The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes The Churning of the Ocean which is chapter 9 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the ninth chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 9 - The Churning of the Ocean

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Lomaśa said:

1-2. On one occasion Indra, the lord of Devas, was seated in the middle of the assembly surrounded by the guardians of the worlds, Devas and Sages. He was encircled by bevies of celestial damsels and was honoured by Gandharvas. Songs in praise of his conquest were being sung by Siddhas and Vidyādharas.

3. At that time Bṛhaspati who was the scholarly preceptor of the king of Devas and was of exalted fortune and liberal-minded, came there surrounded by his disciples.

4. On seeing him Devas who had been sitting there promptly bowed down to him. Indra too had seen Vācaspati’s (Bṛhaspati’s) arrival.

5. But the vicious-minded lord did not utter a single word in his honour. No word of welcome, no offer of seat, no formal permission to leave was accorded to him.

6. Knowing that Śakra had become arrogant and evil-minded due to royal authority, Bṛhaspati became angry and he vanished.

7. When the preceptor of Devas had departed, Suras became dejected. Yakṣas, Serpents, Gandharvas and sages also became depressed in mind, O Brāhmaṇas.

8. At the end of the music recital, Indra (as it were) regained consciousness. He asked Suras immediately, “Where has (the preceptor) of great penance gone?”

9-10. At the very same time, Śakra, the lord of Devas, was informed by Nārada: “The preceptor has been insulted by you. There is no doubt about it. O slayer of Bala, your kingdom has gone due to the disrespect (shown by you) to the preceptor. Hence, by all means, you have to plead to him for forgiveness.”

11. On hearing these words of the noble-souled Nārada, Śakra suddenly got up from his seat. Surrounded by all of them (Devas etc.), he hastened to the abode of his preceptor promptly (without any slackness).

12. He bowed down to Tārā at the outset and asked her, “Where has (our preceptor) of great penance gone?” Tārā stared at Śakra and said, “I do not know.”

13-15. Thereupon, Śakra became worried and returned to his own house. In the meantime, there appeared mysterious ill-omens in heaven, causing misery to everyone including the noble-minded Śakra himself.

All the activities of Śakra were known to Bali who was stationed in the nether worlds. Surrounded by Daityas, he went from Pātāla to Amarāvatī. Thereupon a great fight ensued between Devas and Dānavas.

16-18. Devas were defeated by Daityas. Instantaneously the whole of the kingdom of Śakra, the deluded and evil-minded one, was conquered by them and everything (belonging to Śakra) was quickly carried to Pātāla. It was by the grace of Śukra that all of them became victorious. Śakra became bereft of glory and splendour. So he was utterly abandoned by Devas. The goddess (of fortune) with lotus-like eyes vanished.

19. The great elephant Airāvata, the horse Uccaiḥśravas and many other precious things and jewels were taken away immediately by Daityas of evil behaviour due to greed.

20. The good ones among them fell into the ocean. Bali who was surprised at this, remarked to his preceptor:

21. “It is mysterious that many jewels brought by us after defeating Devas have fallen into the ocean.”

22-23. On hearing the words of Bali, Uśanas (i.e. Śukra) replied to him: “One can attain the heavenly kingdom only through performance of a hundred horse-sacrifices. There is no doubt about it that it will be acquired by one who is initiated in it. Hence, the enjoyer is also he himself. Without performing a horse-sacrifice, heavenly pleasures cannot at all be enjoyed.”

24. Understanding the utterance of his preceptor, Bali became quite silent. What was proper and befitting was carried out through and along with Devas.

25. Indra too, on attaining a miserable plight, went to Parameṣṭhin (Brahmā) and informed him of everything, such as the danger to his kingdom and other things.

26-28. On hearing the words of Śakra, Parameṣṭhī said: “We shall gather together all the Suras and go immediately along with you to Viṣṇu, the lord of all lords, in order to propitiate him.”

Saying “So be it” all those guardians of the worlds beginning with Śakra went to the shore of the Milk Ocean with Brahmā at their head. After sitting there all of them began to eulogize Hari.

Brahmā said:

29-31. O lord of the universe, O lord of Devas bowed down to by Suras as well as Asuras, obeisance to you, O great Ātman, of auspicious reputation, O infinite one, O immutable one, free from decay.

You yourself are Yajña. You are of the form of Yajña, O consort of Lakṣmī. Hence, be the bestower of boons unto the Devas.

