The Matsya Avatar – First Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Matsya, the fish, from the Satya Yuga. Vishnu takes the form of a fish to save Manu from the deluge, after which he takes his boat to the new world along with one of every species of plant and animal, gathered in a massive cyclone.
Full Story
In Hindu mythology there are four eras [yuga] – Satya yuga, Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali yuga. Each Yuga is supposed to be a day for Lord Brahma. One day of Lord Brahma is 4320 million human years. After the end of every yuga Lord Brahma goes to sleep. The power of Lord Brahma’s creation comes from the Vedas. When Lord Brahma sleeps there is no creation and the universe comes to an end.
Lord Vishnu is the God of Preservation. Whenever the earth was in danger and when evil threatens to overpower good, Lord Vishnu descends from the heaven to incarnate on the earth. There are ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. [Dasavatar – Das meaning “ten” and avatar is “incarnation”, the last avatar – Kalki avatar is yet to come] The first avatar of Lord Vishnu is called as Matsya Avatar [Matsya means “fish”].


Matsya Avatar- 1st Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Out of the innumerable avatars that Lord Vishnu assumed, the Rishis and Sages selected ten avatars to represent the rest. These ten avatars, known as the Dashavatara in Sanskrit were introduced in the Garuda Purana. In different scriptures, the Dashavatars are different. However, the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu is mentioned in all the scriptures and is one of the most important avatars.

Story of Matsya Avatar
Matsya meaning Fish in Sanskrit was the first Avatar that Lord Vishnu assumed. In Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, the great flood finds mention. The Matsya Avatar takes comes into existence to save the highly pious king and the first man, Vaivasvatha Manu. Lord Matsya is generally depicted as a four-armed figure that is both man and a fish. The upper torso being of a man and the lower of a fish, this avatar advises Manu to build an ark to save all species from the great flood.

Why Lord Vishnu took the Matsya Avatar
When the people on earth had become irreligious and the whole of humanity was in disarray during the Satya Yuga, the Gods collectively decided to flood the earth. This was meant to prepare the earth for the process of renovation.

Lord Vishnu had given Lord Brahma, the creator, the guidelines to remodel the earth. These guidelines were nothing but the Vedas, the four principle texts of Hinduism namely Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda.
You may also like to read this: Vishwakarma Jayanti

Who was Hayagriva?
Before taking up this grand task at hand, Lord Brahma decided to rest as he was quite tired from the process of creation. Taking this as an opportunity, a horse-headed demon named Hayagriva came out of Brahma’s nose and stole the Vedas. Hayagriva then went and hid in the depths of the oceans of the earth.

Story of Satyavrata (Manu) in Hindu mythology
Meanwhile, King Satyavrata was known for his piousness. He was a worshipper of Lord Vishnu and he was pretty determined to meet the Lord. Impressed by the king’s determination, Lord Vishnu decided to pay a visit to Manu.

Satyavrata, later known as Manu, the king of pre-ancient Dravida has ruled over the southern part of Bharata Varsha and a devotee of Vishnu was washing his hands in a river. Just then a little fish swam into his cupped-hands and pleaded with him to save its life as if it was to be left in the river, it would fall prey to the bigger fishes.

The fish grows unnaturally huge
Manu was kind and carried the fish and put it in a jar, but to his dismay, the fish soon outgrew the jar and so it was moved to a tank. Not so long after, it outgrew the tank as well and it just kept growing until one fine day the king had to take it to the ocean where the fish then revealed itself to be Vishnu.

Manu was told that the mare who lived at the bottom of the ocean would open her mouth to release a poisonous fire at the end of the Kaliyug, which would set ablaze the whole of Universe including all the Gods. Then on the seventh day, a deluge would hit the earth that would wipe out life on earth in its entirety, until everything was a large single ocean.

Therefore, the fish asked Manu to build an ark and to take along the best representative of flora and fauna accompanied by the seven saints. On the day of the flood, Matsya Avatar appeared along with the serpent Vasuki. The boat was then tied to the horns of the fish using Vasuki, the snake as a rope and all along the voyage, Matsya avatar taught the king the gamut of sacred literature.

Slaughter of Hayagriva
Once the flood subsided, Hayagriva, the demon was exposed and was finally killed by Matsya, and the Vedas were rescued from its capture. Saddened by what had unveiled Manu asked Vishnu why mankind had to meet with such a fate, to which Matsya Vishnu answered that the earth was rid of moral men and Manu was the only one left alive and that he deserved to be the father of the future generations of men. When the catastrophe ended and the water subsided, Manu and the others were left at the Himalayas by Matsya Vishnu where they began human civilization again.


