Supreme Puruṣa appears in many ways to amuse himself. By the word Brahman in Vedas, Śrī Rāma is called in direct sense. In the begining, Brahm desired Let me be many, so he appeared in many forms. Shruti says “Bhagavān didn’t enjoy (alone), He desired a second, and Therefore He transformed himself as a man (Śrī Rāma) and woman (Sītā) locked in embrace, and then he divided this own-self into two equal parts, and became (Pati) Husband (Śrī Rāma) and (Patni) wife (Sītā) to sport blissfully (in divine Saket Lōka).”
Bhagavān Śrī Rāma (Brahman or Ishwara) manifests himself in five forms, they are —
1. Parā - Parā or Param is the highest form (the divyatam svarupam) of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma eternally present in the Parāvyōma - the topmost spiritual realm Divya-Ayōdhyā (Divine Ayōdhyā Śrī Sākēta-Lōka) in the Tripād-Vibhūti, with his Svarupa-Shakti (Parā-shakti) Sītā. Bhagavān, in his Parā form, is the ‘Rājā Sarvasya Lōkasya’ (-Śrī Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa) i.e. the supreme Lord of the entire cosmos. He is eternally self-manifest, all other Bhagavad-Svarupas are manifested from him and his manifestations.
All other Avatāri-Puruṣas and Avatāras are present in the outer Āvaraṇas (covering layers) of the topmost spiritual realm Divine Ayōdhyā.
Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is the Para-Vishṇu (also known as Parā-Vāsudeva, Ādi-Nārāyaṇa, etc). That same Śrī Rāma manifests himself as Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Gōlōka-dhāma and Mahā-Vishṇu in Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha Lōka. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Śṛṅgārī-Rupa of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in Vrindāvanam, and Sri Mahā-Vishṇu is the Aishvarya-Rupa of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha. In Tripād-Vibhūti, Śrī Mahā-Vishṇu is also known as Śrī Rāma-Nārāyaṇa Prabhu.
Lord Śrī Rāma (Parā-Vāsudeva) assumes Vyūha forms for cosmic functions and control activities of all the living beings. Lord Śrī Rāma himself is the Parātpar-Vishṇu, Bharat is Vaikuṇṭha-Vishṇu, Lakshmaṇa is Ksheer-Sāgar Vishṇu and Shatrughna is the Shvet-dwipa Bhuma-Vishṇu. These Vishṇu also appear as the younger brothers to serve Śrī Rāma, whenever the Lord of Saketa, Śrī Rāma himself descends in the Leelā-Vibhūti (on the planets in the material world) as the son of Maharāja Dasharatha.
2. Vyūha - After assuming different Vishṇu-Svarupas, Bhagavān Śrī Rāma assumes the Vyuha-forms.
Lord Śrī Rāma (Parā-Vāsudeva) manifests the form of Vāsudeva (1st Vyūha Mūrti), Lakshmaṇ manifests the Sankarshaṇa-Vyūha (2nd Vyūha Mūrti) [and Śēṣa], Bharat becomes Pradyumn-Vyūha (3rd Vyūha Mūrti), and Śhatrughna becomes Aniruddha-Vyūha (4th Vyūha Mūrti). The six attributes of Bhagavān, namely the three Aishvaryam (opulence or lordship), Gyān (knowledge) and Shakti (energy) which are transcendental, and the other three Balam (strength), Viryam (valor) and Tejas (splendor) are in the plane of activity. These six attributes in pair form three Vyūha forms, Sankarshaṇa (Gyaan and Balam), Pradyumna (Aisvaryam and Viryam), and Aniruddha (Shakti and Tejas). Lord Vāsudeva has all the six-attributes in full, and in other Vyūhas pair of attributes are dominant.
The work of Vyūha-Avatāras
Pradyumna Mūrti (with plenty of Lordship and valor) creates the worlds (creation), and he gave birth to Lord Brahmā, Sankarshaṇa-Mūrti (with plenty of Knowledge and Strenghth) destroys the worlds (dissolution) and he appeared as Rudra, and Anirudha (with plenty of Energy and Splendour) protects the world (protection), he is also the Avatāri-Puruṣa.
From Vyūha-Avatāras, sometimes Vibhava-Avatāras are also manifested in the world e.g. Vāsudeva-Vishṇu becomes Śrī Rāma, Śrī Kṛṣṇa; Sankarshaṇa becomes Lakshmaṇa, Balarāma; and so on.
From each Vyūhas, three more forms are manifested, and thus total twelve (12 forms) of Lord are manifested.
3. Vibhava - The many Avatāras (incarnations) in different Yugas, who are seen only in particular time-period to humans. Many Vaibhava Avatāras are taken by different Vyūha incarnations either by Vāsudeva or Sankarshaṇa or Pradyumna or Aniruddha. And sometimes the original Personality of Godhead himself descends from Tripād-Vibhūti in this Ekapād-Vibhūti e.g. in the case of Śrī Rāma-Avatāra, Bhagavān Śrī Rāma himself descends from Tripād-Vibhūti Divya-Ayōdhyā. Sometimes Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa of Goloka descends.
