The Ratnas of Samudra Manthan
- May 14, 2021
By Shivam Pathania
Samudra Manthan or the churning of the ocean is one unique occasion when the Devas and their arch-nemesis, the Asuras, unite for an important reason. The churning of the ocean was a result of a curse by Sage Durvasa. Once, he offered a garland to Indra, the king of Devas. Indra accepted the garland and showed his happiness, putting the garland on his elephant, Airavata, as an ornament. Airavata, irritated by the scent of the garland, picked it with his trunk and threw it on the ground. Durvasa was furious and cursed Indra and the devas to lose their kingdom, power, and glory.
Illustration: Durgesh Velhal
As a result, Indra’s mighty vahana instantly went into oblivion. Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, could no longer stay in the same realm as the Devas, and parted ways with her consort, Vishnu. She made the depths of Kshir Sagar her new home. Due to Lakshmi’s absence in Devlok, the devas lost all their riches. The luminous Chandra, adorning Shiva’s matted hair, disappeared too. Robbed of their power, the devas were soon defeated by the asuras in battle. The defeated devas approached Lord Vishnu for a solution, who advised them to churn Kshir Sagar, to obtain Amrit. Amrit or the elixir of immortality would help the devas regain their powers. The Asuras willingly offered to assist their half-brothers since they too wanted immortality and invincible powers by consuming Amrit.
Mount Mandara was used to churn the ocean, which was kept afloat in the ocean by Kurma, Vishnu’s turtle avatar. The Naga king, Vasuki, who Shiva wears as a garland, became the churning rope. Several precious items, ratnas, emerged from the cosmic ocean which were distributed amongst the Devas, the Asuras and the Sages.
Illustration: Sanjay Valecha and Durgesh Velhal
The Halahala was a deadly poison that had the potential to destroy all beings in the three realms. None amongst the armies of asuras and devas stepped in to stop the poison from spreading into the universe as they feared the poison would destroy them too. Lord Shiva descended from Mount Kailash to consume the poison. Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s consort, used her powers to stop the Halahal in Shiva’s throat, and as a result, his throat turned blue. Thus he came to be called Neelkanth.
Airavata, the king of elephants, was a white coloured winged being with six trunks and six pairs of tusks. He said to dig his trunk deep into the ground and reach water which is inaccessible to humans. He uses his trunk to spray the water in the form of monsoon showers. After appearing from the cosmic ocean, Airavata chose to serve his master Indra, who was delighted to reunite with his loyal vahana.
Often considered as the king of the horses, the seven-headed, snow-white horse, was one of the three animals that appeared during the Samudra Manthan. The magnificent steed was taken by Indra. Eventually, Uchhaisravas came into the hands of King Mahabali, the asura king, who ruled over the three worlds.
Once Goddess Lakshmi was spellbound by the beauty of Uchhaisravas and forgot to pay attention to her consort, Vishnu. This infuriated him and he cursed Lakshmi to be born as a mare.
The colour of Uchhaisravas’ tail once became a topic of debate for two sisters, Kadru and Vinata. The sisters studied the horse from a distance and Vinata declared that the horse’s tail was white, while Kadru insisted that the tail was black. The sisters decided to come back and see the horse the next day. Whoever of the two had guessed the wrong colour, would have to become the slave of the other. Kadru won the bet by treachery as she commanded her sons, the Nagas, to cover the tail of the horse. Thus Vinata ended up becoming Kadru’s slave.