Lalitopakhyana (Lalita Mahatmya)

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 103,924 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes churning of the ocean for nectar which is Chapter 9 of the Lalitopakhyana (or Lalita-Mahatmya), an important scripture within Shaktism embedded as the final part in the Brahmanda-Purana. It is presented in the form of a dialogue between sage Agastya and Hayagriva, which is incarnation of Vishnu and also includes the Lalita Sahasranama.

Chapter 9 - Churning of the ocean for Nectar

Indra submitted:

1. O holy lord, conversant with all types of holy duties, the foremost among those who know the (events of the) three units of time (i.e. past, present and future); sinful activities and the means of remedy thereof have been perfectly recounted by you.

2. What is that Karman of mine, as a result of which this mishap has befallen me?[1] What is the means of atonement for the same? Mention this, O most excellent one among those who speak fluently.

Bṛhaspati explained:

3. It is traditionally remembered that then[2] Danu was born of Diti and Kāśyapa and a daughter called Rūpavatī was also born whom the father (Kāśyapa) gave to Dhātā (in marriage).

4. An excessively brilliant son Viśvarūpa was born to her. He was always devoted to Nārāyaṇa. He was a master of the Vedas and Vedāṅgas.

5. Then the lord of Daityas chose the son of Bhṛgu (i.e. Śukra) as his priest. You were appointed here in the kingdom of the Devas as Vāsava.

6. Prior to this when you were in Sudharmā (the Assembly Hall of Devas), a certain question was put by you in the presence of sages.

7. “Which is better, worldly existence or pilgrimage? What is its excellence? Be pleased to bless me with a decisive answer.”

8-9. All of them began to answer but before that, as fate would have it, the following answer was given by me quickly.

“Pilgrimage is far more excellent than worldly existence.” On hearing that the sages became furious and cursed me.

10. “Go immediately to Karmabhūmi, “Land of holy rites” i.e. Bharata (India) along with your sons limited in number due to poverty.” On being cursed thus by those infuriated sages, I became dejected. I entered the city of Kāñcī.

11-12. On seeing the city devoid of a priest, you became worried in mind along with the Devas. For the sake of priesthood, Viśvarūpa was respectfully entreated by you. Viśvarūpa, the most excellent one among persons engaged in austerities, the sister’s son of Dānavas, became the priest of Devas.

13. The priest of great power of penance did not have any excessive enmity towards Daityas. At that time the lord of Daityas and Vāsava became equally powerful.

14. Then once O king, you became very furious and desired to kill the nephew of the lord of Dānavas. With that desire you hastened to the forest where he was practising penance.

15-16. He was seated there along with the sages. He appeared like a mountain with three peaks.[3] By reciting the Vedic Mantras he caused the quarters to reverberate. He was completely engrossed in the Bliss of Brahman—you considered that (killing him) will be for the welfare of all living beings. With the favour of Īśa, all his heads were simultaneously chopped off by you.

17-18. On acquiring that sin, you were afflicted frequently. You went to a cave in the Meru and stayed there for many years. On hearing the words of sages, Brahmā came to know about the death of his son. Being distressed due to the grief over the death of his son, he became angry and cursed you.

19-20. “Due to my curse may Vāsava become immediately devoid of splendour and glory.”

Devas then became leaderless and bewildered. They were harassed by the Daityas. Separated from you and me, they fled to the abode of Brahmā. After making obeisance to him, they reported him everything that had happened.

21. Thereupon, the self-born lord (god Brahmā) began to ponder over the remedy for that sin. But he was not able to find any such remedy.

22-24. Thereat, surrounded by the Devas, he approached Nārāyaṇa. After bowing down to him and eulogising him the four-faced Lord submitted to him the relevant facts.

After reflecting very much, the lord of the world (Nārāyaṇa), with great sympathy, split the sin into three parts and assigned them to three different places viz. women, Earth and Trees. He granted boons too to them.

25-26. The boon then granted to the women was in contact with husbands and acquisition of sons in all seasons (or menstruation period). That granted to the trees of every type, was the ability to grow once again when cut.

Madhusūdana bestowed the boon of ability to fill up dugout places of the Earth. The sin began to function in them as menses in the case of women, exudation of sap in the case of trees and barren spot with saline soil in the case of the Earth.

27. You, Indra came out of that cave and became the leader of the Devas. You acquired the wealth and glory of kingdom due to the favour of Parmeṣṭhin [Parameṣṭhin?].

28-29. Pacified by him, Dhātā spoke to Janārḍana—“My curse will not be in vain. Let it take effect after the lapse of some time” (O Hari—N).

On hearing the words of the sage of unmeasured splendour, the lord became delighted. Conversant with the shape of future events he went away silently.

30. Till this time you were ruling over the three worlds and being arrogant on account of your glory and suzerainty, you caused harm to the Kailāsa mountain.

31. Sage Durvāsā, the holy lord, was sent by the omniscient Lord Śiva. Desirous of suppressing your haughtiness sage Durvāsā cursed you.

