The story of Kurma Avatar is an unusual story when Devas and Asuras put their differences aside and worked together.
In this story, Lord Vishnu takes multiple forms to help the Devas. However, the Kurma or the tortoise form is the most important one in the story of Sagar Manthan. Kurma is another name for Tortoise. Lord Vishnu took the form of a large Tortoise to help Devas and Asuras.
Sagar Manthan is the process of churning of the ocean. This process brought many interesting and useful things to our world. Both Devas and Asuras worked together just to get their share of the treasures obtained from the Sagar Manthan.
This story also tells us that good thing come to those who put their differences aside and learn to work together. A good lesson to remember. Saying this, let’s move on to the story itself.
Indra and other devas lived in Indralok (also called swargalok). They were powerful, and sometimes their power made them a little arrogant. In their arrogance, they often disrespected others. What they failed to understand that not everyone who had a lot of power chooses to show it openly. So many times they ended up disrespecting someone who was more powerful than the Devas, and that usually didn’t end so well for them.
In one such incidence, Indra and other Devas ended up disrespecting sage Durvasa. Now sage Durvasa was not only very powerful, he was known for his short temper. The sage cursed the Devas and took away their powers and strength. This left Devas weak and barely capable to take care of themselves.
Devas were really worried this time. They could not stay so weak. Any enemy could attack them and defeat them with embarrassing ease. Devas were worried and didn’t know what to do next. Every time they were in such a situation, they went to Lord Vishnu for help. They did exactly the same this time, too.
Lord Vishnu was patient with their woeful tales. He has seen them in a similar predicament too many times by now. Devas were getting cursed too frequently. Still, instead of reprimanding them for their misbehaviour towards the sage, Lord Vishnu consoled them. He believed that they have been punished enough. But he still wanted Devas to learn to be more respectful. So he did not automatically grant them their strength back. Instead, this time he gave them instructions to get their strength back and hoped they would learn their lesson.
Lord Vishnu told Devas to perform sea churning, also known as Sagar Manthan. Basically, he asked them to add a number of potent herbs as offerings in the ocean and then use a mountain as a churner. This was not an easy task. Churning a sea using a mountain was next to impossible for the Devas in their current state. They had no strength after all.
Still, as Devas had no other choice, they started with the task. They chose a mountain but were not strong enough to carry it to the sea by themselves. Now the only help they could get was from Asuras, who were their arch-nemesis.
When the Asuras saw Devas coming into their territory, they were very sceptical. However, they still welcomed them politely and inquired about the reason for their visit. When Devas disclosed the plan to churn the sea to get the valuable treasure to help both Devas and Asuras, they had a deal.
With the help of Asuras, Devas were able to move the mountain to the sea. They also convinced the king of snakes’ Vasuki to be used as a rope to churn the sea. But when they started churning, the mountain sank to the bottom and would not move.
Both Devas and Asuras had no idea what to do next. So, like always, they all now went to Lord Vishnu again to ask for a solution to their latest problem. Lord Vishnu agreed to help them and became a large turtle or Kurma and carried the mountain on his back. This way the mountain floated on top of Kurma and did not sink down.
After Kurma solved their problem, the Devas and Asuras started churning the sea. They churned for a long time before anything came out. However, the first thing that came out was not something anyone was expecting. It was the Halahal poison. The poison was so potent that even its fumes could destroy the entire world.
Devas and Asuras fainted from the poisonous fumes.
This time Lord Shiva came to their rescue. He sucked all the poison from the atmosphere and was about to swallow it all. But this much poison was deadly for him, too. So, before he could swallow the poison, his wife Goddess Parwati came and stopped the poison in his throat itself. This turned Lord Shiva’s throat blue but did not cause him any damage. Since then Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth, meaning one who has a blue throat.
Devas and Asuras continued churning. After the poison came an assortment of helpful things. There was a cow Kamdhenu whose milk was enough to satiate everyone’s hunger. Some rare plants and herbs came next. Some deadly weapons also made an appearance. At last, came Amrit or the elixir for immortality.
Both Devas and Asuras wanted this. But this time Lord Vishnu chose Devas as his favourite and tricked Asuras into giving the pot containing the elixir to a beautiful lady Mohini. Mohini was none other than Lord Vishnu, who took this form trick Asuras. Mohini promised to distribute the Amrit equally between Devas and Asura. However, she created a fake pot of Amrit and tricked Asuras. Since only Devas got the Amrit, they regained their strength and immortality.
When Asuras realised that they have been cheated, they protested. Devas now attacked their short-termed allies and chased them back to their underground lands. Their alliance came to a quick end.
Analysis of Kurma Avatar
In the second avatar, Lord Vishnu takes an amphibious form. This indicates the movement of life from water to land. As per the evolution theory, life moved from water to land and before we had only land life forms, there were amphibious life forms who could survive in both land and water. Tortoise is an ideal example of such a life form.
This story also signifies our connection with water bodies and that we get immense treasures from the oceans. As we know, most of the early civilizations were near a river or ocean. In ancient times, the ocean was the only way to travel and was a great source of food. No wonder we associate treasures coming from oceans even now.
In this story, instead of fighting an actual villain, the avatar is helping tame nature. This is the point where controlling nature was becoming a possibility. This is showing the stage of human development when we started taming nature to get food and other precious things from it.
There are more stories from Dashavatara as shown below. Do check them out and find out more interesting facts.
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