Updated: May 21, 2020
Samudra Manthan or Sagar Manthan is one of the most celebrated stories in Hindu philosophy. It teaches us that in times of distress people regardless of their race and differences have always come together and fought in unity. For those of us who have not heard of this story do give it a read.
Long ago when one of the greatest saints of earth rishi Durvasa happened to meet Indra, the lord of heavens, he presented Indra with a sacred garland. The garland was made of flowers that were very dear to Lord Vishnu and were offered to Lord Vishnu during his worship. Indra didn’t pay much respect to it and made his elephant Airavata wear it. The elephant threw the garland away. This enraged Durvasa and he cursed Indra that he and his entire race will lose all their prosperity and power. They will even become mortals because of Indra’s arrogance.
The curse started showing its effects and the Gods started losing all their powers. They were defeated by the Demons time and again and Demons started to rule the world. Grief-stricken they decided to visit Lord Vishnu for a solution. Due to this curse on Gods, all the fortunes of the world had submerged into the Ocean and darkness fell upon the entire world. The fortunes had to be churned out of the milky ocean however this could not be done by the gods alone as it required a lot of strength. Vishnu asked the Gods to collaborate with the Demons and churn the ocean. But why would the Demons agree to team up with the Gods? The Gods went and told the Demon clan that the churning of the ocean will bring out the nectar of immortality (also called Amrita). The Gods told them that if they helped them to churn the ocean, they shall also receive the nectar and hence become immortal. The Demons agreed upon hearing this. The stage was set and the team was ready but now they needed equipment to churn the milky ocean. Mount Mandara was used as a churning rod and Vasuki,(the serpent god who aboded on Shiva’s neck was used a churning rope. Mount Mandara was huge and because of its weight, it began to sink in the ocean. This is when Lord Vishnu in the form of Kurma (Turtle) came to their rescue and supported Mount Mandara on his shell.
The Gods and Demons continued churning the ocean back and forth for several thousand years. The continuous churning resulted in the release of the following
Goddess Lakshmi, Apsaras or Divine nymphs, Kamdhenu (The wish-granting cow), Airavata and other elephants, jewels, the Moon-god, Kalpavriksha (the divine wish-granting tree), Bow and arrow. Along with all this, even Halahal (poison) sprang out of the ocean. The poison was consumed by Lord Shiva before it could destroy the world. Goddess Parvati held Shiva’s neck so that the poison could not go beyond his neck This is why Lord Shiva is also called Neelkantha. Finally, the God of medicine Dhanvantari sprang out of the ocean. He carried the nectar of immortality with him. The clever demons got hold of the entire nectar and they tried to escape from there without giving it to the Gods. This is when Lord Vishnu took an avatar as Mohini the enchantress and seduced the demons to an extent that they agreed to give away the nectar to her. Mohini made all the Gods and Demons sit opposite to each other and started pouring the nectar one by one. She gave regular water to the demons and gave the entire nectar to gods. Vishnu knew that if demons were given the boon of immortality they shall create havoc on earth. Hence Mohini decided to cheat them. However, Rahu (Demon King) got suspicious and disguised himself as a God and sat with the Gods when the nectar was being distributed. He somehow managed to cheat the Gods and got to drink the nectar of immortality. When Lord Vishnu realized that Rahu cheated this way he cut Rahu’s body into 2 halves, Rahu being his head and Ketu being his body.
Finally, after this episode, the gods got back their powers again and balance was restored.
Samudra Manthan teaches us the power of unity and teamwork. Teamwork and collaboration is necessary and the only lesson we need to learn here on this planet. Only when our body cells work together as a team we are able to survive here. The hands, the legs, the mouth everything works together to feed the stomach. Similarly only if all the species on earth work together in collaboration we will succeed as a planet. The planet existed before mankind. If mankind decides to act irresponsibly and disrespect the planet we shall be kicked out of the planet just as the Gods were cursed. Hence time to act responsibly and live in harmony with all the beings here!!
Art Credit: Artist unknown Listen Audio In Hindi