As the preserver of the cosmos, Vishnu upholds the universal laws. Unlike Shiva, who often seeks refuge in the forest to meditate, Vishnu constantly participates in worldly affairs. Ensuring that all is well.
When order prevails in the universe, Vishnu sleeps on the coils of Sesha, ruler of the Nagas. As Sesha floats along the cosmic ocean supporting Vishnu, the universe unfolds from Vishnu's dream. But when there is disorder in the universe, Vishnu either mounts his vehicle, Garuda, and battles with the forces of chaos, or he sends one of his Avatars (or incarnations) to save the world.
It is believed that Vishnu would have ten such Avatars, the most popular being Rama and Krishna. The full list of ten Avatars is as follows:
1. The fish Matsya
2. The turtle Kurma
3. The boar Varaha
4. The man-lion Narasimha
5. The dwarf Vamana
6. The warrior-priest Parashurama
7. The prince Rama
8. The cowherd Krishna
9. The sage Buddha-Mayamoha
10. The horseman Kalki
Vishnu uses both force and guile to ensure the stability of the universe. His consort Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and power, offers him the wherewithal to maintain the integrity of the world.
The Evolution of Vishnu from Early Hinduism
Today, Vishnu is one of the most highly revered deities, but he has not always been so popular. In the earliest Hindu writings, the Vedas, he is mentioned infrequently, and is associated with the major Vedic god Indra. Through the later epics, notably the Ramayana and Mahabharata, he is glorified through the Avatars Rama and Krishna.