Manu Satyavrata ruled the world in the Seventh Manavantra. Seeing the rising evil influence of daityas, he yearned in anguish for pralaya. Lord Brahma too had a cause to hasten the dissolution. He had yawned and with that the vedas came out of his mouth. It must be remembered that Brahma is not only the creator of the universe, but the source and retainer of all knowledge.
When the sacred scriptures thus came out in the open, the wily daitya, Hayagreeva, who was watching for such an opportunity, stole the vedas and hid inpataal. Brahma became anxiousto retrieve the vedas. But neither he, nor Satyavrata had it in them to tackle the mighty daitya or to set in pralaya. So both of them invoked Vishnu Bhagwan.Granting them their prayers, Vishnu assured them that the pralaya was at hand and He would appear in it as Matsya (Sanskrit for ‘fish’) avatar to retrieve the vedas from Hayagreeva.
Suman K Sharma
Not many days had passed when one fine morning, as Satyavrata was bathing in the river Kirtimal,a tiny fish got stuck in his upraised hands. The fish grew larger and larger by the moment, till it could be accommodated only in the vastness of the ocean. The king had made his oblations and wanted to depart from the scene, but the fish pleaded with him to stay back lest the bigger fishes should eat it up.
It then dawned on the king that before him was none else thanMatsyaavatara. The avatar told him that the world was going to be submerged in water in seven days. But he need not be afraid as the Saptarishi – the seven sages presiding over the epoch, would appear in a boat to take him on board. A strong rope and a serpent would also be at hand. Satyavrata, the avatar went on, should tie one end of the rope to the horn of the Matsya and other to the tail of the serpent. Guided by the rope, the boat would go round and round the earth during the pralaya, giving him enough opportunity to witness the world-changing event in the company of the Saptrishi. In the meantime, he should devote his time collecting the seeds of every plant and herb to save them for sowing in the earth when the deluge was over.
It happened precisely as the Matsya avatar had said. After a lapse of seven days, there was nothing but water to be seen in all directions. When the king began to drown, the Saptarishi pulled him to the boat. The Matsya went to pataal and retrieved vedas after killing the daitya Hayagreeva.
There is at least one more version of the story. In that, Hayagreev is depicted as a Vishnu avatar in the form of a horse and the vedas are stolen not by one, but two daityas, named Madhu and Kaitabh. The rest of the details are identical.
The Sanatana stories of pralaya are different from the Biblical tale of the Deluge. While Satyavrata is happily rescued by the Saptarishi in a readymade boat, poor Noah has to himself build the Ark to save the living world from total annihilation. Still, a common thread runs through these stories. They talk of exceptional circumstances when the existing system of the world has to be completely wiped out to create a new order.
The seemingly extraneous aspects of the present story – Brahma’s sneeze, the theft of the vedas, the rope, the serpent, the Saptarishi and Matsya the fish – give it a layered significance. There may come a time in a person’s life when, Satyavrata like, he or she feels sick of the world. Brahma’s yawn and the theft of vedas may signify the gradual indifference to the eternal values that lead to complete ignorance of the ways to tackle the life’s challenges. Where else one should go in such an eventuality but to the Godhead?
But that alone would not suffice. The old rut of the life has to be discarded (a personal pralaya) saving the essentials (seeds of plants and herbs that Satyavrata was asked to take along) to make way for a more sustainable and meaningful pattern of existence. The rope of self-discipline, the serpent of mystic practices such as awakening of kundilini, heeding to the collective wisdom of sages (rescue by the Saptarishi) and, of course, divine grace (the Matsya avatar) are needed for transformation of a highly troubled existence to a new phase of peaceful and productivelife.