|MATSYA - THE FISH
his first incarnation, Vishnu has the lower part of his body
like that of a fish (Matsya) and the upper part like that
of a man. He has four arms; with two he holds a conch-shell
and a wheel, while the other two are holding a lotus or a
mace or are in the protection and boon giving modes.
There are several explanations as to why Vishnu assumed the
form of the fish. One of them describes him as turning into
a fish so as to be able to tow a ship in which Manu, the progenitor
of the new human race, had taken refuge from a devastating
flood. The same story is found in the Mahabharata where the
fish is described as having a horn.
|MATSYA - THE FISH
In the Bhagvada-Purana the story is further elaborated by
the addition of a fight between Matsya and the demon Hayagriva,
who had stolen the Vedas when Brahma was asleep.
Before the latest creation of the present universe, the four
Vedas (the holy books fr
om the mouth of the Supreme-Deity) remained drowned in the
waters. It was necessary to get hold of them to instruct Brahma
about the work of creation. Vishnu was therefore appointed
to bring up the Vedas from the deep.
While Brahma was falling asleep, at the end of the KALPA (one
day of Brahma - equal to 4320 million years), the asura HAYAGRIVA
wanted to take advantage of the circumstances to steal from
him the Vedas. But Vishnu caught the asura in the act, and
to retrieve the Vedas, took the form of a fish (Matsya), descended
into the waters and brought up the sacred books.
As the PRALAYA (Brahma's night - when the Universe will be
reabsorbed in his divine sleep) was fast approaching it was
necessary to collect all the plants, seeds, herbs, and animals
so that they would continue to exist in the new creation.
Vishnu-Matsya taught the rishi (sage) SATYAVRATA to collect
|MATSYA TEACHING SAGE SATYAVRATA
herbs, seeds and animals, to gather together the seven rishis,
and to wait.
|MATSYA TOWING THE BOAT
At the PRALAYA'S beginning the gigantic fish defeated the asura,
restored the Vedas to Brahma; when the rain poured down, the
ocean began rising and the waves began swallowing the earth,
a boat came where Satyavrata was waiting. When the rishis, the
animals and the seeds were boarded, the boat was fasten to the
fish's horn, using Vasuki, king of the serpent, and they sailed
the water throughout the night of Brahma. Thus Vishnu saved
the mankind from dissolution.