Along with Brahma, the creator and Shiva, the destroyer, Lord Vishnu is one of the three main male deities in Hinduism and they are together known as the TRIMURTI. Being a part of the Trinity, He has taken ten incarnations and the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu or the Dashavatara are the several forms He took whenever the universe was in turmoil. Each of Vishnu’s Avatars had the same purpose which they achieved by different means. This divine purpose was the restoration of Dharma or righteousness and to save the planet and the good people from the hands of evils, demons or Asuras.

Matsya (Fish in Sanskrit) 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.

It is said that, during the Satya Yuga, the people on earth had become irreligious and disorderly in the way they lived their lives. This is when the Gods collectively decided to flood the earth and prepare it for the process of renovation. Lord Brahma, the creator, had been given the guidelines to remodel the earth by Lord Vishnu. These guidelines were the Vedas, the four principle books of Hinduism. Lord Brahma decided to rest before this grand task as he was quite tired from the process of creation.At this time, a horse-headed demon named Hayagriva ( not t be confused with Lord Hayagriva, the avatar of Vishnu who is considered as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge) came out of Brahma’s nose and stole the Vedas from him. Then Hayagriva went and hid himself deep in the oceans of the earth. Meanwhile, a pious king named Satyavrata who was a great admirer of Lord Vishnu, regularly worshipped Lord Vishnu and wished to meet Him. So Lord Vishnu decided to pay a visit to Manu.

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. This very 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 build an ark to take “all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints”  along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals. As the time of the flood approached, Manu’s ark was complete. As the flood swept over the land, Manu asked Vishnu why mankind had to meet such a deadly fate to which Matsya Vishnu told Manu that he was the only moral man alive and that he would be the father of the future generations of men. Matsya killed Hayagriva and returned the Vedas to Brahma. Then he tied himself to Manu’s ark using Vasuki as a rope and protected them from the storm and the floods. When the storms ended and the water subsided, Matsya Vishnu left Manu and the others at the Himalayas, where they could begin human civilization again.

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