Image of the nine devas, Khleangs artwork from Cambodia (~1000 CE). From left to right: Surya (Sun) on chariot, Chandra (Moon) on pedestal, Shiva on bull, Varuna on crocodile, Indra on elephant, Kubera on horse, Agni on ram, Rahu on clouds and Ketu on lion.

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: A Summary of the Birth of the Main Characters in the Mahabharata

After hearing about the births of his ancestors and other maharathas who participated in the war at Kurukshetra, Janamejaya wanted to know about their lives in more detail. Not just them, but he wanted to learn the details of all the great kings and he also wanted to know why the celestials were born on earth as humans.

“O king, the reason for the celestials’ birth as humans is a mystery even to many devas, however, I will narrate all the details after bowing to the Supreme.”

Parashuram, the son of Jamadagni, battled with the kshatriyas and destroyed them 21 times. A time soon came when there were no kshatriyas left on earth. At that time, the kshatriya ladies who wanted children used to approach vow-observing brahmans. The ladies had connections with these brahmins to conceive children. Thus the Kshatriya race once again flourished with these virtuous offspring.

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Dharma was properly established at that time and everyone lived a virtuous life. With virtue increasing multifold, the earth became free of sorrow and disease and filled with joy. Seeing all beings live virtuously, Indra poured proper quantities of rain at the proper time and blessed all creatures. This marked the beginning of the Krita Yuga (Satya Yuga).

It was during this blessed time that the asuras were repeatedly defeated by the devas and being deprived of their place in heaven, they began to take birth on earth in royal lineages. Many asuras took birth as animals and rakshashas on earth.

These asuras – arrogant, insolent, and powerful – defeated other bings and established their power in various regions of the earth. As their power increased, they began to oppress all other humans and animals and even insulted the great rishis in their ashrams. Virtue diminished and adharma grew more and more powerful until a point was reached when the earth could no longer support herself.

Thus burdened and filled with fear, the earth, accompanied by rishis, devas, apsaras, and gandharvas, approached Brahma Deva for help.

The creator of the worlds was already aware of her plight. He immediately assured her that he would ask the celestials to be born on earth to ease her burden.

Brahma Deva then summoned the devas and asked them to take birth on earth and enter into conflict with the asuras. He also asked the gandharvas and apsaras to take birth in whatever form they preferred and play a role in helping earth according to their capacity.

The devas immediately accepted Brahma Deva’s words because his words were true, they indicated correct under the present circumstances, and would benefit all creatures.

with the decision to take birth on earth finalised, all the devas went to Sri Vishnu in Vaikuntha, where Indra Deva requested the great Narayana to take an incarnation on earth.

Sri Vishnu replied, “So be it !”

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Indra Deva had a detailed discussion with Sri Vishnu about the latter’s incarnation and how the devas could take birth in various places to assist him.

Thus, Sri vishnu and various celestials incarnated on earth to destroy the rule of the asuras for the benefit of all creatures in the three worlds.

Next Post: Origin Of The Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas, Apsaras, and Various Other Beings


The image on the left shows the five Pandava children and the Ashwini Devas while the image on the right shows Dronacharya and Kripi with Ashwathama (Image Credit: The Mahabharata Part I Comic Book from

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’s Birth

Note: This post is a short and quick account of how the main characters of the Mahabharata were born. I have mentioned the circumstances of everyone’s birth but summarised the character description provided in the unabridged Mahabharata. You can read the full character descriptions here.

Bhishma was born to Devi Ganga and the King Shantanu.

Karna was born from the union of Kunti and Surya Deva. He was born with natural armour and bright earrings.

Sri Vishnu, the all-pervading soul, himself was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in the race of Andhaka-Vrishnis for the benefit of all the creatures in the three worlds.

Satyaki and Kritivarma were born in the Vrishni race. Satyaki’s father was Satyaka while Kritivarma’s father was Hridika. Both of them were strong, well-versed in all branches of knowledge and always obeyed Sri Krishna.

Drona was born from the seed of the great rishi Bharadwaja. The seed was kept in a pot and that’s how Drona (the pot born) got his name.

The twins, Kripi and Kripa were born from sage Gautam’s seed which had fallen on a clump of reeds.

Ashwatthama was born to Kripi and Drona.

Dhrishtadyumna was born from the sacrificial fire in a yagna organised by King Drupada. He was born with a bow in his hand and he was destined to destroy Drona. 

The excellent and beautiful Draupadi (also known as Krishnaa) was born from the same sacrificial fire. 

From King Drupada and his wife was born a daughter called Sikhandin who later transformed into a male with the help of a Yaksha named Sthuna.

Sakuni was born to Suvala. Cursed by the gods, he worked against virtue and was the cause of death for many people. 

Gandhari was also born to Suvala. Both Gandhari and Sakuni were knowledgeable in the art of acquiring worldly profit.

Dhritarashtra was born to Ambika (Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Pandu was born to Ambalika (also Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Vidura was born from the union of Ambika’s maid (called Parishrami) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. He was an incarnation of Dharma but he was born to a maid due to the curse of a brahmin who was falsely accused of theft because of the way Dharma’s law worked on earth. 

The Pandavas were born to Pandu and his two wives (Kunti and Madri). Yudhishthira was born to Kunti and Dharma (the god of justice). Bhima was born from Kunti and the God of wind (Marut). Arjun was born from the union of Kunti and Indra Deva. The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva) were born to Madri and the Ashwins.

Dhritharashtra and Gandhari gave birth to a hundred sons, with Duryodhana as the eldest. Another son called Yuyutsu was born from Dhritharashtra and a Vaishya woman. out of the 101 sons, 11 were maharathas.

Amoung the Pandavas’ children, Abhimanyu was born from Subhadra (Sri Krishna’s sister) and Arjuna. Draupadi and Yudhishthira had a son called Pritivindhya. Draupadi and Bhima had a son called Sutasoma. Draupadi and Arjuna had a son called Srutakirti. Draupadi and Nakula had a son called Satanika. Draupadi and Sahadeva had a son called Srutasena. Bhima had one more son with Hidimba called Ghatotkacha.

Note: Arjuna also had children from Ulupi (a Naga princess) and Chitrangada (the princess of Manipura). However, these progeny are not mentioned at this point, in the Mahabharata. I have mentioned it here for completeness.

Next Post: Why Did The Celestials Take Birth On Earth As The Pandavas And other Beings

13th-century Cham sculpture depicting Garuda devouring a Naga serpent (Image by DoktorMax – Own work. Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Vinhtantran using CommonsHelper)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Indra and Garuda Become Eternal Friends

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Indra and Garuda became eternal friends.

In this post, we will find out how the snakes became Garuda’s natural food.

After the friendship between Indra and Garuda was sealed, Indra said, “If you don’t need the amrit, return it to me because the beings to whom you plan to give the amrit have always been opposed to us.”

Garuda replied, “I have taken the amrit for a specific reason. However, I won’t allow anyone to drink it. O Indra, when I place the amrit on the ground, you can take it immediately and bring it back to heaven.”

Indra was very pleased with Garuda’s reply and offered the king of birds a boon.

Having been offered a boon, Garuda recollected how the serpent sons of Kadru had deceived his mother into slavery. But Garuda also knew that his mother’s misfortune was due to his brother, Aruna’s curse. That’s the reason he did not fight the snakes even though he could have easily overpowered them. Remembering all this, Garuda asked Indra for the following boon. He said, “O Sakra, let the mighty snakes become my food.”

“So be it,” Indra replied. However, Indra also considered it necessary to seek Vishnu’s permission before Garuda could make snakes his natural food. Therefore, Garuda and Indra approached the great Shri Hari Narayan, who immediately consented to the boon.

Note: Once again, we are given a window into Indra’s wisdom, discernment, and nobility. In the previous post, we got a glimpse into Indra’s nobility when defeated by Garuda, he reached out to the great bird for eternal friendship instead of harboring ill-will against him.

