Matsya, Manu, and the Great Flood, Part Three


To read Part One, click here.

To read Part Two, click here.


Hearing the words of the dove, Manu’s first thought was that a freshwater fish would never be able to survive in the saltwater of the sea, but then Manu reminded himself that Matsya was not just an ordinary fish, but a very magical one.  And a magical fish like Matsya could live happily in either the rivers or the oceans.  He would be fine, even in the salty water of the sea.


Manu put away his gardening tools, and set off to the north again.  There, on the banks of the Ganges, he looked into the water and was astonished to see how big Matsya had grown.  He was the biggest fish anyone had ever seen!  Manu picked him up in his hands, and Manu grew enormous too—as tall as a mountain.  His head was up in the clouds, and the birds flew around him.  He even spotted the lovely dove who had brought him the message, flying along with her mate.


Manu took Matsya to the sea, and put him into the great expanse of water.  The sea was so huge that no one could see across to the other side, and Manu knew that Matsya would have lots and lots of room to swim in.


Before Matsya swam off, he turned and looked at Manu, “You are a good man.  You have been so kind to me for so very many years.  You have given me everything and taken care of me.  You don’t know who I really am, but I have a message for you.  There will be a very great storm, and then a very great flood. It will be dangerous, and the whole world will be swallowed up by the flood, but I will save you.  When it starts to rain, you must build a big, very sturdy boat.  In it you can put all the seeds from your garden and seeds from many other gardens so that you and other people will be able to grow vegetables to eat in the future.  You will need to do that because the flood will last a long time and will cover the earth, so you must be prepared. Start as soon as the rain begins.  Don’t wait!


“When you have the boat and the seeds inside it, then come back to me in the sea.  Bring the seven rishis with you too. (Rishis are very wise and magical, ancient beings.) You will be able to see me easily because I will have horns on my head.  Come back to me, and I will save you and guide you through the flood.”


As soon as Manu went south and reached his home again, it began to rain.  He followed Matsya’s instructions exactly because he knew it was important.  He built a very good, sturdy boat, and gathered seeds of many varieties to take along with him.


Then, with the rain pouring all around him, he took the boat down to the sea, put it into the water, and set sail, heading north.  After three days, with the waves growing stronger and the wind picking up, he found himself near the mouth of the Ganges, where he had put Matsya into the sea.  He hoped he would be able to find Matsya easily.  There he was!  He could see two golden horns sticking up out of the water, and it was really Matsya!  Matsya swam along by the side of the boat; he told Manu exactly what he should do, and Manu leaned over and put a strong rope around Matsya’s horns.  With the boat securely fastened to his horns, Matsya took off into open water, pulling the boat behind him.


The waves grew higher and higher, nearly as high as the sky, and the wind was terrible.  It made a roaring sound.  But Manu was not afraid because he knew that Matsya was pulling the boat and had promised to carry them to a beautiful mountain.


In the daytime, the sea spray washed over the boat, shining white in the sunlight, and at night sometimes the moon shone bright like a gold lantern in the sky, but sometimes, the moon was hidden behind the clouds, and could not be seen.  It was very black then, with no stars.  Matsya swam and swam, pulling the strong boat through the waters, and Manu felt a sense of peace, feeling a divine presence and knowing that things were as they were meant to be.


After a long time of sailing, they came aground on a mountain top far, far north in the Himalayas.  Manu got out and stretched his legs, and Matsya rested for a while in shallow water. There was a rainbow overhead, from one side of the mountain top to the other.  Doves and ravens began to light in the trees. There were deer and rabbits watching them curiously.  Manu and Matsya smiled at each other, and knew they had come to a safe land at last – and in the foothills, when the water receded a little, there would be a very good place to start a garden. The seven rishis smiled. The sun smiled too in the blue sky.


Matsya, the little fish who became a big fish, was really Lord Vishnu, who had come to earth and had saved Manu, the seeds, the boat, and the seven rishis.  He told them who he really was, and then instantly, he vanished, to return to heaven where he lived.


Later on, as more and more land reappeared after the great flood, Manu, with Lord Vishnu’s blessing, created animals, people, and plants to populate the earth.


Matsya did not leave completely though.  He still swims today in the seas, the lakes and the rivers.  Every fish is Matsya.  Every fish is sacred, and their water must be kept blue and sparkling, so that they will always live happily — free, and safe from harm.


Illustration: Franco Bosetti /


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