Matsya Avatar: The Significance Of Vishnu’s First Avatar

Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh – the three pillars of Sanatana Dharma and the basis of all the great stories you have ever heard! While Lord Brahma is the basis of all the creation and Lord Shiva that of destruction, it’s Lord Vishnu, the great preserver who runs and protects the world.

While the stories of gods and goddesses taking various incarnations on earth are quite famous, the most beloved of them all are the ten famous incarnations of Lord Vishnu, also known as Dashavatara.

Every time there was a disorder in the world beyond the scope of any hope, Lord Vishnu incarnated in one of his many forms to restore order, peace and righteousness. Matsya avatar was his very first incarnation – this is where the enchanting story of Dashatavar begins.

The stolen Vedas
To really understand the significance of the Matsya avatar of Lord Vishnu, you will first need to know how life was back then. The story has many versions, but the most beloved and trusted one comes from the Bhagavad Purana…

It was before the beginning of the golden age of Satya Yuga (the era of truth) when the people on earth had started leading immoral and selfish lives. When Gods realised that there was no saving these people from their immoral ways, they collectively decided to flood the world and restore order again.

It was Lord Brahma’s work to recreate the world in accordance with the guidelines mentioned in the Vedas – the source of all the knowledge and wisdom.

Tired from the preparation, Lord Brahma fell asleep in the middle of his work and out of his nose was born a demon with the head of a horse, called Hayagriva. Hayagriva steals the Vedas from Lord Brahma and escapes.

It was Lord Vishnu who notices that a theft has taken place and he descends on the earth in the form of a small fish – the Matsya avatar and appears to the great King Vaivasvat Manu.

Manu saves the fish
King Manu was not only a devout and moral person but also an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Once when he was performing austerities, he took some water from the ocean in his cupped hands and found that there was a tiny fish there.

The king was about to release the fish back into the waters when the fish spoke and requested the king to save its life as the larger creatures of the sea would eat it. King, taking pity on the poor fish, put it in a small tank back in his palace.

To his great surprise, the fish started growing in size and was soon too big for the tank. The King then transferred the fish to a small pond but again the fish soon grew so big that even the pond was not enough. Not before long, the king had to consider putting the fish into a river and then back into the ocean.

When he took the fish to the ocean, it was revealed to him that this fish was none other than the great Lord Vishnu who had been testing the faith and greatness of the Dravida King Manu. As King Manu bowed in front of the great Matsya, the Lord told him about the upcoming flood.

Surviving the great flood
Lord Matsya instructs the great King to collect one living being from all the species of plants and animals, the seven great sages and take them onto an ark to save them from the destruction.

On the seventh day when heavy rains and storms hit the earth, the great Matsya appeared in front of the King and asked him to tie the ark to his horn using the divine serpent Vasuki as a rope. Lord Matsya then protected the ark from getting destroyed in the great flood.

While trying to save them and take them up towards Mount Hemavan, Lord Matsya also slew the demon Hayagriva and restored the stolen Vedas back to Lord Brahma. As the boat progressed towards Mount Hemavan with the support of Lord Matsya, he revealed many great truths and imparted his wisdom to the great King.

Finally, after reaching Mount Hemavan, Lord Matsya disappeared from the earth after giving his instruction to King Manu on how to restart, replenish and run this new world with a new set of rules and moral values. This set of knowledge came to be known as Manusmriti – the memories of Manu.

The significance of Matsya avatar
While many may find it difficult to understand the deeper meanings of the story, it is believed that a fish being the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu refers to the evolutionary fact that it was the aquatic life that first came into existence.

The story, as most from Hindu mythology, must be treated as a parable if we are to derive any real meaning from them. As of now, there are various interpretations available, one of the most famous ones being the comparison of Sri Aurobindo’s Kundalini awakening.

The small fish represents the descent of Kundalini, the serpent of awakening which starts out as small but soon outgrows every place it inhabits. The fish – the awakened knowledge – is what later on saves the fate of humanity.

The flood symbolises the Maya – the delusion of the materialistic world’s desire and how it threatens the existence of our very peace. The boat represents our consciousness – something that can only be saved through awakening (fish) from the destruction that waves of the flood (Maya – the delusion of the materialistic world) cause.

