Manu lived in a cottage on the banks of a river. He was a sage respected by all. In fact, people hailed him as their ruler. But Manu continued to live a simple life. He befriended every — man and animal. He would pay attention to plants and trees, collecting seeds of any new one he came across.
One morning, he went to the river, had a dip, and scooped some water in his palms to offer it to the sun god. To his surprise, he found a tiny fish in the water he had scooped. He brought it home and put it in a bowl.
The next day, he found that the fish had grown bigger. He transferred it to a vessel. By the next day the fish had grown too big for the vessel. Manu had to put it in a tank behind his cottage. But the tank too turned out to be too small for the fish the next day. Manu carried it to the sea. “You are strong enough to take care of yourself, friend,” said Manu. “Go. May God be with you.”
“I’ll ever remember your kindness. Should you ever need help, I’ll be there for you,” said the fish as it swam away.
Manu returned to the hermitage.
A few months later, all of a sudden it started raining heavily. Water started rising. It reached the ankles first, then the knees and soon you could swim in it. But the rain showed no signs of stopping.
Manu got worried. He started building a boat. Other people joined him and together they built a huge boat. As the water continued to rise, Manu loaded all the grains and all the seeds he had collected. He called out to animals to take shelter in the boat. Some birds joined the animals too. The men and women who had helped Manu build the boat got into it along with Manu. The entire land was now covered with water. The boat was carried by a swift current and soon it headed out to the sea.
The sea was rough. Giant waves shook the boat. Manu thought that all was lost. Then he spotted his friend, the fish, swimming towards the boat. The fish had grown a huge horn.
Manu took a rope, made a loop and threw it over to the fish. The loop fell around the horn of the fish. The fish started swimming fast, pulling the boat with it.
The fish swam for days and nights until the rain subsided. By that time, it had reached the Himalayas. Its foothills were submerged under the water. But the mountains themselves were above it.
“I’ll leave now, Manu,” said the fish. “Wait till the water recedes and then begin a new life.”
Manu joined his hands in gratitude. At that moment, he realized that the fish was none other than Lord Vishnu. When he opened his eyes, the fish was gone.
Soon the water receded. Manu and his men settled down at the foothills of the Himalayas. All the trees were washed away in the flood. Manu threw the seeds he had brought. Once gain the earth was covered with green plants. Animals ran in joy and birds sang. The earth was reborn, thanks to Manu and the Fish.
Adapted from the Puranas.