In this post, we get a glimpse of Indra’s wisdom and understanding of his limits. He knew that the natural order of the food chain would be affected when the snakes became Garuda’s food. So, even though he had himself given the boon to Garuda, Indra did not allow his ego to bypass Narayana and enforce the boon simply because he was the king of the devas. Here we see Indra as someone who knew his limits, and therefore, consulted Shri Hari Narayan, to validate the boon he had granted to Garuda.

After meeting Vishnu, Indra turned to Garuda and informed him that he would take possession of the pot of amrit as soon as Garuda had placed it on the ground.

Having reached an understanding about how the amrit was to be safeguarded, Garuda sped to the island where the snakes had held his mother in slavery.

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Garuda deceived the snakes and freed his mother from slavery.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda Frees His Mother From Slavery

Painting of Garuda as Vishnu’s vehicle (Image by Unknown author – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda Breaks Past Obstacles to Seize the Amrit

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Garuda broke through the three layers of obstacles to get hold of the amrit. Once he got the amrit, he did not drink it to benefit himself. Instead, he left immediately for the island where his enslaved mother was waiting for him.

In this post, we will read about the interaction Garuda had with Vishnu when the kind of birds met the great lord while flying with the amrit, and how Garuda became Vishnu’s vehicle.

As he flew towards the island, Garuda met Vishnu who was pleased with Garuda for not drinking the amrit. And Narayana (another name for Vishnu), the deity who knew no deterioration, said to Garuda, “O ranger of the skies, I want to give you a boon.”

Garuda said, “O great one, I wish that I should always stay above you and I should be immortal and free of disease without drinking the amrit.”

The great Vishnu said to Vinata’s son, Garuda, “So be it!”

Having received his two boons from Vishnu, Garuda said to Vishnu, “O great one who possesses the six attributes, I also wish to give you a boon.” Granted a boon by Garuda, Vishnu asked the king of the birds to be his vehicle. After that Vishnu put Garuda’s image on his flagstaff which always flew above him and said, “O Garuda, this way, through your image on my flagstaff, you shall always be above me.”

“So be it,” Garuda replied to the great lord and swiftly flew toward his destination.

Note: In the next post, we will read about another conflict between Indra and Garuda, following which they became eternal friends.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Indra and Garuda Become Eternal Friends

The battle between devas and asuras depicted in the temple at Angkor Wat

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Rahu Tries to Drink the Amrit by Deceit

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Narayana prevented Rahu from drinking the amrit. In this post, we will learn about the battle that ensued between the devas and asuras after the Churning of the Ocean and how the devas won the battle.

Those of you who enjoy suspense stories might have noticed a literary quality of the Mahabharata — which is, we always know what’s going to happen, however, the anticipation is in finding out how it happened and how it aligns with the thread of subtle dharma.

Soon after that, Narayana left his enchanting female form and returned to his normal form and hurled weapons at the asuras, which made them tremble. Thus, a frightening battle between the devas and the asuras began on the shores of the salt-water ocean, filling every direction with various kinds of weapons like javelins and lances.

The asuras were wounded and mangled with swords, darts, maces, and the discus. Some had their head cut off with double-edged swords, while some lay there vomiting blood, while others lay prostrate on the ground. The battleground became filled with the heads of the asuras with their golden adornments making that place look as if it was scattered with red-dyed mountain peaks.

The next day, when the Sun rose in its splendor, the battle restarted and the devas fought the asuras with bare hands, maces, and iron missiles. Cries and alarming sounds of ‘cut’, ‘pierce’, ‘hurl down’, etc were heard from everywhere.

Nara and Narayana entered the battlefield when the battle was already raging fiercely. Nara had in his hands, the celestial bow. Seeing him, Narayana invoked his own weapon – the Sudarshan Chakra (discus) which came to him from from the skies as soon as Narayana had thought about it  Thousands of asuras were devoured by Narayana’s discus – that dreadful weapon capable of destroying hostile cities.

