Today, we went to see the temple of Angkor Wat. It is one of the biggest temples in the world, certainly in Cambodia, and covered in the most amazing carvings.
C’mon, I mean, there’s only so much of the most amazing carvings and tumbling brick walls you can see before you begin to zone out, eh?Anyway, I’m going to begin by describing one of the carvings, which was basically like a carving-mural: The Fountain of Milk.
(Okay, I know Thalie says it’s the Ocean of Milk and it’s not the Fountain of Milk, it’s the nectar that gives you eternal life, but, hey, Fountain of Youth, Fountain of Milk.)
Besides, it sounds cooler than ‘nectar that gives you eternal life’, which, frankly, is a bit of a mouthful.
So the story goes that the Ocean of Milk was the fifth of the seven oceans, that surround loka (or directional space, if you want to get all scientific on me), and separate it from aloka (or non-directional space). It also surrounds the continent of Krauncha. If you churned the Ocean of Milk enough, then you got Amrita, yes, the nectar that gives you eternal life. In Hinduism, the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras) decided to work together to churn the Ocean to get this milk. Aaaand they did it for a millennium. I mean, why bother getting this dumb nectar if you live for millennium?
Oh, and technically, Ocean of Milk is the English translation of some Sanskrit terms that mean curdled milk and ocean, so it should actually be ‘The Ocean of Curdled Milk.’
But that doesn’t sound quite as pleasant.
So the Hindu god Vishnu was all like “Hey guys! You know, I just had this absolutely brilliant idea! How about all us gods work with all you demons on a completely pointless quest to get this nectar which we don’t even need because we live for millennium!”
I’m just saying!
Above is the center of the tug of war, on the right are the gods
They used the King of Serpents, Vasuki, as their churning-string, and a mountain on top of Vishnu’s giant pet turtle named the Kurma Avatar of Vishnu as their churning stick. Then they stuck the turtle at the bottom of the sea with the mountain poking out, and tied this poor Serpent King to it, and pulled it back and forth, back and forth, to churn up the sea. However, as they churned it, a terrible poison issued from its depths and completely enveloped the universe. The devas and the asuras took the poison to Shiva, who swallowed it! I mean, how dumb is that guy? The goddess Parvati was absolutely horrified, and so she strangled Shiva, actually saving his life. This happened because when she strangled him she cut off the poison from going into his body, so it was just his neck that was poisoned. But the poison was so potent that it turned his neck blue! This earned him the nickname of Neelakanta, which means blue-throated one.
When they finally managed to finish their completely pointless quest and get the stupid nectar, the devas and the asuras fought over it. Hey, you can’t have a good legend without each side backstabbing the other, eh? The asuras gained possession of the nectar, but then Vishnu tricked them into giving it to the devas. So the devas were lined up all ready to drink it, but an asura named Rahu infiltrated their ranks disguised as a deva! However, Surya the sun god and Chandra the moon god tattled on him to Vishnu, who promptly decapitated him. Rahu had had the nectar in his mouth, though (he hadn’t swallowed it yet so Vishnu could still just lop his head off) but his head became immortal, so he didn’t really die.
Basically, the outcomes of the milk-churning was Halahalam (a terrible poison, namely old blue-throats), Amrita (the nectar), Dhanvantari (the physician of the gods), Lakshmi (the goddess of riches), Jyestha (the goddess of poverty), Chandra (the moon), a white elephant (Airavata), a horse (Uchchaisrava), and Kalpavriksha (the tree which yields all desires).
P.S Next time I’ll write about the Hare Krishna.