By insulting his preceptor, Indra has lost (everything) from his kingdom along with the celestial sages. Hence redeem him.

The Lord said:

32. There is no wonder in the fact that everything perishes by insulting the preceptor. Those who are sinners, who are completely engaged in evil activities, who indulge only in sensual pleasures and by whom parents are censured, are undoubtedly godless ones.

33. Immediately he has acquired the fruit, O Brahmā, of what he has committed. Difficulty and misfortune have befallen all due to the act of this Śakra.

34. When a person faces adverse circumstances, they say that, he must be friendly with all living beings in order to achieve all his purposes.

35. For that reason, Indra, do as I suggest. For the realization of your purpose, alliance should be formed by you with Daityas.

36. On being commanded by the lord, the highly intelligent Śakra left Amarāvatī and went to Sutala along with Devas.

37. On seeing that Indra had come, Indrasena became furious. Along with his army, he was desirous of killing Indra.

38. Then by means of different types of (consoling) words, Daityas and Bali, the most excellent one among strong persons, were prevented from killing him by Nārada.

39-40. At the instance of that same sage, Bali controlled (abandoned) his anger. Indra then came in along with his array. He was seen by Indrasena surrounded by the guardians of the worlds. The king of Daityas hastened to tell him laughingly:

41. “Wherefore have you come here to Sutala, O Śakra? Let it be mentioned.” On hearing these words, he said smilingly:

42. “We are the descendants of Kaśyapa. All of you are also so. Just as we are, so also you are. Clash and quarrel is meaningless.

43. As fate would have it, my kingdom was seized by you instantaneously. So also many gems were taken away by you. Though brought with very great effort, they too have gone.

44. Hence a learned person must deliberate and ponder. One gets knowledge by means of deliberation and liberation originates from knowledge.

45. But alas! of what avail is my utterance in front of you? I do not know. I have approached you along with Suras as a person seeking refuge.”

46. On hearing these words of Śakra, the intelligent (Daitya), the most excellent one among knowers (learned), the most excellent one among those who know what to say, said laughingly to Śakra:

47. “For what purpose, O Devendra, you have come, I do not know.”

48. On hearing those words, Śakra’s eyes became filled with tears. He did not say anything. Nārada spoke to him the following words:

49. “O Bali, don’t you know the difference between right and wrong activities? This is the virtue of great men. They protect those who seek refuge in them.

50. Those who do not protect the one who seeks refuge, a Brāhmaṇa, a sick man and an old man, are (really) slaughterers of Brāhmaṇas.

51-52. He has come to your presence with words asking for refuge. He is worthy of being protected by you. There is no doubt in this matter.” On being told thus by Nārada, the lord of Daityas himself pondered over everything with great understanding regarding what was right and what was wrong. With great respect, he honoured Śakra along with the guardians of the worlds as well as the groups of Devas.

53. For the sake of credence, Puranadara performed many good holy observances of the Sāttvika quality which created confidence in Bali.

54. Thus Śakra entered into an agreement with Bali in order to further his selfish ends. That great lord stayed with Bali solely devoting himself to the (precepts in the) science of political economy.

55. Thus Indra passed many years living in Sutala. Remembering the words of Viṣṇu and pondering over them again and again, he thought of a plan.

56. Once the king of Devas himself was sitting in the middle of the assembly (of Bali). Conversant with the right policy, he spoke laughingly these words to Bali:

57-58. “Many gems and jewels, elephants etc. have dropped into the ocean, while you were bringing them here. They belonged to us then. They should be recovered from the ocean by you as well as by us, O heroic one.

59. We must hurry up in exerting ourselves to recover those jewels from the ocean. Hence, it must be churned by you for the purpose of achieving the desired result.”

60. Induced thus by Śakra, Bali, the slayer of Suras, spoke to Śakra immediately, “By whom and with what should the churning be done?”

61-63. Then an ethereal voice with the majestic rumbling sound of cloud said: “O Devas, O Daityas, do churn the Ocean of Milk. There is no doubt about this that your strength will increase. Make the Mandara mountain the churning rod and Vāsuki the requisite rope. Afterwards, O Devas and Daityas, join together and let the ocean be churned.”

64. On hearing the words of that ethereal voice, all Suras exerted themselves along with Daityas.

65. Those Suras and Asuras came out of Pātāla. They all came to the matchless, excellent mountain Mandara.

66. Daityas were ten million in number. So also were Devas undoubtedly. Preparing themselves, they came to Mandara having golden lustre.