4. Antaryāmī - The manifestation of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma as the indwelling soul of all souls (Jiva-atmas) is called Paramātmā (the supreme soul) or Antaryāmī - the indwelling super soul within all souls.
5. Arcāvatāra - Image or deity manifestations of Bhagavān is called Archā-Avatāra. In Archāvatāra form, Bhagavān becomes completely dependent on his devotee and gets various devotional services from his devotees. In Vaishnavism, through deity worship a devotee can develop personal relationship with Bhagavān and offer him various services in the mood of loving devotion. Therefore, a devotee should do worship of Archa-Avatāra as Per the instructions of one’s gurudeva and develop a personal loving relationship with Bhagavān through services and worship of the deity.
In Rasik Paramparā, devotees worship Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in the mood of loving devotion (Rāga-Bhakti). In Rasik Parampara of Śrī-Sampradāya, devotion is mainly focused towards the Parā-Swarupa of Śrī Rāma i.e. Parātpar Parambrahm Sāket-Biharī Sarveśhvar Bhagavān Śrī Rāma who is the primary cause of all including innumerable Brahmā-Vishṇu-Shiva, and all the Avatāra-s are his Aṁśha-s (parts) and Kala-s (the parts of parts). The Parā-swarupa of Lord Śrī Rāma is of a Young prince who sports along with Sītā and her Sakhi-s in his Mādhurya-abode Śrī Sāket loka which is the topmost spiritual realm in the Tripād-Vibhūti.
Avatāra literally means “the one who descends.” All the incarnations of the Supreme Lord, including the Lord Himself, descend in the Vibuti-Lōka i.e. the different planets of the material world as also in different forms to fulfill particular missions. Sometimes, He comes Himself, and sometimes His different plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, or His differentiated portions directly or indirectly empowered by Him, descend on this material world to execute certain specific functions.
अन्ते चादौ च लोकानां दृश्यसे च परंतप ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.९)
antē cādau ca lōkānāṃ dṛśyasē ca paraṃtapa ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.9)
Lord Brahmā says to Bhagavān Śrī Rāma :—
O’ Śrī Rāma, You are seen (to exist) at the beginning and at the end of all creation.
In the beginning of the creation (after the cycle of the complete dissolution of all material universes), Bhagavān Śrī Rāma first expanded Himself in the universal form of the Puruṣha incarnation. He becomes the Virāt-Puruṣha and sleeps on the causal ocean as Kārāṇashayi Mahā-Vishṇu in whose hair-pores there are countless universes.
As Per Vishṇu Purāṇa 1.2.14-18, in the beginning of everything the all Pervading Sanātan Parabrahm manifests himself first as Puruṣha, then as Avyakta (Pradhānā or Prakriti), Vyakta (Mahata) and Kaal (time). In the begining of creation, Śrī Rāma manifested the Kaal (the time). The Kaal himself tells this to Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in Uttarakāṇda of Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa while praising and requesting him to return to his spiritual abode.
तवाहं पूर्वके भावे पुत्रः परपुरञ्जय ।
मायासम्भावितो वीर कालः सर्वसमाहरः ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ७.१०४.२)
tavāhaṃ pūrvakē bhāvē putraḥ parapurañjaya ।
māyāsambhāvitō vīra kālaḥ sarvasamāharaḥ ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 7.104.2)
The Kaal says to Bhagavān Śrī Rāma:—
“O’ Parapurañjaya Śrī Rāma! In the beginning of Pūrva-bhāva i.e. at the time of hiranyagarbha-Puruṣha or Karanashayi-Mahāvishṇu manifestation, I - Kāla was manifested from Your Māyā (Sankalpa, grace). Thus I, Kaal, am Your son, Oh Veer (valorous Prince)!”
संक्षिप्य हि पुरा लोकान मायया स्वयमेव हि ।
महार्णवे शयानोऽपसु मां त्वं पूर्वजीजनः ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ७.१०४.४)
saṃkṣipya hi purā lōkāna māyayā svayamēva hi ।
mahārṇavē śayānō'pasu māṃ tvaṃ pūrvajījanaḥ ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 7.104.4)
Kaal says to Bhagavān Śrī Rāma that Lord Brahmā told for You :—
[Lord Brahmā says] “O’ Śrī Rāma, It was You alone who annihilated all the worlds by Your Māyā (Sankalpa) before the new creation and then after, You slept on the causal ocean (as Nārāyaṇa). Around that time, in the beginning of creation I (Brahmā) was born from You.”
