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Valmiki Ramayana - Bala Kanda in Prose Sarga 45


The legend of churning Milk Ocean is narrated to Rama and Lakshmana when they reach and see a city named Vishaala. Vishvamitra narrates how haalahala, the lethal poison as well as Amrita, the ambrosial elixir emerged from the churning of Milk Ocean, and how Shiva contained the poison and how Vishnu helped the churning in His incarnation as Tortoise.




On listening the narration of Sage Vishwamitra about Ganga's descent along with Lakshmana, Rama went into a great astonishment, and then addressed Vishvamitra. 

"The blessed legend you have narrated about the digging of an ocean at the behest of Sagara, Ganga's alighting, and Bhageeratha filling it with the water of Ganga is sacrosanct and even highly amazing. Oh, enemy-inflamer, for two of us entire night rolled by as if it is a single moment while we were thinking about the episode you have narrated in its entirety. While thinking about the auspicious legend of Ganga along with Lakshmana, oh, friend of the universe, Vishvamitra, whole night rolled by." Thus Rama is addressing Vishvamitra. 

Here the placement of verses does not give a continuity of narration in this version, insofar as Rama's speech is concerned. Other versions have a continuity of narration.

Thereafter on the next fresh dawn the enemy-oppressor Raghava spoke these words to sage Vishvamitra, whose affluence is nothing but asceticism, and who by now has performed his daily chores of rituals. 

"We have listened the praiseworthy legend of River Ganga, and the deific night has also passed by while listening such a legend, we may now cross over the very same prominent and merited River Ganga, the tri-path-cruiser. This boat which is suitable for the embarkation of the sages whose deeds are pious, and which is comfortably blanketed with mats in its deck has come here, and indeed on knowing about the visit of your holiness to this place the sages have fetched it." Thus Rama spoke to Vishvamitra. 

Hearing the words of great-souled Raghava, Vishvamitra of Kusha dynasty, started to cross over the River Ganga along with the assemblage of sages, and with both the Raghava-s. 

Arriving at the northern bank of River Ganga they have honoured the group of sages who ferried them up to here and sent them off. Then sojourning on the riverbank of Ganga they have seen the city called Vishaala. The great sage Vishvamitra then quickly started along with Rama and Lakshmana to the charming and admirable city Vishaala, which in comparison is like heaven. 

Then Rama, whose flair for knowing everything is high, became suppliant duly adjoining his palms, and enquired about the prominent city Vishala with the great Sage Vishvamitra. 

"Oh, great sage, which dynasty of kings is ruling from this city of Vishaala? Let safeness betide you, I am interested to hear of it and indeed I am highly inquisitive about it." Thus Rama spoke to Vishvamitra. Hearing that sentence of Rama then the eminent sage Vishvamitra has commenced to narrate the legend of ancient Vishaala. 

"Oh, Rama, I will tell you about the auspicious legend of Indra as I was told, and you listen to it as I tell. Oh, Raghava, indeed you may now listen to the quintessence of what has happened in this country. Once in Krita era, oh, Rama, the sons of Lady Diti were extremely energetic, whereas the sons of her younger sister Lady Aditi were vigorous and highly righteous. 

Diti is the elder sister of Aditi and the first wife of Sage Kaashyapa. Her sons were originally called asura-s, and later given the nomenclature of raakshasaa-s, the demons. Lady Aditi the second wife of that sage Kaashyapa, gave birth to the progeny of sura-s, later generally called as devataa-s, the gods. These two ladies are the daughters of Daksha Prajaapati.

"Oh, tigerly-man, Rama, then those great-souls speculated as to 'how we can thrive without ageing, illness, and likewise without death.' A thought occurred to those masterminds who were thinking on that matter clueing them up, 'we indeed can get elixir of life by churning the Milky Ocean.' Deciding upon to churn the Milky Ocean then made Vasuki, Thousand-headed King of Snakes, as the churning rope and Mt. Mandara as stirrer, and those brothers whose energy is unlimited have started churning the Milky Ocean thoroughly. 

