All  
Matsya protecting Svayambhuva Manu and the seven sages at the time of Deluge

Startling Similarity between Hindu Flood Legend of Manu and the Biblical Account of Noah

In 1872, the amateur Assyriologist, George Smith, made a discovery that would shock the world. Whilst studying a particular tablet from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nineveh, he comes across a story that many would have been familiar with. When Smith succeeded in deciphering the text, he realized that the tablet contained an ancient Mesopotamian myth that paralleled the story of Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament.

Today, we are aware that flood myths are found not only in Near Eastern societies, but also in many other ancient civilizations throughout the world. Accounts of a great deluge are seen in ancient Sumerian tablets, the Deucalion in Greek mythology, the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Gun-Yu myth of China, the stories of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of North America, and the stories of the Muisca people, to name but a few. One of the oldest and most interesting accounts originates in Hindu mythology, and while there are discrepancies, it does bear fascinating similarity to the story of Noah and his ark.

‘The Deluge’ by Francis Danby, 1840.

‘The Deluge’ by Francis Danby, 1840. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The Hindu flood myth is found in several different sources. The earliest account is said to have been written in the Vedic Satapatha Brahmana , whilst later accounts can be found in the Puranas, including the Bhagavata Purana and the Matsya Purana , as well as in the Mahabharata. Regardless, all these accounts agree that the main character of the flood story is a man named Manu Vaivasvata. Like Noah, Manu is described as a virtuous individual. The Satapatha Brahmana , for instance, has this to say about Manu: “There lived in ancient time a holy man / Called Manu, who, by penances and prayers, / Had won the favour of the lord of heaven.”

Manu was said to have three sons before the flood – Charma, Sharma, and Yapeti, while Noah also had three sons – Ham, Shem, and Japheth.

Both Noah and Manu are described as virtuous men.  ‘Noah and his Ark’ by Charles Wilson Peale, 1819

Both Noah and Manu are described as virtuous men.  ‘Noah and his Ark’ by Charles Wilson Peale, 1819 ( Wikimedia Commons )

In the Book of Genesis, the cause of mankind’s destruction is given as such, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. / And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. / And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”

Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch, Folio 1 (Genesis 7, 11-14), 1552.

Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch, Folio 1 (Genesis 7, 11-14), 1552. ( Wikimedia Commons )

In the story of Manu, however, the destruction of the world is treated as part of the natural order of things, rather than as a divine punishment. It is written in the Matsya Purana that “Manu then went to the foothills of Mount Malaya and started to perform tapasya (meditation). Thousands and thousands of years passed. Such were the powers of Manu‘s meditation that Brahma appeared before him. “I am pleased with your prayers,” said Brahma. “Ask for a boon [favor].” “I have only one boon to ask for,” replied Manu. “Sooner or later there will be a destruction (pralaya) and the world will no longer exist. Please grant me the boon that it will be I who will save the world and its begins at the time of the destruction.” Brahma readily granted this boon.”  

In the flood myth from the Old Testament, God who saves Noah by instructing him to build an Ark. In the Hindu version of the story, it is also through divine intervention, in the form of the god Vishnu, that mankind is preserved from total destruction. In this story, the god appears to Manu in the form of a little fish whilst he was performing his ablutions in a pond. Manu kept the fish, which grew so quickly that its body occupied the entire ocean in a matter of days. It was then that Vishnu revealed his identity to Manu, told him about the impending destruction, and the way to save humanity. There is also a large boat involved in this story too. Vishnu instructed Manu to build a boat and fill it with animals and seeds to repopulate the earth:

O kind-hearted man, you have care in your heart, listen now. Soon the world will be submerged by a great flood, and everything will perish. You must build strong ark, and take along rope on board. you must also take with you the Seven Sages, who have existed since the beginning of time, and seeds of all things and pair of each animal, when you are ready, I will come to you as Fish and I will have horns on my head. Do not forget my words, without me you cannot escape from the flood.

