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See Avatara. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] 'A descent.' The incarnation of a deity, especially of Vishnu.
1. Matsya 'The fish.' This is an appropriation to Vishnu of the ancient legend of the fish and the deluge, as related in the Satapatha Brahmana, and quoted a above. The details of this Avatara vary slightly in different Puranas.
The object of the incarnation was to save Vaivaswata, the seventh Manu, and progenitor of the human race, from destruction by a deluge. A small fish came into the hands of Manu and besought his protection. He carefully guarded it, and it grew rapidly until nothing but the ocean could contain it. Manu then recognised its divinity, and worshipped the deity Vishnu thus incarnate. The god apprised Manu of the approaching cataclysm, and bade him prepare for it. When it came, Manu embarked in a ship with the Rishis, and with the seeds of all existing things. Vishnu then appeared as the fish with a most stupendous horn. The ship was bound to this horn with the great serpent as with a rope, and was secured in safety until the waters had subsided.
The Bhagavata Purana
introduces a new feature. In one of the nights of Brahma, and during his repose,
the earth and the other worlds were submerged in the ocean. Then the demon
Hayagriva drew near, and carried off the Veda, which had issued from Brahma's
mouth. To recover the Veda thus lost, Vishnu assumed the form of a fish, and
saved Manu as above related. But this Purana adds, that the fish instructed
Manu and the Rishis in " the true doctrine of the soul of the eternal Brahma;" and,
when Brahma awoke at the end of this dissolution of the universe, Vishnu slew
Hayagriva and restored the Veda to Brahma.
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