Vishnu, whose name means “All-Pervading”, is the protector of the world
and the restorer of moral order (dharma). He is peaceful, merciful, and
Vishnu is often pictured with his consort, Lakshmi, and usually has four
arms. Each hand holds an emblem of his divinity: the conch, discus, club,
Vishnu is also often shown reclining or asleep as he awaits the next
annihilation and renewal of the world.
The 4 hands of Vishnu express dominion over the 4 directions of space.
They also symbolize the 4 stages of human life: The quest for knowledge
(Brahamacharya), Family Life (Grihastha), Retreat into the forest (Vana-
Prastha), Renunciation (Sannyasa).
Vishnu is best known through his 10 avatars, which appear on earth when
there is disorder in the world. The ten avatars of Vishnu are: Matsya (fish),
Kurma (turtle), Varaha (boar), Marasimha ( man-lion), Vamana (dwarf),
Parashurama (warrior- priest), Rama (prince), Krishna (cow-herd), Buddha
(sage), Kalki (horseman, who has yet to appear)