Stories from Indian Mythology: Vishunu's Matsya Avtar - Our Universe's First Saviour

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vishunu's Matsya Avtar - Our Universe's First Saviour

Over the existence of our current universe, Lord Vishnu, the protector of the Universe, has taken 10 avtars, or incarnations, to reestablish Dharma and for the salvation of the good and the destruction of evil. Of these ten avtars, Matsya (fish) avtar was the first. In this avtar Vishnu, protecting the seeds of creation from the last universe, heralded the creation of the current Universe and the beginning of a new day in the life of Brahma.

Lets hear the story now.

The day was coming to an end and Brahma was tired. Soon it would be time for him to sleep and the universe which would have lasted for the day (4.3 billion human years) would come to its end. Only the Veds, eternal and outside the Cycle of Creation, would persist. They would lodge safely inside Brahma's body while he sleeps through the night (another 4.3 billion human years) and would be given back to the universe in the next Cycle of Creation.

At this moment Brahma gave an immense yawn, and the Veds slipped out of his lips. It so happened that an asur (demon) named Hayagriv lurked around watching Brahma. Hayagriv had a longstanding desire to become immortal and was observing Brahma for any such opportunity. As the Vedas flowed out of Brahma's lips, the cunning asur immediately realized that the eternal nature of the Veds would also make him eternal. He immediately swallowed the Veds and dived into the ocean and hid in its utmost depth.

The loss of Veds brought about a crisis of catastrophic proportions. With the universe coming to its closure and pralay approaching, without the Veds Brahma would not have the means to recreate the universe and the cycle of creation and destruction would be broken. Realizing the problem, Vishnu, the protector of the universe, decided to pursue this trouble-making asur to the depths of the ocean and retrieve the Veds. Vishnu also decided that in the process of retreiving the Veds, he would find the next Manu for the cycle of creation. Manu acts like a cosmic warden to oversee the creation and spread of life in the world and in each cycle of creation, 14 Manu come to be one after the other till the universe gets destroyed at the end of the day of Brahma.

During those days, a great river flowed down the Malay mountains into the land of Dravida. On its shores stood king Satyavrat offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. As he cupped his hands to collect water from the river, a Shaphari (a small carp) swam in to his hands. The little fish begged the noble king to save it from the big fishes in the river. Satyavrat, surprised by a talking fish and overcome by pity, took the fish to his palace and put it in a pot. However, the fish outgrew the pot in minutes and had to be shifted in a larger vessel. No matter the size of the vessel Satyavrat found, the fish outgrew it in moments. The king shifted the fish to a pond, then a lake and then finally to the ocean. In the process Satyavrat realized that the fish was none other than Lord Vishnu. When he released it in the ocean, the king prayed to Lord Vishnu and requested him to show his true form. Then Vishnu came infront of Satyavrat in his true form and told him of the nearing pralay. Vishnu asked Satyavrat to go along with his wife Niharika and collect prototypes of the entire flora and fauna on the earth over the next seven days. On the seventh day pralay would come. Then a boat would come to Satyavrat and Niharika, and along with the Saptarishis (Seven Eternal Sages) they would save the prototypes of all lifeforms by this boat. Having given these instructions, Vishnu took the form of matsya and dived into the ocean looking for Hayagriv.

Hayagriv had hidden himself in the dark depths of the ocean in a huge shankh (conch). As Vishnu swam in the darkness, his body glowing in a golden light, the hiding place of the asur was soon revealed. In a raging battle that went on for the next few days, Hayagriv was torn to pieces and Vishnu's matsya avtar reclaimed the Veds from his body.

In the meantime on the seventh day, as the waters began to submerge the world and creation came to an end, a large boat appeared near the high ground where Satyavrat and his wife stood with the Saptarishis and the prototypes of all life forms on earth. By the time all the beings flocked into the boat Lord Vishnu's Matsya avtar arrived at the spot glowing with a golden light. It was the only illumination available as darkness had fallen across the cosmos and torrential rain had begun, creating a huge deluge of water that would sweep away the tired old creation. Satyavrat tied the boat to the horn of Vishnu's Matsya form using Vasuki, king of the serpents as a rope. Then Vishnu towed the boat across the cosmic deluge for the entire night while Brahma slept (equivalent to one cycle of creation and 4.3 billion human years). Over the night Vishnu also educated Satyavrat and the Saptarishis on the various problems of human existence and on the true knowledge of Brahman. When it was time for the new cycle of creation begin, Vishnu passed the Veds back to Brahma and these remnants of life from the last universe became the starting seeds of creation in the next.

And so it came to be that Vishnu's Matsya avtar became the first protector of creation in our current universe.

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