Manu (Hinduism)

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Matsya protecting the Manu and the seven sages at the time of Deluge

In some Hindu traditions, Manu is a title accorded to a progenitor of humanity. According to these traditions, the current time period is ruled by the seventh Manu called the Vaivasvata Manu, the son of Vivasvân and his wife Sanjnâ.[1]

Vaivasvata Manu, whose original name was Satyavrata, is the 7th Manu and considered the first king to rule this earth, who saved humanity from the great flood — after being warned of it by the Matsya avatar of Vishnu,[2] who had also advised him to build a giant boat. The story is mentioned in early Hindu scriptures such as the Satapatha Brahmana, and it has often been compared with the popular traditions of a Great Deluge from other cultures around the world,[3] particularly that of Noah's Ark.[4] Because Manu was believed to be absolutely honest, he was initially known as Satyavrata ("One with the oath of truth"). Vaivasvata Manu ruled as King Manu.[5][6][7] His wife was Sraddha.[8]

The Mahabharata says:

"And Manu was endowed with great wisdom and devoted to virtue. And he became the progenitor of a line. And in Manu's race have been born all human beings, who have, therefore, been called Manavas. And it is of Manu that all men including Brahmanas, Kshattriyas, and others have been descended, and are therefore all called Manavas. Subsequently, the Brahmanas became united with the Kshattriyas. And those sons of Manu that were Brahmanas devoted themselves to the study of the Vedas. And Manu begot ten other children named Vena, Dhrishnu, Narishyan, Nabhaga, Ikshvaku, Karusha, Saryati, the eighth, a daughter named Ila,[9] Prishadhru the ninth, and Nabhagarishta, the tenth. They all betook themselves to the practices of Kshattriyas. Besides these, Manu had fifty other sons on Earth. But we heard that they all perished, quarrelling with one another."[10][11]


According to the Puranas, the genealogy of Vaivasvata, the 7th Manu, is as follows:

  1. Brahma
  2. Marichi, one of the 10 Prajapatis created by Brahma.
  3. Kashyapa, son of Marichi and Kala. Kashyapa is regarded as the father of humanity.
  4. Vivasvan or Surya, son of Kashyapa and Aditi.
  5. Vaivasvata Manu, originally Satyavrata, son of Vivasvan (Surya) and Saṃjñā.
  6. Ikshvaku, Nabhaga, Narishyanta, Karusha, Prishadhra, Dhrishta, Sharyati, Pramshu and Nabhanedishta were the nine sons and Ila was the only daughter of Vaivasvata Manu.[12][13]

Puranas and Vedas talk about all 14 Manus very extensively. Almost all literature refers to first 9 Manus with same names but there is a lot of disagreement on names after that, although all of them agree with total of 14. These texts also mention about their periods in time, assigned Saptarshi, Indra and their progeny.[14]

The Great Deluge[edit]

According to the Matsya Purana, the Matsya Avatar of Vishnu is believed to have appeared initially as a Shaphari (a small carp), to King Manu (whose original name was Satyavrata[6]), while he washed his hands in a river. This river was supposed to have been flowing down the Malaya Mountains in his land of Dravida (South India).[15] The little Fish asked the king to save Him, and out of compassion, he put it in a water jar. It kept growing bigger and bigger, until King Manu first put Him in a bigger pitcher, and then deposited Him in a well. When the well also proved insufficient for the ever-growing Fish, the King placed Him in a tank (reservoir), that was two yojanas (16 miles) in height above the surface and on land, as much in length, and a yojana (8 miles) in breadth.[16][17] As it grew further King Manu had to put the fish in a river, and when even the river proved insufficient he placed it in the ocean, after which it nearly filled the vast expanse of the great ocean.

It was then that He (Lord Matsya), revealing Himself, informed the King of an all-destructive deluge which would be coming very soon.[5][6][18][19] The King built a huge boat which housed his family, 9 types of seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, after the deluge would end and the oceans and seas would recede. At the time of deluge, Vishnu appeared as a horned fish and Shesha appeared as a rope, with which Vaivasvata Manu fastened the boat to horn of the fish.[20]

According to the Matsya Purana, his boat was perched after the deluge on the top of the Malaya Mountains[5][6][18] This narrative is to an extent similar to other deluge stories, like those of Utnapishtim from ancient Sumerian Mythology, and the story of Noah's ark from the Bible [4] and the Qur'an.