The seven great sages represent our 7 chakras, the centres of knowledge in our body. The boat is taken to Mount Hemavan for protection from worldly desires, to help us rise above them in order to gain truth and peace. Mount Hemavan represents our head – the highest centre of knowledge.

Once your kundalini is awakened, it frees you from all your worldly desires and boundation. In short, the story of Lord Matsya is a parable for the awakening of greater knowledge within us. It’s the story of self-enlightenment.


Introduction to Matsya Avatar
Matsya refers to the Matsya Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, the God of protection and sustenance. The Sanskrit term ‘Matsya’ means ’fish,’ and in this Avatar, the Lord appeared as a great fish, which facilitates in continuing the life on Earth.

Depiction of Matsya Avatar
Lord Matsya is depicted as a human-fish; the upper part of the body is a man and the lower part, a fish. He has four hands in which he is generally seen holding the conch, the discus, and the protecting and boon-giving postures.

Significance of Matsya Avatar
As the protector of the worlds, Lord Vishnu himself takes incarnations on earth whenever the need arises, to sustain life, restore dharma (righteousness) and to establish goodwill. Matsya Avatar is one such sacred incarnation of the Lord and is regarded as the first of his ten famous Avatars. This was believed to have been taken during the Satya Yuga, also known as the Golden Age.

Mythology behind Matsya Avatar
Bhagavata Purana narrates the amazing story of Matsya, the giant fish. Satyavrata, also known as Vaivasvata Manu, the righteous king of the ancient Dravida country was once performing austerities in the Kritamala River when a tiny fish got into his hands. The fish spoke in a human voice, requesting him not to throw it back in the river, as it would be swallowed by bigger fishes. Assuring his protection to the fish, the king carried it to his palace and placed it in the water in a pot. But soon the fish grew larger and became too big for the small pot. The king then dropped it in a big vessel, which too, the fish outgrew in no time. Then, the king shifted it to a pond, then to a reservoir, a big lake and then to a large river, as the fish grew larger and larger at an unbelievable pace. Ultimately, it became so huge that the king had to move it to the ocean itself. However, upon realizing that this amazing fish is no ordinary creature and is none other than Lord Vishnu himself, the king sought refuge in him.

The Lord in Matsya Avatar blessed him, then cautioned him about the great floods that are going to engulf the world in seven days time. He directed the king to assemble the seven great sages and to collect samples of all kinds of seeds, herbs, and species of other living things under their guidance, load them all in a ship that would be sent by the Lord himself. He further promised the king that he would reappear as a horned fish and guide the boat through the massive floods. As the divine fish disappeared, the king did as advised and loaded the sages and the things in the ship, even as torrential rains began lashing the earth. As promised, Lord Vishnu did appear again, this time as Matsya, a massive and brilliant fish with a long shining horn, and the King tied the ship to the fish’s horn using the great serpent Vasuki as a rope, as advised. While rains and storms began battering the worlds and the great deluge started drowning the Earth, and everything in it, the Matsya form of Lord Vishnu guided the boat safely through the flood waters and darkness. The Lord is also said to have imparted to the King, knowledge about the Vedas and other sacred scriptures as he swam through the flood waters, towing the ship.

Once the great floods ended, but not before wiping out everything on earth, the giant fish took the ship to the safety of the shore, where Satyavrata started a new life on Earth with the help of the samples that he brought along. The Purana also adds that during the process, Matsya also slayed the horse-faced demon Hayagriva, who stole the sacred Vedas from Lord Brahma and hid them in the ocean bed.

Benefits of Worshipping Matsya Avatar
The Matsya Moorthy temple in the Thuvariman Agraharam near Madurai is said to be Lord Matsya’s place of advent. This Lord can also be worshipped in Nagalapuram Vedanarayana Swami temple near Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh state. It is believed that worshipping Matsya can gain you Lord Vishnu’s blessings and protection.

Events Related to Matsya Avatar
Lord Matsya is believed to have appeared on the Shukla Paksha Tritiya, the 3rd lunar day of the waxing phase of the Moon, in the month of Chaitra (March-April) and that day is celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm as Matsya Jayanthi. This occasion also falls during the auspicious 9 day period of Chaitra Navaratri, dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga during the spring season.

