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Vishnu is one of the most intriguing and important gods in the Hindu religion He is the second god in the Trimurti or Hindu Triad of Brahma Vishnu and Siva While Brahma and Siva play the roles of creator and destroyer respectively Vishnu plays the significant role of preserver This might explain his central position within the Triad because this is what is most important to worshippers The concept of Vishnu being the preserver of the world came relatively late in Hinduism Presumably it sprang from two other beliefs that men attain salvation by faithfully following predetermined paths of duty and that powers of good and evil gods and demons are in contention for domination over the world Therefore when there is injustice in the world Vishnu stepping into his role as preserver incarnates himself into an avatar to maintain stability within the world Vishnu only does this when the normal balance of good and evil is upset by demons He incarnates himself into human or animal form Of his ten incarnations Rama Krishna and Buddha are the most widely known The other avatars include Matsya the fish Kurma the tortoise Varaha the boar Narasimha the man-lion Vamana the dwarf and Parasurama the Rama with the axe The tenth incarnation Kalki has yet to appear Interestingly there is a monotheistic form of Hindu in which Vishnu or one of his incarnations is the central figure This Hindu sect is known as Vaishnavism The Vaishnavas are mostly warlike races of Northern India who abide by the strict institutions of caste order and purification practices It is likely that a majority 75-80 of todays Hindus would consider themselves Vaishnava if pressed to make a distinction Of the remainder most would probably consider themselves Saivites or monotheistic worshippers of Siva Vishnu is represented in art as being blue in color and having a v-shaped mark on his forehead He has four arms each holding one of the following
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