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Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vinata and Kadru cross the great ocean to see Uchchaihsravas

Note: In the previous post, Vinata and Kadru flew across the great ocean to check the color of Uchchaihsravas’ tail. 

The description of the great ocean (the ocean of desires and illusions) was allegorical to the illusory world and all the creatures that inhabited it were symbols for various aspects of the material reality that have to be transcended to attain freedom from the illusion. I hesitate to equate that ‘freedom’ to moksha because on the other side of the ocean was the celestial horse, so the freedom that is referred to here might be freedom from the gross material reality of earth and an entry into the subtler celestial regions. This is only a hypothesis. I do not speak as an expert. Having said that, I will reach out to experts and request them to comment on the allegorical meaning of “the ocean and it’s inhabitants.” Their thoughts will appear in the comments section at the end of the post.

In this post, we will find out how Vinata became Kadru’s slave.

Meanwhile, as Vinata and Kadru crossed the great ocean, Kadru’s snake children, whom she had recently cursed, were terrified of the cruel destiny that awaited them. The snakes consulted with each other and came to the conclusion that it would be best to obey their mother. They were afraid she might completely withdraw her affection towards them if they disobeyed her, while, on the other hand, if they followed her instructions, she might be pleased and free them from the curse. Having made that decision, they turned themselves into black hair and covered the celestial horse’s tail.

After crossing the ocean (as if flying over it), the sisters came down to the place where the celestial horse stood. They saw the great steed. Its body was as white as the moon but its tail had black hair.

Kadru won the bet and her dejected sister, Vinata, was immediately enslaved.

Note: If you remember, a few posts back, we had read about how Vinata was jealous because her sister’s thousand snake children were born before her two sons. In her impatience, she had poked open one of her eggs causing her first son to be born malformed in the lower half of the body. In anger, he cursed his mother that she would become a slave. 

Coming back to the bet, we may be horrified by Kadru’s behavior. She cursed her own children with a terrible fate because they refused to participate in her deception and then she enslaved Vinata by that very deception. We aren’t privy to Kadru’s inner thoughts and what caused her to perform these adharmic actions. In all likelihood, she might have been a vicious woman and would suffer the consequences of her actions in the future, but, in the present moment, her viciousness set into motion events that were aligned with destiny. Thus the great wheel of time moved ahead bringing karmic fruit to Vinata because her son was born malformed due to her impatience. Kadru’s actions also set the stage for the snakes to suffer the karmic results of their own viciousness towards other creatures since she did not take back her curse even though they eventually obeyed her command and covered the horse’s tail with black hair.

In the next post, we will read about the greatness of Vinata’s second child – Garuda.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda’s Splendor

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Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Bet Between Vinata and Kadru

Note: In the previous post, we read about Vinata and Kadru placing a bet on the color of the celestial horse’s tail. The wager was that the loser would become enslaved to the winner.

In this post, we will read about what the sisters saw as they crossed the great ocean to reach the other side where the celestial horse – Uchchaihsravas – stayed.

The great ocean represents the ocean of the illusory senses and everything that is attributed to the great ocean in this post is allegorical in nature. They represent various spiritual concepts.

After having placed a bet involving slavery, both the sisters were impatient to verify the color of Uchchaishravas’ tail. The next day, after the sun arose, Vinata and Kadru hastened to see the celestial horse from a closer distance.

On the way, they saw the vast and deep ocean that rolled with waves and roared with a tremendous sound. It was filled with massive fishes that could swallow an entire whale. It also had huge crocodiles and tortoises and thousands of water creatures of different forms. There were also large, dark, and fierce monster-shaped creatures that made crossing the ocean a scary endeavor.

The ocean was the water god, Varuna’s, home. It was also a mine of beautiful gems. 

This ocean was the lord of all rivers because every river ultimately went into the ocean. This great ocean was the residence of Nagas, an abode for the subterranean fire, and a safe place for asuras.

This ever-immutable body of water was holy, beneficial to the gods, and a great source of nectar.

They saw that this dark ocean which resounded with the terrible sound of water animals. Filled with deep whirlpools, it was a terror to all creatures, but it was also without limits, inconceivable, sacred, and immensely wonderful.

In former times, the great Govinda of immeasurable power had taken the form of a wild boar to raise the submerged earth. This had caused an immense disturbance in the ocean, whose mine of gems had also yielded Vasudeva’s great conch called Panchajanya.

It is impossible to find the bottom of this great ocean. Once Rishi Atri tried, for a hundred years, to find its bottom, but failed to do so.

When a Yuga ends, the great lotus-navaled Vishnu lays on this ocean, which becomes his bed, as he enters the state of deep sleep of spiritual meditation, called yoga nidra.

The asuras retreat into the ocean to rest after they are defeated in fierce battles, and Maunaka, afraid of the falling thunder, also takes refuge in the ocean. 

 It offers water as sacrificial butter to the blazing fire issuing from the mouth of Varava (the Ocean-mare). It is fathomless and without limits, vast and immeasurable, and the lord of rivers.