Connect With The Divine
The sacred scriptures prescribe fire ceremony, Abishekam (hydration ceremony), Pooja/Archana (Light and Sound ceremony), Yantra and Mantra (special sounds) as the ways to offer your prayer to the divine. Out of these, fire ceremony is the most evolved spiritual technology on earth to connect with the divine beings. Participate in the remedial services to clear your karma and receive the blessings.

Matsya Yantra
The Matsya Yantra is a sacred energy device that infuses within you the power to focus and accomplish your goals.


First – Matsya Avatar – The Fish Incarnation
Lord Vishnu incarnated Matsya avatar in Sat – Yug. According to the Bhagvad Purana, one day Lord Brahma (creator) approached Lord Vishnu (preserver) and said that he had foreseen a PRALAYA (disaster) that would occur soon and was worried for the safety of the Vedas*, which could be stolen. Lord Vishnu assured Brahmaji that he would take care of everything.

One day when Lord Brahma was in deep sleep the Vedas* happened to slip out of his possession. At that moment an asura, named HAYAGRIVA, who was watching this thought that, “This is my golden opportunity, I should absorb these vedas which are falling out of the Brahma’s Mouth.” Hayagriva swallowed the four Vedas, and hid them deep inside the ocean.

Without the knowledge of the Vedas all forms of life would die. But Vishnuji, (the preserver-God) saw Hayagriva absorbing the Vedas. He thought to himself that, “The PRALAYA (destruction) was to follow soon and I should retrieve the VEDAS for the next spell of Creation.”Matsya Avatar – The Fish Incarnation – Satyavrata

As God was wondering what was to be done, he saw the pious Sage Satyavrata (also known as Vaivasvata Manu) who was a loyal devotee of Lord Vishnu. Satyavrata was in the river at sunrise to take a bath and do his meditaion and payers. God thought,” I will take the form of a fish and retrieve the Vedas and my devotee (Satyavrata) will help in this. He shall live through the Pralaya.” Thinking this Lord Vishnu took the form of a fish and as Satyavrata scooped up the next handful of water to offer it to his ancestors a tiny fish jumped and landed in his palms. Seeing this poor creature he thought that it must be very frightened and that he should put it back into the river.

As he was about to do so the fish said, “O noble soul, if you throw me into the water, big creatures might swallow me up. I have come to you for shelter. Will you disown me like that ?” Satyavrata took pity and told the fish not to worry as he will take care of her. He put the fish into his KAMANDALU and went back to his hermitage. Overnight, the fish grew too big to be in the Kamandalu.

The fish requested him to move him to a larger vessel. Satyavrata did so but soon the fish became too big to fit into that larger vessel. Addressing the Sage, fish said that he should protect him and find a suitable living space for him. Satyavrata then emptied the vessel into a large pond near his hermitage along with the fish. But, in no time the fish grew as large as the pond and filled it. Then the fish urged Sage to take it to a large and deep lake.

Although Satyavrata took it to several lakes, one larger than the other, the fish kept growing bigger and bigger. It went on asking for larger and larger living space. Satyavarata got vexed and decided to put it into the ocean. While he reached the ocean, the fish addressed him, “Oh Sage, do not put me into the ocean, I am sure to be swallowed by the gigantic creature there.”Matsya Avatar – The Fish Incarnation

Satyavrata became suspicious now. He was despairing to know how that wonderful tiny fish could grow so big in one day that it has covered the largest lake. In a flash, he realized that it was Lord Vishnu in the form of a fish. Satyavrata immediately bowed before the fish and prayed to be told why God had appeared in the form of a fish?

The Lord told his devotee, “Just a week from now, the ocean will rise and flood the entire Universe for PRALAYA (dissolution/end of creation). At that time a large boat will appear on the horizon. He asked Satyavrata to collect herbs and seeds of all plants, and one animal of each type required for the next spell of creation and get into the boat and wait for me. Take VASUKI, the king of Serpents, and the SAPTHA RISHIS* *(seven Sages) along with you. I would then appear as a fish to propel the boat to Mount Himavan”.

After addressing Satyavrata Lord Vishnu left to fulfill his mission (retrive the Vedas). When Hayagriva saw the gigantic fish approaching towards him he was overtaken by fear but he knew if he opened his mouth the Vedas will be lost. He held the VEDAS tightly in his mouth. But soon the Divine Fish slew him and recovered the VEDAS and restored them back to BRAHMA to resume the function of CREATION at an appropriate time.

