Samudra Manthan - The Churning of the Milk Ocean
BY: SUN STAFF
Nov 11, CANADA (SUN) Samudra manthan, or the pastime of the 'Churning of the Ocean of Milk', is one of the most famous episodes in the Puranas, and is celebrated in a major way every twelve years at the Kumbha Mela. The pastime is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and various Puranas, including the Bhagawat, Brahma-vaivarta, Agni, and Vishnu Purana.
"Manthanam" is the Sanskrit equivalent of 'manthan' meaning 'to churn'. In the phrase "sagar manthan", 'sagar' is another word for 'samudra', both meaning an ocean or large water body. The term "kshirsagar manthan", 'kshirsagar' literally means the 'Ocean of Milk'.
The pastime begins with King Indra who, while riding on his vahana elephant, came upon the sage Durvasa, who offered him a special garland. Indra accepted the garland but put in on the trunk of the elephant. The elephant was irritated by the smell and threw the garland on the floor, thus enraging the sage, as the garland was a dwelling of Sri (fortune), and was to be treated as prasada. Durvasa Muni therefore cursed Indra and all the devas to be bereft of strength, energy, and fortune.
In numerous battles that followed this incident, the devas were defeated and the asuras, led by King Bali, gained control of the universe. Finally the devas sought help from Lord Vishnu, who advised them to treat the asuras in a diplomatic manner. The devas therefore formed an alliance with the asuras, and they cooperatively set out to churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality, Amrita, to be shared among them. Lord Vishu, however, had ensured the devas that He would arrange it so they alone obtained the nectar.
The churning of the Ocean of Milk was an inconceivably elaborate process. Mount Mandaranchal was used as the churning rod and Vasuki, the King of the Nagas, served as the churning rope. The demigods held the head of Vasuki while the demons held his tail. Each side pulled alternately, thereby causing the mountain to rotate and churn the ocean. However, once the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink, so Vishnu in His form as Kurma, the tortoise, came to their rescue and supported the mountain on His shell.
Various differences are found in some versions of the pastime. For example, in the Mahabharata it is described that Akupara, the King of Tortoises, took the form of Kurma at the request of the devas and asuras.
Due to the churning of the Milk Ocean by the asuras and devas, a pot of poison called Halahala, or 'kalakuta', was produced from the ocean. This terrified the demigods and demons, because the poison was so toxic that it could wipe out the entire manifest creation. On the advice of Vishnu, the demigods approached Lord Shiva for help and protection. Out of compassion for the living entities, Shiva drank the poison, which was so potent that it changed the color of Shiva's neck to blue. For this reason, Shiva is also called Neelakantha, the blue-necked one ('n?la' means 'blue' and 'kantha' means 'throat'). It is also described that Parvati, alarmed at her husband's drinking of the poison, stopped it in his throat with her hands, thus earning him the name Vishakantha (the one who held poison in his throat).
Fourteen different ratnas (gems) were also recovered during this pastime of churning, and these were mostly kept by the demigods, although the asuras tried to cheat them out of the treasures. All kinds of herbs were cast into the ocean to produce these fourteen ratnas, which were divided between the asuras and demigods, as follows:
* Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth
* Kaustubha, the most valuable jewel in the world
* Parijata, the divine flowering tree
* Varuni, goddess and creator of intoxicating beverages
* Dhanvantari, the doctor
* Chandra, the moon
* Kamadhenu, the wish-granting divine cow
* Kalpavriksha, the wish-granting tree
* Airavata, the elephant of Indra
* Apsaras, various divine nymphs like Rambha, Menaka, Punjikasthala, etc.
* Uchhaishravas, the divine 7-headed horse
* Sharanga, the bow of Vishnu
* Shankha, Vishnu's conch
* Amrita, the nectar of immortality.
Again, this list varies from Purana to Purana and is also slightly different in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The Nectar of Immortality
Eventually Dhanvantari, the Heavenly Physician, emerged from the Ocean of Milk with a pot containing the amrita. Fierce fighting thus nsued between devas and asuras for the nectar. The devas hid the pot of nectar at four places on the earth: Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. At each of these places, a drop of the nectar spilled from the pot and since then, these places have been imbued with mystical powers. For this reason, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated at these dhamas every 12 years.