Vinata and Kadru saw that thousands of mighty rivers rushed into the ocean, and as they rushed with a proud flowing motion, it seemed like they competed with each other to enter the ocean first. 

They also noticed that this ocean was always full and it felt like it danced with its waves. They saw that the ocean was deep and was filled with fierce whales and crocodiles and resounded with the terrible sound of its creatures. They saw that this ocean – the grand reservoir of water – was vast, wide, limitless, and unfathomable like the space that fills the universe.

Note: In the next post, we will find out the color of Uchchaihsravas‘ tail and the result of the bet.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Vinata Becomes Kadru’s Slave

Seven-Headed Uchchaihsravas

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Battle Between Danavas and Devas After Samudra Manthan

Note: In the previous post, we read about the battle between the devas and the asuras after the Churning of the Ocean, and how Nara and Narayana defeated the asuras.

In today’s post, we will return to the story of Vinata and Kadru, and learn about the bet they wagered that eventually led to Vinata becoming Kadru’s slave.

After narrating the story of Samudra Manthan, Sauti said to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, “I have told you the whole story of how the amrit was obtained and when the celestial horse, Uchchaihsravas, emerged from the ocean.”

After that, Sauti returned to the earlier story of Vinata and Kadru. After speaking about the celestial horse, Kadru said to Vinata, “Tell me, sister, what do you think is the color of Uchchaihsravas?”

Vinata answered, “The celestial horse is most certainly white in color. What do you think, sister? Let’s place a bet on its color.”

Kadru replied, “In that case, I think its tail is black in colot. O beautiful sister, let us place a bet that the person who loses will have to serve the winner as a slave.”

After agreeing on the terms of the bet, Vinata and Kadru returned home and decided to visit Uchchaihsravas, the next day, to verify its color.

Determined to win the bet by deceit, Kadru commanded her thousand snake sons to transform themselves into black hair and quickly cover Uchchaihsravas’ tail so it would appear black. Her sons, however, refused to follow her order. Angered by their refusal, Kadru cursed her thousand sons with the following words, “A wise king called Janamejaya, of Pandava race, will perform a snake sacrifice one day, and, in that sacrifice, the fire god, Agni, will consume all of you!”

Lord Brahma heard these cruel words that Kadru had uttered to her sons, but he knew that these words were influenced by destiny. The population of snakes had increased a lot and had created an imbalance in the ecosystem. The snakes were strong and poisonous and they were always bent upon biting and persecuting other creatures.

Lord Brahma, driven by compassion for the suffering creatures, did not intervene in this issue. The snakes had inflicted immense harm to other creatures and something had to be done to stop their suffering.

When the other gods discussed this matter, they also agreed that fate always punished creatures who harmed others. Therefore, they supported Kadru’s curse because they considered it in line with fate.

Even though the destiny of the snakes was sealed, Lord Brahma felt sorry for their father, Sage Kasyapa. Therefore, Brahma called the noble sage to his abode and explained that his snake children had been cursed by their mother and that he should not grieve about it because it was preordained by destiny. After comforting Sage Kasyapa, Lord Brahma taught him the science of neutralizing snake poison.

Note: In the next post, we will read about Vinata and Kadru going to check the color of Uchchaihsravas’ tail.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Vinata and Kadru cross the great ocean to see Uchchaihsravas

Mahadev drinking the Kalakuta poison (Image By Author Sister Nivedita and Ananda Kentish — credit details at the end of the post)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Tired Gods are Re-Energized by Narayana to Continue Churning

Note: In the previous post, we read about how the waters of the churned ocean took on the qualities of nectar as the extracts of trees and herbs mixed with it. Those who drank the water became immortal. However, even though the water took on nectar-like qualities, the nectar that everyone was hoping for did not arise from the ocean. After churning for a long time, the Gods were exhausted to a point where they could churn no longer. They resumed after receiving blessings from Narayana.

In this post, we will read about all the glorious things and beings that emerged from the ocean as the churning continued. We will also encounter the situation that occurred when the deadly Kalakuta poison emerged from the ocean.

After some time, as the churning continued, the mild moon of a thousand rays emerged from the ocean, then came Goddess Lakshmi who was dressed in white, then Soma, then came the white horse Uchchaihsravas, and then the celestial gem Kaustubha which Narayana wears on his chest.

Soon after emergin, Lakshmi, Soma, and Uchchaihsravas approached the high gods (the Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva).

Then the event everyone had been waiting for happened: Dhanwantari arose carrying with him the white pot of nectar in his hands.

As soon as the asuras saw Dhanwantari, they cried out aloud, “The nectar is ours!”

After Dhanwantari, the huge elephant Airavata who had two pairs of tusks arose from the ocean. Indra, the wielder of the thunderbolt, took the elephant as his vehicle.

The churning continued and the last thing to come out of the ocean was also the deadliest – the Kalakuta poison. As soon as it appeared, it blew up into a huge fire with gaseous fumes and engulfed the entire earth in its venom. The mere smell of that deadly substance filled the three worlds with fear and confusion.

