The metaphysical concept of avatar, or the incarnation of God, is an integral part of the Hindu theology. It is believed that when the life on earth is going through extremely challenging circumstances, God himself appears on earth in human or some other form. He manifests Himself to ensure preservation of the world and to protect it from evil.
Avatar is stated to be the God in physical form. Instead of visualising Him in His immeasurable splendour, one can perceive the divine truth through the instrumentality of manhood. Though blissful in Himself, as an incarnation the God experiences anxieties, sorrows and joys of life, like any other living being.
Out of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva ; only Vishnu is known to have incarnated himself, from time to time. Krishna, the god of Gita, is stated to be his ninth incarnation.
The idea of incarnation has been elaborated in shlokas from 4.6 to 4.8 of Bhagavad Gita. It has been stated that though unborn, imperishable and the lord of all creations ; yet establishing Himself in His own nature, the Supreme Lord comes into being, through His own inner power (maya). Whenever there is decline in dharma (righteousness), and adharma (unrighteousness) starts rising ; He incarnates Himself. He comes into being from age to age for protecting the virtuous, annihilating the wicked ; and for the establishment of righteousness.
Though beyond the phenomenon of birth and death, the Divine has appeared on earth in the form of Krishna to fight against the forces of ignorance and viciousness. In the struggle between truth and falsehood, He stands with the truth. Manifestation of the Supreme Lord in the world is an assurance from the divine authority that dharma would always prevail. The truth shall conquer falsehood.
Krishna, as an avatar, is the upholder of dharma. He is the personification of wisdom and virtue. He works towards the smooth evolution of the world and for the establishment of a perfect moral order.
Whereas the embodiments of other beings are driven by nature, the Lord takes birth by His own free will. Out of His compassion for the mankind, He is born again and again. He descends to the level of man to enable him to ascend to the status of the Divine.
Being the God in human form, one can relate to the avatar as man to man. One can look upon Him for guidance and help in difficult times. He can be one’s friend, philosopher and guide.
As stated in shlokas 3.22 and 4.14, there is no need for the avatar to perform any duty anywhere in the universe. Yet He remains ever engaged in work. Actions do not defile Him, for He does not work for their results. Those who know this truth about Him, they are not bound by works.
The avatar is interested in the spiritual upliftment of all. His message is meant for whole of the mankind. His words carry more weight because He speaks with the authority of the Divine in Him. Through His teachings and personal example, He shows the right path to everyone. He presents Himsilf as a role model for a common man. He establishes certain ideals for the people to follow. He helps them in achieving their potential, in every sphere of life.
The avatar of Gita has not only highlighted the ultimate goal of human life i.e. union with the Absolute, but has also offered Himself to be the medium of grace through which one can attain such union. It has been assured that the one who worships Him constantly with unwavering and exclusive devotion of love, he transcends the modes of material nature and becomes eligible for being one with the Absolute (Shloka 14.26). In other words, when one loves Krishna, the incarnation of God, from the depths of his heart and is devoted to Him with whole of his being, he is fit for attaining the status of Brahman, which is nothing else but the Truth, the Consciousness and the Bliss (sat-chit-ananda).
The avatar has, thus, invited man to love Him and repose faith in Him. He would surely lead him to the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality.
As outwardly, the incarnation looks and lives like any other being, the people in general are not aware of His divine nature. They do not know His supreme state even though He may be living amidst them. Only the few endowed with pure intelligence can recognise Him to be the lord of all creations. It is stated in shloka 4.9 that he who knows in reality the divinity behind His birth and works, is not born again, after leaving his body. Instead, he goes to Him. It implies that by knowing the true nature of the avatar, one can rise to the status of the divine.
To conclude, the concept of avatar signifies that God is not a distant spectator but a constant companion. He stands up in support of mankind when grave danger arises to the cosmic or the moral order. In such situations, He appears on the earth and restores the equilibrium of life.