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Matsya Avatar Story – Matsya Avatar of Vishnu

Matsya Avatar is the first among the Dasavatar or 10 incarnation of Srihari Vishnu. The story of Matsya avatar is one that symbolically narrates the beginning of civilization. At the end of the one cycle of creation, Matsya appears to save all that is good. He is present when one cycle of creation is destroyed and the next cycle begins. Matsya appears as the one-horned fish that navigates all that is good through the great deluge or pralaya that appears at the end of one cycle to clean all the Adharma accumulated from the beginning of a cycle of creation.

Appearance of Matsya
Just before the end of the previous cycle of creation, Matsya, a tiny fish, swam into the hands of a pious man and asked him to save it from a big fish. The pious man took the fish home and placed it in a small pot. The fish kept on increasing its size. It was then transferred from the small pot to a big vessel; from it to a well, from well to a pond, from pond to a lake, from lake to river; and finally it was transferred to the ocean but it still kept growing. The pious man in some Puranas is referred as Manu, in some other Puranas he is named as Satyavrata.

Warning of Pralaya
The pious man realizes the fish is Narayana and prostates before it. Matsya then forewarns him about the great deluge or Mahapralaya which is to take place in seven days. Matsya requests him to carry the Vedas and gather the seeds of all plants and a pair each of all living beings. He is asked to put them in a ship and wait for the deluge (Mahapralaya). Along with the pious man, the Sapta Rishis (Seven Saints) are also rescued by Matsya. 

Saves the Good
Matsya tells the pious man that He will again appear during the deluge and he will need to tie the boat to its horn using Snake Vasuki as the rope. In some versions, Matsya sprouts the horn and uses Ananta Sesha as the rope and navigates the boat to safety without the help of the pious man. The boat is safely navigated to the top of Mount Meru.

Rescues the Vedas
When the deluge was taking place, the Vedas were stolen by a demon named Damanaka and he had taken refuge in a conch-shell under the ocean. Matsya then goes in search of the Vedas. After a terrible fight with Damanaka, the Vedas are restored and returned to the pious man.

After the great deluge the new civilization is set in order by the pious man.

The core concept of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) is that there is no beginning or end. There is only transformation. When man abandons Dharma and ventures into the territory of Adharma, Nature starts its destructive transformation. We humans term this as apocalypse or total annihilation. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Matsya to save all that was good in the world before its destruction. He also sets the new civilization in order.