Who is Vishnu?
Vishnu is the supreme and most commonly worshiped god of Hinduism. According to Hinduism, Vishnu is responsible for the upkeep of the universe. He represents the embodiment of goodness and mercy; of compassion. His consort is Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and fortune.
Vishnu is described All-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe and originates and develops all elements within. Vishnu governs the aspect of preservation and sustenance of the universe, so he is called "Preserver of the universe."
As an icon Vishnu has four arms. The four arms indicate Vishnu's "omnipresence" and "omnipotence." In his right hand he holds the discus, symbol of the cosmic mind and reminder of the wheel of time. His lower right hand holds the conch (sankh), symbol of the sound Ohm, the origin of existence. The sounds created from the conch is associated with the sound from the creation of the universe. From this evolve the five elements. In his other hand he holds the bow which is called shranga, the symbol of casual power of illusion from which arises the universe. The arrows are the sense which represent intellectual activities. In his upper left hand, he holds a lotus (padma), the symbol for the moving universe and the symbol of all things that are good (eternity, prosperity, and purity). His lower left hand holds the mace (gada), the symbol of the notion of individual existence. The icons on his body also attributes to the "greatness of the deity." An example of this is the armlets he wears. These represent the three aims of life; pleasure, success, and righteousness. The other example is the earring shaped like monsters. They represent the two methods of knowledge: the intellectual knowledge and the intuitive perception. The power of the god is encased in the garland of victory made from either five rows of flowers or jewels, representing the five senses.
Avatars of Vishnu
Following is an overview of the 10 principal avatars of Vishnu:
First incarnation of Vishnu : Matsya or the Fish incarnation : in this form Vishnu saved the "Saint Vaivaswata", the hindu variety of the biblical Noah. (It is interesting to note that most civilizations have a flood myth of their own. This undoubtedly gives credence to the true Biblical flood account, and that it really occured.)
Second incarnation of Vishnu : Kurma or the Turtle incarnation : at the Churning of the Ocean, Vishnu as Koorma (or Kurma) offered his back as a pivot on which to rest the Mount Mandara, used as a churning stick by gods and demons.
Third incarnation of Vishnu : Varaha or the Boar incarnation of Vishnu : he killed the demon Hiranyaksha, recovered the stolen Veda's and released the Earth from the bottom of the ocean.
Fourth incarnation of Vishnu : Narasingha or the Lion incarnation : as a creature who was half-lion and half-man, Vishnu killed the demon Hiranyashasipu, brother of Niranyaksha, who had gained the boon of immunity from attacks by man, beast or god.
Fifth incarnation of Vishnu : Vamana or the Dwarf incarnation : he killed the demon Bali, who had gained dominion over the Earth and had chased the gods from the heavens.
Sixth incarnation of Vishnu : Parasurama : he killed the King Kartavirya, who had stolen the holy cow Kamadhenu, which could grant all desires.
Seventh incarnation of Vishnu : Rama : he killed the demon King Ravana, who had abducted Sita.
Eigth incarnation of Vishnu : Krishna : he killed Kansa, son of a demon and the tyrannical King of Mathura.
Ninth incarnation of Vishnu : Buddha : Vishnu incarnated to remove suffering from the world. While some Hindus may oppose to seeing Buddha as a Vishnu incarnation, many other Hindus in fact embrace Buddha as such and worship Buddha both in Buddhist temples as in Hindu temples.
Tenth Incarnation of Vishnu : Kalki : still to come at the end of the Kaliyuga or the present age of decline, when Vishnu will appear in person on Earth, seated on a white horse, Kalki, which is his tenth incarnation.
Many of these stories are truly ridiculous. For example, the demons being more powerful then the gods and being immune from their attacks. One story even described a demon as "chasing the gods from the heavens." This if anything should show that the Hindu deities are neither gods nor worthy of worship.
Satan has always wanted to be worshiped as God. Look at his arrogant words in Isaiah. 14:13: "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly [wanting all to worship him], on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain." This sounds like 2 Thessalonians 2:4 which says, "He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." And as Revelation 13:4 says, "Men worshiped the dragon [who is Satan—see Rev. 12:9]…"
Isaiah 14:14 continues recording Satan's words: "I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." The devil has always wanted to be like God and to be worshiped in place of God. He even tried to tempt Jesus by showing "Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me'" (Matthew 4:8,9). Jesus replies in Matthew 4:10: "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve'" (referencing Deuteronomy 10:20).
In addition, immoral rites and groveling superstitions has been a common theme in Shaivism and Vishnuism. While, on the one hand, the practice of asceticism was pushed to its utmost extremes of fanaticism, on the other the doctrine of bhakti was perverted into a system of gross sexual indulgence, for which the amours of Krishna and the Gopis served as the model and sanction. One factor which contributed strongly to the degradation was the veneration of the Shakti, or female side, of these deities. Popular theology would not rest until each deity was supplemented with a wife, in whom the active nature of the god was personified. With Brahmá was associated an ancient river-goddess, Sarasvati, honored as the patroness of letters. Vishnu's Shakti was Sri, or Lakshmi, patroness of good fortune. With Shiva the destroyer there was associated the terrible, blood-thirsty, magical goddess Durga, or Kali, formerly delighting in human victims, now appeased with sacrifices of goats and buffaloes. Rama had his consort, Sita, and Krishna his favorite Gopi, Radha. The worship of these Shaktis, particularly Shiva's consort Durga-Kali, degenerated into shocking orgies of drunkenness and sexual immorality, which even today are one of the many crying scandal of Hinduism. (For other scandals, see Caste System; Hindu Scripture and Polytheism.)
In the ancient writing "Recognitions of Clement", St. Clement of Alexandria states that the fables or myths about the pagan Roman and Greek gods and goddesses gave the pagans a false justification for living wicked lives ("Recognitions of Clement", Book 10, Chapter 23). This same statement can certainly be applied to the Hindu gods and goddesses and many of their evil and wicked deeds.