Once upon a time, due to a curse, Indra and all the devas (gods) became weak and lost their immortality. Taking advantage of their weakness, the asuras (demons) invaded the heavens, routed the devas and took all their wealth and power.
Deprived of their happiness and peace of mind, the devas took refuge in Lord Vishnu. The Lord advised them to churn the divine ocean of milk and obtain amruta, the divine nectar. By consuming the amruta, the devas would be able to regain their immortality. Lord Vishnu told them to use Mount Mandara as the churning rod and the serpent-king Vasuki as the rope. As the devas were weak, the Lord also advised them to temporarily befriend the asuras and seek their help to churn the ocean, in exchange for a share of the amruta.
The devas did exactly as they were told.
The devas and asuras placed Mount Mandara in the ocean, and holding on to each end of Vasuki, the serpent, they began to churn the ocean.
However, as they tried to churn, Mount Mandara slipped and sank into the deep ocean. When the devas once again took refuge in the Lord, He incarnated as a huge tortoise (kurma), went under the sea and lifted the mountain on his back. He continued to support the mountain and even churned the ocean himself, enabling the devas and asuras in their quest for the nectar of immortality.
The asuras were holding the head of the serpent and suddenly Vasuki, due to the strain of being used as a rope, began to spit flames of fire and that suffocated the asuras and weakened them. On the other side, by the Lord’s grace, the devas enjoyed cool showers and a gentle breeze that invigorated them.
Next a deadly poison arose from the depths of the ocean and threatened to exterminate all of creation, but the compassionate Lord Shiva swallowed the poison and held it in his throat.
Now a variety of animals and creatures began to rise up from the ocean: a seven-headed horse, a white elephant, a wish-fulfilling tree, the moon and Lakshmi Devi herself (who ended up marrying Lord Vishnu), among others.
Finally the doctor God Dhanvantri rose up with the coveted pot of amruta. The greedy asuras grabbed the pot from the god. A fight ensued between the devas and asuras. Once again, the devas went to Lord Vishnu for help.
The ever-obliging Lord then took the form of a beautiful woman, Mohini. Attracted by her beauty, the asuras followed her and handed the pot of amruta to her, requesting her to serve it to them. Mohini made the devas and asuras sit opposite each other. While enamoring the asuras with her loving glances, she served all the amruta to the devas. Once her purpose had been served, Mohini disappeared and in her place stood Lord Vishnu!
The asuras were enraged and once again, a battle began, but this time the devas were strengthened by the amruta they had just had. Along with the help of Lord Vishnu, they defeated the asuras and regained their lost power, wealth and possessions.
Thus it is seen that Lord helped the devas every step of the way simply because they took refuge in him each time. The auspicious occasion of Kurma jayanti falls this month. So let’s think of the Lord’s grace and resolve to take refuge in Him first for every one of our own problems.
Shalini Kelappan, Doha, Qatar