Samudra manthan (The churning of the ocean of milk)


In Hinduism, Samudra manthan or Churning of the Ocean of Milk is one of the best known episodes in the Hindu mythology. The story appears in the Bhagavata Purana, the Mahabharata and the Vishnu Purana.
Samudra mathanam — Mathanam is the Sanskrit equivalent of Manthan meaning 'to churn'.
Sagar manthan — Sagar is another word for Samudra, both meaning an ocean or large water body.
Kshirsagar manthan — Kshirsagar means the ocean of milk. Kshirsagar = Kshir (milk) + Sagar (ocean).
(Wikipedia)

 

Samudra manthan (The churning of the ocean of milk) - The legend


Samudra manthan: The churning of the ocean of milk
Samudra manthan (The churning of the ocean of milk)
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Indra, the King of Devas (gods), while riding on an elephant Airawat, came across Sage Durvasa who offered him a special garland given to him by the god Shiva. Indra accepted the garland, placing it on the trunk of the elephant as a test to prove that he was not an egoistic god. The elephant, knowing that Indra had no control over his own ego, threw the garland to the ground. This enraged the sage as the garland was a dwelling of Sri (fortune) and was to be treated as prasada. Durvasa cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.

In battles that followed this incident, the Devas were defeated and Asuras (demons) led by King Bali gained control of the universe. Devas sought help from the god Vishnu Who advised them to treat asuras in a diplomatic manner. Devas formed an alliance with asuras to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality and to share it among them. However, Vishnu told Devas that He would arrange that they alone obtain the nectar.

The churning of the Ocean of Milk was an elaborate process. Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, who abides on Shiva's neck, became the churning rope. The demons demanded to hold the head of the snake, while the gods taking advice from Vishnu, agreed to hold its tail. As a result the demons were poisoned by fumes emitted by Vasuki. Despite this, the gods and demons pulled back and forth on the snake's body alternately, causing the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean. However, once the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink. Vishnu, in the form of a turtle Kurma, came to their rescue and supported the mountain on his back.

 

Shiva consumed the poison in an act to protect the universe
Shiva consumed the poison in an act to protect the universe
Samudra Manthan as a Roadmap for Sadhana (a spititual practice)
Image source: www.exoticindiaart.com

The Samudra Manthan process released a number of things from the Milk Ocean. One product was the lethal poison known as Halahal. (In some versions of the story, this poison escaped from the mouth of the serpent king as the demons and gods churned.) This terrified the gods and demons because the poison was so powerful that it can destroy all of creation. Then the gods approached Shiva for protection. Shiva consumed the poison in an act to protect the universe, and his wife Parvati pressed her hand on Shiva's throat to save the universe. As a result, The color of Shiva's neck turned blue. For this reason, Lord Shiva is also called Neelakanta (the blue-throated one; "neela" = "blue", "kantha" = "throat" in Sanskrit).

 

Fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures)

Samudra Manthan showing Fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures)
Samudra Manthan showing Fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures)
Image source: japanesemythology.wordpress.com  Copy

Sagar Manthan showing Fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures)
Sagar Manthan showing Fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

All kinds of herbs were cast into the ocean and fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures) were produced from the ocean and were divided between asuras and gods. Though usually the Ratnas are enumerated as 14, the list in the scriptures ranges from 9 to 14 Ratnas. Most lists include: According to the quality of the treasures produced, they were accepted by Vishnu, the devas, and the asuras. There were three categories of Goddesses which emerged from the ocean;

Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth - who accepted Vishnu as Her eternal consort.
Apsaras, various divine nymphs like Rambha, Menaka, Punjisthala etc. - chose the demigods as their companions
Varuni or Sura, goddess and creator of alcohol - taken - somewhat reluctantly (she appeared dishevelled and argumentative) - accepted the demons.

Likewise, three types of supernatural animals appeared;
Kamadhenu or Surabhi(Sanskrit:kāmadhuk), the wish-granting divine cow - taken by Vishnu, and given to sages so ghee from her milk could be used in sacrifices.
Airavata, and several other elephants, taken by Indra, leader of the devas.
Uchhaishravas, the divine 7-headed horse - given to the demons.

There were three valuables;
Kaustubha, the most valuable jewel in the world, worn by lord Vishnu.
Parijat, the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt - taken to Indraloka by the devas.
Sharanga, A powerful bow - symbolic of the demon's belligerence.

