1) ADI PURUSH AVATAR (Incarnation as Pre-eminent man) : Lord Vishnu assumed his first incarnation as the pre-eminent man, with a desire to commence creation. This first incarnation of Lord Vishnu was replete with sixteen Kalas (Supernatural powers).
Lord Brahma manifested from the navel of Lord Vishnu in his (Lord Vishnu) state of Yoganidra (deep meditation). Creation as well as the expansion of the creation commenced from the organs of Lord Brahma. The first incarnation of Lord Vishnu is all-powerful, and can only be seen by the yogins and sages who have attained divine knowledge. This incarnation is also the indestructible seed from which all other incarnations manifest themselves. During the final annihilation of the world, every creation merges into him.
2) THE ETERNAL YOUTHS : Sanatkumar was the 'Manasputra' (born by a wish) of Lord Brahma. Throughout his life he maintained celibacy and engaged himself in the performance of intensive penance. He was the one who inspired the Brahmins on the virtues of penance and Celibacy.
3) VARAHA AVATAR (The incarnation as a Boar) : Lord Vishnu assumed his third incarnation as a boar. In this incarnation Lord Vishnu rescued the earth, which had submerged into the ocean and brought it out from the ocean. The entire creation started thereafter. A demon by the name of Hiranyaksha had abducted the earth and carried it to the 'Rasatala' (the second lowest of the world). The earth is considered to be a 'Woman', and since it is a crime to abduct a woman, Lord Vishnu (in his incarnation of a boar) killed the demon Hiranyaksha and liberated the earth from his clutches.
4) NARADA AVATAR (The incarnation as Sage Narada) : Lord Vishnu wore his fourth incarnation as Narada. Narada by becoming a 'Devarishi' among all the sages, achieved liberation from all of his Karma's (action). Narada was the one who gave discourses to the Vaishnavas (followers of Lord Vishnu) on 'Pancharatra Tantra'.
Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Narada, demonstrated that devotion is the best means of attaining liberation from all the bondages of 'Karma's'. He also said that a devotee of Lord Vishnu is the supreme among all devotees, in the same way as Devarishi Narada is among the Sages.
5) NARA-NARAYANA AVATAR (Incarnation as Nara-Narayana) : Lord Vishnu undertook his fifth incarnation as sage Nara-Narayan, born from the womb of a woman named 'Kala'. He performed laborious penance by going to Badri and Kedar. He showed the importance Penance (Labour), proving that nothing in this world can be achieved without it.
6) KAPILA AVATAR(Incarnation as Sage Kapila) : Lord Vishnu's Sixth incarnation was as sage Kapila. The objective of this incarnation was to compile all divine knowledge that had been destroyed. He was the profounder of Sankhya Shastra (rationalism) a concept that assisted the Brahmins who had forgotten their duties of rectifying their mistakes. He also gave discourse to his mother.
7) DATTATRAYA AVATAR (Incarnation as Dattatraya) : Lord Vishnu's Seventh incarnation was as Dattatraya. He was born to Ansuya and his father was Sage Atri. He was the one who had given Spiritual Knowledge to King Alarka and Prahlada. He had twenty-four teachers. He believed that in the world, a man quest for learning was ceaseless. He, therefore, accepted twenty-four objects such as water, bird, air, an unmarried girl, and even a prostitute etc, all of which inspired the learning process.
8) YAGYA AVATAR (Incarnation as Yagya): Lord Vishnu in his eighth incarnation as Yagya was born to Prajapati and Akuti. He had rescued a 'Devagana' (celestial and supernatural being) named Yama and also the Manvantar named as 'Swayambhuva'. The main thrust of his teaching was based on the values of helpfulness and protecting each other during times of crisis.
9) RISHABH AVATAR (Incarnation as Rishabh Dev) : Lord Vishnu in his ninth incarnation as Rishabh Dev was born to king Nabhi and Marudevi. His mother Marudevi was the daughter of Indra. He attained that state of Paramhansa (an ascetic of highest order who has controlled his anger) which is an uphill task. He was given the title of 'Jin' which means ' knower'. His followers are known as Jains.
10) PRITHU AVATAR (Incarnation as Prithu) : Lord Vishnu in his tenth incarnation as 'Prithu' came into existence after the body of King 'Vena'. Lord Vishnu accpeted this incarnation as per the wishes of the sages. The earth had concealed all the vegetation's within her, and as a result the whole land had become barren. To protect all humanity, Lord Vishnu assumed the incarnation of Prithu, by milking the cow (earth). This is considered that the supreme incarnation because the earth has remained full of vegetation's since that time.
11) MATSYA AVATAR (Incarnation as a Fish) : All the oceans had unified into a single ocean in the 'Manvantara' of 'Chakshusha'. Lord Vishnu in his 11th incarnation as a Matsya (Fish) rescued the earth from 'Maya' the demon. He gave discourses to Satyavrat along with the seven sages, while they were sitting on a boat. He also showed them his illusionary powers. This was his eleventh incarnation.
