This article lists 6 categories of avatars one of them being Purusha Avatar:

  1. Purusha avataras
  2. Lila avataras
  3. Guna avataras
  4. Manvantara avataras
  5. Yuga avataras
  6. Shaktyavesha avataras

The same article also lists some examples of Purusha avatars of Krishna:

  1. Purusha avataras:

    Krishna first incarnates as the three purusha avataras namely:

    • Karanodakashayi Vishnu - "The Lord who is lying on the causal ocean".
    • Garbhodakashayi Vishnu - "The Lord who is lying on the universal ocean".
    • Kshirodakashayi Vishnu - "The Lord who is lying on the ocean of milk".
  1. What does purusha avatar actually mean in the above context?
  2. Does it have any scriptural basis?
  3. Besides Krishna, are there more such purusha avatars?
  • If you are Gaudiya then only 3.
    – Wikash_
    Feb 27, 2019 at 19:41
  • Those 3 Vishnu's have no scriptual basis. The Gaudiya Vaishnavas made this up. There is also no scriptual basis for the distinction in avatars.
    – Wikash_
    Mar 30, 2020 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


Bhagavata Purana mentions that Bhagavan initially takes the form of Purusa for material creation.

SB 1.3.1

sūta uvāca

jagṛhe pauruṣaṁ rūpaṁ bhagavān mahad-ādibhiḥ sambhūtaṁ ṣoḍaśa-kalam ādau loka-sisṛkṣayā

Sūta said: In the beginning of the creation, the Lord first expanded Himself in the universal form of the puruṣa incarnation and manifested all the ingredients for the material creation. And thus at first there was the creation of the sixteen principles of material action. This was for the purpose of creating the material universes.

The Purusa avatars are the ones associated with the function of creations and the material world.

The three Purusas are described in Satvata Tantra: Patala 1, Verse 30:

viṣṇos tu trīṇi rūpāṇi puruṣākhyāny atho viduḥ | prathamaṁ mahataḥ sraṣṭṛ dvitīyaṁ tv aṇḍa-saṁsthitam | tṛtīyaṁ sarva-bhūta-sthaṁ tāni jñātvā vimucyate

"Scholars know Visnu's three forms, which are called Purusa. The first one is the creator of Mahat. The second one is in the cosmic egg. The third one is in all beings. Knowing them, one is liberated in a special way"

The names Karanokadakasyi, Garbhodakasayi, Kshirodakasayi are given to the three purusas based on the functions/location of the three purusas.

Some are of the opinion that these three purusas and the Satvata Tantra are only accepted by Gaudiya Vaishnavas, but that is not correct.

Sridhara Svami quotes the above verse from Satvata Tantra in his commentary on Bhagavata Purana to the verses 3.5.27 and 3.20.12. Vallabhacharya also quotes the verse in commentary to the verse 1.3.1.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .