The Vishnu reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Vishnu

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Vishnu is a Hindu god. He is the second god of the Trimurti (also called the Hindu Trinity), along with Brahma and Shiva. Known as the Preserver, he is most famously identified with his avatars, most especially Krishna and Rama.

Table of contents
1 Theological attributes and more
2 Relations with other gods
3 Depiction
4 Worship
5 Names

Theological attributes and more

Vishnu is the all-inclusive deity, known as purusha or mahä purusha, paramätma [Supreme Soul] antaryämi [In-dweller] and He is the shèshin [Totality] in whom all souls are contained. He is Bhagavat where bhâga is Divine Glory.

Vishnu possesses six such divine glories, namely,

Relations with other gods

Vishnu's consort is Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Shakti is the samvit [the primary intelligence] of god, while the other five attributes emerge from this samvid and hence Shakti is the god's ahamata [personality and activity. ] Thus this Shakti of god is personified in mythological lore and is called Shri or Lakshmi, and She is said to manifest herself in, 1] kriyäshakti, [Creative Activity] and 2] bhütishakti [Creation] of god. Hence Vishnu can not part with His own personality or creativity i.e., ahamta, which in its feminine form is called Sri or Lakshmi. He therefore needs consort Goddess Lakshmi to be with Him always, untouched by any. Thus goddess Lakshmi has to accompany Vishnu in all His incarnations.

His mount is Garuda, the eagle. He, along with the rishis, helped broker the truce between Vritra and Indra.

Depiction

Vishnu is usually depicted as a four-armed humanoid with blue skin, often sitting or resting on a lotus flower. He also has a shapeless, omnipresent form called Hari.

Worship

Vishnu is the chief god of Vaishnavism.

It is believed that he manifested himself as a human being in ten Avatars. He is frequently worshipped in the form of these avatars.

It is not clearly known when or how the worship of Vishnu began. In the Vedas, and the information on Aryan beliefs, Vishnu is listed as a lesser god, strongly associated with Indra. It was only later in Hindu history that he became a member of the Trimurti and one of the most important deities of the religion.

Names

Like all Hindu deities, Vishnu has a number of names, perhaps more than any other, collected in the Vishnu sahasranama ("Vishnu's thousand names"), which occurs in the Mahabharata. The names are generally derived from the supposed anantakalyanagunas (infinite auspicious attributes) of the Lord. Fourteen of Vishnu's names have a special status:

Other important names:


Early Hinduism | Hinduism | Hindu Philosophy
Primary Scriptures: Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa | Tantras | Sutras
Concepts: Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Punarjanma | Samsara
Schools & Systems: Vedanta | Yoga | Tantra | Bhakti
Rituals: Aarti | Darshan | Puja | Satsang | Thaal | Yagnya
Hindu Teachers/Gurus and Saints: Sankara | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda
Denominations: Vaishnavism | Shaivism | Shaktism | Neo- and quasi-Hindu movements

Hinduism | Hindu mythology
Deities: Brahma | Vishnu | Shiva | Rama | Krishna | Ganesha | Indra | Gayatri | Lakshmi | Sarasvati
Texts: Ramayana | Mahabharata