churning of the milky ocean

churning of the milky ocean

▪ Hindu mythology
      in Hindu mythology, one of the central events in the ever-continuing struggle between the devas (gods) and the asuras (demons, or titans). The gods, who had become weakened as a result of a curse by the irascible sage, Durvāsas, invited the asuras to help them recover the elixir of immortality, the amṛta, from the depths of the cosmic ocean.

      Mt. Mandara, a spur of the world axis, Mt. Meru, was torn out to use as a churning stick and was steadied at the bottom of the ocean by Vishnu in his aspect as the tortoise Kūrma. The asuras held the head of the nāga (serpent) Vāsuki, who was procured for a churning rope, and the gods held his tail. When Vāsuki's head hit the rocks and he vomited forth poison that threatened to fall into the ocean and contaminate the amṛta, the god Śiva took it and held it in his throat, a feat that turned his throat blue.

      In the churning of the ocean many wonderful treasures that became the prototypes for their earthly and heavenly counterparts were brought up from the depths: (1) Candra, the moon; (2) pārijāta, a beautiful and fragrant tree now planted in Indra's heaven; (3) the four-tusked elephant Airāvata, Indra's mount; (4) Kāmadhenu, the cow of plenty; (5) Madirā, the goddess of wine, who became Vāruṇī, the wife of Varuṇa; (6) Kalpavṛkṣa, the wish-fulfilling tree; (7) the apsaras (nymph) Rambhā; (8) the celestial horse Uccaiḥśravas; (9) the goddess Lakṣmī, who became the wife of Vishnu; (10) Pāñcajanya, Vishnu's conch; (11) Gadā, Vishnu's mace, and Dhanus, his magic bow; (12) Ratna (various gems); (13-14) Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, who rose up out of the waters carrying in his hands the supreme treasure, the amṛta.

      When the amṛta appeared, the gods and the asuras fought over its possession, though they had originally agreed to share it equally. After many adventures, it was finally consumed by the gods, who were thus restored in strength.

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Universalium. 2010.

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