Let me tell you a story...
Innumerable years ago, Vaivasvata Manu while performing ablutions and religious rituals on the banks of the river Chervi accidently catches a tiny fish in his cupped hands. The fish introduces himself as Matsya, asks Manu to spare his life and protect him from the creatures of the river.
If the request was a test of character, Manu passes it with flying colors. He transfers Matsya into an earthen pot filled with water and takes him home. When Matsya grows too big for the pot, Manu digs a ditch outside his house for the fish. And still Matsya grows and Manu transfers him into a pond, then a lake, then to the mighty Ganges River (called the spouse of the Ocean.) When Matsya grows so massive that even the Ganges cannot harbor him, Manu assists Matsya in his journey to the Ocean.
|Source: British Museum|
There they part company, but before they do, Matsya promises to save and protect Manu as Manu had done him. Matsya foretells of a great catastrophic flood that would submerge the whole world. The fish advises Manu to build a great big boat, gather the Saptarishis (the seven great sages) and collect all the seeds of the world and keep them close.
In due course, the flood came. Manu, the Saptarishis and the grain boarded the boat and the great horned fish, Matsya, as promised, navigated the boat to the heights of the Himalayas and tethered it to safety. Matsya then reveals himself as Prajapati Brahma, lord creator of the universe. He then passes the mantle of Prajapati (Creator) to Manu, urging him to create Man and set up the Ways of Civilization.
"Myth is essentially a cultural construct, a common understanding of the world that binds individuals and communities together. This understanding maybe religious or secular. Ideas such as rebirth, heaven and hell, angels and demons, fate and freewill, sin, Satan and salvation are religious myths. Ideas such as sovereignty, nation state, human rights, women's rights, animal rights and gay rights are secular myths. Religious or secular, all myths make profound sense to one group of people. Not to everyone. They cannot be rationalized beyond a point. In the final analysis, you either accept them or you don't." ~ Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik.