History of Literature

The Churning of the Ocean


The Churning of the Ocean



One day, the Indian gods gathered on Mount Mem, the navel of the world, to discuss how to gain the amrita, or elixir of immortality, which was hidden deep in the ocean. At the god Vishnu's suggestion, they decided to try to churn it out, using Vasuki the snake as a rope, and Mount Mandara, set on top of a giant tortoise, as a paddle. The Devas, the gods friendly to humankind, seized Vasuki at one end, and the Asuras (or anti-gods) seized him at the other. As each side pulled, the paddle turned this way and that, churning the ocean, which soon became milky and turned into butter. The gods continued churning and gradually "fourteen precious things" came forth, including the sun, the moon, Vishnu's wife Lakshmi, and finally, Dhanvantari, the god's physician, carrying the amrita. The Devas and the Asuras clamoured to taste it but Vishnu tricked the Asuras out of drinking it, and only Rahu, "the grasper", a monstrous demon, had a sip. To prevent the whole of him from achieving immortality Vishnu cut off his head. This remained immortal and declared war on the moon god, Soma, alternately swallowing and regurgitating him, in an attempt to find more of the immortal elixir (also called soma).



In THE HOLY BOOK, Rig Veda, it is said of amrita (or soma),
"We have drunk soma, we have become immortal, we have entered into
the light, we have known the gods."
Soma was a plant-based hallucinogen.






This Indian ivory shows Durga killing the buffalo demon




Durga and the Buffalo

Durga, the warrior goddess, is a form of the Indian mother goddess, Mahadevi. Other forms include gentle Parvati, wife of Shiva. Durga was created by the gods when they were deposed by the Asuras from their home on Mount Mem. Arising from the flames of their fury, she rode into battle on a lion, killing every demon in her path, until she faced their leader, Mahisha, the demon buffalo. After a terrible fight, Durga defeated him and, her foot on his neck, forced the spirit from his mouth, and cut off his head. As he died, all die gods, and all the creatures in the world shouted "Victory!", and a great lamentation arose from the demon hordes.




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