32. The result of both the curses has been the same. See, the three worlds have become devoid of glory and brilliance.

33. Yajñas are not being perforated nor Dānas (charitable gifts) are being distributed. O Vāsava, there is neither Yama (Restraint on the sense-organs) nor Niyama (Holy observance of vows etc.). Penance and austerities are not found anywhere.

34. All the Brāhmaṇas are devoid of glory and splendour. Their minds are overpowered by covetousness. They are devoid of inherent strength and deficient in courage. All of them have become more or less Atheists.

35. The earth has lost all its essential juice and herbal products. It is becoming more and more feeble and powerless. The sun has a dim and grey disc; the moon is bereft of its lustre.

36. The fire-god is lacking in lustre, his form being adversely affected by wind and dust. The spaces of quarters, are not bright and the sky is not clear.

37. Devas are weak. They appear entirely different. The three worlds including mobile and immobile beings are on the verge of ruin.”

Hayagrīva said:

38. “Even as Bṛhaspati and Mahendra were conversing thus, Malaka and other great Daityas attacked Svargaloka (Heaven).

39. Haughty on account of their physical strength, they chopped off all trees in the whole of Nandana park. They hit and beat the gardeners with different weapons.

40. They smashed down the rampart wall and rushed in the city. They thrashed and tortured the Suras staying in their palaces.

41. Particularly, they abducted the gem-like (beautiful) celestial Damsels. Thereupon, the Devas who were completely afflicted cried loudly.

42. On hearing such a noisy tumult, Vāsava left his seat and began fleeing followed by all Devas.

43. After reaching the abode of Brahmā, Vṛṣā (i.e. Indra) with gloomy face recounted factually the entire activity of the Daityas.

44. On hearing it, Brahmā the creator of the worlds glanced at Harihaya (Indra) whose splendour and lustre had been destroyed and who had been accompanied by all Devas and said this to them.

45. “O Indra, do seek refuge in Mukunda along with all Devas. That destroyer of Daityas will bring about your welfare.”

46. After saying this, Brahmā himself, the grandfather of the worlds, went to the ocean of Milk accompanied by him as well as Devas.

47. Then Brahmā and other Devas eulogised Lord Janārdana, the great ruler of the worlds with excellent words.

48. Then the delighted lord Vāsudeva, the eternal lord who is eager to protect the universe, told Devas.

Śrī Bhagavān said:

49. “I shall perfectly bring about an increase in your case by means of my brilliance alone. What is being suggested by me may be carried out by you all.

50. Cast down into the ocean of Milk all types of medicinal herbs. Get into an alliance with those Asuras and do everything in collaboration with them.

51. Make the Mandara mountain your churning rod[4] and Vāsuki your churning rope. I shall stand near to help you, O Suras. May the churning for the Nectar be carried out.

52. All Dānavas should be addressed in a conciliatory manner “Of course the benefit (of churning the ocean) is common to you and to us”.

53. All of you will become strong and immortal by drinking nectar that will come out when the ocean of milk is being churned.

54. I shall manage everything in such a manner that the Daityas will only exert themselves but will not get any part of Nectar”.

55-56. All those Suras who were advised thus by Śrīvāsudeva made an alliance with the Daityas of matchless power.

The Suras and the Asuras brought various kinds of herbs and cast them into the ocean of Milk. They made the Manḍara mountain which was spotlessly purer than the moon, their churning rod and Vāsuki the churning rope. With very great effort they began to churn the ocean.

57. The gods were allotted places near the tail of Vāsuki. The sons of Diti were employed by Śauri (Viṣṇu) at the portion of the head.

58. Although the Daityas were very powerful, they became pale and devoid of brilliance when their bodies were scorched and singed by the fiery breaths of that (serpent).

59. The Suras who were pulling at the portion of the tail were rendered robust and devoid of fatigue through a favourable gust of wind induced by Viṣṇu.

60. In the middle of the ocean of Milk, the exceedingly lustrous lord in the form of primordial Tortoise became the basis and support of the Mandara mountain that was rotating therein.

61. Mādhava pulled Vāsuki speedily from the midst of all Devas by assuming a separate form and from the midst of Daityas by assuming another form.

62-65. In the form of Brahmā (Kūrma—Tortoise, in N) he supported the mountain that had occupied the ocean. In another form, that of the divine sage (i.e. Nārāyaṇa), he enlivened Devas and rendered them more powerful and robust frequently with great brilliance.

By means of another splendour and radiance that could withstand use of force, the omnipotent Janārdana revived the serpent.

When the ocean of Milk continued to be churned by the Devas and Dānavas, Surabhi (the Divine Cow), honoured by the Suras came up in front of them. At that time, O ascetic, the Devas and Daityas attained great joy.

66-69. When the ocean of Milk was once again churned by the Devas and Dānavas, goddess Vāruṇī with tremulous eyes on account of inebriety, rose up even as the Siddhas in the firmament began to think—“What is this”? She smilingly stood in front of the Asuras.