Additionally produced were;
Chandra, the moon which adorned Shiva's head
Dhanvantari, the doctor of the gods with Amrita the nectar of immortality. (At times, considered as two different Ratnas)
Halahala, the poison swallowed by Shiva

This list varies from Purana to Purana and is also slightly different in the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Lists are completed by adding the following Ratnas:
Shankha Vishnu's conch
Jyestha - the goddess of misfortune
the umbrella taken by Varuna
the earrings given to Aditi, by her son Indra
Kalpavriksha plant
Nidra or sloth

Here is a famous chant describing the 14 Ratnas from the Churning of the Milky Ocean.
लक्ष्मीः कौस्तुभपारिजातकसुराधन्वन्तरिश्चन्द्रमाः। ::
गावः कामदुहा सुरेश्वरगजो रम्भादिदेवाङ्गनाः। ::
अश्वः सप्तमुखो विषं हरिधनुः शङ्खोमृतं चाम्बुधेः।::
रत्नानीह चतुर्दश प्रतिदिनं कुर्यात्सदा मङ्गलम्। ::

"Lakshmeeh kaustubhapaarijaatakasuraadhantarischandramaah, Gaavah kaamaduhaa sureswaragajorambhadidevaanganaah, Ashwah saptamukhovisam haridhanuh sankhomrtam chaambudheh, Ratnaaneeha chaturdasa pratidinam kuryaatsadaa mangalam."

 

The nectar of immortality

Shiva consumed the poison in an act to protect the universe
Mohini, the female form of Vishnu holding the pot of Amrit which she distributes amongst all gods leaving aside demons.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Reference: en.wikipedia.org: Amrita

Finally, Dhanvantari, the heavenly physician, emerged with a pot containing Amrita, the heavenly nectar of immortality. Fierce fighting ensued between Devas and Asuras for the nectar. To protect the nectar from Asuras, the divine Garuda took the pot, and flew away from the battle-scene. While Garuda was in his flight over planet Earth, it is believed that four drops of nectar fell at four places - Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.

This legend is the basis for the belief that these places acquired a certain mystical power and spirituality.A Kumbh Mela is celebrated at the four places every twelve years for this reason. People believe that after bathing there during the Kumbha mela, one can get the primeval heaven and moksha(Sanskrit:mokṣha).

Devas (demigods) appealed to Vishnu, who then took the form of Mohini and as a beautiful and enchanting damsel, Mohini distracted the asuras, took the amrita, and distributed it among the Devas, who drank it. Asura RahuKetu, disguised himself as a deva and drank some nectar. Due to their luminous nature, the sun god Surya and the moon god Chandra noticed the switching of sides. They informed Mohini. But before the nectar could pass his throat, Mohini cut off his head with her divine discus, the Sudarshana Chakra.But as the nectar had gone down his throat he did not die. From that day, his head was called Rahu and body was called Ketu. Later Rahu and Ketu became planets. The story ends with the rejuvenated Devas defeating the asuras.

 

 


Other versions of Samudra manthan (The churning of the ocean of milk)

 

Samudra Manthan - The Churning of the Milk Ocean

Samudra manthan: The churning of the ocean of milk

Samudra Manthan - The Churning of the Milk Ocean  

Image source and reference: #4: Samudra Manthan - The Churning of the Milk Ocean


 

Story of ocean churning

Story of ocean churning

Story of ocean churning

Image source and reference: sahajshruti.wordpress.com

 

 

Vishnu Kurmavatara and the churning of the milk ocean

Vishnu Kurmavatara and the churning of the milk ocean

#8: Vishnu Kurmavatara and the churning of the milk ocean

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Sculpture on Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok

Sculpture on Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok

#9: Sculpture on Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok

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Samudra manthan (The churning of the ocean of milk) at Angkor Wat & Preah Khan, Cambodia

Churning of the Sea of Milk, Angkor Wat

Churning of the Sea of Milk, Angkor Wat

#1: Churning of the Sea of Milk, Angkor Wat

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The churning of the ocean of milk

The churning of the ocean of milk

#2: The churning of the ocean of milk

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Samudra Manthan or (Devanagari: समुद्र मंथन)

Samudra Manthan or (Devanagari: समुद्र मंथन)

Samudra Manthan or (Devanagari: समुद्र मंथन) - The churning of the ocean of milk

Image source: www.asisbiz.com and commons.wikimedia.org

Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Churning of the Ocean of Milk

#4: Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Image source: www.flickr.com


 

Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Churning of the Ocean of Milk

#5: Churning of the Ocean of Milk

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Scenes from The Churning of the Ocean of Milk (at Preah Khan)

Scenes from The Churning of the Ocean of Milk (at Preah Khan)

#6: Scenes from The Churning of the Ocean of Milk (at Preah Khan)

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Puranic account of Churning of the Sea

Bhagavata Purana


Churning of the Sea

King Parikshit asked, "O great sage, how did God cause churning of the sea. What was the purpose behind it? Kindly tell me?" Shukdev says, "Parikshit, in the sixth Chakshush Manvantara,the demons king Bali had defeated the gods.