"After a thousand years, the Thousand-headed serpent Vaasuki, which is being used as churning rope, is incapacitated to bear the friction of churning and fanged the cliffs of Mt. Mandara. Thereby a great lot of venom is disgorged from the heads of that serpent Vaasuki, which venom on melting the rocks of Mt. Mandara became the holocaustic poison called haalahala. A lethal poison similar to inferno known as haalahala has started to fulminate therefrom, by which whole universe of gods, non-gods and humans is burnt down. The gods seeking shelter then approached Rudra, the Cardinal God, Endower of Solace, and who husbands all the created animals inclusive of human-animals, namely Shiva, and they prayed to him saying 'save, save us.' 

"This way while the gods are praying the Lord and God of Gods, namely Shiva, then handling his disc and conch-shell Vishnu has also revealed himself at that place. And Vishnu smilingly spoke to wielder of trident Rudra, 'oh, god the best, whatever element that has emerged from the churning of Milk Ocean by gods, that shall belong to you, isn't it. By virtue of your position as the foremost god among gods, oh, omnicompetent god Shiva, you please accept this poison applying yourself to that position of foremost god, and deeming this poison, haalahala, as a foremost oblation to your godhood. Saying so Vishnu, the best one among gods, has disappeared then and there only. And on observing the scare of gods and also on paying heed to the words of the Wielder of Bow called shaara~Nga, namely Vishnu, god Shiva gulped that lethal poison haalahala , as if it is ambrosia. The god of gods Hara then left for his abode Kailash parting with other gods, and oh, Rama, the joy of Raghu's dynasty, the gods and non-gods have continued to churn the Milky Ocean. 

"Now the loftiest mountain that is being used as stirrer, namely Mt. Mandara, has caved into the netherworld, thereby the gods along with gandharva-s have prayed to Madhusuudana, the other name of Vishnu. 'You alone are the recourse to all beings, especially to the dwellers in heavens, oh ambidextrous god Vishnu, you safeguard us, it will be apt of you elevate the mountain.' So prayed gods to Vishnu. Hearing the prayer of gods Vishnu, Hrisheekesha, the controller of senses, adopting the form a tortoise and positioning the stirring Mt. Mandara on that tortoiseshell, he lay recumbent at the bottom of Milky Ocean as a base to the stirrer. Keshava then reached out his hand and grasped the mountaintop as he is the Cosmic-Soul, and thus staying amid gods that Supreme Person Vishnu participated in churning the ocean by holding the stirring mountain upright. 

"After a thousand years of churning, then a male personality, an epitome of Life Sciences, namely aayur veda, a highly righteous soul, named Dhanvantari, has firstly surfaced with his arm-rest-stick and with his handy water-vessel, and then the remarkably elegant Apsara-s, angelic damsels, have emerged next to him from the Milky Ocean. 

"Choicest females have come out an elixir obtained on absolute churning of the waters of Milk Ocean, oh, best one among men, Rama, thereby that genera of females became Apsara-s. Six hundred millions of such Apsara-s with amazing dazzle have emerged from the churning of Milky Ocean, oh, descendent of Kakutstha, and their maidservants who emerged along with them are innumerable. Anybody, either from gods or demons espoused them, and when none espoused them they are virtually reckoned as 'general-purpose' Apsara-females.

In fact these Apsara-s are the nymphs who really did not bother to choose husbands either from gods or from demons and they wanted to be free and out of the institution of marriage. But later they alone have become breeding centres as in the case of Menaka-Vishvamitra et al. Because they have come out from apsu rasa 'waters... elixir, those that emanated from the elixir of water.' Etymologically this nomenclature 'seems more to be guided by the similarity of sound than anything else,' and 'we have a case of sound etymology par excellence [in Ramayana,] in sura, asura and the word asura is formed from the word asu with the addition of the suffix ra and means 'one full of ra spiritual life i.e., asu and 'by curious process of semantical change came to mean a demon.' Pt. Satya Vrat - Ramayana - A Linguistic Study.

"Oh, descendent of Raghu, then the heaven-sent damsel Vaaruni came up from Milky Ocean searching for her espousal, who is the daughter of Varuna, the Rain-god, and who incidentally is the presiding deity of hard liquors and also called as sura. Oh, Rama, the sons of Diti, namely asuraa-s, have not espoused that daughter of Rain-god, but oh, brave Rama, the sons of Aditi on their part, namely sura-s, have espoused that impeccable Vaaruni. Thereby the sons of Diti are called a suraa-s, and the sons of Aditi are called suraa-s, and gods are delighted and rejoiced on espousing Vaaruni.

