God Vishnu is a manifestation of the eternal and endless Parabrahmn. He is the prime mover that powers the objective world. He is the guardian that sustains this universe. God Vishnu is the substrate of all things. He is the origin of the tiniest atoms and the mightiest galaxies.
His abode lies in Kshirsagar, a timeless place far beyond the mortal world, where He likes to rest on his magnificent lotus throne. He walks with Devi Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune.
Significance and Role: Vishnu is one of the Trimurtis; and the one most involved in the day-to-day affairs of this world. Because of His unbounded power, He never descends to the mortal world as himself. His will, however, still shapes the events, both on the granular and the cosmic scales. He takes countless avatars throughout history for this purpose. When the need arises, He appears as a mortal, to tip the scales of balance between the good and the evil.
God Vishnu is generally represented either seated or standing, on a bed of lotus, floating in the cosmic ocean of milk, the Kshirsagar. The thousand hoods of the Sheshanaga, the king of all serpents and the primal snake, form a protective parasol over the head of God Vishnu.
It’s a long-held tradition to represent Vishnu with light blue skin and four arms.
Avatars of Vishnu: Matsya, the fish, was the first avatar of Vishnu. In this form, he guided Manu during the great deluge. Kurma, the turtle, was the second and Varaha, the boar, was the third. The fourth avatar of Vishnu is Narasimha, the half-man half-lion being, that broke out of existence from within the pillars of the dungeons where Hiranyakashipu was torturing his son, Vishnu-bhakta Prahlada.
The fifth avatar was Vaman, the dwarf Brahman, who went to ask for alms from the great Asura king Bali (also referred to as Mahabali, or Maveli). Next are Parashurama, Rama, and Krishna. The ninth avatar of Vishnu depends on the tradition you choose to follow. Some people believe it to be Balarama, the son of Krishna’s foster parents, others say it’s Gautama the Buddha.
Kalki is the future avatar, slated to appear at the fag end of Kaliyuga, for the final battle between the good and the evil.
Benefits of Worshipping Him: God Vishnu is worshipped in thousands of names. Vishnu Sahasranama is a list of over a thousand names of God Vishnu. Each of these revered names describe a distinct aspect of the ultimate reality.
Boons from God Vishnu, while benefiting the devotee, also has a way of doing good for the world at large. Vishnu not only grants you what you ask for but what you really need. Being a Parabrahmn, God Vishnu can grant his devotees, true bliss and knowledge, when sought appropriately. If deemed worthy, a touch of Vishnu can provide a candidate, instant enlightenment, or the moksha. Mukti from Samsara Varta and vicious cycle of births and deaths.
God Vishnu is an object of reverence for gods and mortals alike. His avatars were heroic personalities, born to correct the wrongs of the world, and to provide courage and inspiration to the denizens of Mrityu-Loka, or the mortal Earth.
His Powers: God Vishnu is omnipotent. He can travel instantly to anywhere in any direction. He can see anything he turns his eyes towards. Nothing is hidden from him. He makes the world run. Vatam, or the movement of air, is the most expressive form of his influence. Through the breaths of life that mortals take, the Vatam enters their bodies, subtly changing their hearts and minds. He is the original magician and trickster. No one can grasp his true intentions unless he intends them to.
His Vehicle: Vishnu rides the mighty eagle, the Garuda. The Garuda is special because its original form is not part of this Brahmand. Similar to his master, Garuda also has taken many avatars in the lower worlds. One of them was Vainateya (son of Vinata) whose life was riddled with countless tales of valor, grit, and wisdom. Garuda embodies the wisdom of the Vedas themselves. It’s also a lesser-known fact that Eagles always play crucial cameos in all of God Vishnu’s incarnations in the lower worlds.
In his benevolent depiction, God Vishnu is represented sleeping on the coils of Sheshanaga, the primal thousand-headed serpent, who like the Garuda exists apart from this Brahmand or the universe. Shesha is considered both a servant and a manifestation of Vishnu and has descended to the Prithvi-Loka as Lakshamana in the Ramayana era, Balarama during the Mahabharata era, and Ramanujacharya, the proponent of Vishishtadvaita School of Vedanta, during the Kaliyuga.
Weapons and Artifacts: Vishnu wields many weapons. Chief among them is the Sudarshana Chakra, the deadly discus of death, swirling around his forefinger. Sudarshana Chakra, being an invincible weapon, is used rarely. There are zero, five, eight, and sixteen weapon depictions of Vishnu in some of his popular representations like Narsimha, Mahavishnu, Ashtabhuja, and Shodasayudha.
Vishnu is the bearer of the conch of divine knowledge, the Panchajanya. Vishnu and his avatars are known to blow the conch shell to herald both good times and wars.
Vishnu, in his four-armed representation, is shown holding a mace and a lotus, apart from the chakra and the conch. The mace is named Kaumodaki and is a mark of authority. Padma, the lotus symbolizes purity and transcendence.
In some of his less common representations, Vishnu is sometimes also represented as wielding the celestial bow Sharanga or the Nandaka sword. The Nandaka sword is believed to be a sentient weapon with the ability to descend to the lower Lokas as avatars in service of its master, Vishnu.
In the Vaishnavite traditions, it is held that it was God Vishnu who created Brahma and taught him about Vedas. It is the knowledge of Vedas that allowed God Brahma to create the universe and its myriad aspects. While Brahma may be the architect, it’s Vishnu who was the ultimate supplier of the building blocks.