Every culture around the world has its own version or legend of the origin of the species. Most of us are familiar with Charles Darwin ‘s theory On The Origin of Species (1859) or have at least heard of it. In Hindu, there is an origin or creation myth called The Churning of the Ocean of Milk. It is a captivating tale that is depicted in many forms in art and in particular, in the bas-relief panel at Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.

In Hindu mythology, it is said that 13 precious objects including the elixir of immortality called Amrita were lost in the churning of the cosmic sea. Finding these cherished objects again required cooperation between the gods (devas) and demons (asuras) in an almighty dredging exercise. The scheme required the assistance of the giant serpent Vasuki, who offered himself as a rope to enable the rotating of a “churning stick.” The churning stick is depicted as Mount Mandala (pictured above). At some point in the tug of war, Mount Mandara begins to sink and has to be supported in an upright position by a giant turtle, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. It is said that as the serpent was wrenched back and forth in this titanic tug-of-war, that lasted for a thousand years, the Sea of Milk or the Ocean of Immortality is found and released. Many other treasures are also said to be have tossed up too.

Posted by Robert Horvat

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

4 Comments

  1. That’s cool. Angkor is going to be one of my first stops. I’ve always wanted to go there.

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  2. I remember reading a National Geographic spread on Angkor in 1982. Cambodia was then coming out of its civil war and genocide, and there was a very big question about whether Angkor would even survive. It seems as if it has in the past 30 years. The loss of this amazing place would be a tragedy for every human being on Earth, and it’s a place that needs to be preserved and appreciated. I’d love to see it myself someday.

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  3. […] Comparably, in India the search for the elixir of life or Amrita, is described in ancient Hindu texts. Hindu scriptures says that anyone who consumes the smallest of portions would gain immortality. There is also a legend that states that in the early days when the Earth had been born, the gods were very fearful of the strength and rise of evil demons. These fearful gods went out and seeked the advice of the three most primary Hindu gods, Vishu, Brahma and Shiva. They were told that to regain the upper hand over the demons it could only be achieved by gaining the Armita from the sumundra manthan or the churning of the ocean of milk. […]

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  4. […] and humans. Some of my favourite myths are associated with creation stories, like my article on The Churning of the Ocean of Milk and legends or folklore, like my recent outing about Roman god’s Pomona and Vertumnus. Today, I […]

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