Legend of Matsya Avatar
Bhagwat Purana, reports, that once Brahma yawned and the precious Vedas, flowed out of his lips. Meanwhile, Hayagriva, the Asura or demon, instantly stole the Vedas and devoured them. Vishnu, who feigned sleep, witnessed the entire offence. He was speculating on how to retrieve the treasured Vedas, when he located the pious King Satyavrata, offering prayers to Vishnu, with his waist deep down in water. Satyavrata is also called King Manu. Manu and his wife were the first parents of the Kalpa.
Vishnu immediately assumed the shape of a tiny fish and swam into Satyavrata’s hands. Vishnu, in the disguise of a fish, entreated Manu, who is virtue personified, to save him from being engulfed by the big fish. The kind Manu put the small creature inside a vessel, full of water. Overnight, the fish outgrew on a surprising scale. Manu had to shift him from the vessel into a bigger tank. But the fish continued growing abnormally. It requested Manu for larger space to live, and Manu accordingly kept it in a pond. Manu, exhorted by the enlarging fish, then dropped it in the greater expanse of a large lake. However, the growth rate did not stop escalating. Finally, the bewildered Manu, impelled by the fervent appeal of the mammoth fish for enormous space, placed him in the ocean. But the fish urged Manu, not to leave him in the ocean. Otherwise, the gigantic ocean-beings would swallow him. It was then that the devout Satyavrata, already amazed by the extraordinary growth-speed of the magical fish, pledged it to disclose its actual identity.
Lord Vishnu made his celestial revelation before the awed Manu. Satyavrata instantly bowed down before him and wished to know the reason behind the Lord’s appearance in the frame of a fish. The omniscient Lord, informed him about the forthcoming Pralaya or destructive forces that would vanquish the Earth, with great deluge - "I have manifested for the protection of this universe and for the destruction of the wicked. Just a week from now, the ocean will rise and inundate the entire Universe. At that time you will see a spacious boat approaching you. Do collect all the seeds, plants and animals required for the next spell of creation and get into the boat and wait for me. Take Vasuki, the King of Snakes. The Sapta Rishi or the Seven Sages will also be with you".
Matsya Avatar left to accomplish its mission. He tore apart the Asura Hayagriva, and collected the lost Vedas.
As had been predicted by the Divine Fish, an all-annihilating flood occurred. Meanwhile, a boat appeared where Satyavrata was waiting with the seeds, plants and animals, and the Sapta Rishi, to take refuge in the boat amidst death’s clutches. When everybody had boarded the huge boat, the boat was fastened to the Fish’s horn, with Vasuki serving as the rope. They sailed in the turbulent water, all through the night of Brahma’s single day. Vishnu thus, rescued life from ceasing. He also by giving shelter to all the creatures maintained the flow of life that will perpetuate in the next Created Cosmos.
The Matsya Avatar of Vishnu focuses the perpetual love and concern of the benevolent Vishnu, for the entire Creation that had sprouted from Ishvara.