The Neelkantha Mahadev Temple in Rishikesh: Image by Rahuldewangan – Own work, Public Domain,

Lord Brahma sought help from Shiva, who swallowed that poison for the safety of all creation. The Divine Maheshwara (Shiva) held it in his throat, and from that time onwards, he is known as Nilakantha (blue-throated) Mahadev.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the Devas and Asuras fighting for the nectar and how Narayana intervened.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Vishnu’s Mohini Avtaar

Image Credit: Author Sister Nivedita and Ananda Kentish Nandalal Bose –, Public Domain,

Image of the ‘churning of the ocean’ by ‘bazaar art print’. Image credits at the end of the article.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Birth of Garuda – the Serpent Eater

Note: In the previous post, we read about the birth of Garuda – the serpent eater. In this post, we will read about how the churning of the ocean, also known as Samudra Manthan, began.

Soon after Garuda’s birth, his mother (Vinata) and her sister (Kadru) saw a beautiful horse called Uchchaihsravas that had come into being when the churning of the ocean for nectar (Samudra Manthan) was performed. This divine and graceful horse was blessed with eternal youth. It was full of energy and had every auspicious mark on it. It was also worshipped by the gods.

When Sauti narrated this incident of the two women seeing Uchchaihsravas who had arisen from the Samudra Manthan, Saunaka Kulapati (the ascetic of Naimisha forest) immediately became curious to know why the Samudra Manthan had taken place and what caused such a fine horse to be born from it. He asked Sauti to go off a tangent and tell him about the Samudra Manthan first.

Sauti answered Saunaka Kulapati’s question with the following words: 

“There is a blazing and radiant mountain called Meru. The whole mountain appears golden as it reflects and disperses the sun rays that fall on its slopes. The gods and the gandharvas love spending time on this mountain.

Regular humans whose consciousness has been made heavy by the consequences of their sins cannot even approach this mountain.

Terrible wild animals roam around on this mountain, but it’s also filled with many divine, life-giving herbs. It has beautiful trees, and streams, and the entire mountain resounds with charming melodies of celestial music. 

Mount Meru is so high that it appears to be kissing the heavens.”

One day, the gods had a meeting on Mount Meru. They had performed several penances and had observed excellent vows for obtaining the amrit (celestial ambrosia). Having done what was necessary, they were now eager to receive the fruits of their penances (the amrit). 

When Narayana saw the anxious gods, he approached Brahma and said, “O Brahma, please churn the ocean with the gods and the asuras. By doing so, amrit, along with several other substances, medicines, and gems will be obtained.”

Sauti paused for a moment. After telling the ascetics in Naimisha forest about Mount Meru, the meeting of the gods, and Narayana’s words to Brahma, Sauti told the ascetics about another mountain called Mandara.

This mountain was covered with intertwining herbs and was adorned with cloud-like peaks. Dangerous animals lived on it along with countless birds who sang in beautiful melodies. Mandara mountain was often visited by gods, apsaras, kinnaras. The mountain arose for 11,000 yojanas over the earth and its base extended inside the earth for an equal distance.

Note: A yojana is a measure of distance used in ancient India, Thailand, and Myanmar. It is approximately 12-15 Kilometres.

The gods wanted to tear up Mandara and use it as a churning rod. However, being unable to tear that massive mountain from the earth, they approached Vishnu and Brahma and help.

Vishnu assigned this difficult task to the prince of the snakes – the powerful Ananta. The mighty snake succeeded in tearing up the mountain with its forests and the animals that lived on it. Having obtained the mountain, the gods decided to use it as a churning rod for churning the ocean. They, along with Ananta, approached the ocean and said, “O Ocean, we have come to churn your waters for obtaining nectar.”

The ocean replied, “Go ahead. I am capable of bearing the disturbance that the churning will cause in my waters, and I am glad, for, I too will get a share of the nectar.”

Note: Throughout the Mahabharata, you will come across these themes of ‘fair exchange’ and ‘manageable load’. The ocean agreed to the churning that would disturb its waters and cause it significant discomfort, for two reasons:
1. Because it had the capability to bear the churning. It was a manageable load.
2. Because it too would benefit by receiving a share of the amrit. It was a fair exchange.

This balance is worth keeping in mind when we are often told, under the guise of spirituality and religion, to bear unmanageable loads and give to people or circumstances who don’t appreciate us or don’t reciprocate appropriately. 

Having obtained Mount Mandara as a churning rod and permission from the ocean to perform the churning, the gods went to the king of tortoises and requested him to hold the mountain on his back. The tortoise king agreed and Indra devised a mechanism to place Mount Mandara on the tortoise’s back.

Finally, Vasuki (the mighty serpent chief) was requested to be the churning rope.

Note: You might remember Vasuki as the serpent chief who married his sister to Sage Jaratkaru.

Thus, with Mount Mandara as the rod, the tortoise king as the base, and Vasuki as the rope, the Gods and Asuras began churning the depths of the ocean for amrit.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the gods and asuras getting fatigued while churning the ocean and how they were re-energized by Vishnu.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Tired Gods are Re-Energized by Narayana to Continue Churning

Image Credit:

By bazaar art print –, Public Domain,