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Scene from a Matsya Purana: Manu with Seven Rishis in a boat tied by Vasuki to Vishnu as Matsya. Jaipur circa 1890. Opaque watercolour with gold on used British ledger paper. 24.4 x 20.2cm
In the Matsya Purana, King Satyavrata (later known as Manu) is forewarned by Vishnu - in Matsya (fish) avatara - of the flood which will submerge the world. A boat appears for him, safely tied to Matsya's newly-sprouted horns by Vasuki the king of serpents acting as a mooring rope. Inside are the Seven Rishis (sages). In the boat Vishnu will take the opportunity to teach the rishis the wisdom of the Vedas. Not shown are the seeds, plants and animals saved by Manu from the flood, similar to those in Noah's Ark, required to repopulate the world. Vaisuki is shown twice, in diminutive form as a rope tying Matsya's horn to the boat, and much larger behind Matsya, the two forming a symbolic support and safe haven to the boat.
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Images and text © Peter Blohm