The Asuras eventually got hold of the nectar and started celebrating, but the appealed to Vishnu, who then took the form of Mohini. As the beautiful and enchanting damsel, Mohini distracted the asuras, took the amrita, and distributed it amongst the Adityas, who drank it. One asura, Rahu, disguised himself as a deva and drank some of the nectar. Due to their luminous nature, the Sun God Surya and the Moon God Chandra noticed the switching of sides. They informed Mohini, and before the Nectar could pass his throat, Mohini cut off Rahu's head with Sudarshana Chakra. Rahu's head, due to coming into contact with the amrita, remained immortal, and is said to be the cause of the eclipses.
The Samudra Manthan pastime came to a close with the rejuvenated Adityas defeating the asuras.
Following are three versions of the Samudra Manthan pastime, from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Visnu Purana.
ASTIKA PARVA XVIII
"Sauti said, 'There is a mountain called Mandara adorned with cloud-like peaks. It is the best of mountains, and is covered all over with intertwining herbs. There countless birds pour forth their melodies, and beasts of prey roam about. The gods, the Apsaras and the Kinnaras visit the place. Upwards it rises eleven thousand yojanas, and descends downwards as much. The gods wanted to tear it up and use it as a churning rod but failing to do so same to Vishnu and Brahman who were sitting together, and said unto them, 'Devise some efficient scheme, consider, ye gods, how Mandara may be dislodged for our good.'
Sauti continued, 'O son of Bhrigu! Vishnu with Brahman assented to it. And the lotus-eyed one (Vishnu) laid the hard task on the mighty Ananta, the prince of snakes. The powerful Ananta, directed thereto both by Brahman and Narayana, O Brahmana, tore up the mountain with the woods thereon and with the denizens of those woods. And the gods came to the shore of the Ocean with Ananta and addressed the Ocean, saying, 'O Ocean; we have come to churn thy waters for obtaining nectar.' And the Ocean replied, 'Be it so, as I shall not go without a share of it. I am able to bear the prodigious agitation of my waters set up by the mountain.' The gods then went to the king of tortoises and said to him, 'O Tortoise-king, thou wilt have to hold the mountain on thy back!' The Tortoise-king agreed, and Indra contrived to place the mountain on the former's back.
And the gods and the Asuras made of Mandara a churning staff and Vasuki the cord, and set about churning the deep for amrita. The Asuras held Vasuki by the hood and the gods held him by the tail. And Ananta, who was on the side of the gods, at intervals raised the snake's hood and suddenly lowered it. And in consequence of the stretch Vasuki received at the hands of the gods and the Asuras, black vapours with flames issued from his mouth. These, turned into clouds charged with lightning, poured showers that refreshed the tired gods. And flowers that also fell on all sides of the celestials from the trees on the whirling Mandara, refreshed them.
Then, O Brahmana, out of the deep came a tremendous roar like unto the roar of the clouds at the Universal Dissolution. Diverse aquatic animals being crushed by the great mountain gave up the ghost in the salt waters. And many denizens of the lower regions and the world of Varuna were killed. Large trees with birds on the whirling Mandara were torn up by the roots and fell into the water. The mutual friction of those trees also produced fires that blazed up frequently. The mountain thus looked like a mass of dark clouds charged with lightning. O Brahmana, the fire spread, and consumed the lions, elephants and other creatures that were on the mountain. Then Indra extinguished that fire by pouring down heavy showers.
After the churning, O Brahmana, had gone on for some time, gummy exudations of various trees and herbs vested with the properties of amrita mingled with the waters of the Ocean. And the celestials attained to immortality by drinking of the water mixed with those gums and with the liquid extract of gold. By degrees, the milky water of the agitated deep turned into clarified butter by virtue of those gums and juices. But nectar did not appear even then. The gods came before the boon-granting Brahman seated on his seat and said, 'Sire, we are spent up, we have no strength left to churn further. Nectar hath not yet arisen so that now we have no resource save Narayana.'
On hearing them, Brahman said to Narayana, 'O Lord, condescend to grant the gods strength to churn the deep afresh.'
Then Narayana agreeing to grant their various prayers, said, 'Ye wise ones, I grant you sufficient strength. Go, put the mountain in position again and churn the water.'
