Since the beginning of time, Lord Vishnu has manifested on earth to uphold dharma. In this series of articles, we will take you through His various incarnations as a reminder of the force of the Preserver.
The first avatar of Lord Vishnu was in the form of a fish, known as the Matsya Avatar.
Once Lord Brahma was asleep and an asur named Hayagriva emerged from His nose. Finding an opportune moment, Hayagriva stole the eternal gyan of Creation, the Vedas, and hid deep in the ocean so nobody could find him.
Satyug was about to end and during that period, there lived a king named Manu who was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. One day while praying near the river, he took some water in his hands and was about to pour it in the river when he heard a soft voice from his hands, ‘O great king! Please do not put me back in the river.’ Surprised Manu stared at the water in his hands and found a tiny fish. The fish pleaded to Manu not to put it back in the water as the bigger fish would eat it. The King thought it to be his duty to protect anyone who came to him for help. So he put the fish inside his kamandalam. The next day when he woke he heard a strong voice from the kamandalam, ‘Your kamandalam is stifling me. I cannot breathe in here.’ Surprised Manu looked inside the kamandalam and found a big fish staring at him. He called for a bigger vessel to accommodate the fish. After shifting the fish to the bigger vessel he had just turned when he heard an even stronger voice call, ‘King, this vessel is too small for me. Please get me another one.’ Manu stared in disbelief as he saw fish, now huge in size, staring out of the big vessel. He knew now was not the time to question, he hurried the fish to a nearby river. Soon the fish outgrew the river as well!
By now, Manu knew it was no ordinary fish. He carried the fish to the ocean as it grew further and bowed in front of it with reverence. The fish revealed its identity to him, it was in fact Lord Vishnu. Tears rolled down the eyes of Manu who asked his Lord what was His command for him. Lord Vishnu told Manu about a Great Flood which was to come in seven days. He instructed Manu to build a big ship and to take on the ship the seeds of all plants, the male and female of every animal, the saptrishis along with their families and Vasuki the God of the Snakes.
The Matsya avatar then swam to the end of the ocean where Hayagriva was hiding with the Vedas. Hayagriva was terrified at the sight of the magnanimous fish. He tried to fight the fish, but in vain. After a brief struggle, the asura had perished and Vedas were returned to the Creator.
Soon heavy downpour started and washed away everything from the surface of earth. The water in the oceans was on a rise, and flooded entire landmass. Manu’s ship was ready for sail. The fish came as promised. Manu tied Vasuki as a rope to the fish’s horn and the fish guided the ship in the sea for seven days and seven nights. At last the rain stopped, the water took some time to subside, and the finally land was visible. Having accomplished its task, Lord Vishnu returned to Vaikunth. Manu became the first ruler of mankind after the flood.
The story of a Great Flood echoes across cultures of the world…do you remember Noah’s Ark?