67-68. It abounded in gems and precious stones. It was globular in shape. It was very big and exceedingly lustrous. Many gems were (lying scattered) all round. It had many trees such as sandal tree, Pārijāta, Nāga, Punnāga and Caṃpaka. It was full of various kinds of animals and deer, lions and tigers.

69. On seeing such a great mountain, all the excellent Suras, joined their palms in reverence and said:

Devas said:

70. O mountain, all of us, the Suras have come here to submit to you. "Listen to it, O great mountain, the helper of others.

71-72. On being requested thus by Devas and Daityas then, the mountain Mandara came out in an embodied form and ia that form the mountain Mandara said: “What for have all of you come to me? Let that be mentioned.”

73. Then Bali said these words befitting the occasion. Indra too hurriedly spoke these courteous and sincere words:

74. “O mountain Mandara, you cooperate with us in a great undertaking. O observer of holy vows, you should be the churning rod for the production of nectar.”

75. Saying “So be it” and honouring their words, because it was for the accomplishment of the task of Devas, he spoke these words to Devas and Asuras and particularly to Indra:

76. “My wings have been cut (by you) with the thunderbolt of hundred spikes. How is it possible for me to go for realizing your purpose?”

77. Then all Devas and Asuras praised the mountain. They then uprooted that incomparable and wonderful Mandara mountain.

78. But, though they were desirous of taking it to the Milky Ocean, they proved incapable of doing it. The mountain fell on Devas and Daityas.

79. Some were crushed. Softie died. Some fell into a swoon. Some of them began to blame and censure and some suffered great pain.

80. Thus, Asuras, Suras and Dānavas failed in their attempt. When they regained consciousness, they eulogized the Lord of the universe:

81. “Save us, save us, O great Viṣṇu, O lord compassionate to those who seek refuge. The entire world, mobile as well as immobile, is pervaded by you.”

82-83. Then Hari appeared before them for the accomplishment of the purpose of Devas. Viṣṇu who was seated on Garuḍa, saw them and suddenly and sportingly lifted up the excellent mountain and placed it on Garuḍa.[1] Then, the lord granted all of them protection from fear.

84. Rising from there (and taking leave of) those Devas, he took the old mountain to the northern shore of the Ocean of Milk. After placing it in the waters, he went away from that place.

85. Then all those groups of Suras arrived there along with Asuras, taking Vāsuki with them. Then they made the agreement.

86. After making Mandara the churning rod and Vāsuki the rope, all of them, Suras and Asuras, churned the Ocean of Milk.

87. As the Ocean of Milk was being churned, the mountain sank deep into Rasātala. At that very instant, the Lord of Ramā, Viṣṇu, became a tortoise and lifted it up. That was something really marvellous.

88. When the mountain rotated, it was further pulled and pushed by Suras and Dānavas. Now it rotated without any basis, like the understanding without a preceptor.

89. Viṣṇu, the supreme soul, then became the basic support of the Mandara mountain. With his four hands he gathered it up and churned pleasantly.

90. Then all Suras and Asuras churned the Ocean of Milk after uniting together. Very powerful themselves, by uniting together, they became all the more powerful.

91. The excellent mountain had adamantine strength. It rolled on the back, neck, thighs and the space between the knees of the noble-souled tortoise. Due to the friction of these two, submarine fire was generated.

92. The Halāhala poison too emerged and it was seen by Nārada. Thereafter, the celestial sage of unmeasured splendour spoke these words:

93-94, “The churning of the ocean should not be carried on by you all now. O Devas, all of you pray to Śiva.[2] Have you forgotten the sacrifice of Dakṣa and what Vīrabhadra did there?

Hence, let Śiva be immediately remembered, O Devas. He is greater than the greatest; he is beyond the greatest. He is the embodiment of supreme bliss. He is worthy of being meditated upon by Yogins; he has no form. (As a matter of fact) however, he is formless and unmanifest (or without diversity).”

95. Devas were eager to achieve their purpose. Therefore, they hurriedly went on churning the ocean. All those who are overwhelmed by desires do not listen (to the advice of others), because they become irrational and stupid.

96. They should not be given many pieces of advice and instructions. They are subject to Rāga (desire) and Dveṣa (hatred). All of them are averse to Śiva.

