Amma and Achan recently had the good fortune of organizing an Ayyappa Villakku here in Delhi. There were bhajans reciting the story of Lord Ayyappa, his birth and the purpose of his avatar (incarnation). As I told the meaning of those Malayalam bhajans to the girls, their curious minds kept filling up with questions and questions. This made me dig through my cupboard at my parents’ house and dig out an old treasure. A book on Lord Ayyappa that my Muthachan (maternal grandfather) had arranged for me through a devotee visiting the temple. The search was absolutely worth it. Sharing the story here as the first blog post on my new blog Wings and Chirps.
Once Rishi Durvasa came to meet Indra. As Indra got down from his elephant and bowed down to him, the happy sage gave him a divine flower garland. Indra put the garland on the elephant’s trunk and began styling his hair. Meanwhile, the fragrance of the garland invited thousands of bees which irritated the elephant who threw it down and crushed it under its feet. This enraged the sage as the garland was to be treated as a prasada or religious offering. Durvasa cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.
Indra and devas ran to Lord Vishnu who suggested that the Amrita (the nectar of immortality) that would emerge from Palazhi Madhanam (Samudra Manthan; churning of the ocean) alone can cure them of the affects of this curse.
The churning of the Kshirasagara (the ocean of milk) was an elaborate process. Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, who abides on Shiva’s neck, became the churning rope. The demons who demanded to hold the head of the snake were poisoned by fumes emitted by Vasuki. The gods and demons still pulled back and forth on the snake’s body alternately, causing the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean. Between the churning, the mountain began to sink. Vishnu, in his Kurmavatar (turtle) supported the mountain on his back.
A number of treasures were released from the Ocean of Milk during churning. The lethal poison known as Kalakooda Visham or Halahala escaped from the mouth of the serpent king. It was so powerful that it could destroy all of creation. Lord Shiva consumed the poison to protect the universe. Goddess Parvati grabbed Shiva’s throat in an effort to prevent him from swallowing the poison which was powerful enough to destroy Gods too. As a result, Shiva’s throat turned blue. Thus, Lord Shiva is also called Neelakantha (the blue-throated one).
The divine treasures that emerged from the sea were, Goddess Lakshmi, the Apsaras (the divine nymphs), Varuni (Goddess of Wine; consort of Varuna), Kamadhenu (the wish-granting divine cow), Airavata and several other elephants, Uchhaishravas (the divine 7-headed horse), Kausthubham (a rare gem), Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling divine tree), Parijat (the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt), Sharanga (the bow of Lord Vishnu), Chandra (the moon), Shankha (Vishnu’s conch) and many others.
Finally, Lord Vishnu emerged in Dhanvantari avatar (heavenly physician) with the pot containing Amrita. Devas (demi-gods) and Asuras (demons) started fighting for the nectar of immortality. Garuda took the pot and flew from the battle ground.
The demi-gods approached Lord Vishnu who took the form of the enchanting damsel Mohini to distract the Asuras, take the Amrita and distribute it among the Devas. She told the Asuras that they have to keep their eyes shut till she serves them all and that she will marry the last one to open his eyes. While the Asuras kept their eyes closed in order to win Mohini, she took the Amrita and served it to all the Devas thus curing them of Durvasa’s curse. The rejuvenated Devas then defeated the Asuras.
More on Mohini and her son with Lord Shiva, Lord Ayyappa, in the next post. Stay tuned.
***Do share any variations of the story that you are aware of. This post is strictly based on the stories I have heard, read from the Bhagavatha and other texts and books.