My India   History   Festivals   Ramayan   Mahabharata   Health
Hindu Philosophy   Hindu Culture   Hidu Life Rituals   Gods and Heroes of Hinduism  Comparing Religions
My resume   Poems   Travel-logs   Music   Bhajans   Videos   Links   Mahabharata katha London 2012



Amongst the avatars of Vishnu, Matsya (fish) is the first.

At the end of last cycle of time, world had become so wicked that God decided to absorb everything in himself and start afresh again.  But he wanted to save that which was still good in the world.  So Vishnu appeared as a small fish.

A king was performing his morning ablutions in the river.  He scooped up some water in his palm to perform the morning ritual of offering water to the Gods.  He was amused  to see a small fish swimming in the miniature pool of water in his palm.  Just as the king was about to pour the water out and release the fish back in the river, the fish assumed a human voice and begged the king not to expose it to competition and attack by bigger fish in the river.  The king took mercy and poured the fish in his kamandal (water-jug).  By evening though the fish had grown to fill the jug and complained that it was unable to breath or move comfortably in the jug.  Amused, the king poured the fish into a large pot of water.  By morning, the fish had grown to occupy the entire pot and needed a bigger place to live.  Amazed, the king poured the pot into a pond outside his home.  By next day the fish was too big even for his pond. 

Sensing something unusual was happening here, the king bowed to the fish and asked, “Who are you?  What is the purpose of your visit to my home?”  The fish explained that, “King, take me to the river again so I can grow there and eventually live in the sea.  I am an avatar of Vishnu and I have come to rescue those who are good in the world.  In a few days time, unceasing rain will drown the earth and everything will perish.  To preserve that which is good in the world, build a boat and place all the seeds and the seven sages in there for their safety.  I will come to rescue you and guide you to a place of safety.”

The king built a boat as directed and gathered all the seeds as advised.  He invited the seven sages to join him on this journey into the unknown.  As predicted by the Matsya, a deluge came and the earth was soon drowned by ceaseless rain.  King, seven sages and the seeds were safe in the boat.  When all the horizons were inundated with water, a giant fish came to the king and asked him to tie a rope to a horn on its snout.  The fish towed the boat to safety of mount Meru.   Once the waters receded, the king and the sages descended the slopes of the mountain and repopulated the world.


Story of unceasing rain and global flood is to be found in many ancient cultures.  Details maybe slightly different, but the same concept of forewarning, boat building, rescue of essential items, shoring the boat near the peak of a tall mountain and thanking GOD for their rescue are universal themes. 

In the legend  of Matsya avatar, God appears as a fish and tests the king on his generosity and ability to move with the times.  The tale also highlights a scenario of a world so wicked that the small fear being swallowed by the big, and a king has to set up protection for everyone!  What sort of world is it where everyone’s protection has be to legislated and organised by the state?  Where is the common decency and courtesy for everyone to live and let live? 

When one protected group becomes bigger than other groups and dominates others, what will happen?  Won’t other groups demand reservation, protection and positive discrimination too?  Even the ocean isn’t big enough for the ambition of such groups!

A world is truly wicked when everyone competes to become big and dominate others.  Such a world truly becomes a scary place for the ‘common man’. 

Another aspect of Matsya avatar is that some people have the capacity to become big in a small time.  Given sufficient care and consideration, they can progress at an exponential rate.

Don’t we have amazing Matsya avatars even now?  There are people, companies, organisations that grow like  the Matsya from small > large > huge > global in an amazingly short space of time.  All fish do this.  However, the Matsya only becomes an ‘Avatar’ of the divine when the ‘global personality’ of the Matsya helps those who were less fortunate then themselves.  Matsya is worshiped as an avatar only because the Matsya guides those in distress rather than dominates them.




Return to Index

Return to Bhagwat's main page

Return to ShriNathji's Haveli 

© Bhagwat Shah
[email protected]