Churning of the Ocean and the Kumbhamela
Om Namo Narayanaya
Streaks of light begin to appear in the Eastern sky. Having milked the Cow of Plenty, the Milkmaid pours the foaming contents into the Churning Vessel. Long before the Sun’s heat begins to warm the Earth, she toils with the Rod and the Rope. The rope never touches the liquid. Churning and churning, an act of constant repetition, she pauses only to see what is rising. Her two hands balanced with Equal Strength or else the rod will fall. Soon the tiny flakes combine to form chunks of butter that float on the top. The Navaneeta, …… is ready for consumption. From this simple, daily chore was born the great pouranika story of Amritamanthanam.
In the Bhagavata Puranam this story is given in great detail. The core deity or the core divine principle is none other than Narayana. The triggering event is a war between the devas, forces of Light and the asuras, forces of Darkness. The desire for Immortality to combat their loss and weakness comes from the devas, yet they cannot access it without the aid of the forces of darkness. Life too is a play of these two forces. Only with great effort could this Amrita, Nectar of Immortality be obtained. The asuras too can earn this elixir. It is to be churned from the ocean, the raw milk of creation and the substratum for life itself. In it as planned by Narayana, is placed a mountain essence of the mind, Mandara. It would rest on the tortoise hold of Dharma, the Koorma. The totality of vasanas becomes the subservient rope, the serpent Vasuki. The pull by the two forces are equal in strength and motion, keeping the churning at pace. The omnipresent and omnipotent Narayana is in all, in the actors and in the act. The Act must go on according to the omniscient lord. Purgation in the form of exhalation of toxicity takes place. The dreadful Kalakuta poison is ejected by Vasuki, only to be absorbed by the magnanimous and compassionate Mahadeva, few drops to reside in poisonous flora and fauna as a reminder.
The way is cleared for many a treasure to rise, the Kaustubha gem, the apsaras, the horse Ucchaishravas, the Parijata tree, Varuni, Jyeshta, Lakshmi and more. They are appropriated by those that covet and those that deserve. The best was yet to come. Then out of the waters comes Dhanvantari, holding in his hands a golden pot containing Amrita. The powers of the dark quickly seize this pot. In this tussle a four drops fall on the mortal plane, in Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik. Should the asuras partake of the Amrita what would Life be like? This was not to happen as Narayana himself disguised as the enchantress Mohini distracts the asuras. He knows their love of the temporal. While they consumed the beauty of Mohini through their senses, the devas partook of the invigorating drink. With their fears allayed, the devas resumed their functions, with renewed strength.
The Kumbha mela is a commemoration of this great event. Every twelve years millions of pilgrims gather at the holy spots to bathe in the sacred waters at a calculated, astronomical, auspicious time capsule. Amrita enters the waters at this time. The ascetic and the layman is convinced that by participating in this ceremony, they are giving life to a pouranika event that took, takes and will take place in the regions above the ordinary human plane, at a time beyond this time dimension. By doing so, the combined sankalpa shakti of the millions facilitates the ascension of the mortal plane and the descent of the daivic plane, to the one field of participation, bringing together forces both seen and unseen. The reward is a unique chance to access a grip on the cessation of mortality, The entire being is bathed in the waters that contain for that short period, the nectar of immortality, Amrita.