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precious stones. The crystal waters of the Ganges fall from the higher heavens on the head of Druvu, and from thence into the bunches of hair on the heads of seven Rishis in this heaven; and from thence they fall and form a river, Vaikunt’ha. Here are also fine pools of water, containing blue, red, and white water-lilies, the flowers of some of which contain one hundred petals, and others a thousand; gardens of nymphaeas, 81c. &c. On a seat, as glorious as the meridian sun, sitting on water-lilies, is Vishnu; and on his right hand the goddess Lakshmi. From the body of Lakshmi the fragrance of the lotus extends eight hundred miles. This goddess shines like a continued blaze of lightning. The Dévarshis and Rajarshis constantly celebrate the praise of Vishnu and Lakshmi, and meditate on their divine forms. The Bramharshis chaunt the Veda. The glorified Vishnaivas approach Vishnu, and constantly serve him. The gods are also frequently employed in celebrating the praises of Vishnu.”
I Vishnu had a thousand names; and many avatars or incarnations are ascribed to him, in which he is represented in various forms, to save the world ; to restore the lost Veda, or sacred writings; to destroy the giants; and to punish the wicked. Ten of these avatars compose a large portion of the Hindu mythology. Nine of them are already past, but the tenth is yet to come, in which the dissolution of the world will take place. An avatar is a descent of the Deity, in some manifest shape, upon earth. Thus in the first avatar, Vishnu appeared as a fish; in the second, as a tortoise ; in the third, as a boar; in the fourth, in the compound character of a manlion, and in the others in human forms. It is to be observed, that the Varaha avatar, commonly described as the third, is placed as the second and most important avatar in some of the Puranas, which appear to have multiplied, and carried back to an earlier period, the incarnations of Vishnu: the first and second being in them made the tenth and eleventh avatars. The principal incarnations of this Deity are, however, usually known as they will be found described in the following pages.
FIRST or MATSYA AVATAR.
In this avatar Vishnu is fabled to have assumed the form of a fish, to restore the lost Veda, which had been stolen from Brahma, in his sleep, by the demon Hayagriva. This and the two following avatars seem to refer to the universal deluge ; and the present would appear as the announcement of it to a pious king, Satyavrata; who, by some, has been considered to have been Noah of the Holy Scriptures. Hindu allegory has woven the legend into a sort of fairy tale, making Vishnu appear first in the shape of a minute fish to the devout monarch to try his piety and benevolence ; then gradually expanding himself, he became one of an immense magnitude. He subsequently disclosed himself, and finally announced the flood, which, in consequence of the depravity of the world, was about to overwhelm the earth with destruction. “ In seven days from the present time the three worlds will be plunged in an ocean of death; but in the midst of the destroying waves a large vessel, sent by me for thy use, shall stand before thee. Then shalt thou take all medicinal herbs, all the variety of seeds, and accompanied by seven saints, encircled by pairs of all brute animals, thou shalt enter the spacious ark, and continue in it secure from the flood on an immense ocean, without light, except the radiance of thy holy companions. When the ship shall be agitated by an impetuous wind, thou shalt fasten it with a large sea serpent to my horn, for I will be near thee, drawing the vessel with thee and thy attendants. I will remain on the ocean until a day of Brahma (a year) shall be completely ended.“
As it was announced, the deluge took place ; and Satyavrata entered the ark and did as he was directed, in fastening it to the horn of the fish; which again appeared, blazing like gold, and extending a million of leagues. When the deluge was abated, and mankind destroyed (except Satyavrata and his companions), Vishnu slew the demon Hayagriva, and recovered the lost Veda: or, in other words, when the wicked were destroyed by the deluge, sin no longer prevailed, and virtue was restored to the world.