F stands for Flood Myth
Flood myth is a narrative of a great flood sent out by deities to destroy civilization often in an act of divine retribution. I got acquainted with flood myths hearing the stories of Matsya Purana, Noah’s ark and then lately the Hollywood movie 2012. Even as an adult I am fascinated by the tales of Matsya Purana and Noah’s ark yet the idea of divine retribution sends chill through my spine, after all, who wants to even imagine or bear wrath of God.
Matsya Purana in Satapatha Brahmana talks about the Fish avatar of Vishnu, one of his ten primary avatars, which he takes to save the generous king Manu from the deluge. In the avatar, Vishnu appears as a small carp to king Manu when the later washes his hands in the river. The little fish asks the king to save him and the compassionate king carries it to his palace and puts it in a jar. The next morning he sees that the fish has outgrown the jar hence he transfers it into a pitcher and later into a well. Very soon, the fish grows so that it has to be transferred to a tank and then to a river. Finally the fish had to be transferred to an ocean after which it nearly filled the vast expanse of the ocean(I once told this story to my daughter and she asked ‘how did the king carry such a big fish to ocean?’ Any ideas?). It was then that the king understood that it was no ordinary fish and requested the fish to reveal his true self. Matsya then revealed to Manu about the destructive deluge that was coming soon and guided the king to construct a huge boat. On the boat, the king carried his family, various species of living beings and nine varieties of seeds to repopulate the earth. Human beings thus descended from Manu’s race and hence are called Manavas.
This legend very much resembles to the other flood myths like the Babylonian one about Utnapishtim and Ziusudra (Gr:Xisuthros) from ancient Sumerian mythology, Moses account of Noah from Genesis in the Bible, and in the holy book of Islam, the Quran’s story about Nur‘s boat.
Noah’s story is the next one I have learned in great detail during Bible study. The technicalities with which God guides Noah in building the ark fascinates me. In these verses listed in Genesis 6 from verses 14 to 21, God guides Noah on the mechanism to build the ship, wood to use, measurements and the living beings Noah has to carry along with him. As per Genesis 7 the flood waters prevailed upon Earth for a total of hundred and fifty days.
Another common factor among these legends is that the lifespan of human beings post flood was very much reduced. As per Genesis Noah lived for Nine hundred and fifty years while Abraham lived only for Hundred and Seventy Five years. Wonder what would be the life span of human beings after the next flood!