Re-established thus in strength, the gods recommenced churning. After a while, the mild Moon of a thousand rays emerged from the Ocean. Thereafter sprung forth Lakshmi dressed in white, then Soma, then the White Steed, and then the celestial gem Kaustubha which graces the breast of Narayana. Then Lakshmi, Soma and the Steed, fleet as the mind, all came before the gods on high. Then arose the divine Dhanwantari himself with the white vessel of nectar in his hand. And seeing him, the Asuras set up a loud cry, saying, 'It be ours.'
And at length rose the great elephant, Airavata, of huge body and with two pair of white tusks. And him took Indra the wielder of the thunderbolt. But with the churning still going on, the poison Kalakuta appeared at last. Engulfing the Earth it suddenly blazed up like a fire attended with fumes. And by the scent of the fearful Kalakuta, the three worlds were stupefied. And then Siva, being solicited by Brahman, swallowed that poison for the safety of the creation. The divine Maheswara held it in his throat, and it is said that from that time he is called Nilakantha (blue-throated). Seeing all these wondrous things, the Asuras were filled with despair, and got themselves prepared for entering into hostilities with the gods for the possession of Lakshmi and Amrita. Thereupon Narayana called his bewitching Maya (illusive power) to his aid, and assuming the form of an enticing female, coquetted with the Danavas. The Danavas and the Daityas charmed with her exquisite beauty and grace lost their reason and unanimously placed the Amrita in the hands of that fair damsel.'"
So ends the eighteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
CANTO XLV -- QUEST OF THE AMRIT
High and more high their wonder rose
As the strange story reached its close,
And thus, with Lakshman, Rama, best
Of Raghu's sons, the saint addressed:
'Most wondrous is the tale which thou
Hast told of heavenly Ganga, how
From realms above descending she
Flowed through the land and filled the sea.
In thinking o'er what thou hast said
The night has like a moment fled,
Whose hours in musing have been spent
Upon thy words most excellent:
So much, O holy Sage, thy lore
Has charmed us with this tale of yore.
Day dawned. The morning rites were done
And the victorious Raghu's son
Addressed the sage in words like these,
Rich in his long austerities:
'The night is past: the morn is clear;
Told is the tale so good to hear:
Now o'er that river let us go,
Three-pathed, the best of all that flow.
This boat stands ready on the shore
To bear the holy hermits o'er,
Who of thy coming warned, in haste,
The barge upon the bank have placed.
And Kasik's son approved his speech,
And moving to the sandy beach,
Placed in the boat the hermit band,
And reached the river's further strand.
On the north bank their feet they set,
And greeted all the (illegible) they met.
On Ganga's shore they lighted down,
And saw Vis'ada's lovely town.
Thither, the princes by his side,
The best of holy hermits hied.
It was a town exceeding fair
That might with heaven itself compare.
Then, suppliant palm to palm applied,
Famed Rama asked his holy guide:
'O best of hermits, say what race
Of monarchs rules this lovely place.
Dear master, let my prayer prevail,
For much I long to hear the tale.
Moved by his words, the saintly man
Vis'ala's ancient tale began:
'List, Rama, list, with closest heed
The tale of Indra's wondrous deed,
And mark me as I truly tell
What here in ancient days befell.
Ere Krita's famous Age had fled.
Strong were the sons of Diti bred;
And Aditi's brave children too
Were very mighty, good, and true.
The rival brothers fierce and bold
Were sons of Kas'yap lofty-souled.
Of sister mothers born, they vied,
Brood against brood, in jealous pride.
Once, as they say, band met with band,
And, joined in awful council, planned
To live, unharmed by age and time,
Immortal in their youthful prime.
Then this was, after due debate,
The counsel of the wise and great,
To churn with might the milky sea
The life-bestowing drink to free.
This planned, they seized the Serpent King,
Vasuki, for their churning-string,
And Mandar's mountain for their pole,
And churned with all their heart and soul.
As thus, a thousand seasons through,
This way and that the snake they drew,
Biting the rocks, each tortured head,
A very deadly venom shed.
Thence, bursting like a mighty flame,
A pestilential poison came,
Consuming, as it onward ran,
The home of God, and fiend, and man.
Then all the suppliant Gods in fear
To S'ankar, mighty lord, drew near.
To Rudra, King of Herds, dismayed,
'Save us, O save us, Lord!' they prayed.
Then Vishnu, bearing shell, and mace,
And discus, showed his radiant face,
And thus addressed in smiling glee
The Trident wielding deity:
What treasure first the Gods upturn
From troubled Ocean, as they churn,
Should--for thou art the eldest--be
Conferred, O best of Gods, on thee.
