Shri Krishna Avatars

Matsya Avatar


Matsya was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana , where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat. Lord Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish. The story, according to the Matsya Purana, goes like this:

Satyavrata, the king of pre-ancient Dravida and a devotee of Vishnu, who later was known as Manu was washing his hands in a river when a little fish swam into his hands and pleaded with him to save its life. He put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. He then moved it to a tank, a river and then finally the ocean but to no avail. The fish then revealed himself to be Vishnu and told him that a deluge would occur within seven days that would destroy all life. The fish told Manu that at the end of Kali yug, the mare who lived at the bottom of the ocean would open her mouth to release a poisonous fire...the fire will burn the whole universe, gods, constellations and everything. The seven clouds of doomsday would then flood the earth until everything was a single ocean. Therefore, the fish instructed Satyavrata to take "all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints” along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals and board a boat that the gods had built.

This story is eerily similar to the Noah's Ark story in the Hebrew Book of Genesis, perhaps reminding us of the fact that most early civilizations were established near large rivers which were prone to frequent flooding. The Noah's Ark story goes like this:

God observes that humanity is corrupt and decides to destroy all life. But "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation, [and] Noah walked with God," and so God gives him instructions for the Ark, into which he is told to bring "two of every sort [of animal]...male and female ... everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life," and their food. God instructs Noah to board the Ark with his family, seven pairs of the birds and the clean animals, and one pair of the unclean animals. "On the same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth," and God closes up the door of the Ark. The flood begins, and the waters prevail until all the high mountains are covered fifteen cubits deep, and all the people and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens are blotted out from the earth, and only Noah and those with him in the Ark remain.

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