De-myth-ify: Kurmavatara (Part Two)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the second of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Kurma or the tortoise, today. This is part two of a three-part series on the Kurmavatara.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

I last left you on a note of suspense, with a comment about how the Samudra Manthan’s problems were far from over. With Kurma supporting Mount Mandara on his back and Vasuki acting as the rope, the Devas and Asuras were able to commence the churning of the Ocean of Milk. This, of course, led to the next series of events.

During the long and strenuous churning process, many things were released from the ocean before the Elixir of Immortality or Amrit. These included supernatural animals like the wish-granting cow Kamadhenu, valuables like Kaustubha, the most divine jewel, nymphs or Apsaras, and the goddess Lakshmi. Most of these were equally divided between the Devas and the Asuras. However, not all that came out of the ocean was good(Dun dun dun).

The Samudra Manthan also brought forth Halahala, a deadly poison or Vish that threatened to cease life in all the three worlds,i.e. Swarga (The skies, home of the Devas), Dharti (The Earth, where regular folk lived) and Patala (The underworld, home of the Asuras) The Devas and Asuras were being suffocated and weakened by the poisonous fumes and beseeched Shiva, considered the destroyer and protector in Hindu Mythology to come to their aid.

Shiva, upon hearing these cries for help, came and took the Halahala in his mouth to protect life and save all three worlds. Instead of swallowing the poison, he held it in his throat, giving it a bluish hue and him the moniker of “Neelakantha”, the blue-throated one. ( Can we just talk about the heroics of it all? Shiva, in a surprise move, takes over from Kurma as the hero of the tale. What a twist.)

Thus, after everyone was saved by Shiva, the churning started again and soon, the fruits of the Devas’ and Asuras’ labour was upon them. Dhanvantari, the God of Medicine emerged with the Elixir of Immortality or Amrit in his hands. (Huzzah!) As soon as he emerged, the Asuras took control of the Amrit and began to run away. Do you remember how Vishnu had told the Devas to not be angry if the Asuras tried to steal anything forcefully? That’s right, it’s time for that part of the story.

The Devas turned to Vishnu, for once, actually remembering his words. (This is like, super rare for them, you guys. I don’t think you understand just how mature this is for them) Vishnu took the form of the beautiful enchantress Mohini, who then went up to the Asuras and convinced them to let her distribute the Amrit among them. With her wily charms, she managed to distract the Asuras while she distributed all of the Amrit among the Devas. (What a comeback. Such a power move. Vishnu is coming back for the hero spot, y’all)

Two Asuras did not fall for Mohini’s charms and disguised themselves as Devas and snuck in to get the Amrit. However, the Sun and Moon gods ended up identifying them as imposters and thus, Vishnu, taking his true form, cut off their heads with his Sudarshan Chakra before the Amrit crossed their throats. The heads of these two Asuras, named Rahu and Ketu are believed to still be flying around the universe and once in a while, they swallow the moon and the sun, as revenge. That’s why eclipses happen, according to Hindu mythology, anyway. (I find this a surprisingly neat explanation for what is a complex scientific phenomenon, although maybe slightly too gore)

Obviously, the jig was up. The Asuras realised that Vishnu had tricked them. They picked up arms and came to fight for what was promised to them. However, the Devas had now consumed Amrit and were at full potential and thus, defeated the Asuras and drove them away. So, the Samudra Manthan came to a violent end and goodness was restored. The curse of Durvasa lifted and the Devas brought peace and harmony back to the realms. All was well (Unless you were an Asura in which case, oh well).

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you think the end of the Samudra Manthan was truly a ‘happy’ one? Or is it a tragedy, much like the Greek myths we have dissected? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

5 thoughts on “De-myth-ify: Kurmavatara (Part Two)

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