Vishnu is the preserver of the cosmos, the keeper of universal laws, the sustainer of life, who resides in Vaikuntha, the highest heaven. Vishnu’s heaven Vaikuntha is on the slopes of Mount Meru. It is made of solid gold and jewels and the Ganga flows through it and cleanses it. Vishnu is depicted as a handsome young man with blue skin, dressed in royal robes. The blue of Vishnu indicates his infinite stature. Blue is associated with the infinite since immeasurable entities like the sky or ocean appear blue. On his breast he bears the mark of Srivatsa, which is a curl of white hair (of Laksmi). The brilliant Kaustubha gem, decorated with jewels and pearls, is suspended from his neck. He wears a garland of beautiful flowers around his neck.
He usually has four hands, which hold a conch shell (sankha), a disc (chakra), a club (gada), and a lotus flower (padma).
The club and the wheel are the Lord’s symbols of punishment for the demons and miscreants. The lotus flower and conch shell are used to bless the devotees. When his incarnation is present on this planet, Lord Vishnu kills the demons and protects his devotees simultaneously.
Lord Vishnu expands into three forms to create and maintain the universe.
Lord Vishnu is often seen reclining on a bed made up of the coils of the serpent Ananta Shesha or Shesha-naga (symbol of immortality) with Lakshmi and Bhudevi at his feet. He is also usually seated on a lotus with his wife Lakshmi by his side or riding on his steed Garuda.
The devotees who worship Vishnu and his avatars are named Vaishnavas.
Conch shell (Sankha) :
The conch shell is a music instrument. Its sound chases away demons.
Mace (Gada) :
A staff with a tapering end used as a weapon in close combat.
It symbolizes the power over the nature’s laws. Also a symbol of Vishnu.
A club made of human bone with a skull on the end of it is carried by Devi, Durga, Kali and Bhairab.
Lotus (Padma) :
Padma is a lotus which may be of any colour except blue. The blue lotus is designated by the word Utpala or Nilotpala. The padma is the day lotus, while Utpala stands for the night lotus. It is regarded as especially scared by all classes of Indians. Parma indicates purity of descent, happiness and eternal renewal.
Wheel (Chakra ) :
It used to be a solar wheel.
Wheel is a symbol of absolute completeness. It symbolizes the cycle of life and dead.
Book (Pustaka) :
It is a symbol of wisdom.
Hindu deities such as Brahma, Manjushree, Saraswati, Prajnaparnmitta, Avalokiteswar and Vasundhara are associated with, learning and arts.
Riding animal :
Garuda is half-bird (eagle) and half-man. Many times he is seen kneeling outside a Vishnu temple. He is the king of the birds. Often both Vishnu and Lakshmi are seen seated together on his back being carried by him. He is the son of Kasyapa and Vinata. He is the enemy of snakes. He has red wings with which he hits and kills demons.
Other names of Vishnu :
He who is reclining on the eternal ocean.
Narayan was originally a Dravidic god. Later in time he was integrated in the Vishnu cultus.
Vishnu is king of his own heaven Vaikuntha.
In this shape he has 4 heads and 8 arms
Satyanarayana is another form of Lord Vishnu who is commonly worshipped by Hindus in their homes along with family and friends.
Venkateshwara (Venkateshwer or Venkatachalapathi) is another form of Lord Vishnu who is also very popular as a Hindu deity. He is also known as Balaji or Bithala.
Consort of Vishnu :
Lakshmi, Vaishnavi and Bhudevi.
Vishnu’s ten avatars are as follows :
1) Matsya (fish)
2) Kurma (tortoise)
3) Varaha (boar)
4) Narasinha (man-lion)
5) Vamana (dwarf)
6) Parasu-Rama (Rama with the axe)
9) Buddha (present avatar)
10) Kalki ( future avatar)
Other Vishnu Incarnations:
Besides Lord Vishnu’s ten main incarnations, there are many others. There are also shaktavesha avataras (empowered incarnations). Twelve other main incarnations:
(1) the four Kumaras,
(2) the sage Narada,
(3) Nara and Narayana Rishis,
(4) sage Kapila (who taught Sankhya philosophy),
(8) King Prithu,
(10) Veda-Vyasa (author of Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam.