Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Wings and Chirps

Tag: samudra manthan

#MythicalMondays – Rahu & Ketu

Last Monday I had shared the story of Samudra Manthan/Palazhi Madhanam. I had promised last week to share Lord Ayyappa’s story today. But it had to be postponed to next Monday because this story of Rahu and Ketu was equally important to share and it had to be told to complete Lord Vishnu’s Mohini Avatar. Since this story is a continuation from there, I would suggest you to read it before going ahead.

Lord Vishnu’s Vishwa Mohini Roopam had helped the Devas obtain Amrita (the nectar of immortality) that the Asuras had snatched from Lord Dhanvantari and get rid of Sage Durvasa’s curse. Finally they defeated the Asura army lead by King Bali.

As I was going through various versions of this story I read this particular one which was new to me. Sharing it for the knowledge of my readers.

Mohini bewitched the Asuras with her beauty and made them agree to share Amrita with Devas. She had made Devas and Asuras sit in two lines. While the Asuras bedazzled by Mohini’s enchanting beauty and their desire to get married to her kept their eyes tightly shut, Mohini served Amrita to all the Devas.

One of the Asuras, Swarbhanu, opened one of his eyes and smelled something fishy. He realized that Mohini had served almost all of the contents of the pot of Amrita to all the Devas. He disguised as a Deva and quietly sneaked over to the other side and sat next to Surya and Chandra. Mohini did not notice this changeover and mistaking Swarbhanu for a Deva, she served Amrita to him as well.

Swarbhanu was the son of Viprachit (father) and Simhika (mother). Simhika was the daughter of Hiranya- Kashyapa the great demon who was the father of Prahlaadha, the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu.

The Devas were about to consume the Amrita when Surya and Chandra noticed something amiss. They saw and extra Deva on their side of the line whom none of them had ever met before. While gulping down the Amrita, Surya looked closely and screamed, “He is not a Deva.” Almost simultaneously Chandra also shouted, “Oh Yes! He is not a Deva. I have never seen him before this.”

By now Swarbhanu had taken the Amrita in his mouth and was about to gulp it when Mohini changed into Lord Maha Vishnu’s Vishwaroopam form. He immediately charged his Sudarshan Chakra towards Swarbhanu’s neck, preventing him from swallowing the Amrita.

Picture Source: Pinterest

Since a bit of Amrita had flowed down his throat, Swarbhanu had become immortal. He did not die but his head was separated from his body. Lord Brahma made Swarbhanu’s head and body join with a snake. The head joined a snake’s body and came to be known as Rahu and the snake’s head joined with Swarbhanu’s body and came to be known as Ketu.

Lord Brahma granted Rahu and Ketu a boon for accepting this new form, a place amidst the planets, the Navagrahas. Depicted as a serpent with no body riding a chariot drawn by eight black horses, Rahu is one of the navagrahas. The other name of Rahu is Bhayanaka. It is believed that Rahu occasionally swallows the sun and the moon for pointing him out to Lord Vishnu and this is what causes the solar and lunar eclipses on our planet.

According to Buddhist Mythology, in the Candima Sutta and the Suriya Sutta, Rahu attacks Surya and Chandra before being compelled to release them by their recitation of a brief stanza conveying their reverence for the Buddha. The Buddha responds by enjoining Rahu to release them, which Rahu does rather than have his “head split into seven pieces”. The verses recited by the two celestial deities and the Buddha have since been incorporated into Buddhist liturgy as protective verses recited by monks as prayers of protection.

This is something I came across on Wikipedia. I am not sure of the truth about it, but I am amazed at how different mythologies are interlinked.

Rahu and Ketu’s power increases between sunset to sunrise. Their power of vengeance is so strong that they cause an astrological moment called the Rahu Kaalam that stays every day during the day for 1 hour and 30 minutes. This time is considered to be highly inauspicious for undertaking any good deeds. Now I know that these mythological stories made my Muthachan (maternal grandfather) stop us for a while before stepping out of the house for my Mema’s (maternal aunt) matchmaking.

Rahu and Ketu control over one’s courage, action, sorrow, valour, sin and provide for mental troubles and worries in current life depending on one’s own past karmas in their past lives. Rahu governs over the head portions, while Ketu governs over one’s ears, speech and hearing etc.

