The Incredible Story Of How A Fish Saved The World
The Dashavatar or ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are well-known and most of his avatars such as Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Balarama and Parashurama are popular among Hindu devotees as well as fans of Hindu mythology. Among the ten incarnations, the first and a pivotal form of Lord Vishnu is the Matsyavatar, which literally means ‘the fish form’. This fish-headed avatar of the Lord is lesser known than his human counterparts (read: Rama and Krishna), but nonetheless an important character in the preservation of Planet Earth and its myriad beings. The story of Matsya Vishnu bears an eerie similarity to Noah’s ark in the Bible and that of Gilgamesh in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, making it an even more interesting account with a universal connect. Read on to know more about the marine form of the mighty Lord, which despite its seemingly insignificant form, plays an interesting role in saving the world.
One day, the Creator of the Universe, Lord Brahma, appeared before Lord Vishnu with a forewarning of the disaster that was to hit earth and destroy all its inhabitants, who were growing more corrupt with each passing day. Crimes were rampant on Earth and people were killing and harming each other in every way possible. Justice, loyalty, kindness and goodness had forsaken mankind and all that was left among the human beings was greed, lust, anger and vengeance. In other words, evil was the only element remaining and destruction was close on the heels of mankind. The disaster was necessary to wipe out evil for Brahma to begin the next cycle of creation, but he was also worried about another thing: he had a bad feeling that the four Vedas, whose knowledge was essential to sustain Earth, would be stolen soon.
Manu did as he was instructed. In the meantime, Vishnu retrieved the Vedas from the mouth of the demon and seven days later, as foretold, floods hit the earth. By then, Manu and the chosen few were safe inside the ark, which was tied with Vasuki as the rope, to the horn of the Matsyavatar which had reappeared now in the form of a huge golden fish. While the storms raged and floods swept away the evil from the face of the earth, Matsya Vishnu dragged his followers to safety, high up on Mount Himavan where they stayed till the floods ceased and everything returned to normal. Following this, Matsya Vishnu returned to the heavens in his divine form and left Brahma to continue the task of the creation of the world.
The story of the Matsyavatar teaches us that no creature is big or small. Each one has his place in the Universe, which must be rightfully taken and adhered to. Also, whenever evil takes over the world, God will always come to the aid of mankind for its restoration and preservation.
Vishnu, the Sustainer, according to the Hindu triumvirate, assured him of protecting the Vedas. Soon, Brahma’s fears came true. One day, while he was sleeping, the Vedas fell from his mouth and Hayagriva, an asura (demon) took the opportunity to steal it from him. Hayagriva swallowed the Vedas immediately and hid himself in the ocean. Vishnu was witness to the entire scene, but he bade his time to tackle the demon, since he had a few things to finish first. He took on the form of a little fish and plunged into the river Cheerini, where he appeared on purpose before the sage-king Satyavrata, also known as Vaivaswata Manu, who was the only pure and noble mortal left on Earth. Manu had come to pray at the river bank, so he was surprised to find a small fish trying to have an audience with him. Vishnu in his fish form or Matsyavatar pleaded him to protect him from the larger fish within the river, for which he promised to repay him one day. The kind-hearted man took pity on the ‘little thing’ and kept it in an earthen pot and looked after it well in his house.
But the fish took no time to swell in size, so Manu had to transfer it to a large water tank, but even that failed to accommodate the fish for long. Manu then took it to a pond and a lake, but the fish kept outgrowing its container. Finally, he carried it to the river Ganges, the sacred Indian river, where he released it into the water. However, even the vast river could not keep it, since it continued to grow and occupy the entire area. Manu was shocked to see such an enormous fish, but having promised to shelter it, he decided to take it to the ocean where the fish could live in peace. It was then that Vishnu broke his silence and revealed his true identity to Manu. He then told him about the impending floods which would strike within a week and destroy the world. He advised him to build an ark to protect his family and the rest of God’s creation and also ordered him to take a pair of every animal and bird on earth, the seeds of every plant, the king of the serpents Vasuki and the Saptarishis (seven sages) and protect them in his ark and wait for Vishnu who would reappear in the Matsyavatar with a horn on his nose.