As foretold by the DIVINE FISH, seven days later PRALAYA (deluge) set in and huge tidal waves started covering the earth. Sage Satyavrata, the Saptha Rishis and all the living creatures waited by the shore for the boat to appear. Suddenly a huge vessel appeared and all of them climbed in the boat while it was being tossed around in that turbulent ocean.Matsya avatar – Saving everyone from PrahlyaTrue to his word, Lord appeared in the form of a golden gigantic fish and it had a horn.

Fish said loudly,” Fasten the boat to my horn, using Vasuki as a rope. Do not worry, none of you will be harmed.” Satyavrata tied the boat to the fish using the royal serpent Vasuki. This way the fish took all of them to Mt Himavan and kept them there till the flood was over.Lord VISHNU in this manner saved his true Devotees from PRALAYA (destruction) so as to hand down the divine knowledge to the next generation and saved the VEDAS from destruction and ensured CREATION after DESTRUCTION.

* Vedas means knowledge and they are one of the holy Scriptures of Hindus which remains in the mouth of the Supreme Lord – BRAHMA. Without the Vedas creation of the new world cannot take place and with the aid of Vedas, Brahmaji (the creator God), performs his role. There are 4 kinds of Vedas – the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda.

** SAPT RISHIS – The Saptarishi are the primeval teachers who continue to guide humanity to the secrets of life and universe.


Lord Vishnu’s Matsya Avatar



Prologue:-India is a land of number of stories and myths. One such story is of the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is known as the creator of the world. Lord Vishnu has taken a number of incarnations to save the world from the hands of evil sources. The Matsya Avatar is the first avatar out of the ten principle avatars of Lord Vishnu. The word Matsya means fish in Sanskrit and the word avatar means reincarnation. According to the legends Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of fish to save the world from mass destruction and disaster.

How did the story originate?At the end of Satya yug, the world was destroyed by a flood. Lord Vishnu, being the creator aimed towards saving the world from destruction. This incarnation is the first incarnation of the God.

How is the incarnation represented?The Matsya Avatar is represented by a four-armed figure. The upper part depicts the body of the fish. The incarnation had four arms. Two arms held a wheel and the conch shell well known as shank. The other two hold a lotus or mace to give protection and boon to the world.

Legend Behind the Matsya Avatar:-In the Sat yug, a king named Taramasalata existed. He ruled the kingdom of the Dravidian during the ancient times. He was also known as Mani, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. One day Taramasalata was washing his hands in the river, suddenly a small fish swam onto his hands pleading him to save his life. Considering the request the king placed the fish into a small jar. The fish started to grow. Seeing it outgrow the size of the jar the king moved it to the tank then a river and then to the ocean to save it. Lord Vishnu who was in disguise of the fish came into his true form and told the king that a flood would occur to destroy the world in the next seven days.

The Lord asked the King to collect seeds, herbs, animals and to assemble the Maharishis at one place. He also advised the king to collect the flora and fauna present on the earth in one boat. Lord Vishnu promised to meet him at a stipulated time. The boat was taken away by the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu. He tied a horn manifested on his head.

The huge flood occurred destroying the earth, but Mani, the King and his wife and other species were saved. The destruction stopped after a few years and the boat was safely brought back on the land. The king and the queen started life on the earth using various species and brought back life on the earth.

Another Legend mentioned in the Baghdad Puritan says that a demon named Hagiography stole away Vedas from Lord Brahma. He took away the Vedas when Lord Brahma was deep inside the ocean. In order to save the world, Lord Vishnu turned into a Matsya to save the world from destruction.


Matsya Avatar – The Fish Incarnation of Lord VishnuMatsya Avatar (Matsya means a fish) was the first of 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu on the Earth to save humanity from great deluge (maha pralaya). The story of Matsya Avatar is somewhat similar to that of Noah in the Bible. According to Matsya Purana, Lord Vishnu incarnated as half-fish and half-human and guided the king Satyavrat (Manu) to save himself, seeds of the plants, herbs, and mobile living creatures on the earth at the time of the great flood.

The Story of Matsya Avatar:

Millions of years ago, in Krita Yuga, there was a pious and noble king Satyavrat in India. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. One day, he was giving arghya (offering water to a deity with collecting water by joining the palms of his both hands side by side and releasing it from the finger side slowly while chanting a mantra of the deity) in the river Kritmala (per another story, he was washing his hands in the river). When he cupped his hands to collect the water, he saw a small golden fish in his palms asking him for protection as it was afraid of other big fishes in the river. It was the duty of a king to protect everybody who asks for protection. Hence, king Satyavrat put the fish in a pot filled with water but in a very short time, the fish outgrew the pot.

