Then Yudhishthira, the son of Pandu, said to the Brahmana, Markandeya,’Do thou now narrate the history of Vaivaswata Manu?
“Markandeya replied, ‘O king, O foremost of men, there was a powerful andgreat Rishi of the name of Manu. He was the son of Vivaswan and was equalunto Brahma in glory. And he far excelled his father and grandfather instrength, in power, in fortune, as also in religious austerities. Andstanding on one leg and with uplifted hand, that lord of men did severepenance in the jujube forest called Visala. And there with head downwardsand with steadfast eyes he practised the rigid and severe penance for tenthousand years. And one day, whilst he was practising austerities therewith wet clothes on and matted hair on head, a fish approaching the banksof the Chirini, addressed him thus, ‘Worshipful sir, I am a helplesslittle fish, I am afraid of the large ones; therefore, do thou, O greatdevotee, think it worth thy while to protect me from them; especially asthis fixed custom is well established amongst us that the strong fishalways preys upon the weak ones. Therefore do thou think it fit to saveme from being drowned in this sea of terrors! I shall requite thee forthy good offices.’ On hearing these words from the fish, Vaivaswata Manuwas overpowered with pity and he took out the fish from the water withhis own hands. And the fish which had a body glistening like the rays ofthe moon when taken out of the water was put back in an earthenwater-vessel. And thus reared that fish O king, grew up in size and Manutended it carefully like a child. And after a long while, it became solarge in size, that there was no room for it in that vessel. And thenseeing Manu (one day), it again addressed these words to him, ‘Worshipfulsir, do thou appoint some better habitation for me.’ And then theadorable Manu, the conqueror of hostile cities, took it out of thatvessel and carried it to a large tank and placed it there. And thereagain the fish grew for many a long year. And although the tank was twoyojanas in length and one yojana in width, even there, O lotus-eyed sonof Kunti and ruler of men, was no room for the fish to play about! Andbeholding Manu it said again, ‘O pious and adorable father, take me tothe Ganga, the favourite spouse of the Ocean so that I may live there; ordo as thou listest. O sinless one, as I have grown to this great bulk bythy favour I shall do thy bidding cheerfully.’ Thus asked the upright andcontinent and worshipful Manu took the fish to the river Ganga and he putit into the river with his own hands. And there, O conqueror of thyenemies, the fish again grew for some little time and then beholdingManu, it said again, ‘O lord, I am unable to move about in the Ganga onaccount of my great body; therefore, worshipful sir, do thou please takeme quickly to the sea!’ O son of Pritha, Manu then taking it out of theGanga, carried it to the sea and consigned it there. And despite itsgreat bulk, Manu transported it easily and its touch and smell were alsopleasant to him. And when it was thrown into the sea by Manu, it saidthese words to him with a smile, ‘O adorable being, thou hast protectedme with special care; do thou now listen to me as to what thou shouldstdo in the fulness of time! O fortunate and worshipful sir, thedissolution of all this mobile and immobile world is nigh at hand. Thetime for the purging of this world is now ripe. Therefore do I nowexplain what is good for thee! The mobile and immobile divisions of thecreation, those that have the power of locomotion, and those that have itnot, of all these the terrible doom hath now approached. Thou shall builda strong massive ark and have it furnished with a long rope. On that mustthou ascend, O great Muni, with the seven Rishis and take with thee allthe different seeds which were enumerated by regenerate Brahmanas in daysof yore, and separately and carefully must thou preserve them therein.And whilst there, O beloved of the Munis, thou shall wait for me, and Ishall appear to thee like a horned animal, and thus, O ascetic, shallthou recognise me! And I shall now depart, and thou shall act accordingto my instructions, for, without my assistance, thou canst not savethyself from that fearful flood.’ Then Manu said unto the fish, ‘I do notdoubt all that thou hast said, O great one! Even so shall I act!’ Andgiving instructions to each other, they both went away. And Manu then, Ogreat and powerful king and conqueror of thy enemies, procured all thedifferent seeds as directed by the fish, and set sail in an excellentvessel on the surging sea. And then, O lord of the earth, he bethoughthimself of that fish. And the fish too, O conqueror of thy enemies andforemost scion of Bharata’s race, knowing his mind, appeared there withhorns on his head. And then, O tiger among men, beholding in the oceanthat horned fish emerging like a rock in the form of which he had beenbefore appraised, he lowered the ropy noose on its head. And fastened bythe noose, the fish, O king and conqueror of hostile cities, towed theark with great force through the salt waters. And it conveyed them inthat vessel on the roaring and billow beaten sea. And, O conqueror of thyenemies and hostile cities, tossed by the tempest on the great ocean, thevessel reeled about like a drunken harlot. And neither land nor the fourcardinal points of the compass, could be distinguished.
And there was water everywhere and the waters covered the heaven and thefirmament also. And, O bull of Bharata’s race, when the world was thusflooded, none but Manu, the seven Rishis and the fish could be seen. And,O king, the fish diligently dragged the boat through the flood for many along year and then, O descendant of Kuru and ornament of Bharata’s race,it towed the vessel towards the highest peak of the Himavat. And, OBharata, the fish then told those on the vessel to tie it to the peak ofthe Himavat. And hearing the words of the fish they immediately tied theboat on that peak of the mountain and, O son of Kunti and ornament ofBharata’s race, know that that high peak of the Himavat is still calledby the name of Naubandhana (the harbour). Then the fish addressing theassociated Rishis told them these words, ‘I am Brahma, the Lord of allcreatures; there is none greater than myself. Assuming the shape of afish, I have saved you from this cataclysm. Manu will create (again) allbeings–gods, Asuras and men, all those divisions of creation which havethe power of locomotion and which have it not. By practicing severeausterities he will acquire this power, and with my blessing, illusionwill have no power over him.’
“So saying the fish vanished instantly. And Vaivaswata Manu himselfbecame desirous of creating the world. In this work of creation illusionovertook him and he, therefore, practised great asceticism. And endowedwith ascetic merit, Manu, O ornament of Bharata’s race, again set abouthis work of creating all beings in proper and exact order. This storywhich I have narrated to thee and the hearing of which destroyeth allsin, is celebrated as the Legend of the Fish. And the man who listenethevery day to this primeval history of Manu, attaineth happiness and allother objects of desire and goeth to heaven.”