Then come, and for thy birthright's sake,
This venom as thy firstfruits take.
He spoke, and vanished from their sight.
When Siva saw their wild affright,
And heard his speech by whom is borne
The mighty bow of bending horn,
The poisoned flood at once he quaffed
As 'twere the Amrit's heavenly draught.
Then from the Gods departing went
Siva, the Lord pre-eminent.
The host of Gods and Asurs still
Kept churning with one heart and will.
But Mandar's mountain, whirling round.
Pierced to the depths below the ground.
Then Gods and bards in terror flew
To him who mighty Madhu slew.
'Help of all beings! more than all,
The Gods on thee for aid may call.
Ward off, O mighty-armed! our fate,
And bear up Mandar's threatening weight.
Then Vishnu, as their need was sore,
The semblance of a tortoise wore,
And in the bed of Ocean lay
The mountain on his back to stay.
Then he, the soul pervading all,
Whose locks in radiant tresses fall,
One mighty arm extended still,
And grasped the summit of the hill.
So ranged among the Immortals, he
Joined in the churning of the sea.
A thousand years had reached their close,
When calmly from the ocean rose
The gentle sage with staff and can,
Lord of the art of healing man.
Then as the waters foamed and boiled.
As churning still the Immortals toiled,
Of winning face and lovely frame,
Forth sixty million fair ones came.
Born of the foam and water, these
Were aptly named Apsarases.
Each had her maids. The tongue would fail--
So vast the throng--to count the tale,
But when no God or Titan wooed
A wife from all that multitude,
Refused by all, they gave their love
In common to the Gods above.
Then from the sea still vext and wild
Rose Sura, Varun's maiden child.
A fitting match she sought to find:
But Diti's sons her love declined.
Their kinsmen of the rival brood
To the pure maid in honour sued.
Hence those who loved that nymph so fair
The hallowed name of Suras bear.
And Asurs are the Titan crowd
Her gentle claims who disallowed.
Then from the foamy sea was freed
Uchchaihs'ravas, the generous steed,
And Kaustubha, of gems the gem,
And Soma, Moon God, after them.
At length when many a year had fled,
Up floated, on her lotus bed,
A maiden fair and tender-eyed,
In the young flush of beauty's pride.
She shone with pearl and golden sheen,
And seals of glory stamped her queen.
On each round arm glowed many a gem,
On her smooth brows, a diadem,
Rolling in waves beneath her crown
The glory of her hair flowed down.
Pearls on her neck of price untold,
The lady shone like burnisht gold.
Queen of the Gods, she leapt to land,
A lotus in her perfect hand,
And fondly, of the lotus-sprung,
To lotus-bearing Vishnu clung.
Her Gods above and men below
As Beauty's Queen and Fortune know.
Gods, Titans, and the minstrel train
Still churned and wrought the troubled main.
At length the prize so madly sought,
The Amrit, to their sight was brought.
For the rich spoil,'twixt these and those
A fratricidal war arose,
And, host 'gainst host in battle, set,
Aditi's sons and Diti's met.
United, with the giants' aid,
Their fierce attack the Titans made,
And wildly raged for many a day
That universe-astounding fray.
When wearied arms were faint to strike,
And ruin threatened all alike,
Vishnu, with art's illusive aid,
The Amrit from their sight conveyed
That Best of Beings smote his foes
Who dared his deathless arm oppose:
Yea, Vishnu, all-pervading God,
Beneath his feet the Titans trod
Aditi's race, the sons of light,
slew Diti's brood in cruel fight.
Then town-destroying Indra gained
His empire, and in glory reigned
O'er the three worlds with bard and sage
Rejoicing in his heritage.
Legend of Lakshmi. Durvasas gives a garland to Indra: he treats it disrespectfully, and is cursed by the Muni. The power of the gods impaired: they are oppressed by the Danavas, and have recourse to Vishnu. The churning of the ocean. Praises of Sri.
PARASARA.--But with respect to the question thou hast asked me, Maitreya, relating to the history of Sri, hear from me the tale as it was told to me by Marichi.
