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Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, January 10, 2009

The Great Deluge in Hindu Texts

John Wilson (1804-1875)], has pointed out the historical importance of the "Great Deluge" narrated in Vedic literature. He noticed lot of similarity of the episode to the one appearing in Biblical account of Noah's Ark. This story was published in Kamat website as Manu and Fish earlier. The full story runs like this in John Wilson's book "Indian Caste" which he has translated from "Satapatha Bramhana".

"They brought to Manu in the morning water for washing, as they are in the habit of bringing water to wash with the hands. As he was using the water, there came into his hands a fish which said to him, "Preserve me and I will save thee." (Manu inquired) "From what will thou save me"? (The fish replied) "A flood shall sweep away all these creatures; I will rescue thee from it." (Manu asked) "How is thy protection" (to be effected?) The fish answered, "So long as we are small, we are in great peril, and even fish devours fish; preserve me first in a jar. When I grow too large for the jar, dig a trench, and preserve me in it. When I become too great for that, carry me to the ocean; I shall then be beyond the reach of danger." Straightway it became a great fish; for it grew exceedingly. (The fish then said,) "In so many years the flood will come, make a ship therefore, and worship me; and when the flood rises embark on the ship, and I shall deliver thee."

Accordingly Manu preserved the fish, and brought it to the ocean; and in the same year which the fish had declared, he built a ship and worshipped [the fish]. When the flood ascended, he entered the ship, and the fish swam near him: and he fastened the cable of the ship to the fish"s horn. By this means he passed over this northern mountain. The fish then said, "I have delivered thee, fasten the ship to a tree." But lest the water should abandon thee when thou art upon the mountain, as fast as the water subsided, so fast shalt thou descend along with it. Accordingly he descended as the water subsided. Hence, this was "Manu's descent" from the northern mountain.

The flood had swept away all creatures; Manu alone was left. Being desirous of offspring he laboriously performed a religious rite. And there, too, he sacrificed with the paka sacrifice. He cast clarified butter, thickened milk, whey, and curds, as an oblation into the waters. After a year a female was produced, who rose unctuous from the waters, with clarified butter under her feet. Mitra and Varuna met her, and said to her, "Who art thou?" "Manu's daughter," she replied. They rejoined, "Say that thou art our daughter." She answered, "No; I am the daughter of him who begot me." Then they demanded a share in her. She promised, and she did not promise; but passed on and came to Manu. Manu asked her "Who art thou?" "Thy daughter," she replied. "Now, thou divine one, art thou my daughter?" he inquired. She replied, "Thou hast begotten me from these oblations which thou didst cast into the waters. I am a benediction. Introduce me at the sacrifice. If thou shalt do so, thou shalt increase in offspring and cattle. Whatever boon thou shalt supplicate through me, shall accrue to thee." He accordingly introduced her in the middle of the sacrifice; for that is the middle which stands between the introductory and concluding prayers. He lived with her worshipping and toiling, desirous of offspring. By her he begot this offspring, which is the offspring of Manu."

Manu's offspring is known as Manava, a general term for human race.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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