My Sikh friends have told me that it is in their holy books that Guru nanak was avtar of Vishnu

How can we identify if this is true ? Are there certain signs to look for ? Thanks

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    It's best to accept only the avatāras, which are mentioned in śāstras. There is no avatāra (of Viṣṇu) named Nānaka (or referring to him) mentioned in mahāpurāṇas (including Bhaviṣya). As for thousands of charlatans claiming to be Kalki, no need to pay attention to them. More than 400k yrs of Kaliyuga are still left and Kalki would appear in the Kaliyugasandhyāṁśa (i.e. in the ending 36k yrs). And he would be as great as we expect him, not like some charlatan trying to claim to be one, he would show that by his very presence, words, actions, etc. that he is Kalki.
    – Bingming
    Mar 12 at 0:23
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    Every sect be it orthodox or non -orthodox claims their spiritual teachers to be an incarnation of someone, so this isn't surprising. Moreover I have seen many Sikhs say their Vishnu is different from the Vishnu of hinduism.
    – user34000
    Mar 12 at 3:31
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    @Bingming Even the accounts of Bhavisya purana should be taken with a grain of salt. It contains many ludicrous stories like sankaracharya spreading his philosophy by the order of Ramanuja. Chaitanya, in his lifetime meeting bhattoji dikshitar(who was literally born after Chaitanya died) and so on.
    – user34000
    Mar 12 at 4:28
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    Related or Duplicate of --- hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/22701/4732
    – Rickross
    Mar 12 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


If you see, Not just Sikhism but every sect even within hinduism have acharyas who are claimed by their followers to be Avatara of someone or the other.

In Vaishnavism-

  1. Rāmānuja in ŚrīVaiṣṇavism is an incarnation of Ādi Śeṣa/Saṅkarṣaṇa.

  2. Madhva in Dvaita sect is incarnation of Vāyu

  3. Nimbārka in Kumāra Sampradāya is incarnation of Sudarśana Chakra.

  4. Caitanya in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism is incarnation of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa combined.

  5. Vallabha in Rudra Sampradāya (Puṣṭimārga) is incarnation of Agní.

  6. Nityānanda or Nitāī(of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism) is incarnation of Balarāma

  7. Advaita Acharya(of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism) is incarnation of Mahaviṣṇu-Śadasiva combined.

  8. Gadādhara of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism is an incarnation of effulgence of Rādhā.

  9. The Six Goswamis are the incarnations of various manjaris of Krishna.

  10. Śrīvāsa is incarnation of Nārada.

  11. Tulasīdāsa is incarnation of Vālmīki, who’s incarnation of Brahmā.

  12. Kṛpālu is incarnation of Caitanya, who’s also an incarnation as mentioned above.

  13. Rāmananda is incarnation of Rāma.

  14. Mīrā Bāī is an incarnation of the Gopikā, that missed the Rāsa of Kṛṣṇa.

  15. The Āḻvārs also are incarnation of different figures from the Pantheon, like Äṇɖāḷ is an incarnation of Bhūmi.

  16. Rāmananda(Guru of Svāmīnārāyaṇa) is incarnation of Uddhava.

  17. Svāmīnārāyaṇa is incarnation of Nārāyaṇa or Kṛṣṇa.

  18. Jnaneshvara of varkari sect is incarnation of Kṛṣṇa.

In Shaivism-

  1. Renukacharya is considered an avatara from Sadyojata mukha of Shiva.

  2. Srikantha Sivarcharya is considered an avatara of Nilalohita Shiva.

  3. Gorakhnath of Natha Sampradaya is considered an Avatara of Shiva.

  4. The Nayanmars such as Tirumular are also held by the follwers of Saiva siddhanta to be Avatara.

  5. Appaya Dikshitar Is considered to be a partial avatara of Shiva

and so on...

Then There are Also a plethora of Unorthodox sect leaders like Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Harichand Thakur, Anukulchandra Thakur, Lokenath Brahmachari etc. Whose followers consider them God Incarnate. There's also Sai baba whose followers consider him an Avatara of Lord Dattatreya

The Above beliefs are subjective for all of these personages are held to be avataras by their own sect, but not necessarily by others.

So there is no objective way way to determine avatara-hood of a certain Acharya. It ultimately boils down to the subjective beliefs of one's own sect whether one believes any acharya or spiritual teacher to be an avatara or not.

  • 1
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  • Excellent answer. Thanks for this list. I want to add that the Swaminarayan sect considers Bhagawan Swaminarayan, their Guru as the avatar of Parambrahman. Mar 12 at 6:31
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    @AmritenduMukhopadhyay Yes, I have included Swaminarayan in the list
    – user34000
    Mar 12 at 7:02

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