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Samudra Manthan – The Churning of oceans

Hindu religion is one of the oldest religions in the world based on ancient texts Vedas and Puranas. It is believed that Ved Vyasa was a compiler of Vedas which are divided into four categories, Rig Veda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. Puranas are religious text-based on Vedas. Samudra Manthan is a very famous episode mentioned in various texts like Vishnu Purana and Bhagavad Purana. This story describes the origin of an Amrut elixir of immortality. The southern part of South India, an area near Angkor Wat is described as the place where this event was believed to happen. In ancient Hindu texts, there are many stories of Devas (Gods) and Asura (Demons). Devas are gods in ancients Hindu texts while Asura’s is a community in opposition to Devas. Asura were superhumans who were demigod with immense power. Several battles have been fought between them for ages.

Why Devas and Asuras got reunited for Samudra Manthan after several battles?

Once Lord Indra king of Devlok riding on his elephant Airavata came across Rishi Durvasa. Rishi Durvasa gave Lord Indra garland of flowers as a token of gift. Lord Indra pleased with a gesture from Rishi hanged garland of flowers on Airavata. Airavata knew Indra had big ego issues, he was always too proud of himself considering himself superior from other beings. So knowing Lord Indras nature Airavat threw garland away. By this act, Rishi Durvasa felt insulted as the garland was his blessing. In anger, he cursed Indra that he will be deprived of all his strength, wealth and power. After this incident, many battles took place between Devas and Asuras. Devas army always got defeated by Bali in charge of the Asura army. Slowly Bali with help of Asura army gained control over all three worlds. Indra king of Devas tired of losing so many battles went to Lord Vishnu to seek help. Lord Vishnu advised Indra to set diplomatic relations with Asura, gain their confidence in obtaining the immortal elixir.

Lord Vishnu advised all the Devas to get united with Asuras in order to gain immortality nectar. Lord assured all devas that he will make sure that only Devas will get Elixir to drink. Indra went to Asuras requesting their aid to acquire immortal nectar, he assured all Asuras equal division of elixir. Samudra Manthan was also known as Sagar Manthan the process of the churning of oceans. This process being complex was not possible to be executed by Devas alone. Samudra Manthan was a complicated process, Lord Vishnu supported this process in many different ways. Mount Mandara was used as churning rod for churning and Vasuki the King of Nagas(Serpent) who had a thousand heads became the churning rope for Samudra Manthan. Vasuki was blessed by Lord Shiva’s gem called Nagmani which the serpent king used to wear on his head. He is mentioned in both epic saga Ramayan and Mahabharat. Now when Mount Mandara was placed in the ocean it started to slide deep in the ocean’s depth. To stop sliding Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise named Kuma took the entire weight of Mount Mandara on his back. Kuma was the second avatar of Lord Vishnu. Once the pole was balanced it was tied by enormous serpent Vasuki, both Asura and Devas started pulling from their sides to start the churning process. It is said that during the churning of the there were fourteen Ratna’s acquired.

Fourteen Ratnas found during the process of Samudra Manthan

1. Halala (The poison)

After struggling for many years the first thing that came out of Samudra Manthan was a pot of Halala(Poison). It was said that Halala was so lethal that it destroys the entire creation of the universe. Devas and Asuras went to Lord Vishnu to seek help. Lord Vishnu advised them to pursue help from Lord Shiva. Shiva swallowed the entire pot of Halala as self-sacrifice in order to save entire creation. Parvati (wife of Shiva) got scared by the thought of losing her beloved husband Halala slipping down further from Shiva’s neck. The poison remained trapped in Shiva’s neck, toxins were so strong it made his neck turn blue in color. From that time Lord Shiva is also named Neelkanth (God with a blue neck). It is believed that while drinking Halala one drop of poison mistakenly fell on earth was consumed by reptiles and other animals possessing poisonous venom.


2.Kamdhenu Cow

After Halala all devas and Asuras were putting lots of effort into churning. Cow Kamdhenu came out from churning after the poison. Brahmins accepted this cow as she would be helpful for providing the contents for Yagya( auspicious Hindu rituals). In many mythological stories, this cow is described as a mystical being. It’s been said that Kamdhenu had magical powers, it would relieve the sufferings of the people just by its sight. Kamdhenu milk is considered best among all the other cows. Kamdhenu is considered as Goddess in the Hindu religion also known as “Gou Mata” (Mother of all cows). All cows in the Hindu religion are considered sacred as they are believed to be originated from Kamdhenu. 

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3. Uchchaihshravas – Seven Headed flying horse

Third Ratna to come out during Samudra Manthan was Uchchaihsshravas the seven-headed flying horse, prototype among the king’s horses. This horse was snow-white in color and it was given to Bali King of Asuras. There is a reference to Uchchaihshravas in Bhagavad Gita when Lord Krishna (Avatar of Lord Vishnu) describes Arjun about the best horse born out of Amrut( immortal nectar). Uchchaihshravas is mentioned as one of the best horses in Matsya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana.

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4. Airavata – The Elephant

Fourth Ratna obtained during Samudra Manthan was an elephant named Airavata. Airavata is described as the elephant having four teeth. Lord Indra was allocated this elephant during Samudra Manthan. As the elephant was born from the power of the Amrut immortal elixir it had divine powers. Other elephants came out during the churning process. Legends say that Airavata stands in the entrance of heaven Devlok Indra’s palace. Airavata with other elephants came out during Samudra Manthan are guards for eight Deities of direction.


5. Kaustubh Mani – The Divine Gem

After Airavata another Ratna came out was Kaustubh Mani, the most divine gem in the entire universe. It’s believed that the shining of this gem was so radiant that possession of this jewel can make any person so greedy for keeping it forever. It was only Lord Vishnu who could have handled its powers so it was under his possession. This divine jewel was worn by Vishnu in his garland near his neck. The one who possesses this jewel bestows fame, fortune, power, invincibility.

