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Churning of the Ocean

by Micha F. Lindemans
An event frequently mentioned in Hindu mythology. It refers to the legend that followed a great deluge in which many precious objects were lost. In order to recover them, Vishnu in his incarnation as the tortoise Kurma dived to the bottom of the ocean and allowed his back to serve as the base of Mount Mandara. Around this mountain the gods and demons wrapped the great serpent Vasuki. The gods then pulled on one end of the snake while the demons pulled on the other end; this churned up the sea and all the object that were lost rose to the surface.

Among these objects were: amrita, the drought of immortality; Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods and who bore the chalice containing amrita; Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and beauty; Kaustubha, a celebrated jewel; Surabhi, the cow of abundance; and many others.

However, a poison was also churned up in the process and it threatened humanity. Shiva drank the poison and thus protected humanity but the act dyed his throat blue (see Nilakantha).


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