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In both Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, we see Indra taking a human form during what appears to be emergency situations.

When Indra wants to rob Gautama off of his ascetic power he suddenly decides to take a human form which is an exact replica of Gautama.

Similarly, to try and disrupt Viśvāmitra's penance to become a brahmarṣi, Indra suddenly appears before him as a brāhmaṇa and begs/steals his only meal in a long time.

In Mahābhārata, Indra again presents himself as a brāhmaṇa (out of thin air) to steal Karṇa's armour.

  1. First off, are these on-demand assumptions of human form considered incarnations/avatars?

  2. Secondly, how do gods decide when to follow the due process i.e., enter a mother's womb and take birth in a certain family. And just drive the events that just lead up to the actual purpose of their incarnation – versus – just taking the right human form at the right moment?

    For example, in Gautama's case, why didn't Indra just take birth as Gautama's twin brother?

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    why would you think that 'assuming' a human form is the same as incarnating?? – Swami Vishwananda May 26 '18 at 5:25
  • I think gods have the power to take any forms whenever they wish.. but incarnating is different from that – Rickross May 26 '18 at 5:57
  • I think Avtar/incarnation is not used for simply changing appearance to do something. Avtar has a greater purpose and has a longer life. Moreover if you ask me then I would say that Avtaar can also be the ones in whom, the other people see the qualities of some God, and start calling them as an avtar of that God. – Aby May 26 '18 at 6:54
  • Why wouldn't you? If you're a god, 'assuming' a human form has a purpose. Isn't that an avatar is all about @SwamiVishwananda – sv. May 26 '18 at 11:19
  • It's like asking on what basis parents decide when to patiently teach their child not to touch fire, and when they suddenly snatch a kid about to touch fire. Also, an action that serves multiple purposes is the hallmark of advanced soul - '2 mangoes with 1 stone'. when they decide to take birth, they also fulfill boons of the parents, while also satisfying various other rules and conditions like urgency and time. when Krishna was born, Vasudeva & Devaki had a boon remaining from previous birth etc. And other times, when matters are more urgent, they suddenly appear/disappear. – ram May 28 '18 at 5:28

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