"Then a best horse called Ucchaishravaa has emerged, oh, Rama, the best among men, and then a gem of a jewel, called Kaustubha, and like that amrita, the Supreme ambrosial elixir of gods, have also emerged. 

"Owing to the dispute regarding the possession of that ambrosia, oh, Rama, then there chanced a rampant ethnic havoc, and then the sons of Aditi have havocked the sons of Diti. All the asura-s and demons have come to one side against sura-s, and there occurred a very gruesome war which was perplexing to all the triad of universe viz., ethereal, real and surreal spheres. When everything is wading into annihilation then that omnicompetent Vishnu swiftly impounded Amrita, the Divine Elixir, by assuming his illusory power of Mohini. 

Mohini literally means 'that which bewitches' and usually described as a feminine or neutral power of Vishnu, personified by a bewitching divine female. Thus Vishnu is said to have assumed a physique of such a voluptuous and bewitching seductress, marvellously limbed, and mantled in see-thru clothing, and thus maddened everybody around her. Then she started to serve Amrita/Ambrosia among the gods and demons on making them to sit on either side of her way. Even the age-old Brihaspati, the Jupiter, sitting in god's row, has come under her charm and started gazing her from top to toe, pruriently. When Brihaspati saw the feet of that damsel, they appeared as male person's feet. He further looked at those two feet and beholding them as shrii caraNa, 'Reverential Divine Feet of Vishnu,' with which he covered the three spheres, Brihaspati's illusion is shattered and he venerated those feet, recognising this as Vishnu's Maya, illusory power.

"Whoever confronted that Eternal and Supreme Person, namely Vishnu, in that war, then Vishnu whose blaze is threefold as manifest in the sun, fire and lightning, has pulverised him. In this horrendous war between the progeny of Diti, namely demons, and the progeny of Aditi, namely gods, the sons of Aditi being gods, have altogether massacred the demonic sons of Diti. 

"On eliminating the demonic sons of Diti and on acquiring kingdom of heaven, that eliminator of enemy cities, namely Indra, happily ruled the worlds that are inclusive of sages and caarana-s." Thus Vishvamitra continued his narration about Vishaala city and its emergence. 


The Churning of Milk Ocean

Legend/puraaNa: Once, when Indra was riding his elephant Iravata, Sage Duurvasa came towards him and offered a garland, respecting Indra as the administrator of the universe. Indra decorated that garland on the head of his elephant and that elephant removed it and trampled. By this Duurvasa, who is an angry sage by himself, is angered and curses Indra to fall from the grace and all his luxurious paraphernalia be submerged in ocean. Accordingly, Indra looses everything and becomes destitute, and he then approaches Vishnu. Vishnu reprimands Indra for ridiculing elderly sages like Duurvasa and then plans to churn the ocean to retrieve all the lost treasures. Thus, the legend and the churning are going on for ages.

From the kundalini / power of yoga point of view the churning of ocean is continually going on in everyone's body. The body is the ocean and at its abyss, the triangle in the perineal or sacral plexus is the base of Mt. Mandara. The churning rod is the spinal cord in the rod like backbone and the churning strings are the ida, pingala namely, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The churners are the air elements of vital forces on either side. This total system is held upright by Vishnu because He is naaraayaNa, nara aayaNa 'one who conducts humans, say created beings, into being and lead them away, again into His own self...' When kundalini power is incited the first results are always negative like, haalaaha, 'the lethal poison...' and all all-ruinous ills befall on us. If this negativity is surrendered to someone who can handle it effortlessly, like Shiva, then the positivity results like Amrita/Ambrosia. Even if this elixir of life is readily available, there will be still better lures, lusts, and longings like Mohini and if enchanted by those instantaneous quirks, which are yet another kind of negativity, we will be lost completely, like the demons. Hence 'churn the correct way...' is the postulate of yoga.



Thus, this is the 45th chapter in Bala Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India. 

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Oct, 2002, Desiraju Kumari [Revised : September 04]