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Meaning Of The Myth, Churning Of The Ocean

Churning of the Sea

  • In Hindu metaphysics, the Ocean of milk traditionally represents Milky Way as the 5th from the center of the 7 oceans which encircle directional space or loka and separate it from non-directional space or aloka. It encircles the continent called Krauncha. In Hinduism, the asuras (demons) and devs (gods) worked collectively for a millennium to stir the ocean and liberate the juice of everlasting life, Amrit. It’s mentioned in the Samudr manthan chapter of the Puranas. It’s also the location where Vishnu stretches out over Shesh Nag, with his spouse Lakshmi.

Samudr Manthan

  • Samudr manthan (churning of the ocean) is among the best known events in Hindu myths. The tale appears in the Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana, and explains the origin of the drink of everlasting life, Amrit.


  • While riding on the elephant Airavata, the King of Devs (gods), Indra, met Guru Durvasa who offered him an extraordinary garland which he received from the God Shiva. To prove that he wasn’t an egoistic god, Indra placed the garland on the trunk of the elephant as a test. The elephant threw the garland to the ground because he knew that Indra had no control over his own ego. This angered the sage because the garland was a home of Sri (fortune) and was to be preserved like a religious offering or Prasad. Durvasa scourged Indra and all devs were deprived of all fortune, energy, and strength.
  • After the incident, battles ensued. Asuras (demons) commanded by King Bali defeated the Devs and took control of the universe. Devs sought assistance from the Supreme God Vishnu who instructed them to deal with asuras in a diplomatic way. Devs allied with Asuras to collectively stir the ocean for the nectar of everlasting life and to share it among them. Nevertheless, Vishnu informed the Devs that he would ensure that only they get the nectar.
  • The stirring of the Ocean of Milk was not an easy procedure. Mandar Parvat or Mount Mandar was employed as the stirring rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, who stands on Shiva's neck, became the stirring rope. The demons held the head of the snake, while the gods held the tail. As a consequence the demons were poisoned by fumes released by Vasuki. In spite of this, the demons and gods pulled backward and forward on the snake's body in turn, making the mountain to revolve, which consequently stirred the ocean. As soon as the mountain was put on the ocean, it started to sink. Vishnu, came to their salvation and kept the mountain on his backside.
  • A lot of things from the Ocean of Milk were released from the Samudr Manthan procedure. Among them was the deadly poison known as Halahala, flowed from the mouth of the serpent king when the gods and demons stirred. This frightened the demons and gods since the poison was capable to destroy all of creation. After that the gods went to Shiva for shelter. In order to protect the universe, Shiva drank the poison. His wife Parvati gripped Shiva's throat to avert him from drinking the poison, which was destructive even to a god. As a consequence, Shiva's throat became blue. That is why Lord Shiva is also known as Neela kantha (the blue-throated one because in Sanskrit, neela means blue and kantha means throat). 


  • All types of vegetables were thrown into the ocean and 14 Ratans (treasures or gems) were created from the ocean and were distributed between gods and asuras. Although usually the Ratans are counted as 14, the list in the scriptures varies from 9 to 14 Ratans. They were accepted by the asuras, the devs, and Vishnu, as per the quality of the treasures created. There were three types of Goddesses which came out from the ocean:
  • Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Fortune - who accepted Vishnu as Her everlasting spouse.
  • Apsaras, different divine nymphs such as Punjisthala, Menaka, Rambha, etc. - selected the demigods as their buddies.
  • Varuni - taken - somewhat hesitantly (she appeared argumentative and untidy) - accepted the demons.
Similarly, 3 categories of supernatural animals appeared:
  • Surabhi or Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow - taken by Vishnu, and presented to sages to produce ghee from her milk to use for Yajna and similar rites.
  • Airavata, and numerous other elephants, taken by Indra.
  • Uchhaishravas, the divine seven-headed horse - presented to the demons.
  • There were three valuables:
  • Kaustubha, the most precious Ratan in the world.
  • Parijat, the heavenly flowering tree with flowers which never wilt or fade.
  • Sharanga, A powerful bow.
Also created were:
  • Chandra, the moon that decorated Shiva's head.
  • Dhanvantari, the Vaidya of the Devs with Amrit
  • Halahala, the toxic substance eaten by the lord Shiva.

  • This list differs from Purana to Purana and is also a bit different in the epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The nectar of everlasting life
  • Eventually, Dhanvantari, the holy doctor, appeared with a vessel containing Amrit, the heavenly nectar of everlasting life. Ferocious fighting followed between Asuras and Devs for the nectar. In order to defend the nectar from Asuras, the divine Garuda took the vessel, and flew away.
  • The Devs requested to Vishnu, who then took the shape of Mohini and as an enchanting and beautiful virgin, Mohini sidetracked the asuras, took the amrit, and delivered it among the Devs, who gulped it. Asura RahuKetu, pretended himself as a deva and gulped some nectar. Because of their glowing nature, the moon god Chandra and the sun god Surya noticed the switching of sides and they told Mohini. However before the nectar could flow his throat, Mohini chopped off his head with the Sudarshana Chakra. Nevertheless since the nectar had gone down his throat he didn’t expire. From that day, his body was called Ketu and his head was called Rahu. The story finishes with the refreshed Devs overcoming the asuras.

