You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : July 1998

Re: Vishnu Purana and Kurma Avatara

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Tue Jul 28 1998 - 15:21:22 PDT

Dear DasAvathAra RasikAs :

In this posting , I will cover KoormAvathAram
of the Lord . This posting will again be in 
the form of memory jogs . 

>** Bhagavaan"s KoormAvatharam is the second in 
>the series of Ten avathArams . The first is MatsyAvathAram 
>in the age of Truth , the first of four yugAs ( Satya Yugam ) .
>There, He incarnated as a fish and saved the seventh law giver , 
>Sathyavratha Manu , the legendary founder of the present-day
>humanity . Lord NaarAyaNaa warned the Manu of the impending 
>praLayam and ordered this Manu to build a ship and seek protection
>there along with all the Rishis , plants and animals . 
>Our Lord Himself took the form of a giant fish during Pralayam 
>and fastened His horn to  the ship with sesha naagam seving 
>as a rope and guided the ship out of danger . Our Lord appeared 
>as a giant Koorma or tortoise on the occasion of His 
>second avathAram for dharma samsthApnam . 
>** The earliest reference to this avathAram as koormam 
>is found in satapatha BrAhaNam ; MahA BhAratham
>(1.18) , Srimadh RaamAyaNam ( 1.45) , the third 
>chapter of Agni PurANam , 259th chapter of Koorma
>PurANam , Sri VishNu purAnam ( 1.9), Padma purAnam (6.259),
>Srimadh Bhaagavatham (8th canto Chapters 5 to 12 ) and 
>Sri NaarayaNeeyam ( 27th to 29th Dasakams ) ,
>Swami Deikan's dasaavathAra sthOthram as well as in 
>AzhwAr's paasurams dealing with dasAvathArams of 
our Lord >similar to the ones that I referred to in 
>the posting on VaraahAvathAram .
>** There is thus a rich source material dealing with 
>amrutha Mathanam ( Churning of the Milky Ocean for 
>Nectar/ambrosia ) , BhagavAn holding the manthara mountain 
>on His back to stablize it , Lord churning the ocean
>all by Himself , the appearance of MahA Lakshmi , 
>Her Svayamvaram , where She chooses Sriman NaarAyaNA 
>as Her Lord , the emergence of Dhanvanthri , the physician of 
>the celestials with the pot of nectar , the emergence of 
>VaaruNI devi (wine goddess ) , Haala Haala Visham ,
>which is consumed by Lord SivA to become NeelakantA 
>at the command of Sri NaarAyaNA , the appearnace of 
>the sacrificial elixir (SomA ) , the celestial nymphs 
>(Apsaras ) , the divine horse Ucchaisravas, the celestial tree ,
>PaarijAtham , the divine jewel , Kousthubham , the royal elephant
>with four tusks , IrAvatham , the Conch Paanchajanyam 
>and the divine bow Saarangam . 
>The DevAs and the asurAs churned the milky ocean using 
>the slow mountain ( Mandara) with the serpent  Vaasuki 
>serving as the rope and got tired quickly . Our Lord took 
>over and supported the slipping mountain first as 
>a gigantic tortoise and then appeared from below to complete 
>the churning of the Milky Ocean that resulted in the emergence
>of above items .Koorma PurAnam with its 17,000 verses 
>touches on this avathAram . It is set up as the KoormAvatharan's
>narration of this purANam to one Indradhyumnan . Though it is a 
>VaishNava Puranam by name , it abounds in descriptions of 
>the eminence of Lord MahEsvarA , forms of SivA worship and 
>places of pilgrimage related to SivA .Perhaps , Koorma rUpi
>wants to highlight perhaps the mahOpakAram of MahEsvara 
>in drinking the kaalakUta visham and protecting 
>the world at His behest .
>** Origin of the AvathAram : Once Sage DhurvAsa known for 
>his short temper prsented Indran a flower garland that 
>was given to him by Devi Paarvathi Herself. Indran placed
>that sacred garland on the neck of his royal elephant 
>and that in turn pulled it and crushed it under its feet .
>DhurvAsA was enraged at the disrespect shown by 
>the king of DevAs and cursed Indran and said that 
>he will lose all his isvaryam and royal status as 
>the king of the DevAs .The traditonal enemies of DevAs 
>defeated soon Indran in battle and drove him away  
>from his throne . Indran and the DevAs went to the milky 
>Ocean and prayed to the Reclining Sriman NaarAyaNan there 
>to save them from their misfortunes . Our Lord ordered 
>the DevAs to make peace with their enemies and churn
>the milky ocean together to get nectar that on drinking will
>free the DevAs from death and provide immortality .
>The 33 crores of dEvAs made peace with the sixty six crore
>asurAs and as per the command of Sriman NaarAyaNA and lifted 
>the Mandaraadhri to place it in the milky ocean for serving
>as a churning rod ( matthu ) . They suddenly got arrogant 
>about their feat of lifting this mighty mountain and at 
>that moment , the mountain slipped from their hands and fell
>down. Our Lord appeared in front of the humiliated crowd
>of AsurAs and DevAs and lifted the mountain like he would
>lift a Ilanthai fruit ( badari palam ) and put that on the 
>back of Garudan and transported it to the milky ocean .
>Srimadh Bhaagavatham describes this miraculous act :
>girim chArOpya GaruDE hasthainEkEna leelayA 
>aaruhya prayayAvabhdhim SurAsura guNairvrutha : 
>Our Lord advised the DevAs to churn tirelessly 
