth descent (as Parasurama) He found that the kings had become inimical to the Brahmanas; enraged at this He rid the earth of the Ksatriya race as many as twenty-one times. Then, in His seventeenth descent (as Vyasa), He was born of Satyavati through the sage Parasara and, finding the people of poor intelligence, divided the tree of Veda into many branches. Then again (in the eighteenth descent) He assumed the form of a ruler of men (Sri Rama) with a view to accomplishing the purpose of the gods and performed heroic feats like bridging the ocean and so. on. In the nineteenth and the twentieth the Lord was born among the Vrsnis as Balarama and Sri Krsna and relieved the earth of its burden. When Kali sets in, He will be born in Magadha (North Bihar) as Buddha, son of Ajana, with a view to deluding the enemies of gods. Then again, towards the end of the Kali age, when the kings mostly turn into robbers, the Lord of the universe will take descent from (a Brahmana named) Visnuyasa as Lord Kaki.
Even as thousands of rivulets flow from a lake that never dries, so there are countless descents of the Lord, who is a storehouse of Sattva (power, wisdom, etc.) , O Brahmanas. The sages and seers, the Manus, the gods, the sons of the Manus, the Prajapatis (lords of created beings), in fact, all those who possess great power, are rays of Sri Hari. All these, however, are either part manifestations or rays of the Supreme Person; while Sri Krsna is the Lord Himself. All these Avataras or manifestations of the Lord appear from age to age and protect the world when it is oppressed by the enemies of Indra. This story of the Lord's descents is a secret. The man who devoutly recites it every evening and morning with a pious mind is rid of all suffering. This gross manifestation (in the form of the material universe) of the Lord, who is essentially spiritual and has no material form, has been evolved by the products of His Maya such as Mahat (the principle of Cosmic Intelligence) and so on, and superimposed on the Lord Himself. Even as men of poor wits assume the existence of the clouds in ether and of dustiness in the air, (even though the clouds, as a matter of fact, hang in the air while dustiness belongs to the particles of earth,) so the ignorant superimpose the gross phenomenal universe on the Self, who is the seer.
- [5641 B. M. 4-