In Hindu mythology the Rainbow Fish was quite large. It was described as being the size of a whale. The myth states that the sea creature ate Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu – a God. Because Vishnu was a God, the mythical giant fish did not survive the experience. However, when the Rainbow Fish was caught by a fisherman, the swallowed Lord Buddha/Vishnu was released from its stomach.
There Is A Real Rainbow Fish
Although not nearly the size of a whale, the rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae) are a fresh water fish that live in the Pacific Ocean near Australia and Indonesia. If you know your geography you will note that the Pacific region the rainbowfish live is not anywhere near India or the Indian Ocean. Plus, the freshwater variety grows to about 5-inches in length. This rules out the possibility of eating anyone and most certainly not Lord Buddha.
The Colors of The Mythical Rainbow Fish
The Rainbow Fish in Hindu mythology got its name because its scales were in different colors. The four colors were green, blue, yellow and red. As it turns out, according to the Hindu cosmology the universe is comprised of a total of five different elements. The colors of the scales of the Rainbow Fish represent four of those elements. Here is a closer look at each:
These scales are ‘made’ of grass and represent Earth (or Prithvi). The Hindu teachings state that Earth is present in all things, animate and inanimate. It is also found in the human body. The character of grass, paramanu is the atom and is eternal. Its other character, karya is works and that is considered perishable.
These scales are ‘made’ of ice and as such they represent water or Jal. In the teachings of the Hindu people, water contains two eternal or atomic characters. It also has a perishable character and it is the one we can see. That’s because it appears in rain, streams, lakes and all other bodies of water.
These scales are said to be ‘made’ of lightning. They represent air or Vayu. Air in this case is the air you feel when you breathe so this would be the air of life. There are apparently 49 different types of air according to the Puranas. Air atoms are eternal with the manifestations of air in winds and storms being temporary in nature.
These scales are ‘made’ of flames and they represent fire or Agni. Fire contains both an eternal and a perishable character.
The Fifth Element
The final of the five elements is ether or sound. This is considered eternal but is also never perishable or physical and this is why there are no scales to represent this on the Rainbow Fish.
The Rainbow Fish, Jonah and the Whale
If the story of the Rainbow Fish swallowing Buddha sounded familiar to you, it may have something to do with a well-known fish story that originated in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.
This story tells of a prophet known as Jonas or Jonah. Jonas tries to escape Nineveh to go to Joppa. However, the un-prophet-like action causes the sea to get angry. When this happens, Jonah is tossed into the sea by sailors who begin to fear for their lives.
They saw that the sea was angry at Jonah so they determined that the best course of action was to throw Jonah in as a sacrifice of sorts. A whale swallows Jonah whole but in three days he is rescued.
Oddly enough, the Rainbow Fish story is very similar to the Jonah tale.
The Hindu story tells of Lord Buddha, who is considered a prophet. In the age of Kali, Buddha misleads his followers by stating there is no creator of the universe.
Because of this he is viewed as leading his followers down an incorrect path. The Rainbow Fish swallows Buddha as a punishment for his wrong teachings. He is rescued from the fish by fishermen who execute a similar rescue to that of Jonah.
Who Is Buddha/Vishnu?
The Rainbow Fish story from Hindu mythology eats the incarnation of Vishnu, who is known as Buddha. But who exactly is Vishnu? According to Hinduism, Vishnu is the ideal divine King. As a result, Vishnu is the principal deity of those who following Hindu beliefs. In fact, in Sanskrit, the name Vishnu translates to mean pervader – which means Vishnu is in everything and that makes Vishnu everything. He is also known as a sun deity.
Vishnu is believed to preserve and protect the created world and was even the first created being. Vishnu is also considered to be the only source of the universe and that makes him the creator as well. The parallels between Vishnu in the Hindu teachings are a lot like God in Christian teachings with a few distinct differences.
Vishnu comes to Earth on occasion to provide help in fighting evil. When he does this, he uses avatars or incarnations. There are a total of ten main ones he uses and they include:
– Matsya (fish)
– Kurma (tortoise)
– Varaha (boar)
– Vamana (dwarf)
– Lord Rama
Is The Rainbow Fish Story True?
Mythology is interesting as it often contains the stories that tell of the origins of gods and other supreme beings. Whether or not they are based on fact is hard to tell. It really depends on whether or not you are a believer of any kind of God or Creator. Many cultures around the world have mythology that tells of their specific Creator and over the passage of time these details become the foundation of personal and religious beliefs.
As for the accuracy of the stories, it is anyone’s guess but when you have similar legends involving prophets being swallowed by large sea creatures and later rescued, it is hard to argue against the possibility that these events did actually happen and have been passed down for several generations in order to keep the mythology alive.