However, even though they were assaulted with such force, the asuras were brave and strong. They withstood the attack and used their powers to rise into the sky, and from there, they threw mountains upon the devas.

Nara took his celestial bow and released gold-tipped arrows onto those mountains splitting and reducing them to dust before they could fall on the earth.

The onslaught of Nara’s arrows, Narayana’s discus, and the devas’ weapons overwhelmed the asuras. Many of them dived deep into the earth while others plunged into the depths of the ocean.

Thus, after a fierce battle, the devas finally obtained victory over the asuras. They offered proper respect to Mount Mandara and placed him once again on his base. With the nectar in their hands, the devas returned to the heavens making it resound with their shouts of victory. The devas rejoiced upon entering heaven and Indra, as well as the other deities, gave the pot of nectar to Narayana for safe-keeping.

Note: In the last few posts, we have discussed the Churning of the Ocean (Samudra Manthan) and the events after it. I want to take this opportunity to remind you that we got into this discussion because, a few posts back, Sauti had started narrating the story of Sage Kasyapa’s wives: Kadru and Vinata, and their children (a thousand snakes of Kadru and two sons of Vinata). Sauti mentioned that Kadru and Vinata saw the celestial horse (Uchchaihsravas) soon after Garuda’s birth. When the ascetics of Naimisha forest heard about Uchchaihsravas, they wanted to know how that celestial horse came into being. That’s why Sauti took a diversion into the story of Samudra Manthan because Uchchaihsravas was one of the beings that emerged when the ocean was churned.

Now that we know how Uchchaihsravas came into being, we will go back to the story of Kadru and Vinata in the next post. You might remember that Vinata had been cursed by her first son because she broke open the egg before his body was fully formed. He cursed that she would become a slave and that her second son would bring her freedom. In the next post, we will read about a bet that Kadru had with Vinata.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Bet Between Vinata and Kadru

Rahu and other astral figures: Image by Mahesh of Chamba – Self produced scan; from “Pahari masters”, a book by B. N. Goswamy, Public Domain.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vishnu’s Mohini Avtaar

Note: In the previous post, we read about how the asuras became desirous of possessing Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of abundance and wealth) and the amrit. However, Narayana (in the form of a beautiful woman) prevented them from succeeding.

In this post, we will read about how Rahu tried to disguise himself as a god and tried to drink the amrit and how he was stopped, once again by Narayana.

While the gods were drinking the amrit, a danava called Rahu was also among them. Rahu was disguised as a god and took a sip of the amrit. However, the amrit had barely reached his throat when he was discovered as an imposter by Surya and Soma (the Moon God) who immediately intimated the other gods. Without wasting any time, Narayana instantly used his discus to cut off the danava Rahu’s head because he had taken the amrit without permission.

Rahu’s separated head which was like a mountain rose up to the sky and uttered dreadful cries. His headless trunk fell on the ground and started rolling, making the entire earth tremble.

From that time, Rahu’s head has been in a state of quarrel with Surya and Soma, whom he swallows from time to time.

Note: According to astronomy and astrology, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move in their respective orbits. The incident of Rahu swallowing Surya and Soma refers to solar and lunar eclipses.

In the next post, we will read about the battle that ensued between the devas and asuras.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Battle Between Danavas (Asuras) and Devas After Samudra Manthan

Sculpture of Mohini: Image by Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Neelkantha Mahadev Saves the World From the Kalakuta

Note: In the previous post, we read about the emergence of Goddess Lakshmi, Soma, Uchchaihsravas (the celestial horse), Airavata (the double-tusked elephant), the Kaustubha gem, Dhanwantari with the pot of amrit, and the deadly poison Kalakuta from the ocean as it was churned. Mahadev drank the Kalakuta and held it in his throat to save the world.

In this post, we will read about what happened when the asuras decided to fight the gods in order to possess Goddess Lakshmi and the amrit.

The asuras were filled with despair when they saw all the wonderful things and beings that had emerged from the ocean. They wanted to possess Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth and abundance) and the amrit (nectar), therefore, they prepared for a battle with the devas. 