Since, Śrī Rāma does not sleep on the causal ocean in the beginning, yet Brahmā told for him that He sleeps on the causal ocean (Mahārṇava), It means He is Śrī Rāma who takes the form of Nārāyaṇa or the Kāraṇajalashāyi-Mahāvishṇu to sleep on the causal ocean (Mahārṇava). In the Kāraṇajalashāyi-Nārāyaṇa, all the worlds exist in subtle (saṃkṣipta-Sāmya) form. Again, O' Śrī Rāma, You are not mere the original protector, but the original destroyer too. It is Śrī Rāma the Brahm himself by whose mere Sankalpa all the worlds (whole creation) are annihilated, It is not done by Rudra Shiva.
Thus, even Nārāyaṇa who sleeps on the causal ocean is a manifestation and aṁśha (portion) of Śrī Rāma the original Parabrahm himself.
नारायणोऽपिरामांशःशङ्खचक्रगदाधरः॥ (वाराह संहिता)
nārāyaṇō'pirāmāṃśaḥ-śaṅkhacakragadādharaḥ॥ (vārāha Saṃhitā)
“Even Nārāyaṇa also, the wielder of Shaṅkha and Chakra is only a portion of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma.”
ततस्त्वमसि दुर्धर्षात्तस्माद् भावात् सनातनात् ।
रक्षार्थं सर्वभूतानां विष्णुत्वं उपजग्मिवान् ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ७.१०४.९)
tatastvamasi durdharṣāttasmād bhāvāt sanātanāt ।
rakṣārthaṃ sarvabhūtānāṃ viṣṇutvaṃ upajagmivān ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 7.104.9)
“After my prayers in the begining of the creation, Oh Śrī Rāma! You forsaken Your durdharṣa (the swarupa which is difficult to be achieved for many) eternal Bhava (the eternal two armed Śrī Rāma form) and assumed the form of Vishṇu for the sake of protection and sustenance of all the beings.”
On this verse, Śrī Govindarāja commented — Śrī Rāma is actually Parā-Vāsudeva who assumes the form of Satva-Guṇamaya Viṣhṇu.
Thus, the four armed Vishṇu is an expansion (plenary portion) of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma.
सर्वावतारी भगवान् रामश्चतुर्भुजोऽभवत् ॥ (कोशल-खंड)
sarvāvatārī bhagavān rāmaścaturbhujō'bhavat ॥ (kōśala-khaṇḍa)
“The source of all Avatāras (manifestations), Bhagavān Śrī Rāma became the four armed Vishṇu.”
Why do people say Avatāras of Vishṇu in a general sense?
The word Vishṇu means the all pervading one. All incarnations (Bhagavad Sva-amasha) are assumed by the all pervading supreme one called Vishṇu (Rāma), Therefore, Avatāras of Vishṇu is said in a general sense e.g. in the Narasimha Avatāra, all pervading supreme Lord (Vishṇu) himself appeared from a pillar to prove the words of his devotee prahlad true that Bhagavān is all pervading.
अवतारस्तु बहवः कला अंशविभूतयः ।
रामोधनुर्धरः साक्षात् सर्वेशो भगवान् स्वयम् ॥
avatārastu bahavaḥ kalā aṃśavibhūtayaḥ ।
rāmōdhanurdharaḥ sākṣāt sarvēśō bhagavān svayam ॥
“Varius Avatāras are Aṁśha, Kalā and Vibhūti of Bhagavān, while Śrī Rāma who wields bow is Sarvesh (the god of all gods) and svayam Bhagavān himself in person.”
Lord Śrī Rāma has taken innumerable incarnations which can be categorised in mainly three groups - (i) Pūrṇa-Avatāra, (ii) Aṃśa-Avatāra and (iii) Kalā-Avatāra. These innumerable incarnations appearing from the Sarva-Karan-Karanam Brahm (the cause of all the causes) or the original personality of Godhead are like thousands of rivulets flowing from a river, they appear in different ages in the world. Among all the incarnataions, the incarnations of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are the two most celebrated incarnations in Vaidik-scriptures and they both are called the Svayam-Bhagavān (1. रामस्तु भगवान स्वयम् - महारामायण 2. कृष्णस्तु भगवान्स्वयम् -भागवतम)!
The all pervading, all emcompassing supreme Brahman, the Supreme Lord Śrī Rāma himself descends from the Paravyoma (Sāket). And, Most of the times Avatāras are assumed by Bhagavān Vishṇu — sometimes Bhagavān Vishṇu of Vaikuṇṭha descends, sometimes Vishṇu of Ksheer-Sāgar descends, or sometimes Bhuma-Vishṇu of Shwet-dwipa descends. However, the primary source of all forms and all Avatāra-s is Parātpar Paripūrṇatam Parabrahm Sarveśhvar Bhagavān Śrī Rāma only.
Aṁśha Avatāras such as Matasya-Kurma-Varaha etc are the portions of Puruṣa Bhagavān Śrī Rāma.