Durvasas, a portion of Sankara (Siva), was wandering over the earth; when be beheld, in the hands of a nymph of air, a garland of flowers culled from the trees of heaven, the fragrant odour of which spread throughout the forest, and enraptured all who dwelt beneath its shade. The sage, who was then possessed by religious phrensy, when he beheld that garland, demanded it of the graceful and full-eyed nymph, who, bowing to him reverentially, immediately presented it to him. He, as one frantic, placed the chaplet upon his brow, and thus decorated resumed his path; when he beheld (Indra) the husband of Sachi, the ruler of the three worlds, approach, seated on his infuriated elephant Airavata, and attended by the gods. The phrensied sage, taking from his head the garland of flowers, amidst which the bees collected ambrosia, threw it to the king of the gods, who caught it, and suspended it on the brow of Airavata, where it shone like the river Jahnavi, glittering on the dark summit of the mountain Kailasa. The elephant, whose eyes were dim with inebriety, and attracted by the smell, took hold of the garland with his trunk, and cast it on the earth. That chief of sages, Durvasas, was highly incensed at this disrespectful treatment of his gift, and thus angrily addressed the sovereign of the immortals: "Inflated with the intoxication of power, Vasava, vile of spirit, thou art an idiot not to respect the garland I presented to thee, which was the dwelling of Fortune (Sri). Thou hast not acknowledged it as a largess; thou hast not bowed thyself before me; thou hast not placed the wreath upon thy head, with thy countenance expanding with delight. Now, fool, for that thou hast not infinitely prized the garland that I gave thee, thy sovereignty over the three worlds shall be subverted. Thou confoundest me, Sakra, with other Brahmans, and hence I have suffered disrespect from thy arrogance: but in like manner as thou hast cast the garland I gave thee down on the ground, so shall thy dominion over the universe be whelmed in ruin. Thou hast offended one whose wrath is dreaded by all created things, king of the gods, even me, by thine excessive pride."
Descending hastily from his elephant, Mahendra endeavoured to appease the sinless Durvasas: but to the excuses and prostrations of the thousand-eyed, the Muni answered, "I am not of a compassionate heart, nor is forgiveness congenial to my nature. Other Munis may relent; but know me, Sakra, to be Durvasas. Thou hast in vain been rendered insolent by Gautama and others; for know me, Indra, to be Durvasas, whose nature is a stranger to remorse. Thou hast been flattered by Vasisht?ha and other tender-hearted saints, whose loud praises (lave made thee so arrogant, that thou hast insulted me. But who is there in the universe that can behold my countenance, dark with frowns, and surrounded by my blazing hair, and not tremble? What need of words? I will not forgive, whatever semblance of humility thou mayest assume."
Having thus spoken, the Brahman went his way; and the king of the gods, remounting his elephant, returned to his capital Amaravati. Thenceforward, Maitreya, the three worlds and Sakra lost their vigour, and all vegetable products, plants, and herbs were withered and died; sacrifices were no longer offered; devout exercises no longer practised; men were no more addicted to charity, or any moral or religious obligation; all beings became devoid of steadiness; all the faculties of sense were obstructed by cupidity; and men's desires were excited by frivolous objects. Where there is energy, there is prosperity; and upon prosperity energy depends. How can those abandoned by prosperity be possessed of energy; and without energy, where is excellence? Without excellence there can be no vigour nor heroism amongst men: he who has neither courage nor strength, will be spurned by all: and he who is universally treated with disgrace, must suffer abasement of his intellectual faculties.