So, the king put the fish in a well. But again, the fish outgrew the well. The same thing happened when he tried to put the fish in the lake and river. Hence, he put it into the sea. The fish actually was Lord Vishnu who was pleased by his kindness. At that time, Lord Vishnu appeared before him in half-fish and half-human form and told him that the great deluge will happen on the seventh day from then and ordered him to keep ready a gigantic boat with a pair of all animals, insects and also herbs, seeds of plants [also Saptarshis (the seven saints) according to some stories] on the seventh day. He said that he would return on the seventh day and would take them out of the maha pralaya.

As per the instructions of Lord Vishnu, Satyavrat kept the boat ready (It is said that demigods helped him to build the boat and collect the seeds and species of all living beings). Meanwhile, torrential rain filled the earth with water and the great deluge began. Then, Vishnu in the form of Matsya appeared before him and told him to use Vasuki (the big serpent) as a rope and tie the ship to the horn of the Matsya Avatar. Matsya then carried the boat to a safer place (Malaya Mountains). Matsya Avatar imparted the knowledge necessary to survive in the post-deluge era to Satyavrat in seven days of the deluge and disappeared.

King Satyavrat obeyed Vishnu’s orders and imparted necessary knowledge to the survivors of the deluge and restored dharma.

According to another story, king Satyavrat was the lone survivor after the Maha Pralaya. He performed a Yajna (a Hindu ritual done to please deities by offering sacrifices into the fire), after which a woman appeared from the water and the human race flourished from them (this story is similar to that of Adam and Eve in the Bible).




Along with Brahma, the creator and Shiva, the destroyer, Lord Vishnu is one of the three main male deities in Hinduism and they are together known as the TRIMURTI. Being a part of the Trinity, He has taken ten incarnations and the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu or the Dashavatara are the several forms He took whenever the universe was in turmoil. Each of Vishnu’s Avatars had the same purpose which they achieved by different means. This divine purpose was the restoration of Dharma or righteousness and to save the planet and the good people from the hands of evils, demons or Asuras.

Matsya (Fish in Sanskrit) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana , where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat. Lord Matsya is generally represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish.

It is said that, during the Satya Yuga, the people on earth had become irreligious and disorderly in the way they lived their lives. This is when the Gods collectively decided to flood the earth and prepare it for the process of renovation. Lord Brahma, the creator, had been given the guidelines to remodel the earth by Lord Vishnu. These guidelines were the Vedas, the four principle books of Hinduism. Lord Brahma decided to rest before this grand task as he was quite tired from the process of creation.At this time, a horse-headed demon named Hayagriva ( not t be confused with Lord Hayagriva, the avatar of Vishnu who is considered as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge) came out of Brahma’s nose and stole the Vedas from him. Then Hayagriva went and hid himself deep in the oceans of the earth. Meanwhile, a pious king named Satyavrata who was a great admirer of Lord Vishnu, regularly worshipped Lord Vishnu and wished to meet Him. So Lord Vishnu decided to pay a visit to Manu.

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. This very 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 build an ark to take “all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints” along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals. As the time of the flood approached, Manu’s ark was complete. As the flood swept over the land, Manu asked Vishnu why mankind had to meet such a deadly fate to which Matsya Vishnu told Manu that he was the only moral man alive and that he would be the father of the future generations of men. Matsya killed Hayagriva and returned the Vedas to Brahma. Then he tied himself to Manu’s ark using Vasuki as a rope and protected them from the storm and the floods. When the storms ended and the water subsided, Matsya Vishnu left Manu and the others at the Himalayas, where they could begin human civilization again.


