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Scene from a Matsya Purana: Manu with Seven Rishis in a boat tied by Vasuki to Vishnu; Indra and Brahma show deference to Vishnu as Matsya avatara. Mewar, circa 1840. Opaque watercolour with gold on wasli. 18.6 x 28.8cm
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. In the background, on what is left of land, Indra rides his mount Airavata and Brahma his goose Hansa toward the iconographic form of Matsya in order to pay respect. In this form Vishnu can be seen emerging from Matsya's mouth, pulling from a conch shell the demon Hagriva who stole Brahma's vedas and hid them in the ocean.
Ref: Mewar Manu 221111
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Images and text © Peter Blohm