Kalā is a general term for referring Aṁśha(-Avatāra) of Avatāri-Puruṣa, the real Kalā of Bhagavān are his own Aṁśha.
Here, the Aṁśha (part) of Aṁśha (part) is being called Kalā to understand.
Kalā-Avatāra are of two types (i) Āvesha-Avatāra and (ii) Vibhūti Avatāra.
Great personalities in whom Bhagavān enters for some tasks, who are especially empowered with either Mahā-Shakti (great-potency) or Jnāna (knowledge) or personal-āvesha of Bhagavān such as Parashurāma, Buddha, Kalki, and great sages Nārad, Sanakādik, Vyāsa, etc., are Kalā-Avatāras of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma; and when some Great-Jivas are empowered from the Alpa-Shakti (limited-potency) are called Vibhūti of Bhagavān.
Bhagavān entered with his Mahā-Shakti (great-potency) in Parashurāma, Therefore he is called Shaktyāvesha Avatāra in Padma-Purāṇa. In Buddha, Bhagavān manifested his Karuṇa (compassion), so Buddha Avatāra is another avesha Avatār of Bhagavān. In Kalki also, Bhagavān will enter with Āvesha.
As per Padma-Purāṇa, there are three Pūrṇa-Avatāras (complete manifestation of Bhagavān) who appear in Vibhūti-Lōka : Śrī Narasiṃha, Śrī Rāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
There are ten (10) most Prime Avatāras of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma told in scriptures, they are called Daśhāvatāra.
मत्स्यः कुर्म्मोवराहश्चनरसिंहोऽथवामनः ॥
एतेतुविभवावस्थाब्रह्मणः परमात्मनः ॥
(श्री पद्म महा-पुराण ६.२२९.४०-4१)
matsyaḥ kurmmōvarāhaścanarasiṃhō'thavāmanaḥ ॥
ētētuvibhavāvasthābrahmaṇaḥ paramātmanaḥ ॥
(Śrī Padma Mahā-Purāṇa 6.229.40-41)
“1. Matsya , 2. Kūrma, 3. Varāha, 4. Śrī Narasiṃha, 5. Vāmana, 6. Paraśurāma, 7. Śrī Rāma, 8. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, 9. Buddha, 10. Kalki — these ten are the Vibhavā-avasthā or Avatāras (incarnations) of the Paramātmā or the Supreme Brahman.”
“Among these ten incarnations, Śrī Narasiṃha, Śrī Rāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are Purṇa (full) in six transcendental qualities, and they are the Paravastha-Avatāra (the most supreme state of Bhagavān).” (Śrī Padma Mahā-Purāṇa 6.229.42)
Śrī Rāma, the primary source of all Avatarās
नृसिंह-राम-कृष्णेषु षाड्गुण्यं परिकीर्तितम्।
परावस्थास् तु ते तस्य दीपाद्-उत्पन्न-दीपवत् ॥
(पद्म-पुराण, उत्तर-खण्ड, २२९.४२)
nṛsiṃha-rāma-kṛṣṇēṣu ṣāḍguṇyaṃ parikīrtitam।
parāvasthās tu tē tasya dīpād-utpanna-dīpavat ॥
(Padma-purāṇa, uttara-khaṇḍa, 229.42)
“Śrī Narasiṃha, Śrī Rāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are decribed to be Pūrṇa (full) in six transcendental qualities, and they are the Parāvastha-Avatāra (the most supreme state of Bhagavān). From him (Supreme Puruṣha Śrī Rāma, the original personality of godhead who is told to be present in the highest spiritual abode divine Ayōdhyā in padma Purāṇa), other forms of Bhagavān (Narasimha, and Krishna etc) are illuminated (manifested) as like from one candle others candles are lighted.”
(Śrī Rāghavēndra Tīrtha, the great seer of Madhva-Sampradāya worshipping Śrī Rāma)
Among these three Pūrṇa-Avatāras and Parāvastha-Avatāras, there are two charming Nara-Avatāras (Human incarnations) i.e. Śrī Rāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Bhagavān Śrī Rāma appeared for 11,000 Years in Tretāyuga, and Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared for around 125 years in Dvāpar-yuga. These both are Svayam-Bhagavān, Avatāri, and Avatāra also. And, it is said in Vedas that Parātpar-Puruṣha is Narākriti (of human form), and he has the most beautiful red lotus eyes; and among these three Pūrṇa-Avatāras, only Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is renowned as Rājīvalōcana (राजीवलोचन the one whose eyes resemble red-lotus), Therefore among these three Pūrṇa-Avatāras, Parāvastha-Avatāras, and Svayam-Bhagavān, Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is the original personality of godhead.