When the time came, Manu was to tie the boat to the horn of fish, so that it could be dragged around. Interestingly, this would not be the only time that Vishnu saves mankind from destruction, as he would re-appear as avatars over the course of time to preserve life on earth.   

Incarnation of Vishnu as a Fish, from a devotional text.

Incarnation of Vishnu as a Fish, from a devotional text. ( Wikimedia Commons )

After the flood, Noah’s Ark is said to have rested on mountains of Ararat. Similarly, Manu’s boat was described as being perched on the top of a range of mountains (the Malaya Mountains in this case) when the waters had subsided. Both Noah and Manu were then said to repopulate the earth, and all human beings could trace their ancestry to either one of these flood survivors.

‘Noah's ark on Mount Ararat’ by Simon de Myle, 1570 AD.

‘Noah's ark on Mount Ararat’ by Simon de Myle, 1570 AD. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Featured image: Matsya protecting Svayambhuva Manu and the seven sages at the time of Deluge ( Wikimedia Commons )

References

International Gita Society, 2015. All 18 Major Puranas. [Online]
Available at: http://www.gita-society.com/scriptures/ALL18MAJORPURANAS.IGS.pdf

The Bible: Standard King James Version, 2015. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

Wilkins, W. J., 1900. Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/hmvp/hmvp19.htm

www.bbc.co.uk, 2015. A History of the World in 100 Objects, Episode16: Flood Tablet. [Online]
Available here.

www.mysteryofindia.com, 2014. Similarities between Noah’s Ark and Manu’s Boat. [Online]
Available at: http://www.mysteryofindia.com/2014/12/similarities-noahs-ark-manus-boat.html

www.mythencyclopedia.com, 2015. Floods. [Online]
Available at: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Floods.html

By Ḏḥwty

Comments

Flood legends are common among cultures which originated in river valleys, including the Tigris-Euphrates (Noah) and the Indus (Manu). Such valleys are prone to flooding, including truly catastrophic floods which apparently occur every few thousand years from entirely natural causes. One doesn't even need to invoke the sea-level rise at the end of the last Ice Age, which in any case would have had more effect on coastal populations than riverine ones. Flood legends tend NOT to be found among cultures which did NOT originate in river valleys; if a truly worldwide flood had occurred, one would expect such stories to be found there as well.

>Flood legends are common among cultures which originated in river valleys,

There's a 122 Flood stories from around the world. It is highly unlikely that they all came from river valleys.

There exists a vast ocean beneath the crust of the earth. The probability that an meteor impact could have triggered an enormous flood not only from above, but primarily from beneath is quite high. It would account for the huge amount of 'salt water' erosion on both the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx. The flooding of the oceans half way up the pyramid which later receded to a level about 80 feet and remained for a long time is evidenced all over the great pyramid and the Sphinx. A flood of that magnitude would certainly have made an impact on world cultures causing them to record such an event, (even if only symbolically) in their secular and and religious texts. And considering there are over 100 flood stories, it looks like the bible is just one in a long line of accounts. It just happens to get the most 'likes'. That doesn't preclude it's being copied from other sources though which is likely what happened because most of the Torah is fable with only a smattering of actual history.

 

Its not surprising, considering "Hinduism"/Vedic civilisation predates the majority of the civilisations by eons. As for the comment about Armenian (Aryarat), it is a modification of the word "Aryavrat". The Aryavrat civilisation was the Mahabharate era civilisation. After that period ended, it is assumed based on circumstantial evidence that many people migrated towards Sumeria, evidence being, striking similarities between the sumerian etymologies with vedic & pre vedic sanskrit.

While the stories are similar, I do not think the situation they are talking about or trying to convey is the same. I know this will sound confusing, but please bear with me. The specific narrative of the flood in this account is the same granted. BUT if you read the details and events both before and after this story of destruction, you will find that it doesn't fit into the world chronology. Where it does fit is with the stories of an earlier destruction and parallels time wise with the destruction of the dark/half dark world (before) and the formation of the new world and the dawning of the Golden Age. It is my feeling that this storyline was put on top of another story which has been lost in Hindu Cosmology.

Pages

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Next article