12) KACHCHAP AVATAR (Incarnation as a Tortoise) : Lord Vishnu, in his twelfth incarnation as a tortoise, held the mountain 'Mandarachala' on his back, during the time when deities and the demons where churning the ocean. He stopped the mountain from reaching the netherworld. This was Lord Vishnu's twelfth incarnation.
13) DHANVANTARI (Incarnation as Dhanvantari) : Lord Vishnu took his thirteenth incarnation as Dhanvantari. He manifested from the ocean, holding a vessel filled with ambrosia. He was the inventor of medicinal science.
14) MOHINI AVATAR (Incarnation as a most Enchanting woman) : Lord Vishnu in his fourteenth incarnation as a most enchanting woman, charmed the demons by his beauty and took away the pot filled up with ambrosia from them, giving it to the deities. The deities were thus protected from the demons.
15) NARSIMHA AVATAR (Incarnation in the form of half-man and half-lion) : Lord Vishnu took his fifteenth incarnation as Nrisimha, where the upper portion of his body was in the form of a lion, and the lower portion resembled a man. In this incarnation he protected Prahlada from his father Hiranyakashipu the demon. He killed Hiranyakashipu by tearing his body apart by his nails. Lord Vishnu had to attain this form because Lord Brahma had blessed Hiranyakashipu with the prophesy that a human being could not kill him.
16) HAYAGREEVA AVATAR (Incarnation as Hayagreeva) : Once Lord Brahma becoming tired of his creative activities, he was in need of some rest. The night of the Brahma was approaching. Given his fatigue, Lord Brahma yawned. All the four Vedas came out from his open mouth. A demon who used to live near him in disguise, abducted the Vedas. Lord Vishnu took his sixteenth incarnation as Hayagreeva to protect the Vedas. In this incarnation, his face resembled that of a horse and the rest of his body resembled that of Sri Narayan with all of his four hands. He killed the demon and protected the Vedas.
17) VAMAN AVATAR (Incarnation as a Dwarf) : In his seventeenth incarnation, Lord Vishnu became a Dwarf, when Bali the king of the demons had captured the entire three worlds. Indra and all the other deities were wandering around after losing the heaven.
To help the deities regain control over heaven. Lord Vishnu disguised as a dwarf went to Bali when he was busy performing a 'Yagya' and demanded earth measured by his three steps. When 'Bali' agreed, he transformed his form from a small dwarf to a giant. Consequently, he covered all the three worlds with his two steps. Ultimately he regained heaven for the deities.
18) PARSHURAM AVATAR (Incarnation as Parshurama) : When the Kshatriya kings became ruthless and started exploiting their subjects. Lord Vishnu assumed his eighteenth incarnation as Parshurama' and annihilated the Kshatriyas kings seventeen times, and subsequently donated the earth to the Brahmins.
19) VYAS AVATAR (Incarnation as Sage Vyasa) : Lord Vishnu was Sage Vyasa in his nineteenth incarnation, born from the womb of 'Satyavati'. His father was sage Parashar. He made the division of Veda, and made extension of its branches. He also wrote eighteen Mahapuranas and the Mahabharata.
20) RAM AVATAR (Incarnation as Lord Rama) : Lord Rama is considered to be the twentieth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In this form, he constructed a bridge over the ocean with the help of the Vanars (monkeys) and after crossing over to Lankas killed many demons like Ravana, Kumbhakarna. He accomplished many astonishing feats and saved the deities. He also taught the value of morality.
21) BALARAM AVATAR (Incarnation as Balrama) : Balrama is considered to be the twenty-first incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In this incarnation he killed Pralambasura the demon, and he killed many more demons.
22) KRISHNA AVATAR (Incarnation as Krishna) : Lord Krishna born in Mathura was the twenty-second incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He fought against all forms of exploitation from his childhood and killed many demons like Kalayavan, Kansa, Jarasandh etc. He passed on divine knowledge to Arjun during the battle of Kurukshetra.
23) BUDDHA AVATAR (Incarnation as Buddha) : The twenty-third incarnation of Lord Vishnu was as Lord Buddha. In the Kaliyuga the demons were completely subjugated by the deities. Shukracharya the teacher of the demons instigated the demons to perform Yagya so that they could regain power and authority. Fearful, the deities prayed to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu incarnated into Buddha and dissuaded the demons from performing Yagya as it involves violence. The demons stopped performing Yagyas.
24) KALKI AVATAR (Incarnation as Kalki) : At the end of Kaliyuga, when the sins would be 80 in number and all pervading, the kings would themselves becomes thieves. At that time Lord Vishnu would take his twenty-fourth incarnation as Kalki by taking birth in the village of 'Shambhal'. He would take birth in a Brahmin family of Vishnuyash. By killing and destroying the sinners, he would re-establish the truimphof virtuosity and religiousness