The source of All Avatāras
सर्वेषामवताराणामवतारी रघूत्तम: ।
रामपादनखज्योत्स्ना परब्रह्मेति गीयते ॥
sarvēṣāmavatārāṇāmavatārī raghūttamah ।
rāmapādanakhajyōtsnā parabrahmēti gīyatē ।।
“Lord Śrī Rāma, the best among the Raghus, is the source of all divine incarnations, he is the original personality of Godhead. The moonlight of the nails of His feet is praised as Parabrahman by the scriptures.
Svayam-Bhagavān (Bhagavān himself)
पोषणं भरणाधारं शरण्यं सर्वव्यापकम्।
कारुण्यं षड्भिः पूर्णो रामस्तु भगवान् स्वयम्॥
pōṣaṇaṃ bharaṇādhāraṃ śaraṇyaṃ sarvavyāpakam।
kāruṇyaṃ ṣaḍa़bhiḥ pūrṇō rāmastu bhagavān svayam॥
“Due to His being sustainer of all the worlds, bestower of all the divine virtues on His devotees, the only support of the whole cosmos, the only one fit to take refuge in, all pervading, supremely compassionate and having comprehensiveness in all these six virtues, Śrī Rām is ‘Bhagavān’ Himself in Person.”
अंशानृसिंहकृष्णाद्याः राघवोभगवान्स्वयम् ॥
(ब्रह्म संहिता; याज्ञवल्क्य संहिता)
aṃśānṛsiṃhakṛṣṇādyāḥ rāghavōbhagavānsvayam ॥
(Brahm saṃhitā; Yājñavalkya saṃhitā)
“Shyām Śrī Rāma the best among Raghus is Pūrṇa Bhagavān (Avatāri-Puruṣa) and Pūrṇa-Avatāra. Nrisimha, Kṛṣṇa etc., are the portions of Rāghava who is Svayam-Bhagavān (Bhagavān himself in person).”
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa also is said Bhagavān Svayam in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28, it means He, Śrī Rāma himself is present in the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
एते चांशकलाः पुंसः कृष्णस्तु भगवान्स्वयम् ।
(श्रीमद भागवतम् १.३.२८)
ete cāḿśa-kalāḥ puḿsaḥ kṛṣṇastu bhagavān svayam ।
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28)
“(ete) All these [ṛṣis, Manus, demigods, descendants of Manu, and Prajāpatis etc.] are (cāḿśa-kalāh) portion and portions of portion of (puḿsah) the Puruṣha [Śrī Rāma, or the universal-Puruṣha], (kṛṣṇa) Śrī Kṛṣṇa (tu) however is (bhagavān svayam) Svayam-Bhagavan [Śrī Rāma or Śrī Hari Vishṇu].”
Bhagavān svayam means where He, Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord of all the Kalās (Kaleśa) Śrī Rāma or Śrī Hari-Vishṇu himself is present. Does the word ‘ete’ here refer to all the incarnations listed above? No. Otherwise, even Śrī Kṛṣṇa would have to be taken as Aḿśa or Kalā of Shri Hari, and the meaning of ‘bhagavān svayam’ (1.3.28) and ‘ataḥ param’ (SB 1.3.22) will be obstructed. Therefore the word ‘ete’ does not refer strictly to all the incarnations, rather only to Aṁśha and Kalā-Avatāras in the mentioned list. It can be understood with ‘Chhatri Nyāyam’ (Umbrealla maxim), it explains when a group of people having umbrellas are going, then actually not everyone is holding the umbrella. Therefore, the word ‘ete’ stands only for the group of Aḿśa and Kalā incarnations, all the incarnations are not Aḿśa-Kalā; rather there are Svayam-Avatāras, Pūrṇa-Avatarās and Śrī Kṛṣṇa-like Svayam-Bhagavān also.
The original-personality of Godhead
स हि देवैरुदीर्णस्य रावणस्य वधार्थिभिः।
अर्थितो मानुषे लोके जज्ञे विष्णुस्सनातनः॥
(श्रीवाल्मीकि रामायण २.१.७)
sa hi dēvair-udīrṇasya rāvaṇasya vadhārthibhiḥ।
arthitō mānuṣē lōkē jajñē viṣṇuḥ sanātanaḥ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 2.1.7)
Saḥ — He (Śrī Rām), hi — was indeed, himself; Viṣṇus-sanātanaḥ — Sanātana-Visnu : the eternal-Viṣṇu; udīrṇasya rāvaṇasya — of arrogant Ravaṇa's, vadhārthibhiḥ — by those desirous of slaying; dēvaiḥ — by devatas, arthitaḥ — entreated, mānuṣē lōkē — in the mortal world, jajñē — had appeared.
“He Śrī Rāma was indeed himself the Sanātana-Viṣhṇu [the Viṣṇu of Viṣṇu, the Lord of Sāket] who had appeared in the mortal world after entreated by the devatas (gods) desirous of slaying arrogant Rāvaṇa.”
