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THE MATSZ AVATAR
The first Indian AVATAR, denominateo that of MATSE; representing the incarnation of VEESHNU in the form of A FISH:8, in the opinion of S" William Jones, pointedly allusive to the GENERAL DELUGE.
Sir William's assertion, I shall, in this place, somewhat prematurely present the reader with à print of the first of those Avatars, which was copied by one of the Roman missionaries from the walls of an Indian pagoda, on which the ten transformations of Veeshnu were delineated in the successive order in which they take place.
The following are in brief the outlines of the allegory, extracted from the Bhagavat, where may be found the passage from the same book cited above.
Near the close of the last CALPA, (a period of duration of astronomical origin, and refering to the rate of the precession of the equinores, but stated in the Surya Siddhanta as equal to a thousand maha yugs, or grand revolutions,) BRAHMA, fatigued with the care of so many worlds, fell into a profound slumber. During this slumber of the creator, the strong dæmon or giant Hayagriva came near him and stole the VEDAS; those four sacred volumes which originally flowed from the lips of the quadruple deity. With this inestimable treasure he retired into the deep and secret bosom of the ocean"; and, resolving never to surrender the booty he had secured, swallowed the stolen Vedas. Deprived of the vigilant care of Brahthe world fell into disorder : while, no
longer guided by the light that emanated from the sacred books, the human race became, to the last degree, corrupt. They were all consequently destroyed in a vast deluge, except a certain pious king and his family, which, in' very singular conformity to the relation of Sacred Writ, consisted of seven persons, who floated upon the waters in a vessel fabricated according to the express direction of Veeshnu. For, this pious monarch, one day performing his devotions on the shore of the ocean, was forewarned of the approaching calamity by that preserving deity: and having prepared a vessel, as commanded, at the appointed time, Veeshnu appeared again in the form of a fish, “ blazing like gold, and extending a million of leagues, with one stupendous horn,” to which the king fastened the vessel by a cable composed of a vast serpent, and was thus towed in safety along the surface of the raging element. When the waters abated, he and his companions were again safely landed. Vecshnu then, re-plunging into the ocean, slew, in conflict, the tremendous dæmon Hayagriva, and, rending open the monster's belly, recovered three of the Vedas, but the fourth, according to the allegory, was digested. - The plate annexed discovers Veeshnu rising from the ocean after vanquishing the dæmon, whose
head, decorated with horns like those of all other princely personages in Oriental mythology, is seen floating upon the waves below. Veeshnu appears as if presenting the sacred books, which he had thus recovered, to Brahma, who is discerned above. The third, or Vara Avatar, is not less pointedly allusive to the same awful event. In this incarnation, Veeshnu assumes the form of a BOAR, and lifts up upon his huge tusks the ponderous globe, which another dæmon, (an agent ever present in Hindoo mythology,) 'equally gigantie and malignant, after rolling it up like a scroll, had carried away on his shoulders and buried deep in the abyss.
The meaning of all this is so obvious as to preclude the necessity of insisting, in this place, how clearly the assertion of Sir William Jones, as to the three first Avatars, is demonstrated. I shall return, therefore, in the next section, to the farther consideration of that curious doctrine, the Metempsychosis, to which, probably, that of the Avatars originally gave birth, and of the antient mysteries, in which, according to Mr Bryant, its stupendous arcana were unveiled.