>after adding Oushadhis ( medicinal plants ) into
>the milky ocean and suggested that they do not
>quarrel with the asurAs , who were not going to get
>any amrutham anyway and will only labor in vain .
>He asked the Devas  not to be afraid of the poison
>that will emerge and also instructed them not
>to lose their mind over the wealthy and desirable
>items that were going to emerge out of the Ocean .
>The stage is now set for KoormAvathAram .As the assembly
>of AsurAs and DevAs start to churn the mountain
>that floated on the Ocean with the rope of Vaasuki , 
>the mountain began to sink into the ocean . The devAs
>got very worried and prayed to the Lord to save their
>efforts. The Bhaktha priya NaarAyaNan took the form of 
>a giant tortoise and went under the ocean and supported 
>the mountain on His back and stabilized it.Then , Our Lord 
>entered into the asurAs and the dEvAs and energized them
>so that they could churn vigorously.The AsurAs were tricked by
>the Lord to hold the head side of the snake , whereas 
>the DevAs held the tail side of the snake coiled 
>around the mountain . The fiery and poisonous exhalations
>of Vaasuki exhausted the asurAs and the rain that  fell
>on the devA's side energized them . When continued effort
>by both the devAs and the asurAs did not yield any amrutham , 
>Bhagavan Himself took the tail side and the head side 
>of the snake in His hands and churned the milky ocean 
all by Himself . The mesage is that dhaiva balam 
is essential for success in one's efforts .
>First arose the fearsome poison , kaalakUtam . The nava 
>prajApathis rushed to Kailasaam and begged MahEsvara
>to save the world by partaking it. He agreed with 
>the comment that if NaarAyaNan wishes it , He will
>consume the poison and be unscathed , since He is 
>the sthAvara jangama svarUpi and His Lord , the life of all,
>Sriman NaarAyaNan , will be pleased with him for 
>consuming that poison . He took that poison in 
>His hands and swallowed it and stopped it 
>at the level of His neck and the neck became blue 
>from the virulence of that poison . The spilled 
>drops became the poison that we find today in all
>the visha janthus like scorpion , snakes et al .
>Next arose KaamadhEnu , the wish granting sacred cow.
>She was given by the Lord to the sages.Ucchaisravas ,
>the Haya rathnam (gem among horses ) , Kalpaka Tree ,
>and the divine damsels (apsaras ) followed . All the three 
>were given away to the DevAs by the Lord .Kousthubha 
>gem arose next and the Lord kept it as an aabharaNam
>for His broad and beautiful  chest . 
>After Kousthubham , the most enchanting MahA Lakshmi
>rose out of that milky ocean like lightning out of the sky .
>Srimadh Bhaagavatham salutes Her avathAram this way :
>ranjayanthi disa: kaanthyA vidhyuth SoudhAmani tathA 
>(Meaning ) : Just like the flash of lightning that
>brightens the sky , MahA Lakshmi incarnated brightening 
>all the eight directions . She cast Her glances at 
>Sriman NaarAyaNA and chose Him as Her Lord .The sages
>performed the sacrificial thirumanjanam for Her 
>and the DevAs decorated Her for Her wedding 
>with the Lord. Amidst Vedic chants, celestial 
>mangaLa vaadhyams' sounds , DivyAbhishEkam 
>was conducted and AbhishEka Valli ThAyAr placed 
the garland that She held in Her hand around the neck of 
>Sriman NaarAyaNaa and chose Him as Her Lord.
>Next appeared VaaruNI devi . She is the devathai for 
>the intoxicating liquor . Lord gave that intoxicant 
>to the asurAs to make them lose their concentration .
>Dhanvanthri followed next with amrutha kalasam , now
>that the asurAs were becoming dim-witted from their 
>enjoyment of the intoxicating beverage . AsurAs recognized
>that some trick was being played on them and began to
>quarrel with the devAs . Our Lord took on the Mohini rUpam 
>to further bewilder the asurAs with the beauty of that rUpam .
>The asurAs lost their head totally over the beauty of 
>the Mohini , who told the asurAs that they should not trust 
>Her .The asurAs were so taken up by the Mohini's charms
>that they trusted Mohini with the amrutha kalasam and
>let Her distribute the nectar to them . Mohini seated the
>asurAs and the devAs in opposite rows and gave away the amrutham
>only to the devAs , while distracting the asurAs with Her charms.
>Raahu and Kethu moved over to the row of devAs and 
>received nectar . Suryan and Chandran saw the trick 
>played by Raahu and KethU and invited the attention 
>of the Lord , who had just served them a portion of the nectar .
>Immediately , Lord cut off their heads with the Sudarsana chakram .
>Since the nectar had reached upto their neck level ,
>their head alone survived and they swore eternal
>enimity to the SUN and the Moon for letting their
>secrets out .
>A battle royal emerged between the disappointed asurAs and 
>the devAs . The Lord took the side of the immortal dEvAs 
>now and put an end to their fight .
>These wonderful episodes covered by Srimadh BhAgavatham
>are associated with BhagavAn's KoormAvathAram , where 
>he showed His bhaktha DhAkshiNyam and dushta samhAram 
>and estblished righteousness again .
KrishNArpaNamasthu ,