Friday, 1 July 2011

Samudra Manthan and Goddess Lakshmi – The Reason for Undertaking Samudra Manthan

Samudra Manthan is the churning of the ocean performed by Asuras (demons) and Devas (gods) to obtain Amrita or elixir of life. But there is an interesting episode mentioned in the Vishnu Purana which suggests that the need to perform Samudra Manthan arose after Goddess Lakshmi disappeared from the world due to a curse.

Sage Durvasa once received a flower garland which had a unique fragrance. While roaming through the forest with the garland, Durvasa came across Lord Indra (king of demigods) who was sitting atop his white elephant Airavat. The Sage gifted the garland to Lord Indra and he placed it on the head of Airavat.

Airavat wanted to know the reason for the unique fragrance and using his trunk he tried to get the garland. But unfortunately the garland fell down and the elephant stamped on it.

Durvasa happened to see this and he thought it was done purposefully to insult him. He thought that Indra has gone arrogant with wealth, power and prosperity.

Durvasa cursed Indra that Goddess Lakshmi, who is responsible for all his prosperity, will desert him.

The curse proved to be fatal and Indra lost all his glory. The Devas thought that the Asuras will take advantage of their precarious situation and would drive them out of heaven.

The Devas then approached Lord Vishnu for help. He said that Goddess Lakshmi has disappeared deep into the oceans and the only way to make her reappear was by Samdura Manthan or Churning of the Ocean.

Thus the Devas took the help of the Asuras by tempting them with the Amrit that can be obtained through Samdura Manthan. Numerous things appeared during the churning of ocean including Goddess Lakshmi who sought the hand of Lord Vishnu and became his consort.

Symbolism in the Churning of Ocean or Samudra Manthan

Churning of Ocean or Samudra Manthan mentioned in the Hindu Puranas is an important event that was performed by Devas (demi gods) and Asuras (Demons) to obtain Amrit (Elixir of life). The popular belief is that the churning of ocean (palazhi) was done to get Amrit so that it will return youth to the ageing Devas and they will be free from death. There is also a hidden symbolic meaning in the whole exercise of Samudra Manthan.

Manthra Mountain was used as the churn and Snake Vasuki was used as the rope. To hold the churn, Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of Kurma or Tortoise. The poison that came out during the churning was consumed by Lord Shiva.

The ageing process of Devas symbolically suggests the pollution of the mind. The mind gets covered with all impurities and this hides the Supreme Truth. The mind becomes easily corrupt and is under the sway of materialistic needs and desires. It becomes the seat of ignorance. The escape from death is Moksha and this has to be attained on this earth through self realization.

The impurities of the mind can only be cleared by knowledge. This knowledge can only be obtained by the churning of the intelligence. For this the brain needs to expand like the huge snake Vasuki and the mind should be courageous and all inclusive like the huge Manthra Mountain.

The kurma or tortoise symbolically indicates that the Amrut of Knowledge can be only obtained when we have the capability to control the senses. We should be able to pull back our senses from the materialistic world when causes impediments in the path of self realization.

When this whole process is taking place, numerous forces will try to pollute our mind. We should learn to fight these evil tendencies just like Lord Shiva – who drank the Kalakuta poison.

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