In the very beginning of Ayōdhyā-kāṇḍa, Maharṣi Vālmīkijī tells directly who is Śrī Rāma?
(Saḥ) 'tēṣāmapi mahātējā rāmō' Śrī Rāma is (hi) indeed or himself the Sanātana-Viṣṇu [means the self-manifest eternal Lord, the Lord of Sāket] who has no beginning or end. All Vishṇus and his Pūrṇa-incarnations are the self-same Bhagavān, yet among them one is Sanātana-Viṣṇu Śrī Rāma, from whom all other Viṣṇus and innumerable incarnations appear (saṃbhu biraṃci biṣnu bhagavānā। upajahiṃ jāsu aṃsa tēṃ nānā॥). He, Śrī Rāma is not manifest from anyone else, he is the self-manifest, hence he himself is the Sanātan-Viṣṇu without any beginning or end, and Therefore he is the Prabhu of all Prabhus, the Ishta of all worlds and the original-primary source of all.
In Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is called Svayam-Prabhu (Bhagavān himself in Person) by Lord Brahmā himself, and then He is called Shri Nārāyaṇa, Shri Vishṇu, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Shri Vārāha, Shri Vāmāna etc by Lord Brahmā, which means all other forms such as Shri Nārāyaṇa, Shri Vishṇu, Śrī Kṛṣṇa etc are various Svāmsha forms of the Svayam-Prabhu Bhagavān Śrī Rāma.
Śrī Rāma is Svayam-Prabhu (Bhagavān himself).
त्रयाणामपि लोकानामादिकर्ता स्वयं प्रभुः ।
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.८)
trayāṇāmapi lōkānāmādikartā svayaṃ prabhuḥ ।
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.8)
Lord Brahmā prays to Śrī Rāma :—
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! You are the first creator of all the three words, and the Svayam-Prabhu (‘Bhagavān Himself in Person’., the original Personality of Godhead).”
Śrī Rāma is Nārāyaṇa.
भवान्नारायणो देवः श्रीमांश्चक्रायुधः प्रभुः ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.१३)
bhavānnārāyaṇō dēvaḥ śrīmāṃścakrāyudhaḥ prabhuḥ ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.13)
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! You are the glorious Lord Shriman Nārāyaṇa, who wields discus (chakra).”
Śrī Rāma is Varaha, and He is the one who has taken all incarnations in past and would be taking in future to eliminate enemies.
एकशृङ्गो वराहस्त्वं भूतभव्यसपत्नजित् ।
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.१४)
ēkaśṛṅgō varāhastvaṃ bhūtabhavyasapatnajit ।
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.14)
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! You are the Divine Boar Shri Varaha-deva with a single tusk, You are the conqueror of your past and future enemies (by taking all incarnations in past and future).”
Śrī Rāma is Shri Vishṇu, and Śrī Rāma is Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
शार्ङ्गधन्वा हृषीकेशः पुरुषः पुरुषोत्तमः ॥
अजितः खड्गधृग्विष्णुः कृष्णश्चैव महाबलः ।
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.१५ख-१६क)
śārṅgadhanvā hṛṣīkēśaḥ puruṣaḥ puruṣōttamaḥ ॥
ajitaḥ khaḍgadhṛgviṣṇuḥ kṛṣṇaścaiva mahābalaḥ ।
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.15kha-16ka)
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! You are the wielder of a bow called Sarnga, the lord of the senses - Hrishikesha, the supreme soul of the universe - puruṣa, the best of men - puruṣōttama, the invincible one, the wielder of a sword named Nandaka, the all-pervader - Vishṇu, and the all-attractor - (Therefore renowned as) Krishna and the one endowed with great might.”
Śrī Rāma will take incarnation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Dvāpar Yuga (indicated from bhūtabhavyasapatnajit — Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.14). All the Leelās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and his glorifications in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam should be understood as the Leelā and glorifications of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma.
Śrī Rāma is Vāmana Deva.
प्रभवश्चाप्ययश्च त्वमुपेन्द्रो मधुसूदनः ।
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.१७)
prabhavaścāpyayaśca tvamupēndrō madhusūdanaḥ ।
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.17)
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! You are the origin and the dissolution of all. You are Upendra the Divine Dwarf Vamana deva (the younger brother of Indra) and also the destroyer Madhu, the demon.”
Śrī Rāma is Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
सीता लक्ष्मीर्भवान् विष्णुर्देवः कृष्णः प्रजापतिः ॥
(श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण ६.११७.२८)
sītā lakṣmīrbhavān viṣṇurdēvaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ prajāpatiḥ ॥
(Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.28)
“O’ Śrī Rāma ! Sītā is Lakshmī, and You are Vishṇu, You are Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Prajāpati.”
