In Indian mythology the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is collectively known as Dashavtar. To preserve the universe from destruction Vishnu took ten different forms (Avatar) from time to time. They are Matsya (fish), Kutchha (turtle), Varah (boar), Narsinha (half man and half lion). Vaman (a brahman boy). Parshuram, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalanki.
In Konkan Dashavatar is the most popular art form. Dance ritual dramas are held in most of the temples during festive occasions. Interesting characters in these dramas are Apsaras (Heavenly Maidens). Men play their role in women’s attire.
There are nine original Dashavatar performing groups in Sindhudurg district and Walawalkar group is believed to be the first. Credit also goes to pioneer Shyamnaikji kale who introduced Dashavatar in Sindhudurg in 11th century. Same Dashvtar is today known as “Adivere Dashavatar” in which ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are presented one after the other on the stage.
A form called Aatdashavatar is also highly appreciated by the locals. It is presented in two parts. Part one begins with Ganesh stavan, Saraswatistavan, Brahmin priest’s entry and killing of Shankasura (Purvarang) while part two is a proper play and includes mythological stories (Uttar-rang or Leela-natya)
The first incarnation Matsya Avatar is presented to the audience in the theatre. The myth begins with Lord Brahma who is busy in penance. The demon named Shankasura siezes this opportunity to steal his vedas and Shastras (holy books). Lord Vishnu who is witness to this incident then promises Brahama of bringing back his Vedas. Vishnu wanders in search of Shankasura and when he finds him, fierce battle takes place between them. Shankasura runs from the battlefield and hides under water in a conchshell.As Vedas remained drowned in water, it was necessary to bring them up. To retrieve them Vishnu descends into the water in the form of fish that is lower part of body like that of fish and upper part like that of a man (Matsya Avatar). In a battle under the water Vishnu Finally defeats Shankar who surrenders and explains the motive behind stealing of Vedas. That he did so with an intention to pass philosophical knowledge of Vedas from elite people to downtrodden society (Bahujan Samaj). Vishnu appreciated Shankasuras courage and gave him a vow that in the three worlds (Trailokaya) before worshipping Vishnu People will worship his conchshell. Vishnu then restored the Vedas to Brahma.