Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Matsyavatara – The first avatar of Vishnu

Matsyavatara -The first avatar of Vishnu carved on the outer walls of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Matsyavatara – The first avatar of Vishnu

Matsyavatara – The first avatar of Vishnu
TThe image shows a sculptural relief depicting Matsyavatara, the first of the ten avatar of Vishnu, carved on the outer wall surrounding the southern garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. In Sanskrit, matsya means fish. Check the Dashavatara (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) mural painted on the ceiling of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.

In this avatar, Vishnu manifests himself into a half-fish half-human form to save humanity from the Maha Pralaya (Great Flood). According to the story, Vishnu appeared before King Satyavrata, also known as Manu, in a half-fish half-human form warning him of a Maha Pralaya that would occur for seven days and destroy all forms of life. To save them from from the deluge, he instructed Manu to build a boat to hold all kinds of life forms. Manu then built a gigantic boat and held pairs of living creatures and plants and seeds. When the deluge began, Vishnu appeared again in the half-fish half-human form to help Manu. Using Vasuki as the rope, he towed the boat safely to the mountains in the north, i.e., Himalayas.

The story of Noah and the great flood in the Bible is strikingly similar to the Matsyavatara story. Numerous cultures in the world also tell similar stories.

Vishnu in Matsyavatara is presented in one of the following two forms: 1. Upper half-human and lower half-fish 2. Fish face and the rest human-like. Vishnu shown in the image has the second form, which portrays him with the face of a fish and the body of an Ashtabuja (eight-armed) Vishnu. Notice that three of his hands are missing. The two of his remaining hands hold lotus and chakra (disc-like weapon) , his signature objects. The rest hold an akshamala (rosary) and a book. He is wearing an elegant dress and beautiful jewelry. He is adorned with a finely carved mukuta (crown) on his head with a halo behind it.

Related Pages
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall

Copyright © 2019 by Lawrence Rodrigues. All rights reserved.

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