The story of Naubandhana is narrated in the Mahabharata, and in several Puranas. The high mountain called Navaprabhramsana, which is mentioned in the Atharva Veda, corresponds to Naubandhana of the Mahabharata and the Puranas.
In the Vana Parva section of the Mahabharata (sub-parva: Markandeya-Samasya Parva), the great Sage Markandeya arrived at the Kamyaka forest where the Pandavas were living during the period of their exile. As they do with all great sages, the Pandavas asked Markandeya several questions regarding dharma and the state of the universe in ancient times.
When the Pandavas inquired about Vaivasvata Manu, the progenitor of the human race in the present kalpa (aeon) of Hindu cosmology, Markandeya narrated the story of how life on earth was saved at the time of the great deluge.
One day when Manu was performing his austerities on the banks of the River Virini a small fish came to him. The fish said: “O Illustrious one, o divine one, I am small and feeble. I am frightened that the larger fishes would devour me. It is a rule of the water-world that the large fish devour the small fish. You are good in dharma. Please save my life.”
Overcome with compassion, Manu took the fish out of water and placed it in a water pot. He started caring for the fish as if it were his own child. The fish soon became so large that it could not move in the water pot. Manu took the fish out of the water pot and placed it in a pond. The fish continued to grow and in a few years it was so large that it could not move in the pond.
The fish beseeched Manu to take him to the River Ganga. Manu picked up the fish and placed it in the River Ganga. After a few years, the fish became so large that it could not move around in the River Ganga. Manu then picked up the fish and took it to the ocean. Despite the great size of the fish, Manu could carry it with ease because of his divine powers.
When Manu released the fish into the ocean, the fish seemed to smile. The fish said: “O divine sage. You have always protected and sustained me. Now hear from me what you should do at the right time. The time of destruction of the earth is near. You must build a sturdy boat and ascend it with the sapta-rishis (the seven sages of the Hindu tradition) and carry with you the seeds of all forms of life. At the time of destruction, you should wait for me in the boat. I will come and rescue your boat. You will recognize me by my horn.”
Manu realized that the fish was an avatar of Prajapati Brahma. (In some Purana texts, the fish is described as an avatar of Lord Vishnu.) He replied: “O lord. I will do what you say.” Then they took leave of each other.
Manu became engaged in building a large and sturdy boat. He collected the seeds of every form of life on earth. On the right time, he ascended the boat with the sapta-rishis and the seeds he had collected. The great deluge began; the earth started filling with water; there was destruction and mass extinction in every direction. Manu’s boat moved into the ocean. He saw the great fish which now had a large horn growing on its head. Manu tied the boat’s rope to the fish’s horn.
The fish pulled the boat into the vast ocean that was being churned by waves as high as thousands of mountains. With its great size and strength, the fish protected the boat from being crushed under the waves. Eventually the boat arrived at the place where the Himalayan mountain range was once visible. Now only one peak, the highest one, was above the water; all other peaks were under water. The fish told Manu that he must tie the boat to the peak.
On hearing the words of the fish, Manu tied his boat to the peak. Once it was tied to the tallest peak, the boat with its precious cargo was saved from the great deluge.
From that day, the peak was known by the name of Naubandhana. The Government of India should rename Mount Everest as Naubandhana. The name Mount Everest, imposed on this peak in 1865, is a legacy of British colonialism—it is named after Sir George Everest, the British Surveyor General. The name of India’s tallest mountain should be based on ancient Hindu tradition. The right name for this peak is Naubandhana.