‘Samudra Manthan’ which is popularly also referred to as the Sagar Manthan, Amrit Manthan, Ksheer Sagar Manthan, is one of the most prominent chapters in the history of Hinduism that led to the emergence of various Goddesses, mythical creatures, heavenly angels, trees holding medicinal values, sparkling, rare and beautiful gemstones and various other assets. It is the only episode in history where Gods and demons came together for the same cause and worked in unison. The Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, and the Mahabharata mention the striking occasion of the Churning of the Milky Ocean. The literal meaning of the words ‘Samudra Manthan‘ is Sea Churning. Here the meaning of the word Samudra is Sea and the meaning of Manthan is to churn. Now that we got a gist of this event let us further learn in detail about the Samudra Manthan
The Reason behind Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Milky Ocean)
It so happened that one fine day Lord Indra who is the God of thunder, lightning, storms, rains, and who holds the authority over the Heavens was once riding on His elephant named Airavata. After some time, Lord Indra came across the knowledgeable and powerful Sage who was named Durvasa. Sage Durvasa upon seeing the King of heaven (Lord Indra) was happy and offered Him a divine and mystical garland which was very precious. This garland was given to Sage Durvasa by a fairy. Lord Indra accepted the garland and placed it on the trunk of His Airavata. The flowers of the garland attracted some bees and soon the bees started hovering over the flowers which in turn irritated the elephant (Airavata). In no time, the Airavata flung the auspicious garland unintentionally on the ground. It was due to the discomfort the bees were causing. But witnessing this episode, Sage Durvasa became angry as this aromatic and beautiful garland was no ordinary garland but it was the abode of the divine Goddess Sri who is the goddess of wealth and fortune. His anger knew no bounds and without learning the fact of why Airavata threw the garland on the ground, Sage Durvasa cursed Lord Indra and all other Gods. Sage Durvasa was so agitated that He said that all the powers, strength, and energy that all the Gods possessed would be lost and that would make all the Gods common and powerless. Soon, after Sage Durvasa cursed all the Gods, they all became powerless and lost all their powers and energies.
The Origin of the Idea of performing Samudra Manthan
All the Gods started losing on the battlefield after the episode of Sage Durvasa cursing all the Gods. In every battle against the asuras (demons), the Gods would lose terribly. The Asura King named Bali won all the fights against devas and this was an alarming situation and all the Gods became worried and went to Lord Vishnu to seek His help. Lord Vishnu after learning the whole incident informed the Gods that only the divine elixir of immortality could restore their lost powers.
Gods and Demons come together to Churn the Milky Ocean: One of a kind and only collaboration ever
In the history of Hinduism, it was the only time when the Gods made a pact with the asuras (demons) to churn the vast ocean of Ksheer Sagar in unison as according to Lord Vishnu the elixir of mortality lay at the bottom of the ocean and Gods couldn’t churn such a vast ocean alone. Hence, the Gods approached the asuras and made a treaty with them that if they help them to churn the ocean they would equally distribute the elixir with them.
The Day of Churning the Milky Ocean and the Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu
On the day of churning the Ksheer Sagar, both asuras and Gods came together. Mount Mandara was utilized as the rod that would churn the Milky Ocean while Vasuki, the Snake God was assigned the role of being the rope which would be rolled around the mount Mandara and pulled from both the ends in turns to make the mountain move and likewise churn the ocean. The Asuras chose to hold the snake by its head while the Gods agreed to hold it by its tail. As soon as Mount Mandara was placed in the ocean and the churning began after a point the mountain began to sink into the ocean. When Lord Vishnu learned about the sinking of the Mountain He being the great disguiser, took the form of a turtle which is very well known as the Kurma avatar. As soon as He took the form of the turtle, He (Lord Vishnu) dived deep at the base of the ocean and took Mount Mandara on the shell which was on His back. This gave a base to the mountain and offered great support while churning the Ocean. The process of churning the Ksheer Sagar was carried on for decades together and it was a tedious process. The poisonous fumes that came out of Snake God Vasuki’s mouth poisoned the Asuras but they continued to pull the snake in order to churn the Ocean without stopping.
Precious Items that Emerged Out of the Ocean During the Churning Process
Churning the Milky Ocean was a long and exhausting process that took many years but during this churning, there were many valuable items and celestial treasures that emerged out of the ocean. Given below is the list of Samudra Manthan items that were shocking and surprising. These things were equally distributed among the Gods and the asuras. Given below are some of the items that came out of the Ocean during the process of churning.
- Goddess Lakshmi: The Goddess of riches, wealth, and fortune. Goddess Lakshmi chose Lord Vishnu as Her eternal consort.
