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
The image shows a sculptural relief depicting Matsyavatara, the first of the ten avatars of Vishnu, mounted on the outer wall surrounding the south garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the 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 the 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 the deluge, he instructed Manu to build a boat to hold all kinds of life forms. Manu then built a gigantic boat and hosted pairs of living creatures and plants and seeds. When the deluge began, Vishnu appeared again in the half-fish half-human form and helped Manu by towing the boat, using Vasuki as the rope, to the mountains in the north, i.e., the 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. In this relief, Vishnu has the second form, which depicts him with the face of a fish and the body of an Ashtabuja (eight-armed) man. Notice that three of his arms are missing. Two of his hands hold his signature objects, a lotus, and chakra (disc-like weapon). The rest carry an akshamala (rosary) and a book.

As you can see, Vishnu is clad in an elegant dress and wearing stylish jewelry. He is adorned with a finely carved mukuta (crown) on his head with a halo behind it.

Related Images
Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu carved on the outer wall of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple
Narasimhavatara standing inside Cave – 3 of rock-cut caves of Badami
Narasimhavatara, the fourth avatar of Vishnu installed in a devakoshta of the Durga Temple in Aihole, Karnataka.
Dashavatara (Ten Incarnations of Vishnu) painted on the ceiling of Hampi Virupaksha Temple

Related Pages
Hoysala Temples:
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Badami Chalukya Temples:
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole
Vijayanagara Temples:
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Angkor Wat Temples:
Angkor Wat Temple, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Banteay Srei Temple in Cambodia

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