Kaustubh the gem
Kaustubh the gem

6. Kalpvriksha – The Divine Tree

Kalpvriksha is a divine tree also known as Kalptaru meaning World Tree. This spiritual tree is a wish-fulfilling tree originated from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. It is also mentioned as a world tree theoretically known to be Milky Way roots of the entire galaxy. After Samudra Manthan when Indra returned to Devlok he brought this tree with him and planted it in his palace. There are five Kalvriksha in Devlok which are Mandana, Parijata, Santana Kalpvriksha and Harichandana. All of these are known for fulfilling various wishes.

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7. Parijat

After Kalpvriksha came Parijat flower during the process of churning. Parijat is a night flowering tree that smells like jasmine.there is also mention of this tree in Mahabharat and Bhagavad Purana. This tree is said to blossom on top of Mount Meru and was identified as Indian coral. Its fragrance was so mesmerizing that Indra could not resist and took this tree to Devlok. In Puranas, it also said that Krishna and Satyabhama stole this tree from Indra’s Nandanvan and brought it to Dwarka.

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8. Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Laxmi is known as the Goddess of Prosperity. During the churning of the ocean, Goddess Laxmi came out of primal waters as one of the Ratna. In Hinduism,       Laxmi is known as Dhan (Money). During Diwali, people worship goddess Laxmi for their prosperity. When Goddess Laxmi emerged from the ocean both devas and Asuras wanted Goddess Laxmi before anyone could ask, Vishnu asked her hand in marriage.

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9. Sharanga – The Celestial Bow

Sharanga is a divine celestial bow that came out during Samudra Manthan.  Sharanga is a symbol of a responsible king following the path of Dharma. This celestial weapon is passed on to Vishnu Avatar Parshu Ram and to Lord Ram. Lord Ram killed Ravan using this divine bow. There is mention of this celestial weapon in Ramayan and Mahabharat.

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10. Apsara Rambha

Apsara Rambha came out of the ocean during Samudra Manthan. She is considered queen among all the apsara’s in Devlok because of her magical beauty. Spellbind by Rambha’s beauty and grace Lord Indra took her to Devlok. Once Indra sends Rambha to break the penance of Rishi Vishwamitra who was about to become Brahmrishi. When Rishi opened his eyes and saw Apsara Rambha in front of him, Rishi got so angry that he cursed Apsara to be a rock for a thousand years.

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11. Goddess Varuni

During the churning process, Goddess Varuni also named Jalpari came out of the ocean. She is known as Goddess of wine. She became the consort of God Varuna. Varuna was on side of Asuras. There is mention of this goddess in Rigveda and also in Vishnu Purana. Wines made from a fruit named Kadamba were also known as Varuni.


12. Shankh – The Conch Shell

Shankh is one of the gems which came out of the ocean during the process of churning. It is believed that Conch shell appeared first during Samudra Manthan was closely associated with Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. God Vishnu is always portrayed with a conch shell in one hand. Shankh is a symbol of wealth, prosperity and is always played during Laxmi or Vishnu puja.


13. Chandra – The Moon

 Chandra originated during the process of Samudra Manthan which is known as Moon. Moon is believed to originate during the process of Samudra Manthan. Chandra is lunar diety considered as one of nine planets in Hinduism known as Navgrah. Other names of Moon are Soma and Indu. Crescent’s mom is always present on Lord Shivas Head.


14. Dhanvantri Dev – God of Medicine

Dhanvantri came out of the ocean of milk during the churning process with a pot filled with Amrut. Dhavantri is believed to be Avatar of Mahavishnu. There is mention of Dhanvantri in Puranas as God of Medicine. Dhanvantri is known as the Founder of Ayurveda, worship of Dhanvantri is done for the prosperity of health and mostly during Dhanteras which comes during Diwali.


After Amrut came out during Samudra Manthan

During the process of Samudra Manthan Vishnu advised Devas to hold the face of Vasuki while Asuras were holding his tail. While the whole process Vasuki released venomous substance from his mouth which made Asuras really weak. After Dhanvantri came out with the pot filled with Amrut all Asuras started following him and somehow they were successful grabbing the Amrut from Dhanvantri. After this incident, all Devas were really worried about Asuras taking in charge of Amrut which would make them immortal and powerful, by consuming the entire Amrut Asuras can gain control over all the three worlds. They went o Lord Vishnu for help, Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini and enchanting young female who convinced all the Asuras that Amrut will be shared equally among Devas and Asuras. Mohini started distributing Amrut among all the devas when One Asura named Rahu disguises himself in the form of Devas and tries to drink the Amrut. While Rahu was trying to drink the Amrut till it could reach his neck Sun god and Moon good came of know about his disguise and informed Mohini. Using Sudarshan Chakra Mohini cut his head in two parts, head known as Rahu and body part known as Ketu. Later they became two planets. The story ends here with the victory of Devas among the Asuras. In legends, it’s written that while snatching of Amrut some drops fell in Ujjain, Haridwar, Prayaga and Trimbak. These places are believed to be Holy and possessing mystical powers, Kumbh Mela happens at these places after every 12 years its believed that if one has a bath during this period they can get Moksh.

Looking through the entire story Samudra Manthan’s process described is believed to be the Ocean of milk which is the Milky Way. The Ratnas coming out of this ocean are planets and other creations of the universe. Devas and Asuras are two sides of coin positive and negative. The entire process was controlled by three main power in the universe that is Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is known as a creator god. Vishnu is known for preserving life forms in the entire universe. While Shiva is the god of destruction. These three gods describe the circle of life, starting from creation, preservation and then destruction.

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