What are the descriptions of Manu in Hindu Mythology?

Regardless of where we had our upbringing in India, as Hindus, most of us have had some reference made to Manu – whether in passing, or in the mention of the Manu smriti, or even in the value accorded to the way an aeon is calculated. In most instances, we’ve associated Manu with the figure of a man who stood for the truth and all kinds of goodness, that there was simply no refuting his goodness – even for God, so much so, that his very deluge to destroy the earth did nothing to him.

Regardless of where we had our upbringing in India, as Hindus, most of us have had some reference made to Manu – whether in passing, or in the mention of the Manu smriti, or even in the value accorded to the way an aeon is calculated. In most instances, we’ve associated Manu with the figure of a man who stood for the truth and all kinds of goodness, that there was simply no refuting his goodness – even for God, so much so, that his very deluge to destroy the earth did nothing to him. However, in many Hindu traditions and beliefs, there are a plethora of referential terms to the connotation of “Manu”.
Starting at the top, the most common reference is the allusion to a man who codified the fount of all natural law, in what we know now to be the Manu Smriti. A man, named Manu, was of such purity and virtuousness, that there was absolutely nothing about him that could surmount to being a flaw worthy of godly punitive action. When there was a great deluge, a flood if you will, that destroyed the earth, he was, for all practical purposes, the last man standing. He was, therefore, the progenitor of humanity, and codified a set of ethical values and rules for mankind to follow in the years to come.
The Puranas, though, make a reference to Manu as being a mode of count. Therefore, 14 Manus appear in each kalpa or aeon, and each such period of each Manu, is called the Manvantara. According to this calculation, the current world is in the stage called the Vaivasvata, which is the 7th Manu of the aeon of the white boar – or the Sveta Varaha Kalpa. The 14 Manus of the current aeon are: Svayambhuva, Svarocisa, Uttama, Tamasa, Raivata, Caksusa, Vaivasvata (the current Manu), Savarni, Daksa Sarvani, Brahma Sarvani, Dharma Sarvani, Rudra Sarvani, Deva Sarvani and Indra Sarvani. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the lifespan of a Manu is about 71 Mahayugas – that’s about 306,720,000 years for you. Each Mahayuga us a further 4,320,000 years.
The Satapatha Brahmana corroborates this rendition with a story. Vaivasvata, better known as Satyavrat, was the king of Dravida before the great deluge that swallowed all of the earth’s life forms. Satyavrat was the first to be warned of the flood by Vishnu in his Matsya Avatar, and quite like Noah, he built a boat that took his family and seven sages (the similarity with Noah ended with the boat-building, of course) to safety. This is repeated in other texts, such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas.
Another reference to Manu are the texts by Svayambhuva Manu, which include the likes of Manava Grihyasutra, Manava Sulbasutra and Manava Dharmashastra – which is the Manusmriti, or the rules of Manu. The Manusmriti is the fount of all Hindu law – and is seen as the most important and earliest work of the Dharmashastra, and the earliest milestone in textualising Hinduism. The contradiction arises in that it is titled a Smriti – which by the Vedic term of reference, actually means something passed on from one generation to the next in an oral rendition. But, this is considered the first codified representation of Hindu Law as we know it. The inherence of this contradiction manifests itself in the superiority of the Shruti, i.e., the Vedas and Upanishads, which already have a moral high ground for holding spiritual sanction and authority.
Now, another route observes that Manu is the root word for human. According to the Brahma Purana, “To continue with Creation, Brahma gave form to a Man and a Woman. The man was Swayambhu Manu and the Woman was named Shatrupa. Humans are descended from Manu, that is the reason they are known as Manavs.” After the first rounds of Creation by Brahma, i.e., the phase after creating the Devas, Asurs, Pitras and all else, Lord Brahma was completely exhausted. He decided to take a break. He wondered about the direction of his work so far and what would follow next, and just as he was reflecting on all that had been done till then, suddenly, from his body, there emerged a creature who looked a lot like him. This was the world’s First Man, Swayambhu Manu (Born on his Own). He was born with the Kaya or form of his father, Brahma.