Translated as ‘fish’ from Sanskrit, Matsya is the first avatar of Lord Vishnu. The representation is that of a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man, and the lower of a fish. In Hindu texts like Satapatha Brahmana, there are mentions of “the great flood”, which can be considered to be parallel to biblical version of the Genesis flood narrative. During such calamity, the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu saved the first man Manu, and he advised him to build a giant boat. This, now, can be considered to be the biblical version of Noah’s Ark.
According to the Matsya Purana, the story is
When Manu, who was also known before as Satyavrata, the king of pre-ancient Dravida and a devotee of Vishnu, was washing his hands in a river, a little fish swam right into his hands. The fish pleaded him to save its life. To save the fish, Manu put the fish in a water jar, and the fish soon outgrew. So, it moved to a tank, then to a river, then to the ocean, but it didn’t work. However, right then, the fish told Manu that it was the avatar of Vishnu, and he also told him that there would a big calamity hitting the universe, and it had the capacity to destroy all life. What was going to happen, according to Vishnu, was at the end of the Kali-yuga, the mare who lived at the bottom of the ocean would open her mouth to release a poisonous fire, and that fire would burn the whole universe, gods, constellations, and everything. It was going to be the doomsday, and then the seven clouds would flood the earth until everything was then a single ocean.
To prevent it, the fish asked Manu to take all the medicinal herbs, seeds, accompanied by the seven saints, serpent Vasuki, other animals, and board the boat that the gods had built.
This story has great similarities with the Noah’s Ark story in the Hebrew Book of Genesis. That story goes something like this
When the God found out that humanity is nothing but corrupt, he tried to end all life. However, there was Noah, the righteous man of the generation and the one who had walked with God. God then instructs him to form an Ark and was asked to bring “two of every sort of animal, male and female, everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life” and their food. He also instructs him to board the Ark with his family, seven pairs of birds, clean animals, one pair of unclean animals. “on the same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth.” God then closes up the door of the Ark. The flood starts and wipes away everything, the people, the animals, the creeping things, the birds of heaven. Only Noah and those who were on the same boat with him prevailed.