Before coming to this site, I only knew of one King Manu who was chosen by Lord Vishnu's Matsya avatar to save some of the different type of species to start the life again after the Pralaya. But after coming to this site I came to know that there were some other Manus also with similar roles. So, can someone throw light on who all were the different Manus, their background and their story of how they were chosen for this role.


First of all, let's go over the relevant timescales. (See my answers here and here for more details.). The four Yugas together make up one Mahayuga. 1000 Mahayugas make up one Kalpa, which is one day in the life of Brahma. After the Kalpa is over Brahma goes to sleep, and there's a Pralaya which destroys the three worlds, at the end of which Brahma wakes up and creates the world anew.

Now in addition to being divided into 1000 Mahayugas, a Kalpa is also divided into 14 periods known as Manvantaras, in which a figure known as a Manu rules over humanity. Since there are 14 Manus who rule in a given Kalpa, each Manu rules for about 71 Mahayugas. Note that during each Manvantara, a new person is chosen for the post of Indra (king of the gods), and a new set of Saptarishis (seven sages) are also chosen. The Srimad Bhagavatam, in this chapter and this chapter, describes the reign of the previous Manus of the Shwetavaraha Kalpa (the present Kalpa):

In the present kalpa there have already been six Manus. I have described to you Svāyambhuva Manu and the appearance of many demigods. In this kalpa of Brahmā, Svāyambhuva is the first Manu. Svāyambhuva Manu had two daughters, named Ākūti and Devahūti. From their wombs, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as two sons named Yajñamūrti and Kapila respectively. ...

The son of Agni named Svārociṣa became the second Manu. The son of Agni named Svārociṣa became the second Manu. His several sons were headed by Dyumat, Suṣeṇa and Rociṣmat....

O King, the third Manu, Uttama, was the son of King Priyavrata. Among the sons of this Manu were Pavana, Sṛñjaya and Yajñahotra....

The brother of the third Manu, Uttama, was celebrated by the name Tāmasa, and he became the fourth Manu. Tāmasa had ten sons, headed by Pṛthu, Khyāti, Nara and Ketu....

The brother of Tāmasa Manu was the fifth Manu, named Raivata. His sons were headed by Arjuna, Bali and Vindhya....

The son of Cakṣu known as Cākṣuṣa was the sixth Manu. He had many sons, headed by Pūru, Pūruṣa and Sudyumna.

See the chapters for additional information, like who occupied the post of Indra, who were the Saptarishis, and what Vishnu's main incarnation was. Now here is the Srimad Bhagavatam's description of the Vaivasvata Manvanthara, which is the one we're living in:

The present Manu, who is named Śrāddhadeva, is the son of Vivasvān, the predominating deity on the sun planet. Śrāddhadeva is the seventh Manu. Now please hear from me as I describe his sons. O King Parīkṣit, among the ten sons of Manu are Ikṣvāku, Nabhaga, Dhṛṣṭa, Śaryāti, Nariṣyanta and Nābhāga. The seventh son is known as Diṣṭa. Then come Tarūṣa and Pṛṣadhra, and the tenth son is known as Vasumān. In this manvantara, O King, the Ādityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Viśvedevas, the Maruts, the two Aśvinī-kumāra brothers and the Ṛbhus are the demigods. Their head king [Indra] is Purandara. Kaśyapa, Atri, Vasiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvāja are known as the seven sages. In this manvantara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as the youngest of all the Ādityas, known as Vāmana, the dwarf. His father was Kaśyapa and His mother Aditi.

The chapter also contains information on future Manvantharas if you're interested.

Note that contrary to popular belief, Vaivasvata Manu was not actually saved by Vishnu's incarnation Matsya. Matsya saved Vaivasvata Manu's previous birth Satyavrata, a king who lived during the Chakshusha Manvanthara; see this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam.

You also asked about how people become Manus. Well, Hindu scripture doesn't say explicitly how Manus are chosen. But we do know that Swayambhuva Manu was chosen by his father Brahma shortly after he was born, as I discuss in this answer. I assume the other Manus are chosen by the gods based on the merits of their deeds.

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