- Nymphs (Apsaras): A number of different nymphs namely the Rambha, Menaka, Punjisthala, and like came out of the Ocean. These Apsaras chose the Gandharvas as their partners.
- Varuni: She was argumentative and was thus taken by the Asuras.
- Airavata: This was a huge elephant that had four tusks. The Airavata along with the other elephants were taken by Lord Indra.
- Kamadhenu or Surabhi: Thismystic animalwas the wish-granting cow that was taken by Lord Brahma. He later gave the Kamadhenu to the sages so that Her milk could be utilized to make ghee which would be used for Yajna other auspicious rituals.
- Uchhaishravas: This mystic animal was a seven-headed horse. This wonderful and powerful creature was taken by the asura, King Bali.
- Kaustubha: Kaustubha is the most precious Ratna (jewel) in the whole universe which emerged out of the ocean during the churning and which was taken by Lord Vishnu.
- Parijata: This was a divine tree which had flowers blossomed all over it. This tree was spectacular in appearance and the fragrance of its flowers was refreshing and good. It is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures that this tree was so precious that flowers on this tree never wilted. This tree was taken by Lord Indra to Indraloka
- Sharanga: This was a weapon, a divine bow to be specific. This weapon was presented to Lord Vishnu.
- Chandra: the moon adorned by Lord Shiva on His head.
- Shankha: This divine conch shell was taken by Lord Vishnu
- Jyestha(Alaxmi): She is known as the goddess of misfortune
- The umbrella: It was kept by Varuna
- The earrings: Lord Indra gavethis ornament to Aditi who was His mother
- Kalpavriksha: This was a wish-fulfilling tree
- Nidra or sloth
- Halahala: This was the lethal poison that Lord Shiva consumed.
- Lord Dhanvantari: The “Lord of medicine” who appeared out of the ocean holding the pot of Amrita, the nectar of immortality. (At times, considered as two separate Ratna)
The Fight for Elixir (Amrita/ nectar of immortality) and the Origination of Kumbh Mela
As soon as Lord Dhanvantri appeared with the pot of elixir, both gods and asuras began fighting as both of them wanted to drink the amrita first. As the asuras and devas started approaching the pot of nectar, Garuda who was Lord Vishnu’s eagle quickly took a flight and caught hold of the pot of amrita (elixir) and flew high in the sky. While flying a few drops of the nectar (exilir) fell in Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik, and Ujjain. These places are now the destinations of pilgrimage and the most famous Kumbh Mela thus came into existence and it is held every 12 years.
The Mohini avatar of Lord Vishnu
As the Garuda was flying away with the pot of nectar, one of the asuras somehow managed to get a hold of the pot. Now, the devas got worried and turned towards Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu came up with an idea to trick the asuras. He (Lord Vishnu) took the avatar of Mohini (a very beautiful looking woman) and tactfully managed to get the pot of nectar back from the asura by convincing them that She would equally distribute the nectar among devas and asuras. Mohini began serving the divine beings with nectar first. There was a clever asura named Rahu who masked himself as deva and joined the line of the divine beings to get the nectar. When Rahu drank some nectar, the Sun god Surya and the moon god Chandra saw that Rahu was veiled as a God and they promptly informed Lord Vishnu who was disguised as Mohini about the same. Lord Vishnu promptly threw His Sudarshana Chakra and beheaded the asura before the nectar could pass the asura’s throat. But still, a few drops of the nectar were consumed by the asura which made his body which was cut into two halves immortal. From that moment onwards the beheaded head of the demon was called Rahu whereas his remaining body was called the Ketu. By the time the remaining asura’s could discern that the beautiful woman was none other than Lord Vishnu Himself, the nectar was consumed by the devas.
Halahala – The Deadliest Poison that Lord Shiva consumed to safeguard all the living beings, celestial bodies, and the entire Universes:
One of the numerous things that arose out of the stirring of the Ocean of Milk was the deadly toxic substance known as Halahala. The toxic substance was horrible to such an extent that it could demolish the whole creation. Dreading this, the Gods moved toward Lord Shiva to spare the universes from being annihilated. Lord Shiva chose to drink the Halahala poison. As soon as He drank the Halahala, His throat started turning blue. On witnessing this, Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva quickly placed Her palm on the neck of Lord Shiva in order to stop the Halahala from passing down through His throat. Maa Parvati’s attempt to stop the lethal poison from flowing down through Lord Shiva’s throat was successful but Lord Shiva’s throat turned blue and from that moment onwards Lord Shiva was also called ‘Neelkantha’ where the word ‘Neel’ means the color Blue and ‘Kantha’ means throat.
This was all about the Samudra Manthan.