Once Hanuman was chasing Surya mistaking him for a ripe fruit. That’s when he spotted an unusual Rahu with the head attached to a snake’s body. He looked like a fire-spitting dragon. Hanuman chased Rahu. Rahu ran for his life and sought help from Indra. Indra attacked Hanuman’s jaw with a strong thunderbolt. This is the incident that made Vayu, Hanuman’s father, to withdraw air from the world. Vayu was later pacified by all the Gods and Hanuman was granted lots of boons including Lord Brahma’s powerful boon of escaping even the Brahmastra.

Another story from the Ramayana says that King Ravana had once imprisoned all the Navagrahas (the nine planets) and Hanuman had got them released. All grahas thanked Hanuman. It is thus believed that the negative influences of any graha can be overcome by worshiping Lord Hanuman.

Recommended References:  The lesser known story of Rahu and Ketu!

#MythicalMondays – Samudra Manthan/Palazhi Madhanam

Amma and Achan recently had the good fortune of organizing an Ayyappa Villakku here in Delhi. There were bhajans reciting the story of Lord Ayyappa, his birth and the purpose of his avatar (incarnation). As I told the meaning of those Malayalam bhajans to the girls, their curious minds kept filling up with questions and questions. This made me dig through my cupboard at my parents’ house and dig out an old treasure. A book on Lord Ayyappa that my Muthachan (maternal grandfather) had arranged for me through a devotee visiting the temple. The search was absolutely worth it. Sharing the story here as the first blog post on my new blog Wings and Chirps. 

Those Old Books – Treasures

Once Rishi Durvasa came to meet Indra. As Indra got down from his elephant and bowed down to him, the happy sage gave him a divine flower garland. Indra put the garland on the elephant’s trunk and began styling his hair. Meanwhile, the fragrance of the garland invited thousands of bees which irritated the elephant who threw it down and crushed it under its feet. This enraged the sage as the garland was to be treated as a prasada or religious offering. Durvasa cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.

Indra and devas ran to Lord Vishnu who suggested that the Amrita (the nectar of immortality) that would emerge from Palazhi Madhanam (Samudra Manthan; churning of the ocean) alone can cure them of the affects of this curse.

The churning of the Kshirasagara (the ocean of milk) was an elaborate process. Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, who abides on Shiva’s neck, became the churning rope. The demons who demanded to hold the head of the snake were poisoned by fumes emitted by Vasuki. The gods and demons still pulled back and forth on the snake’s body alternately, causing the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean. Between the churning, the mountain began to sink. Vishnu, in his Kurmavatar (turtle) supported the mountain on his back.

A number of treasures were released from the Ocean of Milk during churning. The lethal poison known as Kalakooda Visham or Halahala escaped from the mouth of the serpent king. It was so powerful that it could destroy all of creation. Lord Shiva consumed the poison to protect the universe. Goddess Parvati grabbed Shiva’s throat in an effort to prevent him from swallowing the poison which was powerful enough to destroy Gods too. As a result, Shiva’s throat turned blue. Thus, Lord Shiva is also called Neelakantha (the blue-throated one).

The divine treasures that emerged from the sea were, Goddess Lakshmi, the Apsaras (the divine nymphs), Varuni (Goddess of Wine; consort of Varuna), Kamadhenu (the wish-granting divine cow), Airavata and several other elephants, Uchhaishravas (the divine 7-headed horse), Kausthubham (a rare gem), Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling divine tree), Parijat (the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt), Sharanga (the bow of Lord Vishnu), Chandra (the moon), Shankha (Vishnu’s conch) and many others.

Finally, Lord Vishnu emerged in Dhanvantari avatar (heavenly physician) with the pot containing Amrita. Devas (demi-gods) and Asuras (demons) started fighting for the nectar of immortality. Garuda took the pot and flew from the battle ground.


The demi-gods approached Lord Vishnu who took the form of the enchanting damsel Mohini to distract the Asuras, take the Amrita and distribute it among the Devas. She told the Asuras that they have to keep their eyes shut till she serves them all and that she will marry the last one to open his eyes. While the Asuras kept their eyes closed in order to win Mohini, she took the Amrita and served it to all the Devas thus curing them of Durvasa’s curse. The rejuvenated Devas then defeated the Asuras.

More on Mohini and her son with Lord Shiva, Lord Ayyappa, in the next post. Stay tuned.

***Do share any variations of the story that you are aware of. This post is strictly based on the stories I have heard, read from the Bhagavatha and other texts and books.

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