Depiction at Angkor Wat

  • In Cambodia, a sculptural relief at the temple of Angkor Wat contains a depiction of asuras and devs working collectively to swirl the Ocean of Milk so as to liberate the valuable items lost inside, including amrit.
  • Svetadvipa is the island where there is a sea of milk, and in the middle of that sea, there is a place known as Airavati-pura where Aniruddha rests on Ananta.
  • Cosmologically the Sagaras and Dvipas show the whole Cosmos, although in Cosmography (or Cartiography), all the Sagaras and Dvipas are depicted to rest in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Parmatma is resting on sea of milk. Parmatma is in each atom and heart of all 8, 400, 000 types of material bodies.
Krishna and Milk Ocean
  • There is some relationship between Goloka, the planet of Krishna and Milk Ocean. Vishnu, resides in a white castle on the ocean of milk. Krishna lives on Goloka, a planet of cows. The ghee ocean and the yoghurt ocean are other milky oceans. These oceans signify that Absolute Truth is also wonderful and sweet. Goloka is the supreme planet. Although just a few people out of millions realize Absolute Truth and might subsequently reside on this planet of cows, where there is the milk ocean.
Relation to Modern Cosmology
  • In modern metaphysics, the Milky way is shown as a white spiral cloud. The revolving spiral galaxy construction of the milky way corresponds to the ocean of milk being stirred. The Super huge Black hole at its middle corresponds to the tremendously heavy Mount Mandar.


  • In Indian texts, Asuras are mythical lord beings who vie for power with the more generous devs (also called suras). Asuras are powerful superhuman demons or demigods with bad or good qualities. The bad Asuras are called Danavas and the good ones are called Adityas.
  • Along with Rakshasas (ogres, ghosts), Yaksha (nature spirits) and Devs Asuras is part of Indian mythology.
  • As per the Bhagavad Gita, all creatures in the universe have both the demonic qualities and the divine qualities. The majority of humankind is multi-charactered with many or a few faults. Among human beings, pure demon-like evil are exceptional and pure god-like saints are also exceptional. The Gita says that emotions, needs, greed, aversions, and desires, in different shapes are parts of ordinary lives, and it’s only when they turn to cruelty, hypocrisy, harshness, anger, conceit, arrogance, cravings, hate, and lust, that natural human leanings transform into something demonic (Asura).
  • In ancient Indian literature, Scholars had not agreed on the evolution and nature of the Asura concept. On Asura concept scholarly views of Jan Gonda, Venkatesvaran, Geldner, Hermann Oldenberg, Macdonnell, Boyce, Gerschevitch, Thieme, Segerstedt, Fausboll, Lommel, Taraporewala, Hillebrandt, Burrows, Schroeder, Przyluski, Shamasastry, Coomaraswamy, SC Roy, Skoeld, Padmanabhayya, Banerji-Sastri, Bhandarkar and Raja, Darmesteter, Dandekar, Rajwade, Konow, Benveniste, Otto, von Bradke, Haug, W Norman Brown, and FBJ Kuiper are the most widely studied. According to Kuiper, Asuras is a specific group of gods among major Vedic theories of formation of the universe. The underworld belongs to Asuras and the sky world belongs to Devs. Indra is the leader of the Devs and dragon Vrtra is the leader of the evil. During this conflict between evil and good, destruction and creation, some influential Asuras support the good and are known as Devs, other influential Asuras support the evil and are known as Asuras. In the nature of everything in the Universe this is the first most important duality to develop.
Characteristics of Asuras
  • The perception of Asura-Devs transferred from India to Southeast Asia in 1st millennium CE.
  • In the oldest level of Vedic texts, all influential beings, evil or good are called Asuras.
  • Asuras who remain Asura share the charisma of influential beings obsessed with their desire for ill-gotten wealth, force, anger, and ego. When they do not get what they want, the Asuras who remain Asuras attack the Asuras who become Devs. The enmity between the two is the cause of extensive literature, tales and legends in Hinduism. A few of these stories are the origin for legends behind major Hindu annual festivals.
  • Asuri is the womanly of an adjective from asura. The powers of an Asuri are outlined into plants providing a cure against leprosy. First of all the Asuri prepared this medication for leprosy. She eliminated leprosy, and provided one general colour to the skin. Asuri used that knowledge to attract Dev Indra in Atharva Veda.