A Big Fish Story: Matsya, the First Avatar

Mythologicaly  speaking, the Hindu God Vishnu had ten Earthly incarnations. While the two of us at Mythcrafts have gotten fairly burned out on doing series (for example, the Splendor Solis, or our exploration of the solar system’s moons), ten Avatars seems doable; so let’s jump in the water…literally.

Flood tales run through human myths. Be it the Hebrew Noah, be it the immortal Mesopotamian Utnapishtim, or the Vedic Manu, one theme resonates: a flood is coming, and an ark must be built.

In every case, they got to building, and collecting animals.

While Noah got his information from Yahweh, and Utnapishtim was warned by the Sumerian God Enki, for Manu, it was the Hindu/Vedic deity Vishnu who came to inform him of the impending deluge. However, unlike Yahweh and Enki, Vishnu was a little more direct.

He came to Manu as a fish.

There might be a prescient understanding of evolution in the tales of Vishnu’s Avatars, as he makes the journey from animal, to man, to the destroyer of worlds  (don’t worry, we’ll get there, with a little help from J. Robert Oppenheimer and two atomic bombs. But that has to wait for Avatars 8-10). But this notion of evolutionary development seems to be built into the Vishnu’s multiple incarnations, his trips through the world of flesh.

Starting with the world of fish.

So, the fist time the Preserver of the Cosmos makes his way onto the stage of Hindu cosmology, he comes as a fish. Or a half-fish-half-man. But either way, his message to Manu, the one guy who he’s determined to save, is clear:

Build an ark. Take your family. Add livestock. Bring along a few wise guys (seven sages, if one cares to be respectful).

And what did Manu do?

The same thing that Noah, and Utnapishtim did: he built a boat.

A Super Boat.

And so, Vishnu, in his first Avatar, his first incarnation, led humanity to a new existence, beyond the flood.

As our world faces flooding again, one can only hope that a merciful deity will descend, incarnate, even though at the rate we’re going…

The next ark might have to go into space.

Big dreams for small people; small dreams for big people.

And an ark to to ride out to the stars.

Vishnu will return, next post, as a Turtle (?)

Until next time, keep dreaming.

And swimming, in case of floods.

 

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