In the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana, after Rama kills Ravana and rescues his wife Sita, he tells Sita to walk through fire to (to others) prove that she is still faithful to him. She walks through the fire and emerges unharmed, demonstrating her purity of heart. But before she emerges from the fire, the gods come down to the battlefield of Lanka. The gods, particularly Brahma, tell Rama who he really is, an avataram (incarnation) of Vishnu, and asks him how he can send Sita to the fire when she is an avataram of Vishnu's wife Lakshmi. In the process, he addresses Rama by using numerous appellations of Vishnu and his various avatarams.
I'm trying to identify all the avatarams of Vishnu that the gods mention: (This is all taken from this translation of the Ramayana, by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao and K.M.K. Murthy)
- They say "Among the Vasus (a class of gods, eight in number), you are the Vasu, named Ritadhama (one whose abode is Truth or the Divine Law) who was formerly the self-constituted ruler, the first creator of all the three worlds and the lord of creatures." The Vasus are eight gods who are the sons of Kashyap and Aditi, but in Wikipedia's list of the Vasus I don't see any name that's close to "Ritadhama". Is there a name that Ritadhama is more commonly known by?
- They say "You are the eighth Rudra among (eleven) Rudras." The Rudras are a group of eleven gods associated with Shiva, but Wikipedia gives many different lists of names of these gods, and they're not given in any particular order so it's hard to tell which is the "eighth" Rudra referred to in the verse. Is there any of the eleven Rudras that is particularly associated with Vishnu?
- They say "You are ... the fifth (Viryavan by name) among the Sadhyas (a particular class of celestials belonging to Gana Devata)." First of all, it's hard to find that much information about the Sadhyas (although they may be related to the Ganas if they belong to Ganesha). The Srimad Bhagavatam just says "one who wants to be popular with the general mass of population should worship the Sādhyas". This book provides a few details, such as them being older than creation, being the sons of Daksha and Sadhya, and being asssociated with the Ashwameda Yagna. And it does list Viryavan as one of the twelve Sadhyas. But is there any specific information known about who Viryavan is? (EDIT: I asked a question here that may be related.)
- Brahma says "You are the Divine Boar with a single tusk." This clearly refers to Varaha, although I'm not sure why he's described as one-tusked when he's usually depicted as two-tusked.
- Brahma says "You are ... Upendra the Divine Dwarf". This clearly refers to Vamana.
- Brahma says "In the form of the Vedas, you are the great Bull with hundred heads (rules) and thousand horns (precepts)." Is there any information known about this bull? Is it related to the description of Vishnu in the Rig Veda as "the Bull far-striding, dwelling on the mountains"?
So can anyone shed any light on who Ritadhama the Vasu, the eighth Rudra, Viryavan the fifth Sadhya, and "the great bull" are? Vishnu has had countless avatarams, and most people only know the ten Dasa Avatarams and at most the list of 24 major avatarams mentioned in the Puranas. These are considerably more obscure than those, but hopefully there is still some information about them.