97. With their sheer continuous exertion, they churned the Ocean of Milk. Due to excessive churning, the poison called Halāhala was generated from the Ocean of Milk.[3]

98. It was strong enough to burn down the three worlds. It came up to kill the heaven-dwellers. It went up still further and spread to all quarters. The entire sky was pervaded by it. The Kālakūṭa poison advanced to consume all the living beings.

99. They observed the huge king of serpents grasped by their own hands. They left him there along with the mountain and then went (immediately) away. They fled along with Asuras.

100. So also the sages beginning with Bhṛgu, sages in hundreds (fled in all directions). It was like what happened at the sacrifice of Dakṣa.

101. Earnestly urged by Bhṛgu, all of them went to Satyaloka: “This poison Kālakūṭa will be quelled by means of various Vedic Sentences. O Devas, there is no doubt in this matter. It is true; I am speaking the truth unto you.”

102. On hearing these words uttered by Bhṛgu, all of them distressed by the poison Kālakūṭa went to Satyaloka and sought refuge in Brahmā.

103. Brahmā saw the blazing Kālakūṭa with sparkling lustre. He found that Suras and Asuras were ignorant of their duties. He was about to curse them, but he was prevented by Nārada.

Brahmā said:

104. O Devas, what a wrong thing has been committed by you? Why has this explosive thing cropped up? It is Īśvara’s anger. My speech cannot be otherwise.

105. Thereupon, surrounded by Devas, the Vedas, the Upāniṣads and the different kinds of Āgamas, he proceeded ahead out of fear of the Kālakūṭa.

106. Then, Devas who were worried said to to one another, “We are enveloped in Avidyā (nescience) and lust. How can we do anything to Śaṅkara?”

107. Then Devas kept Brahmā at their head and hurriedly went to Vaikuṇṭha, because they were afraid of Kālakūṭa.

108. Brahmā and others as well as the groups of sages sought refuge in the great lord Viṣṇu, the primordial Puruṣa, the mighty lord who had resorted to Vaikuṇṭha, Mādhava, Adhokṣaja. The groups of Suras and Asuras sought refuge in lord Viṣṇu.

109. By that time, the great poison Kālakūṭa came there. After burning Brahmā’s world at the outset, it burned Vaikuṇṭha.

110. Viṣṇu who dwells in the cavity of the heart of everyone, was burned by the fire of Kālakūṭa also with his attendants. Immediately he acquired the colour of Tamāla.

111. Vaikuṇṭha also became blue in colour. It was surrounded by all the worlds. Hence, all the worlds became encircled by the poisonous substance from the waters.

112. The wonderful poison of the waters reduced to ash the whole of the Cosmic Egg with its eight outer coverings and along with Brahmā.

113. There was no earth, no water, no fire, no wind, and no ether. There was neither Ahaṃkāra (Cosmic Ego), nor Mahat (the Great Principle). There was no Mūlāvidyā. On account of Śiva’s wrath, the entire universe became reduced to ash.

Notes regarding the Churning of the Ocean:

This is a favourite topic of Purāṇa-writers as can be seen from its description in Mbh, Ādi. 18, VR 1.45.17-18, BhP VIII.5.U-18, BdP I.ii.25, MtP 249-250 to mention a few. The background of the churning of the ocean is different in our text. It is for the recovery of the gems of Indra which were sunk into the sea that Devas and Asuras agreed to churn the ocean. In Mbh. it was god Nārāyaṇa who advised god Brahmā to churn the ocean for getting Amṛta (Ādi. 17.10-13).

Footnotes and references:


In Mbh, Ādi 18.8 it was the serpent Śeṣa who carried Mt. Mandara to the sea. Here the credit is given to Garuḍa, Viṣṇu’s vehicle.


Our text is a propagandist of Śiva. In the Mbh it is Nārāyaṇa who guides Devas and Asuras in churning the ocean. Śiva is not mentioned at all in this context (Mbh, Ādi 18).


VV 97-113 describe the disastrous effect of the poison Kālakūṭa, viz. burning down of the entire three worlds. The author’s object is to heighten the greatness of Śiva in drinking the poison (see the next chapter).

Mbh sums it up in one line:

prāgrasal loka-rakṣārthaṃ brahmaṇo
vacanāc chivaḥ
(Ādi 18.42b)

‘At the instance of god Brahmā, Śiva consumed it (the poison) for saving the world.’


The destruction of the universe by Kālakūṭa is a ‘diversion’ (vinoda) to god Gaṇeśa, because people do not worship him and Śiva through delusion.

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