Samudra Manthan And The Extraction of Immortality Nectar

The Bhagavad Gita narrates the story of Samudra Manthan, which tells the story of the trials and tribulations of obtaining Amrith, or immortality nectar, from the heavenly ocean. Seeking Shiva's help in swallowing poison, disguised damsels, and warfare between the Devas and the Asuras all contributed to the Amrita's eventual appearance after years of laborious churning.
Scenes from Samudra Manthan from Bhagavat Gita. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Scenes from Samudra Manthan from Bhagavat Gita. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vishnu orchestrated the churning of the cosmic ocean in order to achieve amrith. The asuras (demons) and devas (benevolent supernatural beings) were forced to participate, but they began to quarrel over how the amrith would be shared between them. The churning of the Ocean of Milk was a laborious process and to achieve this, Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod and Vasuki, the snake that resides on Shiva's neck, as the churning rope.

Vishnu suggested to the Devas that they negotiate a peace treaty with the Asuras in exchange for something precious. After reaching an agreement, the Devas, aided by the Asura king Mahabali who was a devotee of Vishnu, took the tail side and the Asuras took the head side of Vasuki, and they began the work at hand.

Even though their hands were powerful enough to keep the mountain aloft, it could not remain afloat and sunk to the bottom. Vishnu took the form of a tortoise and leaped into the ocean, lifting the Mandara Mountain eight hundred thousand miles upward, with Brahma giving counter-balance from the top. Given his enormous power, the weight of the mountain on Vishnu's shell felt pleasing. Meanwhile, the Devas and Asuras were reenergized and resumed the churning process.

However, soon Vasuki began to breathe smoke and flaming fire into the Asuras, gradually reducing their strength.

After years of churning, the first thing to emerge was halahala (the most dangerous poison). It was so virulent that it threatened to endanger the entire world. As a result, both the Devas and the Asuras began to crumble.

Only Shiva, according to Vishnu, could consume such a terrible poison. Devas and Asuras travelled to Mount Kailash to seek Shiva's assistance. Shiva consented to drink the poison and Devi Parvati held the poison on Shiva's neck with her hand while sipping halahala. As a result, she was given the name Vishakantha, which means "the one who carried poison in his throat." Because the poison made Lord Shiva's throat blue, he was known as Nilakantha, the one with a blue throat.

When the cosmos was restored to safety as a consequence of the Devas and Asuras resuming the churning process, a number of individuals arrived there. Kamadhenu the cow appeared. Then Uccaihsrava, a seven-headed winged horse, came. Bali Maharaja requested Indra for the horse, to which Indra accepted. Then there arrived eight enormous male elephants led by Airavata and eight great female elephants led by Abhramu.

Following that appeared the Parijat flower, often known as the night blooming jasmine, a wonderful flower that never wilts. The Devas transported it to Indraloka. The Apsaras followed, headed by Rambha, Menaka, Punyasthala, and others. They were adorned with jewellery and lockets, as well as sensuous and appealing attire. The Apsaras picked the Devas to accompany them.

Then arrived Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, who welcomed Vishnu as her everlasting consort. A mighty bow, Chandra from Shiva's head, Shankha Vishnu's conch, Jyestha the Goddess of Misfortune, an umbrella, earrings, a tulsi plant, and Nidra (sloth) appeared, too. The process dragged on for years and years, but the amrith never appeared. They grew tired and frustrated, but they persisted.

A strong-built man appeared with a jug full of amrith. Their strenuous labor bore its fruits. He was Vishnu disguised as Dhanvantari, who acted as the Deva's physician. The Asuras instantly stole the jug from Dhanvantari, and a conflict erupted again. When they were struggling, four droplets of Amrit fell at four locations: Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik, which is why the Kumbh Mela is celebrated in these locations every 12 years.

To resolve the fight, Vishnu took the appearance of the lovely damsel Mohini, who enchanted the Asuras with her beauty and promised to distribute the Amrit fairly among both parties. The Asuras were so enamored by her that they didn't realize they were being duped. She was just giving the Amrit to the Devas.

Cleverly, Rahu the Asura transformed himself into a Deva and sat among them. But his brightness was nothing like that of a real Deva. Surya and Chandra soon spotted this and notified Vishnu, who was in the avatar of Mohini. Mohini used the Sudarshana Chakra to sever his head. But  Rahu had already taken the amrith. An immortal demon was created and he did not die. Since then, his head has been known as Rahu, and his body has been known as Ketu, which eventually created planets.

The Devas were now immortal, and they easily defeated the Asuras in any of the future battles!


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