The account of Samudra Manthan, which literally translates to “churning of the ocean,” can be found in the Mahabharata, the Bhagavatam Purana, and the Vishnu Purana. It details the creation of amrita, which is known as the “drink of immortality.”
There are many different tales told throughout India’s ancient sacred writings. And mankind can learn something from each of these tales.
The story of the Samudra Manthan is an example of one of these tales, and throughout the course of this essay, you will learn what the Samudra Manthan is as well as the symbolism behind it.
But before we get into that, let’s review what happened.
Samudra Manthan: the Story
Once upon a time, Lord Indra was travelling through the land on his elephant Airavata when he came across Sage Durvasa.
The lord of the heavens graciously accepted the garland and promptly affixed it to the back of his elephant, Airavata. The elephant threw the garland and when Sage Durvasa saw that, he became enraged since the garland wasn’t a typical garland; rather, it was the abode of Sri (fortune and riches).
Sage Durvasa was infuriated by this deed as well as the benefits and significance of this pride. As a result of his anger, Lord Indra and all of the other gods received a curse from Sage Durvasa that they would lose all of their abilities and be stripped of all of their energy, fortunes, and strength.
After this event, the devas, also known as gods, lost all of their powers and began to lose all of their battles to the asuras (demons). Asura Bali emerged victorious from every conflict with the devas and shortly thereafter took command of the entire cosmos.
Lord Vishnu gave the devas the advice that the only thing that might restore their lost power and strength was the elixir that dwelt at the bottom of the Ksheer Sagar, which is also known as the milky ocean.
Because it was hard for the gods to churn such a vast ocean on their own, the devas forged an alliance with the asuras and shared the nectar of immorality with them in order to persuade them to help them churn the Milky Ocean together.
The process of churning the Ocean of Milk was one that required a lot of effort and time. Mount Mandara served as the churning rod, while the snake god Vasuki was utilised as the churning rope, in order to churn the waters of the ocean.
The demons, known as Asuras, insisted on carrying the head of the snake, while the gods, known as Devas, were content to do so with the tail.
When the Mountain Mandara was completely submerged in the ocean, it started to sink. As soon as Lord Vishnu realized this, he assumed the form of the turtle (Kurma) and lifted the mountain Mandara onto his back. He did this to provide support for the mountain and make it possible for the churning event to proceed without difficulty.
The stirring of the ocean resulted in the production of a variety of valuable things in addition to the amrita.
But in addition to that, the poison Halahala, which is so terrible that it has the potential to wipe out the entire universe, was also released from the ocean floor.
And to save the entire universe, Lord Shiva consumed the poison, but Goddess Parvati was able to keep it from going down his throat. As a direct consequence of this, his throat grew blue, earning him the name Neel Kantha, which translates to “blue-throated God.”
Symbolism of Samudra Manthan
The story is meant to be interpreted as a metaphor for the spiritual effort that human beings make in an attempt to attain immortality or liberation (Moksha) through the performance of yogic practices such as concentration, withdrawal of the senses, self-control, detachment, austerities, and renunciation.
The Gods And The Demons
The Devas and the Asuras are symbolic representations of the positive and negative aspects of one’s own personality. It exemplifies the concept that in order to realise one’s full potential, one must first learn to master both aspects of their personality and bring them into harmony.
The name Mandara refers to the mountain that was used in the churning rituals, which stands for concentration. The term “mandara” comes from the Sanskrit words “man” (mind) and “dhara” (a point or line), and it refers to a focused state of mind that is pointed in a particular direction.
Kurma The Vishnu Avatar
The retraction of one’s senses is represented by the Vishnu Avatar known as Kurma. This is analogous to the way a tortoise will pull its head into its shell. It is a metaphor for contemplation attained through the practices of meditation and concentration.
The use of Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the churning rope is symbolic of the aspiration to obtain the nectar of immortality.
It is almost as if the minds of the Devas and the Asuras were stirred by a rope of desire.
There is no way to enter into the realm of spirituality without having the correct intention, and without both the intention and the initiation, there is no way to achieve liberation.
Symbolism of Lord Shiva
The role that Lord Shiva played in finding a solution to the problem of halahal is a metaphor for the significance of yoga or asceticism, virtue, and purity in the spiritual life.
Additionally, it is a representation of the significance of divine grace (anugraha) and the guidance of a spiritual master (guru) in the process of achieving liberation.
Symbolism Of The Objects Churned Out
The various objects that emerged from the ocean during the process of churning the ocean are symbolic representations of the psychic, spiritual, or otherworldly powers or perfections (siddhis) that become available to a yogi as he or she advances along the path that leads to yoga or liberation.
The goddess Lakshmi is a representation of monetary wealth or abundance. Since all of the wealth in the universe belongs to God or Brahman (Vishnu), it is necessary for a devotee to return to him whatever wealth he finds or earns in his life and give it to Vishnu as a gift. This is the underlying symbolism of the act of giving her to Vishnu.
Dhanvantari is a symbol that represents the physical vigor, the energy, and the mental brilliance that come about as a result of the long and arduous practice of yoga and austerities.
Spiritual practice that is sustained over time leads not only to freedom but also to immortality.
What Mohini Symbolizes in Samudra Manthan?
Mohini is also a symbol for the power of Maya, who prevents beings and worlds from achieving liberation by enslaving them to ignorance, duality, desire, and delusion. Mohini is often depicted as having four arms.