Churning of the Ocean

The Kumbh Mela Myth

The story of the Maha Kumbh Mela comes from the Vedic scripture called Shrimad Bhagavatam. This ancient tale has many inner meanings that are understood by the wise men of India. These stories are sometimes told in song and acted out in dance dramas where children play the many parts.

It began when the Devas (Angels) and the Asuras (Demons) decided to cooperate and churn the primal ocean. They were seeking the various secrets that lay hidden within it’s depths, including the nectar of immortality. They began to churn the rough waters using Mandar Mountain as the churning stone and a giant python named Ananta Naga as the rope which coiled around it. The Devas took hold of Ananta’s tail and the Asuras took hold of his head. Each side began to pull creating a huge tug of war.

Mandar Mountain

At first, there were strange smells, noises, and flames roaring out from the depths followed by a deadly poison which started to emerge. Lord Shiva came forth to rescue everyone by drinking the poison before it it could destroy the three worlds. After all of the negativity had come forth, the universe was gifted with many great boons. There came a flying horse, a wish giving cow, a priceless jewel, a magic moon, a skycar, a musical instrument, a beautiful woman named Rambha, (the goddess of wealth), and Lakshmi and Vishwakarma (the mystic architect). Many others followed until Danwantri, the divine healer, appeared holding the nectar – Amrita in a large jar called the Kumbh

The Asuras were about to take possession of the Amrita, when Rambha began dancing in such a way as to distract them. Jayanta, one of the Devas, transformed into a large bird and flew off with the Kumbha. Jayanta took twelve days to fly up to paradise where the Amrita would be protected. As he was escaping from the Asuras, he flew over the Earth, stopping at four places. First, Jayanta stopped in Prayag (Allahabad), then Hardware, Trimbakeshwar (near Nasik) and finally, Ujjaini. At each of these places, some drops of the nectar fell into the river making them each into a holy place of pilgrimage.

(Link to See the different Kumbh Mela Dates)

The churning of the ocean is regarded as a symbol of the ocean of consciousness, which is stirred by the individuals gathering and practicing Sadhana at the Kumbh Mela. As a result, Mela members become the vessel containing the nectar of immortality.