A sequel to Shri Matsya Narayana

A sequel to Shri Matsya Narayana


Partha Desikan


If we have read the story of the saving of the Vedas by the direct intervention of the Infinite in the Matsya form and are informed that there could be slightly different versions of the story, if we have learnt that at least for the Matsya manifestation of the Lord, the faithful have built two large temples in India at different times, and if we are able to visit one of these temples and offer our loving homage, then what?


Different versions of the story? Of course. The Bhagavata purana, the Matsya Purana  and Narayaneeyam for instance, all talk of the form that the Lord took as Matsya alright, but slight variations exist in the details of the story. Then there are other stories in which the plunderer of the Vedas is not Hayagrivasura but the pair Madhu and Kaitapa.


Again some other Shaakta stories carry a rider that to vanquish the powerful Hayagrivasura, Aswamukhasura, (colloquially Somukaswara in Telugu lore), the Lord had to have a horse-head himself. In fact some schools of Srivaishnavas worship Veda Narayana in the form of Hayagriva either in solitary yogic mode or as Lakshmihayagriva, namely the Lord accompanied by Mother Lakshmi. Vedanta Desika’s incomparable stotra on Sri Hayagriva is recited with great devotion by Sri Vaishnavas and other Vedantis and is believed to grant the seekers true Jnana from its ultimate source. Sri VedantaDesika is believed to have offered daily Aradhana to a Murti of Sri Hayagriva and to have had the extraordinary experience of his offerings being accepted by the Lord.


There are stories in which the Lord voluntarily took the Hayagriva form and others in which the Lord went to sleep to allow an accident in which his ‘human’ head would get severed, necessitating replacement with a nearby-available head of a white horse. It is possible that one of us gets a revelation that as the great Matsya pierced the chest of the demon, the dark horse, Hayagrivasura, with its ‘horn’, Bhagavan’s Jnanamaya Tejas suffused the horse’s head and made it brilliant white and the Rishis saw the matsya form along with the white horse-head and pictured a Hayagrivamurti in their minds about which they sang in grateful praise. If we mention such a revelation to other devotees, a new Hayagrivapurana can become the vogue.


But do these details matter any more than the powerful symbolism that is central to all the versions? Unlike the other Flood boat and fish stories which have stayed with the memories of some ancient peoples around the world, where the emphasis is on the saving of various forms of Life for reoccupation of the Earth after the floods receded, the main theme of the ancient Indian story, unchanged in all its versions, is the divine intervention to bring back True (Vedic) knowledge, which some evil forces symbolized by Ajnana, dark horse-head, asuric forms and so on tried to take away from public availability and hide in the depths of ‘the sea’.


Can True knowledge be destroyed or can it get lost? No, it can only be kept away from human beings. Any force that, in any era, helps in such a process of denying access to Truth is helping Hayamukhasuras. In the modern context, are most of us directly or indirectly helping the forces that would deprioritise basic education in Vedanta for any Hindu who wants to have it? Are we getting drawn towards denying any worth in such studies in the face of relentless propaganda on the one hand and materialistic pursuits which appear more attractive on the other? Can only another Avatara bring sense back to us?


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