Now it was that with the aid of Rishi Satyavrata, Lord Vishnu, Supreme of Lords, in the form of a fish big and majestic, led the most virtuous of mankind into the cyclical beginning of days; and the youngest of yugas commenced. The great men of this most virtuous of yugas raised civilizations, and all life on Earth, or Prithvi Lok, as it is known in the divine tongue, marched on with felicity.

But there appeared an apsara before Nārada, who is also called Devarshi, the sage-god. Great was her celestial beauty, and with others of her kind she sang and danced in the hallowed halls of Indra, the ruler of Swarga Loka. But now her fair face had on it the creases of stress and worry.

“Ill are the tidings I bring to you, Munivara! Ere today was all merry in Swarga Loka, for there reigned a peace of immemorial length, and the trees and meadows were distilled with the dews of prosperity, and the songbirds sang to abounding joy. But even as merriment flowed forth from us all, a black malevolence imbued the skies of Swarga, and the empyrean felicity was darkened as all divine craft subsided into the earth whence it was raised. To what Asura might we ascribe an evil gaze, that such woe should befall the supernal kingdom of Indra?”

Said the Devarshi, “To no evil gaze of an Asura, but to the curse of Rishi Durvāsa, must you ascribe this misfortune.”

“Wherefore the venerable Rishi’s wrath, Munivara?” asked the apsara.

“Not many moons ago did it come to pass,” narrated Nārada, “that the rishivara gifted to Lord Indra, who was then seated atop his elephant Airāvata, a wreath of rich flowers. But overcome as he was by pride, Lord Indra gave the wreath to Airāvata; and disdaining the thought of being any less prideful than the Lord himself, Airāvata trampled the wreath neath his feet. The lord of gods Indra may be, sundari, and yet the wrath of Durvāsa, famed in the three worlds, is not to be belittled. ‘This doom I lay on you and your gods, Indra, that your felicity shall be riven asunder; and lost to the uttermost shall be all your strength, energy, and fortune!’ saying thus did he curse the king of gods, and thus did the high walls of Indra sink into the utter earth even as Swarga fell to shadow.”

“Nay!” cried the apsara. “Great indeed is the tragedy that has struck. I pray to you, Munivara, that some remedy for the ills of Swarga may be wrought.”

“Nay, sundari,” said Nārada, “it is to Lord Vishnu that you must turn the eyes of hope; and rest secure in the knowledge that Lord Indra entreats him for aid at His abode even as we speak.”

Never far from the Devarshi in celestial distance, there was situate the most hallowed dwelling of Lord Vishnu, the Vaikuntha of many planets, eternal and imperishable; and it was sung of old that the Vaikuntha was the highest realm, above the fourteen worlds, whither the souls turn with the attainment of liberation from saṃsāra, or the cycle of births and deaths. There had gone Indra, and the gods of his realm accompanied him, that the curse of Durvāsa might be annulled.

And Vishnu spoke, “It eludes even My power to deliver Swarga from the curse of Durvāsa, such is the merit the rishivara commands.”

“Is it then to be our fate, Lord,” asked Indra, “that our defeat, debility, and defencelessness should be of sempiternal years?”

And thus spoke Vishnu, “My purpose shall suffer not the darkening of Swarga for measureless years; and yet, long shall be the labour that restores to Swarga its fame and glory. For ye must perform the Sāgara Manthana, Churning of the Primaeval Ocean, from which shall flow such bounties as alone could restore to Swarga its lost prosperity; and the nectar of immortality, or the Amrita, that shall thereby be obtained, shall renew of thee the strength, the opulence, and the exaltation. But arduous indeed is such a labour, and therefore ye must seek the aid of the Asuras.”

A chorus of dismay issued from the Devas assembled. The Asuras and Devas came of different mothers, the sisters Diti and Aditi, both the spouses of Rishi Kashyapa, son of Lord Brahma the Creator; and ever were they at war.

“O Mighty Lord,” Indra spoke to Vishnu, “How could I, king of the gods, Indra, hearken to such counsel as constrains me to seek the aid of the enemy?”

And thus spoke Vishnu, “Be it known that such is the fate ordained for thee, failed as thou hast in enchaining the beast of hubris. And yet the Devas shall never be disappointed in their quest for aid and counsel from the golden doors of Vaikuntha.”

“What course might we adopt, Lord?” queried Vāyu, Lord of All Winds.

“In the Asuras must ye awaken the thirst for immortality. Pledging not your honour, ye must contrive such words as shall convince them of your promise to them of the Nectar of Dhanvantari. I foretell that they shall hearken to your invitation. But bear that ye must not prefer the chance of arms ere the savouring of Amrita. Depart with courage, lords, for Mount Mandara awaits you as the churning rod, and Vāsuki the king of snakes shall serve ye as the churning rope,” blessed thus by the Supreme Lord, the Devas and the Asuras united in churning the Kṣīra Sāgara, the primaeval Ocean of Milk.

A thousand years, it is said, did the labour last; and ere the lost treasures of Swarga were recovered, there came forth a deadly poison in the form of halāhala that threatened to do to death Asuras and Devas alike. It is recounted that either Vāsuki belched forth the terrible vapours of halāhala as the churning heated him, or that its fumes were spewed forth by the Kṣīra Sāgara itself. Indra prayed to Vishnu, and the beneficent Lord spoke from His High Heavens that the great Lord Shiva, supreme among Yogis, alone could consume the halāhala and save all Creation.

And the Asuras and Devas united in invocations of the Lord, who appeared in form mighty and big; and he consumed the halāhala, but kept it ever in his throat, turning it blue, and so it came to pass that he earned the name Neelakantha. Thereafter from the churning came forth Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and she would accede to the prayer of Indra that her gifts ever grace his kingdom if Vishnu Himself should take Her as His wife. It is recounted that Vishnu appeared at the Kṣīra Sāgara, and as both garlanded one another, Nārada poured forth flowers from the skies, and the holy matrimony was sealed, and both ascended to Vaikuntha. The Kṣīra Sāgara then turned up the assorted treasures of Swarga Loka which rose up to Indra’s kingdom; and then came forth at last Dhanvantari, the physician of the Devas with the Amrita. The Asuras took with haste to the goblet of that most exalted nectar, and fought among themselves for the boon of the first draught. And the Devas stood in silence and despaired, wishing that the Amrita could be rescued from the clutches of the Asuras; until Lady Mohini of utmost bewitchment ensnared the Asuras and Devas alike. So great and pristine was her beauty that they readily heeded her commands, for she uttered them in the form of polite blandishment. But she was none but Vishnu in a bewitching form, and thus it came to pass that the Amrita went to the Devas alone; and the design was discovered, and a great battle ensued between the progenies of Diti and Aditi. The Asuras lay slain, and buoyed in victory the Devas returned to Swarga, where prosperity smiled again; and the apsaras sang in melodious tunes and danced with merriment.

This is the English translation of a scene from the 2008 animated movie ‘Dashavatar.’ Some liberty with words and imaginative addition of sentences has been taken in order to attain, in the author’s judgment, the best possible sentence structure in the epic style.

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