In order to understand the meaning of the term ‘Avatar’, one must delve into its origins and its use across different contexts. The term is found in different fields ranging from religion and mythology to computing and digital media, each with its unique connotation.
Tracing its roots back to Sanskrit, a classic Indian language, the term ‘Avatar’ comprises of the words ‘ava’, meaning ‘down’, and ‘tarati’, meaning ‘he crosses’. Therefore, the original meaning of the word ‘Avatar’ is ‘one who descends’. In Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, the term ‘Avatar’ is used to refer to the earthly incarnations of deities or supreme divine beings. These divine beings ‘descend’ onto earth in mortal forms to uphold dharma, restore balance, and rid the world of evil.
A prime example can be seen in the Hindu religion, where Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, is believed to have ten avatars. Each of these avatars, like Lord Rama or Lord Krishna, was born on earth at different times and in different forms to uphold dharma and defeat evil forces.
The concept of an ‘Avatar’ extends beyond religious texts and mythologies. This word found a new context with the advent of the digital age. In the realm of computing and digital media, an avatar is a graphical representation of a user. It can be a photograph, a caricature, a 3D model, or even a simple username, essentially anything that represents the user in a digital space.
You may have seen this in video games, where you can create and customize characters to represent yourselves. These characters are your avatars within the digital world of the game. They embody your presence and actions in the game. Similarly, on social media and discussion forums, your profile picture or displayed username act as your avatar.
The use of avatars in digital spaces allows users to express their identities, personalities or interests. It adds an element of personalization and interactivity in digital spaces. There can be anonymity or a creation of completely new identities through avatars in digital media.
In conclusion, the term ‘Avatar’ has different connotations depending on its context. Whether descending as divine beings in religious contexts or representing users in a digital setting, the term ‘Avatar’ illustrates the concept of embodiment, presence, and representation.