Thus, ‘Kṛṣṇa’ is another renowned name of Bhagavān Śrī Rāma, which means one who attracts all. Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is told two times as Śrī Kṛṣṇa by Lord Brahmā, Therefore the name Kṛṣṇa is already renowned for Śrī Rāma. When One thing is twice bound (attributed) to Śrī Rāma (in Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.16 & 6.117.28), then it should be understood firmly fixed for Śrī Rāma.
And, Thus it becomes clear from Vedāvatāra Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa that Śrī Rāma is Svayam-Prabhu (the original personality of godhead) and the primary source of all Bhagavad-Svarupas and Avatāras.
In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.32 (kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ), It is told for Kaliyuga the Upāsya-Svarupa of Bhagavān is Śrī Rāma. In Kaliyuga, one should worship the Lord who has Kṛṣṇa-Varṇa (dark color), Yet his bodily lustre (tviṣa) is not black (akṛṣṇaṁ), for this Śrīdhar Svāmī (the renowned commentator on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam) says it indicates the color and radiance of Bhagavān is dark-bluish like sapphire (Indranilamaṇi), and then Śrī Rāma's pastime of running behind māyā-mṛiga is told. Thus, in Bhāgavatam also the name Kṛṣṇa is given to Śrī Rāma, although his lustre is not black, Yet by Chhavi and Kānti (appearance and beauty and elegance), Śrī Rāma is Kṛṣṇa (the one who attracts all women and even men, incites them for the conjugal love towards him), such is the meaning of Shrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.32-34.
In Śrī Rāma sahasranama in Rudrayāmal Tantra also, Śrī Rāma’s names are ‘काकपक्षधरः कृष्णः कृष्णोत्पलदलच्छविः — kākapakṣadharaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ kṛṣṇōtpaladalacchaviḥ’ — Kākapakṣadhara (who has sidelocks of hair), Krishna, Kṛṣṇōtpaladalacchaviḥ (the one who has lustre of Krishna lotus means the dark-blue lotus), etc.
The statement of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28 should be understoold accordingly in the light of Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa as well in the proper running context of the verses that in ‘kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam’ from ‘Krishna’ Pada (name), Śrī Rāma's form is told there (just like in Shrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.32), and the identification of Śrī Kṛṣṇa with Svayam Bhagavān (the original personality of godhead) Śrī Rāma is presented, how?
While enumerating various Avatāras (Param i.e. Svayam Bhagavān, Pūrṇa, Aṁśha, Kalā-Avatāras) of Bhagavān, sage Sūta said -
नरदेवत्वमापन्नः सुरकार्यचिकीर्षया ।
समुद्रनिग्रहादीनि चक्रे वीर्याण्यतः परम् ॥
cakre vīryāṇy ataḥ param
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.22)
“(In the eighteenth incarnation) The Lord assumed nara-devatva i.e. human-divinity or appeared as King Rāma. In order to perform pleasing works for the gods, he exhibited superhuman powers by controlling the Indian Ocean, Killing Rāvaṇa etc. Thus, He is Param (ataḥ param).”
Here, Śrī Rāma is called Param (supreme).
एकोनविंशे विंशतिमे वृष्णिषु प्राप्य जन्मनी ।
रामकृष्णाविति भुवो भगवानहरद्भरम् ॥
vṛṣṇiṣu prāpya janmanī
rāma-kṛṣṇāv iti bhuvo
bhagavān aharad bharam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.23)
“In the nineteenth and twentieth incarnations, the Lord advented as Lord Balarāma and Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the family of Vṛṣṇi [the Yadu dynasty], and Bhagavān removed the burden of the world (in form of Balarāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa).”
Here, Balarāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are counted as Aṁśha of Bhagavān.
Therefore, when Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28 is explained by taking Lord Śrī Rāma from ‘Krishna’ Pada (name), then the meaning of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.22 is not obstructed as Śrī Rāma is told Param there, and Paratva is naturally in THE accordance of the Svayam Bhagavān statement of 1.3.28. While, if one stresses to take Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa only from ‘Krishna’ Pada (name) in 1.3.28, then Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.22 and 1.3.23, both these verses are obstructed as then Śrī Rāma would become Aṁśha (while he is said Param, amshi). Therefore, no other meaning is possible.
एते चांशकलाः पुंसः कृष्णस्तु भगवान्स्वयम् ।
ete cāḿśa-kalāḥ puḿsaḥ kṛṣṇastu bhagavān svayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28)
“(ete) All these [ṛṣis, Manus, demigods and descendants of Manu, Prajāpatis etc] are Aḿśa (the portions) and Kalās (the portions of the portion) of (puḿsaḥ) the Supreme Puruṣa , while Śrī Rāma (renowned now as Kṛṣṇa, for the one who attracts all) is Bhagavān himself.”