The Daityas did not accept her. Therefore, they became Asuras. They were given the appellation Asura in the sense “Those who do not have Surā (liquor)”.[5]

Thereupon, she stood in front of Devas. On the direction given by Parameṣṭhin (Brahmā) Devas joyously accepted her. In view of the fact that they accepted Surā, they became glorified by the appellation Sura.

70. When the churning proceeded ahead, Pārijāta, the great tree, appeared in front of them rendering the region around fragrant by means of its sweet smell.

71. The intelligent groups of celestial damsels, of excessively beautiful forms, O divine sage, appeared in front of them, captivatṃg the minds of all people.

72. Then the moon of cool rays rose up. Maheśvara took it up. The different kinds of poison rose up. The species of Nāgas accepted them.

73. Then the gem named Kaustubha came up. Janārdana took it. Thereafter, the great medicinal herb named Vijayā (Hemp), that caused intoxication through the smell of its leaves, was born. Bhairava accepted it.

74. Then, dressed in divine robes lord Dhanvantari, himself stood up holding a pot filled with Nectar in his hand.

75. Then, O storehouse of austerities, Devas, Daityas and sages all round became delighted and contented.

76. Then, from that great ocean of Milk, goddess Śrī, the bestower of boons, came up holding a lotus in her hand and seated in a full blown lotus.

77. Then with a contented heart, all sages eulogised the great goddess Śrī by means of Śrīsūkta[6]. The Gandharvas sang well.

78. All the groups of celestial damsels, the leader of whom was Viśvācī, danced. The Gaṅgā and other sacred rivers approached her for the purpose of her bath.

79. Taking up the water kept in a sacrificial vessel (gold vessel in N.) the eight elephants (supporters) of the quarters bathed goddess Śrī occupying the lotus.

80. The ocean of Milk in an embodied form gave her a lotus garland. The excellent and valuable Tulasī that was born then identified itself with Hari.

81. Viśvakarmā bequeathed her all divine ornaments. Wearing ḍivine garlands and robes and adorned with divine ornaments, Ramā proceeded towards the region of the chest of Viṣṇu even as all were watching her.

82. Tulasī was held by Viṣṇu of great potentiality. Goddess Lakṣmī with the region of the chest of Viṣṇu as her abode, the great goddess of all the worlds, looked at the Devas with eyes as if melting with compassion.[7]

Footnotes and references:


The story of Indra killing his preceptor Triśiras or Viśvajit on the suspicion of his complicity with Daityas and the consequent pursuit by Brahma-hatyā (the sin of Brāhmaṇa murder) and Lord Nārāyaṇa’s division of Indra’s sin of Brahmahatyā among women, trees and the earth is found in Mbh. Udyoga 9-3-4; Śānti 342.32-34 and 41 and Udyoga 9.43 southern recension and other Purāṇas.


Our text reads ‘tato’—But N. reads suto ‘a son’. Smṛtaḥ in V. 3a in our text and suto in N. means both. The texts presume that Danu is the name of a man and Kaśyapa was his father. Mbh. Ādi 65.12 clearly states that Danu was the daughter of Dakṣa and she was given in marriage to Kāśyapa. That is Kāśyapa was the husband and not the father of Danu. Other Purāṇas endorse Mbh. If Smṛtaḥ in V. 3a is emended as Smṛtā the verse means: ‘A beautiful girl remembered by the name Danu was born to Diti and Kāśyapa.


Viśvarūpa had three heads and was hence called Triśiras.


The story of churning the milk-ocean for nectar appears in Mbh. Ādi. 18, VR 1.45, Bh. P. VIII 6, 7 and other Purāṇas all affirming pro-sura role of Viṣṇu. This Purāṇa is no exception as can be seen from VV. 49-54. The episode reflects against the greatness of Viṣṇu.


A popular etymology: A-sura (Non-wine-imbibers). Originally it is derived from ^as—‘to throw’—who threw out gods. But in Vedic it is used with Varuṇa and as an adj. it means ‘divine’, ‘Supreme Spirit’ (MW 121-1). The A-sura is a later formation come to be supported by such Purāṇa episodes as in VV. 66-69.


A supplementary (khila) Sūkta after RV. IV. iv. 34.


The list of ‘Jewels’ that were churned up from the milky ocean and their order of coming out differs in other Purāṇas. For example, the Bh. P. VIII. 8 gives the following order and list of the’jewels’: 1. Surabhi (the divine cow), 2. Uccaiḥśravas (a horse), 3. Airāvata (an elephant), 4. Kaustubha (a jewel), 5. Pārijāta (a flowering tree), 6. Apsaras (Divine damsels) 7. Lakṣmī (a goddess), 8. Vāruṇi (the wine-deity) 9. Dhanvantari (with a jar of Amṛta), the Bhāgavata list does not include Candra, Viṣa (poison absorbed by Nāgas) and Vijayā (Hemp) given in our text.

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