Matsya Jayanti

Matsya JayantiMatsya Jayanti is believed to be the day when Lord Vishnu appeared as Matsya Avatar (fish incarnation). Matsya Jayanti 2021 is observed on April 15. Lord Vishnu appeared as a one-horned fish to rescue the Vedas. Some scriptures also indicate that Matsya appears to warn about the great deluge (or Mahapralaya) that will destroy the universe and prepare it for regeneration.

Matsya Avatar is the first of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The story of Matsya avatar is one that symbolically narrates the beginning of civilisation. 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 (lack of righteousness) 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 realises the fish is Narayana (the God who is the indweller of all existence) 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 (famous snake in sacred scriptures) as the rope. In some versions, Matsya sprouts the horn and uses Ananta Sesha (snake upon whom Lord Vishnu rests) 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.


Manu with the seven sages in the boat (top left). Matsya confronting the demon coming out of the conch. The four Vedic manuscripts are depicted near Vishnu’s face, within Brahma is on Matsya’s right.

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

The core concept of Hinduism (the perennial philosophy) is that there is no beginning or end. There is only transformation. When man abandons Dharma (right conduct) and ventures into the territory of Adharma (unrighteous actions), 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 civilisation in order.

Matsya Purana

Matsya Purana provides great deal of information regarding the Matsya Avatar. In addition, it is an important Hindu scripture, which provides details about Hindu temple construction especially that of sections in a temple, sculpture and artwork designs. Nearly 20 different styles of temples are mentioned in the scripture.

The Purana is also rich in stories associated with Lord Vishnu, Shiva and Goddess Shakti. Several chapters in the Purana are dedicated to festivals, rituals and various (sacraments) in Hinduism. Other chapters deal with creation, duties of kings, ministers, and citizens. There are also interesting chapters on how to identify a stable soil for home construction, different architectural designs of a house along with construction-related ritual ceremonies. It is one of among the 18 important Puranas in Hindu religion.

Temple Dedicated to Matsya Avatar

Sri Veda Narayanaswami Temple near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is an important temple dedicated to Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Sun rays fall directly on the idol worshipped in the temple every year on 25th, 26th and 27th of March. The temple is an architectural wonder. The main murti worshipped in the temple is that of the Matsya Avatar of Vishnu. Consorts of Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi, flank the main murti in the sanctum sanctorum.

The Matsya Avatar idol is four-armed and the Sudarshana Chakra is in ready for release posture.


Matsya avatara
Manu with the seven sages in a boat tied by a serpent to Matsya (left bottom); Indra and Brahma pay their respects to Vishnu as Matsya, who slaying the demon – who hides in a conch. Mewar, circa 1840