Indra had also lost his glory by insulting the garland which sage Durvasa had presented to him as a God's gift. Indra had put the garland in elephant's neck and then got it crushed under its feet. But now having lost his kingdom and struck by misfortune, Indra and other gods with Brahma prayed to the Lord . Melted by their prayers, God appeared before them. All the gods laid before Him and worshiped. The omnipotent God inspired the gods to churn the sea.

Lord asked the gods to churn the sea and produce nectar. He also advised them to take the help of demons in that great task. Drinking the nectar one becomes immortal. God asked the gods to put various medicinal plants and vegetations in Kshirsagar (sea of milk) and churn it by Mandarachal Mountain moving it with the help of Vasuki the naga. God promised them of all help from His part.
Thereafter, Indra and other gods went unarmed to the demon king Bali and told him of their intention. Demons too liked the idea. With a friendly attitude then the gods and the demons together uprooted the mount Mandarachal. But they could not carry it to the sea. Lord appeared on Garuda and carried the mountain to the sea.

The gods and demons had promised Vasuki, the Naga his due share in the nectar. So Vasuki allowed them to use him as a rope, wound around Mandarachal as a means to move it. In the incarnation of Ajit, Lord told the gods to hold the head of Vasuki. But the demons suspecting some mischief said they would hold the head and asked the gods to hold the Naga from the tail for churning. Thus the gods held the tail while the demons took hold of Vasuki's head.

Thus they began the churning. But as soon as the churning began the mountain started sinking for not having a firm base. Lord then took Kachchhap (tortoise) incarnation and supported Mandarachal on His back. On the mountain also Lord appeared in Sahastrabahu form, and held it. The gods and the demons churned the sea for long but nothing emerged. So, Lord Ajit himself began to churn the sea. First of all, it was Halahal, the deadly poison to emerg. The intensity of the poison began to torment every being. To save their subjects from it, Prajapatis prayed Lord Lord Shiva. The life-giver, Lord Bholenath (an epithet of Lord Shiva) drank all the poison. By the impact of the poison, Lord Lord Shiva's throat turned blue in color. Hence Lord Shiva got the name Nilakantha.

Emergence of Gems & Nectar: After Lord Shiva drank the poison, the gods and the demons began to churn the sea again with greater enthusiasm. Now, Kamadhenu, the divine cow emerged. She was useful for Yagya etc. so the sages received it. Then a horse named Uchchaishrava, emerged and taken up by Bali the king of demons. The horse was followed by Airavat the elephant. Indra took it. The divine gem, Kaustubh Mani, emerged then. Lord Ajit took it on His chest. Then emerged the Kalpvriksha, the divine tree that reached the heavens. Then the elves emerged. They all accepted to serve Indra in Heaven.

Goddess Lakshmi emerged after the elves. All the azimuths were lighted because of her brilliance. Everyone was attracted towards her beauty, generosity, youthfulness, appearance and glory. Devaraj Indra presented a throne for her to sit. Rivers brought water for her ceremonial bath. The earth presented medicinal bath. Cows gave Panchganyas and Vasant (spring) presented many kinds of fruits and flowers. The sages welcomed Lakshmi with Rigsuktas (hymns of Rigveda). Gandharvas sang in her praise. Then taking the lotus in her hand, Lakshmi took a seat on the throne. Sea donned her with a beautiful silk saree. Varun presented a garland. Saraswati gifted her with a necklace of pearls. Brahma presented lotus while Nagas presented two earrings.

After the singing by Brahmins in her praise, Lakshmi took lotus garland in her hand and put it around Lord Vishnu's neck in a gesture of accepting Him as her husband. Jagatpita, Lord Vishnu too gave Lakshmi a supreme position in His heart. Lakshmi was followed by Varuni who was taken up by the demons.