The three regions being thus wholly divested of prosperity, and deprived of energy, the Danavas and sons of Diti, the enemies of the gods, who were incapable of steadiness, and agitated by ambition, put forth their strength against the gods. They engaged in war with the feeble and unfortunate divinities; and Indra and the rest, being overcome in fight, fled for refuge to Brahma, preceded by the god of flame (Hutasana). When the great father of the universe had heard all that had come to pass, he said to the deities, "Repair for protection to the god of high and low; the tamer of the demons; the causeless cause of creation, preservation, and destruction; the progenitor of the progenitors; the immortal, unconquerable Vishnu; the cause of matter and spirit, of his unengendered products; the remover of the grief of all who humble themselves before him: he will give you aid." Having thus spoken to the deities, Brahma proceeded along with them to the northern shore of the sea of milk; and with reverential words thus prayed to the supreme Hari:--
"We glorify him who is all things; the lord supreme over all; unborn, imperishable; the protector of the mighty ones of creation; the unperceived, indivisible Narayan?a; the smallest of the smallest, the largest of the largest, of the elements; in whom are all things, from whom are all things; who was before existence; the god who is all beings; who is the end of ultimate objects; who is beyond final spirit, and is one with supreme soul; who is contemplated as the cause of final liberation by sages anxious to be free; in whom are not the qualities of goodness, foulness, or darkness, that belong to undeveloped nature. May that purest of all pure spirits this day be propitious to us. May that Hari be propitious to us, whose inherent might is not an object of the progressive chain of moments or of days, that make up time. May he who is called the supreme god, who is not in need of assistance, Hari, the soul of all embodied substance, be favourable unto us. May that Hari, who is both cause and effect; who is the cause of cause, the effect of effect; he who is the effect of successive effect; who is the effect of the effect of the effect himself; the product of the effect of the effect of the effect, or elemental substance; to him I bow. The cause of the cause; the cause of the cause of the cause; the cause of them all; to him I bow. To him who is the enjoyer and thing to be enjoyed; the creator and thing to be created; who is the agent and the effect; to that supreme being I bow. The infinite nature of Vishnu is pure, intelligent, perpetual, unborn, undecayable, inexhaustible, inscrutable, immutable; it is neither gross nor subtle, nor capable of being defined: to that ever holy nature of Vishnu I bow. To him whose faculty to create the universe abides in but a part of but the ten-millionth part of him; to him who is one with the inexhaustible supreme spirit, I bow: and to the glorious nature of the supreme Vishnu, which nor gods, nor sages, nor I, nor Sankara apprehend; that nature which the Yogis, after incessant effort, effacing both moral merit and demerit, behold to be contemplated in the mystical monosyllable Om: the supreme glory of Vishnu, who is the first of all; of whom, one only god, the triple energy is the same with Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva: oh lord of all, great soul of all, asylum of all, undecayable, have pity upon thy servants; oh Vishnu, be manifest unto us."
Parasara continued.--The gods, having heard this prayer uttered by Brahma, bowed down, and cried, "Be favourable to us; be present to our sight: we bow down to that glorious nature which the mighty Brahma does not know; that which is thy nature, oh imperishable, in whom the universe abides." Then the gods having ended, Vrihaspati and the divine Rishis thus prayed: "We bow down to the being entitled to adoration; who is the first object of sacrifice; who was before the first of things; the creator of the creator of the world; the undefinable: oh lord of all that has been or is to be; imperishable type of sacrifice; have pity upon thy worshippers; appear to them, prostrate before thee. Here is Brahma; here is Trilochana (the three-eyed Siva), with the Rudras; Pusha, (the sun), with the Adityas; and Fire, with all the mighty luminaries: here are the sons of Aswini (the two Aswini Kumaras), the Vasus and all the winds, the Sadhyas, the Viswadevas, and Indra the king of the gods: all of whom bow lowly before thee: all the tribes of the immortals, vanquished by the demon host, have fled to thee for succour."
Thus prayed to, the supreme deity, the mighty holder of the conch and discus, shewed himself to them: and beholding the lord of gods, bearing a shell, a discus, and a mace, the assemblage of primeval form, and radiant with embodied light, Pitamaha and the other deities, their eyes moistened with rapture, first paid him homage, and then thus addressed him: "Repeated salutation to thee, who art indefinable: thou art Brahma; thou art the wielder of the Pinaka bow (Siva); thou art Indra; thou art fire, air, the god of waters, the sun, the king of death (Yama), the Vasus, the Maruts (the winds), the Sadhyas, and Viswadevas. This assembly of divinities, that now has come before thee, thou art; for, the creator of the world, thou art everywhere. Thou art the sacrifice, the prayer of oblation, the mystic syllable Om, the sovereign of all creatures: thou art all that is to be known, or to be unknown: oh universal soul, the whole world consists of thee. We, discomfited by the Daityas, have fled to thee, oh Vishnu, for refuge. Spirit of all, have compassion upon us; defend us with thy mighty power. There will be affliction, desire, trouble, and grief, until thy protection is obtained: but thou art the remover of all sins. Do thou then, oh pure of spirit, shew favour unto us, who have fled to thee: oh lord of all, protect us with thy great power, in union with the goddess who is thy strength." Hari, the creator of the universe, being thus prayed to by the prostrate divinities, smiled, and thus spake: "With renovated energy, oh gods, I will restore your strength. Do you act as I enjoin. Let all the gods, associated with the Asuras, cast all sorts of medicinal herbs into the sea of milk; and then taking the mountain Mandara for the churning-stick, the serpent Vasuki for the rope, churn the ocean together for ambrosia; depending upon my aid. To secure the assistance of the Daityas, you must be at peace with them, and engage to give them an equal portion of the fruit of your associated toil; promising them, that by drinking the Amrita that shall be produced from the agitated ocean, they shall become mighty and immortal. I will take care that the enemies of the gods shall not partake of the precious draught; that they shall share in the labour alone."