Another explanation is ‘puḿsaḥ kṛṣṇastu bhagavān svayam’ — Śrī Rāma, The one who is attractor (kṛṣṇa) of even men (puḿsaḥ) is Bhagavān himself. It is very much in accordance of Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa where Śrī Rāma is called the one who (attracts) steals the vision (drishti) and hearts (chitt) of even men by his beauty what to talk of women (पुंसां दिष्टिचित्तापहारिणम् [श्री वाल्मीकि रामायण २.३.२९क] — puṃsāṃ diṣṭicittāpahāriṇam [Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 2.3.29A]) and ‘Svayam-Prabhu — Bhagavān himself in Person’ (Śrī Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6.117.8 & 6.117.19). Bhagavān Śrī Rāma is told as ‘the source of all Avatāras (kalāḥ)’ (Kaleśa [Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.7.23] — The Iśa [Lord, Bhagavān] of all kalāḥ [Avatāras]) and ‘bhagavān ātmanā i.e. Bhagavān himself)’ (bhagavān ātmanā [Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 9.11.1]) again in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
Therefore, the name ‘Kṛṣṇa’ in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28 is told for the Svarupa Nirṇaya (the identification of Svarupa [form, nature]) of Sarva-ākarshak Svarupa of Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in the context of his being Param told in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.22. Sage Sūta uttered ‘kṛṣṇastu bhagavān svayam’ to establish the identification of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa with Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Rāma in the verse. It is very much clear from Bhāgavatam itself, Śrī Rāma is Iṣhṭa-deva and Para-swarupa for Sage Śuka-deva, Therefore Sage Sūta confirms only this 'Śrī Kṛṣṇa is none other than Bhagavān Śrī Rāma himself'. In the entire Bhāgavatam, Sage Śukadev took Sharaṇāgati only once and in the lotus feet of Para-swarupa of Bhagavān, Raghupati Śrī Rāma alone. No where else Sage Shukadeva has performed Sharaṇāgati unto any other form of Lord. In Vaidic-scriptures (in Vaishṇavism), Sharaṇāgati (taking refuge of Lord) is the most important component and the last stage of devotion. Therefore, Śrī Rāma alone is the Iṣhṭa-deva for Sage Śukadeva. Sage Shukadeva also proclaimed 'Śrī Rām is Sakshād Bhagavān, Brahm-mayo Hari and Ādi-Puruṣa (primeval lord)' in Srimad Bhāgavatam.
यस्यामलं नृपसदस्सु यशोऽधुनापि गायन्त्यघघ्नमृषयो दिगिभेन्द्रपट्टम् |
तं नाकपालवसुपालकिरीटजुष्ट-पादाम्बुजं रघुपतिं शरणं प्रपद्ये॥
yasyāmalaḿ nṛpa-sadaḥsu yaśo 'dhunāpi
gāyanty agha-ghnam ṛṣayo dig-ibhendra-paṭṭam
pādāmbujaḿ raghupatiḿ śaraṇaḿ prapadye
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 9.11.21)
“Śrī Rāma’s spotless name and fame (glories), which vanquish all sinful reactions, are still sung by great sages like Mārkaṇḍeya Ṛṣi in the assemblies of great emperors like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. His immaculate Glory is spread (shining) to the end of all the directions ― like the ornamental clothes of the guardian-deities of all directions. All the saintly kings and all the gods, including Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā, worship the Lord by bowing down with their helmets. I (Shukadeva, myself) take refuge (Śaraṇāgati) in those lotus-feet of Śrī Rāma.”
Śrī Rām is the only personality who is glorified in Shat-Koṭi Rāmāyaṇa-s. Therefore, taking all these into account, Śrī Rāma is the original personality of godhead and the supreme Brahman.
In Bhāgavatam, Śrī Rāma is called ‘Sakshad-Bhagavān esha’ and ‘Brahm-mayo Hari’ (तस्यापि भगवानेष साक्षाद् ब्रह्ममयो हरिः। अंशाशेन चतुर्धागात् पुत्रत्वं प्रार्थितः सुरैः । रामलक्ष्मणभरतशत्रुघ्ना इति संज्ञया ॥ Bhāgavatam 9.10.2), first ‘Sakshad-Bhagavān’ which means ‘Bhagavān-himself’ and then ‘Brahm-mayo Hari’ means Śrī Rāma is Brahmamaya supreme personality in Person in whom all the forms of Brahman (Bhagavān) including his all Avatāra-s and whole everything else reside eternally as his Parts (mayam - means full of, which means all forms of Brahman reside in Śrī Rāma), thus He is like all encompassing supreme Brahman in his Personality, Therefore 'Śrī Rāma is the original personality of Godhead and the original source of all the incarnations' is established from Bhāgavatam also. In fact, Śrī Rāmāvatar is not the manifestation of Ishwara, but the direct manifestation of the supreme Brahman himself.
As Śrī Rāma himself is the original personality of Godhead, and the primeval source of all the forms of Brahman, and all Avatāra-s, similarly the name ‘Rāma’ is also called . Everything of Śrī Rāma, be it is his Rupa or Dhaam or Naam, all are most-superior.