Narayana understood what was going on in the asuras’ minds. He immediately used his power of illusion and transformed himself into a graceful and beautiful woman called Mohini. This is the Mohini avtaar of Narayana. 

Mohini approached the asuras and stunned them with her exquisite beauty and grace. And when she started flirting with them, the asuras totally lost their senses. They themselves placed the pot of amrit in Mohini’s hands as they prepared to fight with the gods.

While the asuras were fighting with the gods, Narayana (still in the form of Mohini) took help from Nara to deceive the asuras and quickly left the camp of the asuras with the pot of amrit and took it to the gods.

While still engaged with the asuras in battle, the gods (although frightened) drank the amrit, which they had just received from Narayana’s hands, with great delight.

Note: In the next post, we will read about what happens when Rahu tries to deceive the gods and drink the amrit without permission.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Rahu Tries to Drink the Amrit by Deceit

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,

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Churning of the Ocean Begins

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Brahma and Vishnu gave the gods and asuras permission to churn the ocean for nectar. We also read that they used Mount Mandara as a churning rod, the king of tortoises as the base for the rod, and Vasuki (the serpent chief) agreed to be used as the churning rope. Thus the churning began. 

I would like to point out that all this is deeply symbolic of certain spiritual practices and also, possibly, related to the preparation of certain medicines. I don’t have specific details, but those who would like to find out more are encouraged to seek it through spiritually advanced teachers. To start with, here’s an article that explains the yogic allegory of Samudra Manthan. This article explains it from the perspective of Kriya Yoga, and this thread on Quora has several other explanations.

In this post, we will read about what happened when the churning began. These events are also symbolic in nature.

While churning the ocean, the asuras held Vasuki on the side of his hood and the gods held him on the side of his tail. Ananta, the mighty snake, was on the side of the gods. Ever so often, he would go on the other side to raise and drop Vasuki’s hood. 

Because Vasuki’s body was being stretched during the churning, he issued black vapors and flames from his mouth. 

These vapors and flames, aimed towards the sky when Ananta raised the hood, turned into clouds with lightning. And the clouds burst forth into rain which refreshed the tired gods. Since Mount Mandara was also twisted during the churning, its flowers fell on all sides refreshing those who were engaged in churning the ocean.

Then a tremendous roar resounded from the depths of the ocean. It sounded like the great roar that is heard at the dissolution of the universe. Many aquatic animals and beings of the lower regions were crushed and killed by the great Mount Mandara. Also, large trees were torn out, from their roots, as the mountain whirled. These trees along with the birds that lived on them were flung into the churning ocean. Every time these trees rubbed against each other, the friction caused flames to blaze up and the fire spread to the slopes of the mountain burning lions, elephants, and other creatures that lived on it. After some time, Indra caused a heavy downpour of rain to extinguish the fire.

Thus the churning continued with the ocean full of trees and herbs that constantly rubbed against each other as they were tossed about in the waters. After some time, the gum of several trees and herbs that had the properties of amrit mingled with the ocean’s water. The celestials drank that water containing plant extracts mixed with a liquid extract of gold and attained immortality. 

As the churning continued, the herb and tree extracts caused the milky waters of the deep ocean to turn into clarified butter. 

However, even though the waters of the ocean were filled with the properties of amrit, the real amrit that everyone was hoping for did not arise. By now, the gods and asuras were so exhausted that they had no more strength left to churn further.

Unable to proceed, the gods approached the boon-granting Brahma and said, “O sire, nectar has still not arisen from the ocean and we are very tired to churn further. Now, our only hope is if Narayana helps us.”

Upon hearing their problem, Brahma requested Narayana to help the gods, and Narayana blessed them with further strength to churn the mountain.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the glorious beings that arose from the ocean as the churning continued and what happened when the deadly Kalakoot poison emanated from the waters.

Next Post: Neelkantha Mahadeva Saves the World From the Kalauta Poison

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Image Credit: By 245CMR – Own work based on: Sagar mathan.jpg, CC BY 3.0,

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

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