The gods and the demons began to churn the sea again. At last lord Dhanvantari emerged with an urn of nectar. It was Dhanvantari who developed Ayurved, the ancient Indian system of medicine. As soon as the demons saw the urn, they snatched it and ran away. A row then began among the demons over the drinking of nectar. Consoling the gods, Lord appeared among the demons in the guise of an extremely pretty woman, Mohini.

Distribution of Nectar by Lord as Mohini: The demons who were fighting over the potions of nectar forgot everything when they saw Mohini, who was actually a guise of Lord Vishnu. Lured by her prettiness the demons came to Mohini and requested her to solve the dispute for them. Illusioned by God, the demons even gave the nectar to Mohini and sat peacefully showing their confidence in her. In Mohini's guise, Lord thought that the demons were congenitally cruel and giving nectar to them would be akin to feeding sakes with milk. Their evils would increase.

So, Mohini offered the nectar to the gods only while offered wine to the demons. When the nectar was being distributed, a demon named Rahu took the guise of a god and sitting among them drank the nectar. Suurya and Chandra spotted him and revealed his identity to God, who at once beheaded him. But, by then Rahu had drunk enough nectar.

SKANDA PURANA


Churning of the Ocean

Sage Lomesh narrated the tale, which described how Indra lost heaven after he showed disrespect to Vrihaspati--

Once, Indra was enjoying the songs sung by Gandharvas when sage Vashishth arrived. But, Indra was so engrossed in music, that he forgot to welcome his distinguished guest. Sage Vashishth was enraged by his behaviour and went away fuming with anger.When the demon King Bali--the lord of Patalloka, learnt about this incident he attacked Indraloka with a large army. A fierce battle took place in which all the deities were defeated. Bali and his army brought all the wealth to Patalloka. But the demons were not destined to be the owner of this plundered wealth for too long as the whole wealth got submerged into the ocean. Bali was surprised and asked Shukracharya about the reason. Sage Shukracharya revealed to Bali that he could not enjoy the splendours of deities' wealth because he had not performed 100 Ashwamedha yagyas.

The deities, after being defeated went to seek Lord Vishnu's help. Lord Brahma was also present with them. After giving a deep thought to the whole issue, Lord Vishnu advised them to patch up with the demons so that all the wealth could be retrieved from the ocean bed.The deities went to Patal-loka and convinced the demons to participate in the churning of the ocean. When the process of churning of the ocean began, Mandarachal mountain was used as a churner and the serpent -Vasuki as the rope.Both the parties immersed the Mandarachal mountain into the ocean but it sank down, as there was no base upon which it could be placed. So, Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise and held the mountain on his back.

Churning of the ocean resulted into the emergence of many things like Chandrama, Surabhi (cow), Kalpa tree, Kaustubh, Uchchaihshrava (Horse), Eravat (elephant), goddess Laxmi, poison, ambrosia, intoxication etc.When poison emerged from the sea bed, neither the deities nor the demons made any claim for it. The poison was so venomous that the whole world started getting inflamed by it. Lord Shiva then drank the Halahal poison and thus the world was saved.Lord Vishnu accepted goddess Laxmi as his consort.

The Emergence of Ambrosia

When Dhanvantri appeared with a pot of ambrosia in his hands, a demon named Vrishparva snatched it from him. All the demons then fled to Patal loka with the pot of ambrosia.Lord Vishnu disguised himself as an enchanting beauty and went to Patalloka. There, he found all the demons quarrelling among themselves. Each of them wanted to have his own share of ambrosia.The demons were stunned by Mohini's beauty the moment they saw Lord Vishnu in the form of a beautiful lady. Mohini took control of the ambrosia pot and summoned the deities to Patal loka.

All the deities and demons were made to sit in separate rows. Mohini then started distributing ambrosia to the deities. A demon named Rahu, who had disguised himself as a deity was also sitting among the deities. Hardly had Rahu gulped down some ambrosia then Mohini severed his head on the information given by chandrama (Moon).The severed head of Rahu tried to take revenge by swallowing chandrama, who took the refuge of Lord Shiva. Shiva kept chandrama within the lock of his hair. Meanwhile, Rahu too came chasing chandrama and Lord Shiva wore his head as a garland in his neck.

Mohini, the only female avatar of Vishnu (statue in a Belur temple, Karnataka, India)

Mohini, the only female avatar of Vishnu (statue in a Belur temple, Karnataka, India)