The Skanda Purana
by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Churning for the Nectar: Birth of the Poison Kalakuta which is chapter 11 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 eleventh chapter of the Vasudeva-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Chapter 11 - Churning for the Nectar: Birth of the Poison Kālakūṭa
[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]
Note: The belief in the existence of an immortality-giving liquid medicine and how it was churned out of the sea by Devas and Asuras and how the Asuras were cheated by Viṣṇu in a female form is found in most Purāṇas and Mbh.
1. Having ordered Mahendra and others ot have consultation with Asuras, Gods Brahmā and Rudra went to their respective residence. And Devas went to the earth.
2. Indra who was expert in making speech suitable for bringing about an understanding, tempted them (i.e. Asuras) with the offer of a share in the fruit (of the joint effort) with (arguments of) skilful stratagems of policy and entered into an agreement with the Asuras.
3. Then multitudes of Devas and Asuras gathered on the shore of the sea. Bringing huge quantities of medicinal plants of great potency they quickly deposited them in the sea.
4. Then they approached Mount Mandara which looked splendid with various kinds of medicinal plants. All of them got eagerly engaged in uprooting it from its bottom.
5. As they could not uproot it, since it had roots eleven thousand Yojanas deep in the earth, they praised Hari.
6. Knowing it, the Lord ordered Saṅkarṣaṇa, the Lord of the earth, to extract the mountain which was firmly rooted.
7. Immediately with one hissing only, the Lord hurled it from that place to a distance of two Yojanas.
8. Seeing the extremely wonderous feat, all Suras and Asuras were highly delighted. Shouting loudly, they went a-running and reached near it.
9. Powerful and endowed with arms like iron bars for locking doors, they could not lift it up to carry, though they tried their best. Due to the fruitlessness of their labour, they became sad.
10. The Lord who sees everything, knew that all the multitudes of Devas were dejected. He ordered Garuḍa to take it immediately to the sea.
11. He (Garuḍa) who was powerful enough to hold (lift) the Cosmic Egg along with its sheaths, and whose speed was like that of mind, came there and with his beak he lifted the mountain, deposited it near the sea and returned to Hari.
12. Then all the sons of Kaśyapa (i.e. Suras and Asuras) with delighted minds visited Vāsuki with a solemn promise to give share in the Nectar.
13. Then all of them went to the sea. They became ready to churn it, when the sea presented himself in person and spoke as follows:
14. “O Suras and Asuras! If you will give me some share of the Nectar I shall bear the torments of the churning with Mandara.”
15. Promising him to do so, they first ṃrew in it medicinal plants and creepers, and wound the king of Nāgas (Cobras) round that golden mountain.
16. Then Devas remembered Hari in their hearts for (getting) success in the undertaking. Acyuta who sees everything came there the moment they remembered him.
17. The multitude of Devas became glad at his sight. They stood there holding the front part (i.e. mouth) of the Lord of snakes, with the Lord’s approval.
18-19. Showing his partiality to Devas, the Lord stood where the Devas were standing. But then the Daityas became enraged. “We are senior in penance, learning and age (to Devas). How should we hold the inauspicious (dirty) lower part of this (i.e. serpent)? We are not such fools.”
20. (As if) showing respect to them, Viṣṇu, along with Devas laughed loudly and giving the front part (mouṃ, to Asuras), made Suras hold the tail (of Vāsuki).
21. The Daityas did not know that his act of the Lord of Śrī was (for) the protection of the immortal ones (Devas) from the heat of the poisonous hissing of the great snake.
22. Then, the sons of Kaśyapa (Devas and Asuras) with their ends of lower garments tucked into the waistband and fastened with leather straps, raised up the golden-peaked Mandara resplendently dark like a big black bee.
23. Shouting loudly and extremely eager, they placed that mountain of twenty-two thousand Yojanas in height, into the sea.
24. The mountain, though held up by them, had no support below. Due to its extremely heavy weight, it went down to the bottom (of the sea). And they were greatly agitated.
25. Then the Lord himself who always carries out the tasks of his devotees, was praised by Devas. The Lord in the form of a tortoise lifted it (the mountain) from below.
26. As soon as they saw it lifted up, the hearts and faces of them all bloomed with joy. The mountain became stable on the very extensive back of the tortoise.
27. Then the Devas and others with all their power, churned the ocean very fast with incessant hissing sound of exhaustion coming out of their mouth.
28. While the mountain was being whirled (round and round), many trees fell down and the fire generated from their friction burnt down lions and oṃers.
29. Many aquatic animals were pounded down by the great mountain and met death by hundreds in the Milk-Ocean.
30. The roaring sound of the churning was loud like deep ṃunder-ing sound of a multitude of Saṃvartaka clouds (appearing at the destruction of the world). And it (i.e. roaring sound) was intensified with its echo.
31. By hissing and puffing out of the mouth of Vāsuki, whose body was distressed and exhausted by powerful pulling, the Daityas became bereft of power and extremely exhausted and shone like burning coals.
32. They constantly suffered (from) the unbearable poisonous fire. The thousand mouths of the king of serpents dropped down through fatigue.
33. Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa (Śeṣa) of great lustre bore the poisonous fire and at once held them (i.e. the mouths of Vāsuki) up as directed by the Lord (Viṣṇu).
34. From the ocean that was being churned for one thousand years, there came out the poison Halāhala spreading to all the quarters and sub-quarters.
35. They (Suras and Asuras) whose bodies were constantly scorched by the poison called Kālakūṭa which burns down the three worlds, ran, away.
36. Then God Brahmā, Devas, Protectors of Prajās, all of them praised Śiva, the consort of Umā, praying to him for drinking up the poison.
37. The Lord told him, “you were born first and are the senior-most of the Devas. This poison is born first out of the ocean. Hence you take it.”
38. The merciful Śiva, seeing the fright of Devas and due to the order of Hari, sucked up, by his yogic power, the whole of the poison on his palm.
39. He drank it up and absorbed it in his throat. Hence he became known as blue-throated and a beneficent god.
40. The drops that fell from his hand while drinking the poison, were taken up by serpents, scorpions and some medicinal plants.
Footnotes and references:
A hill in the Banka sub-division of Bhagalpur District, two or three miles from Bamsi and thirty miles south of Bhagalpur. It is an isolated hill about seven hundred feet high with a groove all around in the middle to indicate the impression of the coil of Vāsuki around it while churning the ocean. But the marks of chiselling show the artificiality (De 124) Mbh, Vana 139.5-6, Droṇa 87.33 locates it near Kailāsa.
Also known as Kālakūṭa, the creation of this deadly poison while chuming the ocean and its subsequent swallowing by Śiva is described in many Purāṇas and Mbh.