Matsya Avatar of Vishnu - How a fish saved the first man

From Biodiversity of India
Jump to: navigation, search

Matsya Avatar of Vishnu - How a fish saved the first man

Incarnation of Vishnu as a Fish

Contributed by: Gaurav Moghe. Adapted from Wikipedia articles - Matsya and Noah's Ark
Discussed species: Fish

Matsya (मत्स्य) (Fish in Sanskrit) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana [1], where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat.[2][3]. 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”[4] along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals and board a boat that the gods had built. [5]

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.[6] 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.[7]


  1. ^ The great flood -- Hindu style (Satapatha Brahmana)
  2. ^ Matsya
  3. ^ Klaus K. Klostermaier (2007). A Survey of Hinduism. SUNY Press. p. 97. ISBN 0791470822. 
  4. ^ Asiatic Soc. Res, Sir William Jones, Vol.i.230ff
  5. ^ Wendy Doniger (2009). Hinduism:An Alternative History. Penguin Books. ISBN 978014311691. 
  6. ^ Genesis 6 and 7, ESV
  7. ^ Genesis 7, ESV


blog comments powered by Disqus

More notes like this

Page titleAuthorTopicSpecies group, if anyState discussed, if any
Wolf in Indian cultureGaurav MogheMythology and religionMammalsPan-India
Why the Ketaki flower was cursed by godsGaurav MogheMythological storiesPlantsPan-India
Why Lord Ganesha has a mouse as his vehicleGaurav MogheMythology and religionMammalsPan-India
Warli tribe and their tribal artGaurav MogheTribal mythologyNot notedPan-India
Varaha (boar) avatar of VishnuGaurav MogheMythological storiesMammalsPan-India
Uses of Neem plantWikipediaUses of biodiversityPlantsPan-India
Uses of Henna plantGaurav MogheUses of biodiversityPlantsPan-India
Tulsi plant in Indian cultureGaurav MogheMythology and religionPlantsPan-India
The Soliga tribe of Karnataka and its intimate relationship with natureGaurav MogheIndigenous practicesNot notedKarnataka
The Asiatic Lion in Indian cultureGaurav MogheMythology and religionMammalsPan-India
Serpents in Indian cultureGaurav MogheMythology and religionReptilesPan-India
Satyanarayan pooja and biodiversityGaurav MogheMythology and religionMammalsPan-India
Samudra manthan and the Kurma avatar of VishnuWikipediaMythological storiesNot notedPan-India
Salman Khan and the sacred Blackbuck episodeGaurav MogheIndigenous practicesMammalsRajasthan
Reference libraryCollaborativeReference LibraryNot notedPan-India
… further results

Only 15 articles are shown in this list. A total of 64 articles in the database as of this moment. For the complete list, click on further results on the bottom right corner of the above table.

Semantic tags

Title Matsya Avatar of Vishnu - How a fish saved the first man Article is on this general topic Mythology and religion Author Gaurav Moghe
Specific location(s) where study was conducted Not noted General region where study was conducted Not noted State where study was conducted Pan-India
Institutional affiliation Not noted Institution located at Not noted Institution based around Not noted
Species Group Fish User ID User:Gauravm Page creation date 2011/09/24

Share this page: