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Matsya refers to the Matsya Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, the God of protection and sustenance. 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.
Lord Matsya is depicted as a human-fish; the upper part of the body is a man and the lower part, a fish. He has four hands in which he is generally seen holding the conch, the discus, and the protecting and boon-giving postures.
As the protector of the worlds, Lord Vishnu himself takes incarnations on earth whenever the need arises, to sustain life, restore dharma (righteousness) and to establish goodwill. Matsya Avatar is one such sacred incarnation of the Lord and is regarded as the first of his ten famous Avatars. This was believed to have been taken during the Satya Yuga, also known as the Golden Age.
Bhagavata Purana narrates the amazing story of Matsya, the giant fish. Satyavrata, also known as Vaivasvata Manu, the righteous king of the ancient Dravida country was once performing austerities in the Kritamala River when a tiny fish got into his hands. The fish spoke in a human voice, requesting 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, the fish outgrew 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.
The Lord in Matsya Avatar blessed him, then cautioned him about the great floods that are going to engulf the world in seven days time. He directed the king to assemble the seven great sages and to collect samples of all kinds of seeds, herbs, and species of other living things under their guidance, load them all in a ship that would be sent by the Lord himself. He further promised the king that he would reappear as a horned fish and guide the boat through the massive floods. As the divine fish disappeared, the king did as advised and loaded the sages and the things in the ship, even as torrential rains began lashing the earth. As promised, Lord Vishnu did appear again, this time as Matsya, a massive and brilliant fish with a long shining horn, and the King tied the ship to the fish’s horn using the great serpent Vasuki as a rope, as advised. While rains and storms began battering the worlds and the great deluge started drowning the Earth, and everything in it, the Matsya form of Lord Vishnu guided the boat safely through the flood waters and darkness. The Lord is also said to have imparted to the King, knowledge about the Vedas and other sacred scriptures as he swam through the flood waters, towing the ship.
Once the great floods ended, but not before wiping out everything on earth, the giant fish took the ship to the safety of the shore, where Satyavrata started a new life on Earth with the help of the samples that he brought along. The Purana also adds that during the process, Matsya also slayed the horse-faced demon Hayagriva, who stole the sacred Vedas from Lord Brahma and hid them in the ocean bed.
The Matsya Moorthy temple in the Thuvariman Agraharam near Madurai is said to be Lord Matsya’s place of advent. This Lord can also be worshipped in Nagalapuram Vedanarayana Swami temple near Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh state. It is believed that worshipping Matsya can gain you Lord Vishnu’s blessings and protection.
Lord Matsya is believed to have appeared on the Shukla Paksha Tritiya, the 3rd lunar day of the waxing phase of the Moon, in the month of Chaitra (March-April) and that day is celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm as Matsya Jayanthi. This occasion also falls during the auspicious 9 day period of Chaitra Navaratri, dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga during the spring season.
The sacred scriptures prescribe fire ceremony, Abishekam (hydration ceremony), Pooja/Archana (Light and Sound ceremony), Yantra and Mantra (special sounds) as the ways to offer your prayer to the divine. Out of these, fire ceremony is the most evolved spiritual technology on earth to connect with the divine beings. Participate in the remedial services to clear your karma and receive the blessings.
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