In the Satya Yuga there was a king by name Manu. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. His greatest desire was to see Lord Vishnu with his own eyes. For this he performed severe penances for thousands of years.
The Satya Yuga was about to end and a great flood was to come and destroy all the life on earth to start afresh for the next Yuga. Lord Brahma after a day full of creation, was tired. He wanted to go to sleep and was soon snoring loudly.
While Lord Brahma was sleeping an asura Hayagriva emerged from Brahma’s nose. With Brahma asleep, Hayagriva realized that it was the right time to take in all the knowledge of the Vedas. Hayagriva concentrated and soon absorbed the knowledge in the Vedas. He then hid deep inside the ocean, thinking that nobody would find him there.
Lord Vishnu saw this and was worried. If the Vedas were stolen by the asura, the knowledge of the Vedas could not be passed on to the Next Yuga. As a Preserver, it was his job to make sure the knowledge survived to the next Yuga.
Wondering what to do, Lord Vishnu looked at Manu performing penance. Lord Vishnu smiled realizing that he could complete quiet a lot than just save the Vedas.
The next morning, Manu went to the river to begin his prayers. He took the water in his hands and held it high above his head and offered it to the Lord Vishnu to mark the beginning of his prayer. He was about to pour the water into the river, when he heard a tiny voice from his hands. “O great king! Please do not put me back in the river…”.
Surprised Manu stared at his hands. In the palms of his hands was a tiny fish, squirming. The fish looked at Manu, pleading, “Please do not put me back in the water. There are so many bigger fishes in the water, they will eat me. Please, O great king…”.
Manu looked at the tiny fish with pity. As a king it was his duty to protect anybody who came to him for help. The king readily agreed and put the fish inside his “kamandalam”. [Kamandalam is a small jug carried by sages in those days to carry water]
Manu finished his penance and went home for the night. He had left the fish inside the kamandalam, knowing that the fish would be safe inside. He woke up next morning hearing a strong voice, “O king…Help me…Your kamandalam is stifling me. I cannot breath in here…” Surprised Manu looked at his kamandalam, only to find a big fish staring at him from the top of the kamandalam. The fish was pushing the sides of the jug as the jug was too small for it.
Overcoming his surprise, Manu ran inside his house to get a bigger vessel. The fish gulped few breaths and said softly, “Thank you, kind king.”
Manu smiled and was about to walk out the home to begin his morning prayers, when he heard an even more powerful voice, “King, this vessel in too small for me. Please get me another one.”
Manu blankly stared as the fish stared out of the vessel he had got just minutes back. The fish was again struggling for breath. Manu brought the biggest vessel in his house and threw the fish inside it. The fish thanked him and after checking that the vessel was big enough for the fish, still puzzled, was about to walk out of the house, when he heard a strong voice, “I am sorry this vessel is also not sufficient for me, king”
Manu stared in disbelief as he saw the huge fish stare out of the big vessel. However realizing that this was not the time for questions, he carried the fish and ran to the river, where he had found the fish and threw the fish inside. The fish gulped a few breaths inside water, “Thank you…king. You have protected me. But please don’t leave me here. I am afraid the other bigger fishes may eat me…”.
Manu began to get suspicious, but he was a king. He could not just stop protecting someone who had come to him for help. He stared at the fish for long and before his very eyes saw the fish getting larger and larger, till it had covered up the entire river.
The same routine followed again. Manu carried the fish from one river to another river, but the fish kept getting bigger.
Finally he dropped the fish inside the ocean, only to find that the fish grown to full one side of the ocean. Looking at gigantic fish, a sudden flash came to Manu. He bowed before the fish, “Narayana, you are Lord.”
The fish smiled, “You wanted to see me and here I have come.” Manu stared with tears in his eyes, as a huge horn grew on the head of the fish.
“My Lord, you have granted me my only desire. I want nothing more. What do you want me to do now?” Manu said prostrating before the fish.
“Manu, the Yuga is about to end in seven days. There will be a great flood and all living things on the earth would perish. I want you to build a big ship. Take the seeds of all plants, the male and female of every animal, and the seven sages along with their families. Take them all on the ship”
Manu nodded. The fish continued. “Don’t forget to bring Vasuki, the snake God also.” Manu nodded again as he watched the fish tear through the ocean to the other side.
One half of the fish’s work completed, the fish went to the other side to complete the other reason for the incarnation. On the other end of the ocean, the fish saw Hayagriva guarding the Vedas. Seeing the huge fish, Hayagriva was terrified. What a huge fish…However no sooner than he had thought this, the fish attacked him. The fish was so huge, that a single push sent the asura reeling. Still dazed Hayagriva tried fighting the fish, but the fish was huge and powerful.
After a brief and futile struggle, the asura was dead. Once the asura was dead, the vedas imbibed by him went back to Lord Brahma, who was still asleep.
On the other side of the ocean Manu was building his ship. He had also brought the seven sages with their families.
Soon there were torrential rains which washed away everything. The water level kept increasing and very soon there was a flood. The ship wobbled and many times was about to capsize, but Manu and that others were steadfast in their belief that Lord Vishnu would protect them.
Soon the fish came as promised, “Manu, use Vasuki as a rope to tie my horn to the ship” It bellowed loudly, above the roar of the rain.
Once the fish was tied to the ship, the fish guided the ship in sea and kept the ship safe while the storm raged outside. The fish taught the Vedas to Manu and the others during the voyage. After the storm abated and everything was washed away, the fish deposited the ship at Mount Himavan for the people there to continue the new yuga.


