Matsya refers to the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu, the God of protection and sustenance. Matsya is depicted as a human-fish as the upper part of the body is a man and the lower part is a fish. He has four hands in which he is generally seen holding the conch, the discus, and the protecting and boon-giving postures.
The Sanskrit term ‘Matsya’ means ’fish,’ and in this Avatar, the Lord appeared as a great fish, which facilitates in continuing the life on Earth.
Matsya Avatar is the first among the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Though there are several versions of the story found in different Puranas, the most popular is the one narrated in the Bhagavata Purana. As per the story, Lord Mahavishnu incarnated as Matsya to ensure the continuity of life on the earth following the great floods and also to rescue the Vedas and sacred texts from the demon Hayagriva.
The legend of Matsya Avatar
As we all know, Hindu mythology there are four eras which are Satya yuga, Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali yuga. Each Yuga is supposed to be a day for Lord Brahma. One day of Lord Brahma is 4320 million human years. After the end of every yuga Lord Brahma goes to sleep. The power of Lord Brahma’s creation comes from the Vedas. When Lord Brahma sleeps there is no creation and the universe comes to an end.
Whenever the earth was in danger and when evil threatens to overpower good, Lord Vishnu descends from the heaven to incarnate on the earth.
One day while bathing, Satyavrata also known as Manu, accidentally catches a small fish in his hands. To his surprise, the fish looks at him and starts talking to him. It asks Manu to save its life and protect it in return for which the Matsya will protect Manu from an impending flood about which it is aware of.
The fish requested him not to throw it back in the river, as it would be swallowed by bigger fishes. Assuring his protection to the fish, the king carried it to his palace and placed it in the water in a pot. But soon the fish grew larger and became too big for the small pot. The king then dropped it in a big vessel, which too was outgrown by the fish in no time. Then, the king shifted it to a pond, then to a reservoir, a big lake and then to a large river, as the fish grew larger and larger at an unbelievable pace. Ultimately, it became so huge that the king had to move it to the ocean itself. However, upon realizing that this amazing fish is no ordinary creature and is none other than Lord Vishnu himself, the king sought refuge in him.
At this point, the fish asks Manu to build himself a boat and be ready for the impending flood. It also instructs him that when the flood waters increase, he should think of the fish that will then come over to help him out.
When the flood begins, Manu boards the boat and then prays to the fish for assistance. The fish then appears and ties the boat to a horn that has grown on its head. It uses the serpent Vasuki as the rope to tie the boat to its horn. The fish then tows this boat to safety and takes Manu to the highest and driest point left on the earth.
Once the great floods subsided, the demon Hayagriva was exposed. Matsya killed him and rescued the Vedas handing them over once again to Brahma. All the seeds gathered in the ship were thrown on the earth. All the representatives of the different animal species started procreating once again.
Later, Manu performed a huge sacrifice or Yajna to propitiate the gods. With the blessings of the gods, a beautiful damsel named Ida appeared from the fire and married Manu. Both of them gave rise to the human race once again.
The Sri Matsyanarayana Temple is a unique and the only temple in Karnataka for Bhagavan Sri Matsyanarayana Swamy. It is said that by worshiping him, generally one gains health, wealth, Peace and prosperity and specially one gets cured of rare skin diseases and gains abundant wealth.