Being thus instructed by the god of gods, the divinities entered into alliance with the demons, and they jointly undertook the acquirement of the beverage of immortality. They collected various kinds of medicinal herbs, and cast them into the sea of milk, the waters of which were radiant as the thin and shining clouds of autumn. They then took the mountain Mandara for the staff; the serpent Vasuki for the cord; and commenced to churn the ocean for the Amrita. The assembled gods were stationed by Krishn?a at the tail of the serpent; the Daityas and Danavas at its head and neck. Scorched by the flames emitted from his inflated hood, the demons were shorn of their glory; whilst the clouds driven towards his tail by the breath of his mouth, refreshed the gods with revivifying showers. In the midst of the milky sea, Hari himself, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain, as it was whirled around. The holder of the mace and discus was present in other forms amongst the gods and demons, and assisted to drag the monarch of the serpent race: and in another vast body he sat upon the summit of the mountain. With one portion of his energy, unseen by gods or demons, he sustained the serpent king; and with another, infused vigour into the gods.
From the ocean, thus churned by the gods and Danavas, first uprose the cow Surabhi, the fountain of milk and curds, worshipped by the divinities, and beheld by them and their associates with minds disturbed, and eyes glistening with delight. Then, as the holy Siddhas in the sky wondered what this could be, appeared the goddess Varuni (the deity of wine), her eyes rolling with intoxication. Next, from the whirlpool of the deep, sprang the celestial Parijata tree, the delight of the nymphs of heaven, perfuming the world with its blossoms. The troop of Apsarasas, the nymphs of heaven, were then produced, of surprising loveliness, endowed with beauty and with taste. The cool-rayed moon next rose, and was seized by Mahadeva: and then poison was engendered from the sea, of which the snake gods (Nagas) took possession. Dhanwantari, robed in white, and bearing in his hand the cup of Amrita, next came forth: beholding which, the sons of Diti and of Danu, as well as the Munis, were filled with satisfaction and delight. Then, seated on a full-blown lotus, and holding a water-lily in her hand, the goddess Sri, radiant with beauty, rose from the waves. The great sages, enraptured, hymned her with the song dedicated to her praise. Viswavasu and other heavenly quiristers sang, and Ghritachi and other celestial nymphs danced before her. Ganga and other holy streams attended for her ablutions; and the elephants of the skies, taking up their pure waters in vases of gold, poured them over the goddess, the queen of the universal world. The sea of milk in person presented her with a wreath of never-fading flowers; and the artist of the gods (Viswakerma) decorated her person with heavenly ornaments. Thus bathed, attired, and adorned, the goddess, in the view of the celestials, cast herself upon the breast of Hari; and there reclining, turned her eyes upon the deities, who were inspired with rapture by her gaze. Not so the Daityas, who, with Viprachitti at their head, were filled with indignation, as Vishnu turned away from them, and they were abandoned by the goddess of prosperity (Lakshmi.)