Matsya Avatar – The First Avatar of Lord Vishnu

One day Lord Brahma approached Lord Vishnu, and said that He had foreseen a disaster that would occur and wanted to warn Vishnu. Brahma told Vishnu that it was his responsibility to protect people.

One day Brahma was in a deep sleep. He kept with him the Vedas. These are really important books, like the blueprints for the whole universe. While he was asleep, a demon named Hayagriva stole them. Hayagriva swallowed the four Vedas, and hid deep inside the ocean. Without the Vedas, the world was in a lot of danger of going completely dark, like the lights going off when there is no electricity. To protect the world, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Matsya to save all that was good in the world before its destruction.

At that time there was a pious king called Satyavrata who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Satyavrata was down by the river for his morning prayers to the god Vishnu. His morning prayers were his daily ritual to lord Vishnu. After he picked himself up off the grass, Satyavrata went over to the river to wash his hands and cleanse himself. While he was washing his hands a tiny fish swam into the gap of his cupped hands. The fish was extremely small, no bigger than his pinkie, and he assumed it was just a baby. The fish appeared frightened. Satyavrata spoke the language of the animals and proceeded to try to comfort the small fish so that it did not die from shock. The fish was pleading for his life but Satyavrata told him there was no need because he could never harm such an innocent creature. Once Satyavrata began to talk, the fish immediately calmed down. Satyavrata found out that the name of the little fish was Matsya and that he had been separated from his large family by getting caught in a strong current.

Satyavrata felt bad for Matsya, and decided that he was going to take care of him. He cupped Matsya in his hand with plenty of water and walked his many miles home. He was extremely careful the whole trip and never let any of the water leave his hand. When he reached home, Satyavrata showed his wife the small little fish and asked her to find something to keep him safe. His wife, Neha, brought him a small little cup, which was more than enough room for Matsya. Matsya knew that he would always be safe in Satyavrata and Neha’s protection and so he swam around in joy.

Matsya was not a normal fish, though, as they would soon find out. Within days, Matsya had grown to the size of Neha’s small hand. She moved Matsya to a large bowl to make sure that he always had enough room to swim. A few days later and Matsya had already outgrown the bowl! Satyavrata carried the fish to the small pond that was behind their home. This growing kept happening until Matsya had outgrown the pond, a stream, a lake, and a river. Satyavrata was not going to give up on Matsya because he felt an unnatural devotion to the once small creature. He was extremely drawn to him and felt that he must protect him at any cost. Matsya, in return, was always grateful for the help of Satyavrata.

The next move and presumably the last was Satyavrata putting Matsya into the ocean. He was in doubt that this would even be big enough to hold him but Satyavrata was out of options, so he got on his knees and prayed to Vishnu. This triggered something in Matsya. He revealed himself as Vishnu and he began to speak prophecy. He told Satyavrata that he had one week to prepare for a flood that would cover the entire earth, destroying everything. He instructed Satyavrata to take all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and to bring the seven saints along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals, and to build a big boat to put them all in. He told Satyavrata that he would be back at the end of those seven days before the flood begins.

Then to restore the Vedas, Matsya dived into the ocean to kill Hayagriva. A furious battle ensued between Lord Vishnu and demon Hayagriva for seven days, in which Hayagriva was defeated and killed. Vishnu restored the Vedas to Brahma. Because there was so much splashing and fighting, a big deluge (rainfall) occurred all over the Earth. Everything was in a big flood!

Satyavrata made all arrangements as Vishnu had advised him and at the end of the seven days, Vishnu appeared. The lord advised Satyavrata and others to board the boat and fastens the serpent Vasuki to his horn as a rope to the boat, and sailed all of them to a safe place.

Matsya told Satyavrata that he had been chosen because he was the most kind and loving human Vishnu had ever seen. Satyavrata had shown his devotion to not only a god but also to a small helpless creature. Vishnu said there was hope in the world if all men were to show so much love to all creatures.