"The lifespan of one Manu, is 71 Mahayugas (306,720,000 years), and each Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years." (Bhagavad Gita 8.17)[21] "The duration of one manvantara, the lifespan of one Manu, is seventy-one Mahayugas, and each Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years". The present Manu has already lived for 28 Mahayugas, which is 120,960,000 years." (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.49).[22]

Works ascribed to Manu[edit]

According to tradition, Manava Grihyasutra, Manava Sulbasutra and Manava Dharmashastra (Manusmriti or rules of Manu) texts are ascribed to Svayambhuva Manu.[23] Manusmriti is considered by some Hindus to be the law laid down for Hindus and is seen as the most important and earliest metrical work of the Dharmaśāstra textual tradition of Hinduism.[24] At the same time it is a Smriti, so whenever there is a conflict between what is mentioned in it and that mentioned in sruti (Vedas and Upanishads) the latter is considered to be correct as it holds higher spiritual authority.


Main article: Manu (Theosophy)

In Theosophy, the "Vaivasvatu Manu" is one of the most important beings at the highest levels of Initiation of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, along with Maitreya, and the Maha Chohan. According to Theosophy, each root race has its own Manu which physically incarnates in an advanced body of an individual of the old root race and physically progenerates with a suitable female partner the first individuals of the new root race.

Modern literature[edit]

In the Victor Hugo novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo is seen to be studying Manu's works in his study of alchemy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raghavan, Thulasidas Creation and Dissolution of the Universe, Worlds and Life, XLibris, 2011, p.126: "Brahma's day and night"; p.129: "The fourteen Manus of the current kalpa".
  2. ^ Matsya
  3. ^ Klaus K. Klostermaier (2007). A Survey of Hinduism. SUNY Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-7914-7082-2. 
  4. ^ a b Sunil Sehgal (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: T-Z, Volume 5. Sarup & Sons. p. 401. ISBN 81-7625-064-3. 
  5. ^ a b c The Matsya Purana
  6. ^ a b c d S'rîmad Bhâgavatam (Bhâgavata Purâna)Canto 8 Chapter 24 Text 12
  7. ^ Essence Of Matsya Purana. Chapter 2. "Brahma's boon to Satyavrata, Matysavatar, Pralaya and Srishti again"
  8. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Purāṇas, p. 637.
  9. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Purāṇas, p. 638.
  10. ^ Mahabharata Book 1:Adi Parva:Sambhava Parva:Section LXXV, p. 183.
  11. ^ The Laws of Manu, translated by George Bühler.
  12. ^ Misra, V.S. (2007). Ancient Indian Dynasties, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-413-8, p.48
  13. ^ According to Swami Parmeshwaranand (Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Purāṇas, p. 637), the names of the ten sons are: Iksvaku, Nrga, Saryat, Dista, Dhrsta, Karusa, Narisyanta, Nabhaga, Prsadhra and Kavi. According to Thulasidas Raghavan (Creation and Dissolution of the Universe, Worlds and Life, p. 129), the names are: Ikshvâku, Nabhaga, Dhrshta, Saryâti, Narishyanta, Nâbhâga, Dishta, Tarusha, Prshadhra and Vâsuman.
  14. ^ Summary of Manu in Ancient Literature मनु (आदिपुरुष)
  15. ^ David Dean Shulman (1980). Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5692-3. 
  16. ^ DRISCOLL, Ian Driscoll; KURTZ, Matthew Atlantis: Egyptian Genesis, 2009.
  17. ^ Sacred Texts. Section CLXXXVI
  18. ^ a b The story of Vedic India as embodied ... - Google Books. 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  19. ^ Matsya Purana, Ch.I, 10-33
  20. ^ Matsya Purana, Ch.II, 1-19
  21. ^ "Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8 Verse 17". Retrieved 2012-03-17.  See also timetable on
  22. ^ "Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 4 Chapter 30 Verse 49". Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  23. ^ The Laws of Manu. See 63: These seven very glorious Manus, the first among whom is Svayambhuva, produced and protected this whole movable and immovable (creation), each during the period (allotted to him).
  24. ^ See Flood 1996: 56 and Olivelle 2010.


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