This very popular Shivaratri le
gend from Puranas explains why people stay awake
all night on Shivaratri. Besides, it also tells us why Lord Shiva is also known as Neelakantha.
Legend Behind Samudra Manthan
Once Indra - the King of Gods, while riding on an elephant came across Durvasa Muni who offered him a special garland. Indra accepted the garland but put in on the trunk of the elephant. The elephant was irritated by the smell and it threw
the garland on the floor. This enraged the sage as the garland was a dwelling of Sri (fortune) and was to be treated as prasada. Durvasa Muni cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.
In battles that followed this incident, devas were defeated and asuras (demons) led by
The Churning of the Ocean
The churning of the milk - ocean was an elaborate process.
f herbs were cast into the ocean and many great being
s and objects were produced from the ocean and were divided between asuras and gods. It is said that following things emerged from the S
- Sura or Varuni - Goddess and creator of wine
- Apsaras - various divine nymphs
- Kaustubha - a rare diamond said to be the most valuable jewel in the world
- Uchhaishravas - the divine white horse
- Kalpavriksha - the wish-granting tree
- Kamadhenu - the wish fulfilling cow
- Airavata - the white elephant
- Lakshmi - the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth. Vishnu and Her were reunited after having been separated for many ages.
Haalaa-Hala - the Poison
During the Sagar Manthan by the gods and dem
ons, haalaa-hala, a pot of poison also came out of the ocean. This terrified the Gods and demons as the poison was so toxic that it effects would have wiped out the entire creation. On the advice of Lord Vishnu, Gods approached Lord Shiva for help and protection as only he could swallow it without being affected. On the request of gods and out of compassion for living beings, Lord Shiva drank the poison. However, Parvati - Lord Shiva’s consort pressed his neck so that the poison does not reach his stomach. Thus, it stayed in his throat neither going up nor going down and Shiva remained unharmed. The poison was so potent that it changed the color of Lord Mahadeva’s neck to blue. For this reason, Lord Shiva is also called Neelakantha (the blue-necked one) where ‘Neela’ means blue and ‘Kantha’ means neck or throat.
Churning Out Divine Nectar
At last, Dhanvantari - the Divine Physician appeared with a pot of Amrita (nectar of immortality) in his skilful hands. Fierce fighting ensued between devas and asuras for the nectar. To protect the nectar from asuras, devas hid the pot of nectar at four places on the earth - Prayag (
Eventually, Lord Vishnu took the form of a beautiful woman, Mohini. While her beauty bewildered the asuras, Mohini seized the nectar and returned it to the Devas, who drank it immediately.