Halāhala (Hindi हलाहल) or Kalakootam (Sanskrit कालकूटं ) is the name of a poison (as per Hindu mythology) created when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the sea of milk (see Samudra manthan) in order to obtain Amrita, the nectar of immortality.
Fourteen different ratnas (gems) were recovered in this exercise, mostly retained by the Gods after the Demons tried to cheat them. But before Amrita could be recovered, Halāhala ("the most vicious and venomous poison of universe") was produced, which started killing both sides. As no one could bear the poisonous fumes emitted by the poison, both Devas and Asuras began to collapse due to asphyxiation. They ran for help to Brahma, who looked to Vishnu for advice. Vishnu said that only Shiva could digest the deadly poison. So both parties went to Kailasha and prayed to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva chose to consume the poison and thus drank it. His wife Parvati, alarmed, stopped it in his throat with her hands, thus earning him the name Viṣakaṇṭha (the one who held poison in his throat). The poison made his throat turn blue; hence, he is also known as Nīlakaṇṭha (the one with a blue throat).
Gosaikunda lake is believed to have formed from the digging of the land by the Trishul (holy three-pointed spear, similar to the western trident) of lord Shiva. As after he drank the poison, he desperately wanted cold water to quench the thirst generated due to overwhelming heat of the poison.
There is a proverb in Hindi language, derived from this incident: Amrit paane se pahle Vish pinna padta hai. Literally meaning: before you can get Amrit, you have to digest poison. Used generally to imply: Before you get successful, you have to face many odds in life.
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