In the forest that is known as Naimisharanya, Shounaka and the other rishis (sages) were performing a yajna (sacrifice) dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Suta had also come there, on his way to a pilgrimage.
The sages told Suta, “We have welcomed you. Now describe to us that which makes men all- knowing. Describe to us that which is the most sacred in the whole world”.
Suta replied, “Vishnu is the essence of everything. I went to a hermitage named Badrika with Shuka, Paila and other sages and met Vyadeva there. Vyasadeva described to me that which he had learnt from the great sage Vashishtha, Vashishtha having learnt it from the god Agni himself. The Agni Purana is sacred because it tells us about the essence of the Brahman (the divine essence). I learnt all this from Vyasadeva and I will now tell you all that I have learnt.”
Do you know what an avatara is? An avatara is an incarnation and means that a god adopts a human form to be born on earth. Why do gods do this. The purpose is to destroy evil on earth and establish righteousness. Vishnu is regarded as the preserver of the universe and it is therefore Vishnu’s incarnations that one encounters most often. Vishnu has already had nine such incarnations and the tenth and final incarnation is due in the future. These ten incarnations of Vishnu are as follows.
(1) Matsya avatara- fish incarnation (2) Kurma avatara- turtle incarnation (3) Varaha avatara- boar incarnation (4) Narasimha avatara- half-man lion incarnation (5) Vamana avatara- dwarf incarnation (6) Parashurama (7) Rama (8) Krishna (9) Buddha (10) Kalki-this is the incarnation that is yet to come.
The Agni Purana now describes these ten incarnations.