The powerful and indignant Daityas then forcibly seized the Amrita-cup, that was in the hand of Dhanwantari: but Vishnu, assuming a female form, fascinated and deluded them; and recovering the Amrita from them, delivered it to the gods. Sakra and the other deities quaffed the ambrosia. The incensed demons, grasping their weapons, fell upon them; but the gods, into whom the ambrosial draught had infused new vigour, defeated and put their host to flight, and they fled through the regions of space, and plunged into the subterraneous realms of Patala. The gods thereat greatly rejoiced, did homage to the holder of the discus and mace, and resumed their reign in heaven. The sun shone with renovated splendour, and again discharged his appointed task; and the celestial luminaries again circled, oh best of Munis, in their respective orbits. Fire once more blazed aloft, beautiful in splendour; and the minds of all beings were animated by devotion. The three worlds again were rendered happy by prosperity; and Indra, the chief of the gods, was restored to power. Seated upon his throne, and once more in heaven, exercising sovereignty over the gods, Sakra thus eulogized the goddess who bears a lotus in her hand:--
"I bow down to Sri, the mother of all beings, seated on her lotus throne, with eyes like full-blown lotuses, reclining on the breast of Vishnu. Thou art Siddhi (superhuman power): thou art Swadha and Swaha: thou art ambrosia (Sudha), the purifier of the universe: thou art evening, night, and dawn: thou art power, faith, intellect: thou art the goddess of letters (Saraswati). Thou, beautiful goddess, art knowledge of devotion, great knowledge, mystic knowledge, and spiritual knowledge; which confers eternal liberation. Thou art the science of reasoning, the three Vedas, the arts and sciences: thou art moral and political science. The world is peopled by thee with pleasing or displeasing forms. Who else than thou, oh goddess, is seated on that person of the god of gods, the wielder of the mace, which is made up of sacrifice, and contemplated by holy ascetics? Abandoned by thee, the three worlds were on the brink of ruin; but they have been reanimated by thee. From thy propitious gaze, oh mighty goddess, men obtain wives, children, dwellings, friends, harvests, wealth. Health and strength, power, victory, happiness, are easy of attainment to those upon whom thou smilest. Thou art the mother of all beings, as the god of gods, Hari, is their father; and this world, whether animate or inanimate, is pervaded by thee and Vishnu. Oh thou who purifiest all things, forsake not our treasures, our granaries, our dwellings, our dependants, our persons, our wives: abandon not our children, our friends, our lineage, our jewels, oh thou who abidest on the bosom of the god of gods. They whom thou desertest are forsaken by truth, by purity, and goodness, by every amiable and excellent quality; whilst the base and worthless upon whom thou lookest favourably become immediately endowed with all excellent qualifications, with families, and with power. He on whom thy countenance is turned is honourable, amiable, prosperous, wise, and of exalted birth; a hero of irresistible prowess: but all his merits and his advantages are converted into worthlessness from whom, beloved of Vishnu, mother of the world, thou avertest thy face. The tongues of Brahma, are unequal to celebrate thy excellence. Be propitious to me, oh goddess, lotus-eyed, and never forsake me more."
Being thus praised, the gratified Sri, abiding in all creatures, and heard by all beings, replied to the god of a hundred rites (Satakratu); "I am pleased, monarch of the gods, by thine adoration. Demand from me what thou desirest: I have come to fulfil thy wishes." "If, goddess," replied Indra, "thou wilt grant my prayers; if I am worthy of thy bounty; be this my first request, that the three worlds may never again be deprived of thy presence. My second supplication, daughter of ocean, is, that thou wilt not forsake him who shall celebrate thy praises in the words I have addressed to thee." "I will not abandon," the goddess answered, "the three worlds again: this thy first boon is granted; for I am gratified by thy praises: and further, I will never turn my face away from that mortal who morning and evening shall repeat the hymn with which thou hast addressed me."
Parasara proceeded.--Thus, Maitreya, in former times the goddess Sri conferred these boons upon the king of the gods, being pleased by his adorations; but her first birth was as the daughter of Bhrigu by Khyati: it was at a subsequent period that she was produced from the sea, at the churning of the ocean by the demons and the gods, to obtain ambrosia. For in like manner as the lord of the world, the god of gods, Janarddana, descends amongst mankind (in various shapes), so does his coadjutrix Sri. Thus when Hari was born as a dwarf, the son of Aditi, Lakshmi appeared from a lotus (as Padma, or Kamala); when he was born as Rama, of the race of Bhrigu (or Parasurama), she was Dharan?i; when he was Raghava (Ramachandra), she was Sita; and when he was Krishn?a, she became Rukmini. In the other descents of Vishnu, she is his associate. If he takes a celestial form, she appears as divine; if a mortal, she becomes a mortal too, transforming her own person agreeably to whatever character it pleases Vishnu to put on. Whosoever hears this account of the birth of Lakshmi, whosoever reads it, shall never lose the goddess Fortune from his dwelling for three generations; and misfortune, the fountain of strife, shall never enter into those houses in which the hymns to Sri are repeated.
Thus, Brahman, have I narrated to thee, in answer to thy question, how Lakshmi, formerly the daughter of Bhrigu, sprang from the sea of milk; and misfortune shall never visit those amongst mankind who daily recite the praises of Lakshmi uttered by Indra, which are the origin and cause of all prosperity.
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