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The Churning of the Ocean

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Preparations were underway to stir up the ocean amidst great anticipation. The devas had been stripped of their power and riches by the asuras, prompting them to seek Lord Vishnu's aid. Following his instructions, the ocean was soon to be churned. On opposing sides stood King Bali and his army of asuras, and Indra along with his group of devas. Mount Mandara was to serve as the churning rod, while the great serpent Vasuki was to be used as the churning rope. The ultimate objective was to obtain the elixir of immortality.

As the process of churning began, they discovered that the mountain was unable to remain steady since there was no firm foundation beneath it to uphold its weight. In response, the Lord transformed into Kurma the Tortoise and assumed the responsibility of carrying the entire weight of the mountain on his back.

The churning process recommenced but encountered yet another issue soon after. A deadly poison, Halahala, emerged from the ocean and threatened to destroy everything in existence. The devas were filled with terror and quickly sought refuge in Mahadeva, praising him to win his favor. Being a friend to all, Shiva agreed to ingest the poison to save all living beings. As he consumed it, his throat turned blue, earning him the name "Nilakantha." Not just Shiva but all good and devoted people generally feel the sufferings of others as their own. Their empathy with others is the highest form of worship of the Supreme Being, who is the soul of all.

The churning process persisted, and numerous divine treasures started to surface from the ocean. Initially, a celestial cow named Kamadhenu emerged, followed by a horse named Ucchaishravas, a snow-white elephant with four tusks called Airavata, and the Kaustubha gem. Eventually, the wish-fulfilling Parijata tree appeared. Despite this, the devas and asuras persisted with the churning. Subsequently, heavenly maidens known as Apsaras came forth, and ultimately, the most stunning of all, Lakshmi Devi, emerged from the ocean.

The devas and asuras were captivated by Lakshmi's beauty, and they began to shower her with offerings and worship. Subsequently, Lakshmi herself began searching for a suitable partner.

Lakshmi pondered, "Certain individuals, like Durvasa, may practice spiritual discipline but have not overcome their anger. While some, like Brahma and Chandra, possess a noble soul, they have yet to conquer their lust. Then there are those who possess knowledge, but they have not succeeded in ridding themselves of desire, such as Shukracharya. Some individuals have a strong sense of righteousness, but they lack compassion, like Parashurama. Others may have a long lifespan, but they may not be physically attractive, like Markandeya. And then there are those, such as Sanaka, who have all the virtues but will never marry. However, Vishnu embodies all the virtues. No one is like Vishnu. Therefore, I desire Lord Maha Vishnu as my husband." Lakshmi adorned Maha Vishnu with a garland of lotuses, and he accepted her as his bride.

Once again, the churning continued, and Varuni, a girl, emerged from the ocean, whom the asuras claimed as their own. Finally, after a long time, Dhanvantari emerged from the tumultuous waters holding the pot of nectar. The covetous asuras immediately seized the pot and absconded with it. The devas' laborious endeavor to obtain the nectar of immortality now seemed futile as the asuras had seized it.

The devas approached Maha Vishnu for assistance, and he pledged to recover the nectar pot. He then transformed himself into an incredibly attractive woman, Mohini. The asuras, preoccupied with their internal bickering about who would have the first sip of the nectar, were charmed by Mohini, and they gave her the pot of nectar without a second thought. They said, ‘Please settle our dispute and bring good to us all.’ While Mohini seduced the asuras with her sweet words, she distributed all the nectar among the devas.

Among the asuras, Rahu was the most crafty. He cleverly disguised himself and sneaked in among the devas to get a sip of the nectar. However, the sun and moon, Surya and Chandra, recognized him and exposed his true identity. In response, Shri Krishna, using his divine chakra, cut off the body of Rahu, leaving only his head. Though Rahu had consumed the nectar and became immortal, he was not able to die completely. Therefore, his head continuously chases the sun and moon to seek revenge on them. Occasionally during an eclipse, Rahu manages to swallow them.

Upon giving the nectar to the devas, Shri Krishna discarded his female disguise and returned to his original form before departing. The devas were granted immortality upon consuming the nectar, but the asuras were left empty-handed and infuriated. Driven by their leader, Bali, they launched an assault on the devas, but were ultimately vanquished after a grueling and fierce battle.

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