Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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MANU. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] (From the root man, to think.) 'The man.' This name belongs to fourteen mythological progenitors of mankind and rulers of the earth, each of whom holds sway for the period called a Manwantara (manu-antara), the age of a Manu, i.e., a period of no less than 4,320,000 years. The first of these Manus was Swayambhuva, who sprang from Swayambhu, the self-existent. The self-existent, as identified with Brahma the creator, divided himself into two persons, male and female. From this pair was produced the male Viraj, and from him sprang the Manu Swayambhuva. As the acting creator, this Manu produced the ten Prajapapatis or progenitors of mankind, called also Maharshis (maharishis). According to another account, this Manu sprang from the incestuous intercourse of Brahma with his daughter and wife, Satarupa. Brahma created himself Manu, "born of and identical with his original self, and the female portion of himself he constituted Satarupa," whom Manu took to wife. The law-book commonly known as Manu is ascribed to this Manu, and so also is a Sutra work on ritual bearing the same name. The Manu of the present age is the seventh, named Vaivaswata, 'sun-born,' who was the son of Vivaswat, the sun, and he is a Kshatriya by race. He is also called Satyavrata. There are various legends about his having been saved from a great flood by Vishnu or Brahma. The names of the fourteen Manus - (1.) Swayanabhuva, (2.) Swarochisha, (3.) Auttami, (4.) Tamasa, (5.) Raivata, (6.) Chakshusha, (7.) Vaivaswata or Satyavrata, (8.) Savarna, (9.) Dakshasavarna, (10.) Brahmasavarna, (11.) Dharmasavarna, (12.) Savarna or Rudrasavarna, (13.) Rauchya, (14.) Bhautya.

The sons of Manu Vaivaswata were - Ikshwaku, Nabhaga or Nriga, Dhrishta, Saryati, Narishyanta, Pransu, Nabhaganedishta or Nabhanedishta, Karusha, and Prishadhra. But there is some variety in the names.

With the seventh Manu, Vaivaswata, is connected the very curious and interesting legend of the deluge. The first account of this is found in the Satapatha Brahmana, of which the following is a summary: -- One morning, in the water which was brought to Manu for washing his hands, he caught a fish which spake, and said, "Take care of me and I will preserve thee." Manu asked, "From what will you preserve me?" The fish answered, "A flood will carry away all living beings; I will save thee from that." The fish desired Manu to keep him alive in an earthen vessel, to remove him to a dyke as he grew largers, and eventually to the ocean, "so that he might be beyond the risk of destruction." The fish grew rapidly, and again addressed Manu, saying, "After so many years the deluge will take place; then construct a ship and pay me homage, and when the waters rise, go into the ship and I will rescue thee." Manu did as he was desired, he built the ship, conveyed the fish to the ocean, and did him homage. The flood rose, and Manu fastened the cable of the ship to the fish's horn. Thus he passed over the northern mountain (the Himalaya, as the commentator explains). The fish then desired Manu to fasten the ship to a tree, and to go down with the subsiding waters. He did so, and found that the flood had swept away all living creatures. He alone was left. Desirous of offspring, he offered sacrifices and engaged in devotion. A woman was produced, who came to Manu and declared herself his daughter. "With her he lived, worshipping and toiling in arduous religious rites, desirous of offspring. With her he begat the offspring which is the offspring of Manu."

The story, as told in the Mahabharata, represents Manu as engaged in devotion by the side of a river, and the fish craving his protection from the bigger fish. Manu placed the fish in a glass vase, but it grew larger and larger till the ocean alone could contain it. Then it warned Manu of the coming flood, and directed him to build a ship and to embark with the seven Rishis. He did so, and fastened his ship to the horn of the fish.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM