Hayagreeva Avathaaram-Bhagavatha Puranam

What is the similarity and what is the difference between the first and the last Avataras of the Lord?

The correct Answers are:
First Avataaram: Lord Hayagriva; Last Avataaram: Kalki (apocalyptic)

Similarity: Both are associated with horse.

Dissimilarity: Lord Hayagriva has a horse face at the beginning even before creation started;

Lord Kalki rides a horse at the dissolution of Time

Many are familiar with the popular 10 Avataras called Dasaavataaras commencing with (fish) Matsya and concluding with the apocalyptic horse rider (Kalki). But, our Saastras say Avataaraa: hi asankhyEya: meaning that the Lords incarnations are indeed infinite. Various scriptures list from 30 to 48 Avataras (including these 10). But all are agreed that the earliest Avataara is that of Lord Hayagriva with the face of a horse.

To understand the concept, we have to board the imaginary time capsule and fly back to the very beginning of time – the time of creation. How the world came into being and whether and if so, when it will come to an end has been the subject of inquiry by both Religion and Science. As many theories have been advanced as there are religious thinkers and scientific investigators. The proverbial antagonists in Religion and Science seem today, as never before, to converge on the origin of the world and the origin of the species.

The narration of Bhaagavata Purana has been accepted on all hands as the most authoritative one. The world that we know of is full of sentient beings (Chetanas) and Non-sentient things            (A-chetanas). In the beginning, they subsisted in a subtle state (Sukshma dasa) without any name or form. At this time, they were so integrated that they could not be differentiated and they were all alike drawn to Bhagavaan (Sri Narayana) while he went to sleep, very much like iron filings clinging to the magnet.

Once, He said to himself “Let me become many”. He thus created from out of his own being (Sat) by stirring Prakriti (Primordial matter). Prakriti which was in a dormant state with Satva, Rajo and Tamo Gunas in equipoise got disturbed and issued forth in a gross form in the person of Brahma seated on the top of the lotus bud emerging from out of the navel of Bhagavaan Sri Narayana. For a thousand divine years before the bud could blossom, Brahma dwelt in the bud.  When it bloomed, Brahma emerged and looked around and saw none else than his self. He entered the stalk to find out the source of the bud but could not trace it. Suddenly, he heard an ethereal voice asking him to meditate-    ‘ Tapa! Tapa! He meditated for another thousand divine years (Devamana Varsha) when Bhagavaan gave him a glimpse of his own world VaikuNTa and bade Brahma to do further Tapas that would endow him with powers of creation. After doing Tapas as advised, Brahma acquired the powers of creation from Bhagavaan, who gave him the Vedas containing the secrets of the Art of creation and bade him to commence creation.

Being subject to Karma, his life is limited, Brahma also suffers from faults and foibles as much as we do. Brahma was proud on his newly acquired power as the creator of the world. The Lord desired to curb his pride. They used to say: “Homer nods”. In our scriptures, we find many occasions when Brahma also nods. On one such occasion he not only nodded but also yawned. A couple of drops of water lying at the bottom of stalk of the lotus transformed into two demons called Madhu and KaiTaba who promptly stole the Vedas from the dozing Brahma and hid themselves in Rasaatala intending to usurp for themselves Brahmas power to create. On waking up, Brahma found the Vedas missing. The whole environment became shrouded in darkness and mystery. Brahma could not proceed with his work. He prayed to Lord Vishnu and requested Bhagavaan to help saying: Vedaa: mE Chakshu: Vedaa; mE Paramam padam; Vedaa: mE paramam Dharama; Vedaa: mE Brahmas cha uttamam.

Lord Narayana took the form of Hayagriva on an AvaNI, POurNami, in the constellation of SraavaNa. He appeared with the face of a horse, traced the demons in Rasaatala, let out a terrific sound called Udgeetam- a tune from Saama Veda (Saama Swaram). Its resonance frightened the demons who dropped the Vedas and ran away. The Lord retrieved the Vedas and restored them to Brahma. The demons came to know this, offered fight with the Lord. Hayagriva crushed them between his thighs and decimated them. He is therefore called Madhusudhan (Slayer of Madhu). Thus, this was the very first Avataara that took place even before creation started.

Devi Bhaagavata, however, gives a different version. Once upon a time, there was an Asura called Hayagriva, who had the face of a horse. He did intense penance to Devi and got a boon from her that he should not be killed by anyone except one who had a face similar to his. He was under the impression that none would have such a figure and was pretty much sure that he had become invincible. With the new found power, he inflicted tortures on all living beings. Devi prayed to Lord Vishnu who took the form with a horse face, fought with the Asura and killed him. But, this version is not regarded as authentic. Thus, this was the very first Avataara that took place even before creation started.

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