Matsya the fish

Matsya is the first of Vishnu's dashavatara. He took the form of a fish to save Manu, the first man, and the seven sages, from a flood, a mytheme common to several cultures. In earlier myth, Matsya was associated with Brahma instead of Vishnu.

The Flood

Manu, the son of the sun god Surya, and a powerful rishi (sage) equal to Brahma in glory, is performing religious rituals on the banks of the Chervi when he finds the fish. The fish grows in size, gets transferred from an earthen pot to a tank or lake and then to the mighty Ganges River and finally to the sea. When Manu left the fish in the sea, it warned of impending danger of a catastrophic flood event, which would submerge the whole universe. The fish advised Manu to be prepared to face the catastrophe by building a massive boat to save himself and the Saptarishi (the seven great sages) and collect all seeds of the world and promised to appear when called by him as a huge horned fish to save them.

Matsya pulls the boat

The horned fish appeared and the boat was tied to his horn. The fish navigated it with great force through the turbulent and salty waters of the ocean and reached the safe heights of the Himalayas. As directed by the fish, the vessel was tied to the peak of the Himalayas, which became known as the Naubandhana (the harbour). Matsya tells the sages that he is Vishnu, their saviour who rescued them from danger in the form of a fish. The fish informed that Manu would create all men and other things - by the power of his austerities. The fish vanished and Manu acted on the advise of Vishnu.

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