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Stotras of Vedanta Desika

by Sri D. Ramaswamy Ayyangar
Page 15

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22. Dasavatara Stotram

The "Birthless Being" (Paramatma) is born in this world again and again. Only, those births are all "divyam" (divine) as said in the Bhagavad Gita. The Lord is born out of His own sweet will and pleasure (not by compelling karma as in our case). Avataras are sport or leela to Him; to us they are His acts of grace or daya to redeem us. The avataras are many, but ten out of them have been marked out as Dasavatara, and enjoyed specially by the Alvars and Acharyas. This Stotram is about those ten avataras, and hence the name Dasavatara.

The opening sloka refers to all the world being a stage -- not in the Shakespearean sense of a stage in which mortal man is the actor as several parts, but in a quite different sense, viz., that the Lord dons several parts and acts thereon in the company of His Consort, Lakshmi, who dons the appropriate female part on each occasion. The first word is "devah" and refers to the Sporting Lord, and the last word is naayika, referring to the Consort donning "anuguNaan bhaavaan" appropriate lady-part. The prayer is made that the Two of them may confer all auspiciousness on us.

The next ten slokas deal with the ten avataras in order. Each is a pen-picture of one situation in the particular avatara. The sea suddenly becomes full of lotuses, when the Lord as Matsya (Fish) casts His eyes everywhere in its waters while searching for the Vedas. As Kurma, (Tortoise) the Lord bears the Mandara mountain on His back and at the same time enjoys a dolotsavam (swinging festival) along with Lakshmi, as Their Paryanka (couch) is moved this side and that by the surging and retreating waves of the ocean. And so on.

Sloka 12 gives a list of the foregoing ten avataras with a crisp one-word adjective for each avatara which correctly indicates the chief point of that avatara. The last sloka (phalasruti) refers to this stotram as "jaganmangalam" (welfare of all the worlds), a rare herb obtainable from the ocean and capable of bestowing learning, devotion, health and fame on those who evince a desire to recite it.

I have heard it said that great Acharyas have prescribed a paaraayanam of this stotram as a panacea for ills attributable to evil-aspecting of stars and planets.

More Details - Devanagari Text

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