The first incarnation of Vishnu as his fish avatăr.
Matsya is a synonym for the waters and more distinctly stands for the water of life. It symbolizes the power of frtility, a fact which led to the identification of the fish and Vishnu himself being closely connected with the water and creation in his Narăyana and several other forms.
There are several versions in the Purănăs of the way in which Vishnu assumed the aspect of a fish.
- One of them descibes him as turning himself into a fish so as to tow a ship in which Mănu (the 7th Law Giver) had taken refuge from a devastating flood. The same above story is found in the Mahăbhărta, where in the fish is described as “shringi” , that is, having a horn
- In Bhagavata Purănă, it is further elaborated by the addition of a fight between Matsya and the demon Hayagriva (Horse -headed) who had stolen the Vedăs while Brahmă was asleep.