OPINION

The Great floods : Not a Myth?

Photo by jeffjacobs1990

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard of the story of Noah and his Ark. Pious and pure family man, impresses god and gets a chance to save his family and other lifeforms on earth on his ark, while god floods the planet in order to destroy the “evil” mankind had become. It wouldn’t be surprising this seems like nothing more than a biblical story. But what if Noah wasn’t the only one? Or what if it wasn’t only the bible that got it right?
Briefly put, the Narrative of Noah’s ark follows the life of a simple, pious, devoted and kind man, Noah. When God sees the wickedness that engulfs the world, he decided he will wipe out his creation, the humans and with them all other living creatures, to reset life on earth. But Noah found favour with God for he alone was righteous among the people of his day. And God said to him, “I will establish My covenant with you; you will go into the ark with your wife, your sons, and their wives” (Genesis 6:8–10, 18). Noah thus sets out to build the ark, as per the instructions he receives. He is asked to give space to pairs of all animals, so together they may repopulate Earth after the floods. Then the Flood began. The fountains of the deep broke open, and the windows of heaven were opened. Rain poured for forty days and forty nights. The waters rose until every high hill on the earth was covered. Everything that lived on land perished in the raging floodwaters (Genesis 7:17–24). The waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days. And God remembered Noah and the animals on the Ark. The waters receded and the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:1–5). And thus, ends the tale of Noah as he steps out into a new world, God promising never to flood it again.
According to texts from the Hindu tradition, such as the Satapatha Brahmana and the Matsya Purana, Lord Manu was the king of Dravida (South India). His kingdom, named Kumari Kandam (Multiple parallels are often drawn between this island kingdom and the lost city of Atlantis!). Lord Manu is revered as the saviour of mankind, much like Noah. Manu has a family of 3 children and a wife. Children named – Charma, Sharma and Yapeti. Noah, According to the book of Genesis (chapter 6- 9) of the Old Testament, had 3 children named – Ham, Shem, Japeth. In Noah’s tale, he receives divine instructions from God himself, to repopulate the earth by saving his family and a pair of animals from each species on an ark he must build. God intends to destroy mankind because it had grown to be wicked and sinful. In Manu’s story, while the instructions remain the exact same, god’s reason to flood earth is because it’s simply part of the natural order. Of course, during the floods, his ark is guided by Lord Vishnu’s Matsya Avatar (The Great fish) of which there is no equivalent in the biblical counterpart.
Manu’s ship endures heavy floods, carrying the Saptarishi, his family and all the animals. It finally comes to a halt at the Malaya mountain range, which becomes Manu’s resting place, the present-day Manali (Manu- Alaya ~ Manali). Noah’s ark, on the other hand, is described to have battled the waves and rains for 40 days and nights before parking itself in the Ararat mountain range (Expected to be
around modern-day Turkey).
Now, if it were only these two stories that happened to narrate the story of a pious man saving mankind from god’s wrath, it might still be convincingly written off as a mere coincidence. However, that is not the case. Take, for instance, the story of Utnapishtim, from the epic of
Gilgamesh (From Mesopotamian texts). It narrates the story of the king of Uruk, who is directed by the assembly of gods, to build a ship. While the flood that has been brought upon because of man’s sins, destroys mankind, Utnapishtim and his family are the lone survivors tasked with the ordeal of repopulating the earth. Now here’s where things get eerie. Much like Noah, he is known to be the life-preserver and is gifted an extended life or immortality (more or less). When the flood recedes, Noah sends out a raven & three doves to test if it is safe to step out. Similarly, Utnapishtim sends out a dove, a swallow and a raven, for the same purpose. Both their ships are several stories large, in order to accommodate the multitude of animals. And finally, Utnampishtim’s ship is parked at a mountain range, the Nisir Mountain ranges. Very similar to Noah, God blesses him after the floods and the balance has been restored.
The flood myth doesn’t simply end with the convergence of these three stories. Today, we are aware that flood myths are found not only in Near Eastern societies, but also in many other ancient civilizations throughout the world. Accounts of a great deluge are seen in ancient Sumerian tablets, the Deucalion in Greek mythology, the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Gun-Yu myth of China, the stories of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of North America, and the stories of the Muisca people, to name but a few. In Japan, ‘manu‘ became “maru,” a word which is included in the name of most Japanese ships. In the Sioux language, it took the form ‘minne’, meaning “water.” Thus, ‘Minneapolis’ means “city of water,” ‘Minnesota‘ means “sky blue water,” etc. The original Sanskrit word for “ship” is ‘nau’ and ‘Nau-kha‘, which later passed into our English word, navy, nautical, nausea (seasickness). This word could very well be still another variant of “Noah,” the first master shipbuilder. I find it fascinating how different kinds of people, so far apart, culturally and geographically, have all been able to script a “mythological tale” so similar to each other, with shockingly consistent details. Perhaps there is something more to it than just being a story about god’s benevolence and the victory of the righteous. There always is more than what meets the eye.

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