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Manu and Noah: Strikingly Different, Surprisingly Similar

Manu and Noah: Strikingly Different, Surprisingly Similar

By Sahil Prasad, grade 8, Maryland.

King Manu, the first man according to Hinduism, and Noah, the survivor of the great flood, are two legendary men, who hail from entirely different religions of the world. Yet, these great individuals, surprisingly, shared multiple similarities that would be interesting to dwell upon during these times when religion is the source of divisiveness.

The Great Flood Survivors

First, both Manu and Noah were chosen by their respective Gods to survive a great flood. Their stories are startlingly similar. It is incredible that the two civilizations that these stories originated from were never in direct contact with each other until many centuries later!

The Matsya or Fish Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Artwork is from the public domain and Wikipedia.

Manu was a sage who dedicated his life to faithfully serving and worshiping Hindu gods. The Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu trinity, chose Manu to be the survivor of a flood that would cleanse the world. The story goes that Vishnu decided to take the form of a tiny fish, the first of Vishnu’s ten avatars, and said to Manu, “Protect me from my predators and I will reward you.” Manu decided to keep the Vishnu-fish in a pot, which it quickly outgrew, and then in a lake, which also proved to be too small for the fish. Eventually, Manu moved the fish to the ocean. This is where Vishnu assumed his true form and informed Manu about a great flood that was about to occur. To ensure that his faithful follower survived, Vishnu instructed Manu to build an ark or a giant boat with all the animals, seeds, and other essential materials to survive the flood and start a new life. Manu decided to invite the seven holy sages or the Saptarishis to live with him in the new world. Manu and the seven holy sages guided the ark through the giant flood with the help of Vishnu–who led the ship with his horn in his giant fish form–to a peak where they rested until the world was cleansed. Finally, Vishnu came true to his promise and bestowed upon Manu the scriptural knowledge and power. The scriptural knowledge was passed down by Manu’s descendants and still continues to be studied today in the form of the Vedas.

Fun fact: According to B. B. Lal, the former director of the India Archaeology Institute, the flood of Manu approximately occurred as far back as the second millennium BCE.

Now coming to Noah; unlike Manu, the human race already existed in Noah’s world. The old human race was only concerned with money and killing, so God was disappointed with them. He decided to give the humans another chance by having Noah, the only devotee and true believer left on the planet, to be the guardian of a better human race. Noah, like Manu, also built an ark under God’s instructions, which were, “Build an ark of gopherwood, with rooms inside, three decks, and a door. Cover it inside and out with pitch.” (Genesis 6:13-22) Noah’s ark wandered the Earth (with Noah’s family and the various species that he had been instructed to bring with him) for 40 days and 40 nights in continuous rain. Noah traversed the ocean for another 150 days until God directed the boat to Mount Ararat (in present day Turkey) where it halted. Eventually, Noah sent out a dove to find land for them to settle and it came back a week later with an olive branch, which meant that land was out there. Just like to Manu, God made a promise to Noah that he would never flood the Earth ever again.

Harbingers of the Human Race

Manu and Noah were also attributed with ensuring the survival of the human race. After the great flood, Manu made a sacrifice to Brahma, the Creator in the Hindu trinity. He placed sour milk and butter in shallow water and this resulted in a maiden emerging from it, soon to become his wife. Eventually, the human race would start to grow at an exponential rate. Manu then instituted a quintessential set of laws (Laws of Manu) based on the Hindu scriptures that his ten sons and one daughter and subsequently, their descendants had to follow. One of these laws was to divide the population based on their gunas or skill sets. For example, people who were versed in the scriptures would be known as Brahmins. Eventually, humanity split into the solar clan founded by Manu’s sons and the lunar clan founded by Manu’s daughter. According to Hindu scriptures, Manu will be reincarnated when our current universe will be cleansed by Vishnu—in about 186.72 million years according to the Hindu scriptures—and he will be the leader and lawgiver of a more superior race.

In the case of Noah, after the devastating flood, he continued to live with his family and repopulate the Earth. Noah lived until the age of 950 and just like Manu, God helped his family grow rapidly. Just like the descendants of Manu split into the Solar and Lunar Clans, Noah’s descendants also split and settled the world, but they followed a different and more contentious trajectory than Manu’s descendants. Here’s how it played out.

Noah’s great grandson, Nimrod, began to build a colossal structure called the Tower of Babel, which slowly approached the height of the heavens. Citizens thought that Nimrod was building a temple, but it was revealed that reaching the heavens was his motivation all along to prove that he was an equal to God. As a result of Nimrod’s selfish actions, God decided to halt the construction of the Tower by making the workers speak different languages so they wouldn’t understand each other. As a last step, God took his punishment further and decreed that people of the city had to settle all around the world. This is how the world came to be inhabited according to the story of Noah and his family.

So there it is: the story of Manu and Noah. Given the striking similarities between them, some experts argue that they could be one and the same, a theory certainly worth pondering.

—Sahil Prasad, grade 8, Maryland.