In Hindu philosophy, an avatar, avatara or avatarim, most commonly refers to the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of a higher being (deva), or the Supreme Being (God) onto planet Earth. The Sanskrit word avatara- literally means “descent” and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes. The term is used primarily in Hinduism, for incarnations of Vishnu whom many Hindus worship as God. The Dasavatara (see below) are ten particular “great” incarnations of Vishnu.

The word has also been used by extension to refer to the incarnations of God in other religions, especially by adherents to dharmic traditions when explaining figures from other religions such as Jesus.