Kurma, the tortoise incarnation of Vishnu

Kurma Avatar of Vishnu, below Mount Mandara, with Vasuki wrapped around it, during Samudra manthan, the churning of the ocean of milk. ca 1870.

Vishnu and Lakshmi on Shesha Naga, ca 1870

Vishnu and Lakshmi on Shesha Naga over Kshirasagar - Ocean of Milk, ca 1870. painting

In Hindu cosmology, the Ocean of Milk (kṣīroda, kṣīradhi or Kshira Sagar) is the fifth from the center of the seven oceans that surround loka or directional space and separate it from aloka or non-directional space. It surrounds the continent known as Krauncha.[1] The gods and demons worked together for a millennium to churn the sea and release Amrita the nectar of immortal life.[2] It is spoken of in the Samudra manthan chapter of the Puranas, a body of ancient Sanskrit legends.

It is also the place where Vishnu reclines over Shesha Naga, along with his consort Lakshmi.


"Ocean of Milk" is the English translation of the Sanskrit terms kṣīroda, kṣīradhi or kṣīrasāgara, from kṣīra "milk, curdled milk" and -uda, sāgara "water, ocean" or -dhi "receptacle".

The Churning of the Ocean

Hindu mythology also contains a story about the churning of the Cosmic Ocean in order to obtain Amrita - the nectar of immortal life. At the suggestion of Vishnu the gods, (Devas) and demons (Asuras) churn the primeval ocean in order to obtain Amrita which will guarantee them immortality. To churn the ocean they used the Serpent King, Vasuki, for their churning-string. For a churning pole they use Mount Mandara placed on the back of a Great Tortoise - the Kurma Avatar of Vishnu. As the gods and demons churned the sea, a terrible poison issued out of its depths which enveloped the universe. The Devas and Asuras approach Shiva who took the poison into his throat and swallowed it. The poison turned his throat blue, thereby earning him the name of Neelakanta (blue-throated one). When the Amrita finally emerged along with several other treasures the Devas and Asuras fought over it. However Vishnu in the form of Mohini the enchantress manages to lure the Asuras into handing over the Amrita to her, which she then distributes to the Devas. Rahu, an Asura, disguises himself as a Deva and tries to drink some Amrita himself. Surya (the sun-god) and Chandra (the moon-god) alert Vishnu to this deception. Vishnu then decapitates Rahu just as he is about to swallow the nectar, leaving only his head immortal.

According to Bhagavata, outcome of the churning of Ksheerasagara is Halahalam (terribly destructive poison), Amrita (nectar) with Dhanvantari (physician of Gods), Lakshmi (Goddess of Riches), Jyestha (Goddess of Poverty), Chandra (the Moon), a white elephant named Airavata, a horse named Uchchaisrava, Kalpavriksha (the tree that yields whatever is desired).

The Churning of the Cosmic Ocean (the Milky Way) is told in several ancient texts, notably in the Valmiki's Ramayana Canto 45 [3] and in the Mahabharata.[4]

Depiction at Angkor Wat

A bas-relief at the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia includes a depiction of devas and asuras working together to stir up the Ocean of Milk in an attempt to free the precious objects lost within, including the elixir of immortality called amrita. The scheme, masterminded by Vishnu, was to wrap the serpent Vasuki around Mount Mandara and then to rotate the mountain and to churn the surrounding sea in the manner of a gigantic food processor, by alternately pulling on the serpent's head and then on his tail.[5]


There is a Vaikunthaloka covered with water in the material world, and on that planet is a place called Vedavati, where Vishnu is located. Another planetary system known as Vishnuloka, is situated above Satyaloka (see: Vaikuntha), and there Sankarshana is present. On the island known as Svetadvipa there is an ocean of milk, and in the midst of that ocean, is a place called Airavati-pura where Aniruddha lies on Ananta. Cosmologically the Dvipas and Sagaras depict the entire Cosmos, though in Cartiography (or Cosmography), all the Dvipas and Sagaras are shown to lie in the Southern Hemisphere. In some of the satvata-tantras there is a description of the nine varshas and the predominating Deity worshiped in each:

(1) Vasudeva, (2) Sankarshana, (3) Pradyumna,
(4) Aniruddha, (5) Narayana, (6) Narsimha,
(7) Hayagriva, (8) Mahavaraha, (9) parsurama.

Paramatma, the Supersoul in the heart of everyone through whom all Avatars come to material universe, is lying on that Milk ocean. So Paramatma is Ksirodakasayi Vishnu - who is in every atom and heart of all souls in 8400000 kinds of material bodies, with two souls in each heart called jivaatma and Paramatma).

Milk ocean and Krishna

Some relationships between milk ocean and Goloka, planet of Krishna may be found. Krishna is same Vishnu, who is living in white castle on milk ocean, and on other hand, Krishna is same Vishnu, but He lives on Goloka, planet of cows (Sanskrit: "Go" - cow, "Loka" - planet). Other milky oceans are yoghurt ocean, and ghee ocean. These oceans can mean that Absolute Truth is also sweet and wonderful - it allows not just that humans live on Earth with salt water ocean only, but also suggests that there are other oceans like sweet water ocean, and others of these 7 oceans. Material world is compared to ocean of fault, especially in Kali-Yuga, so a way to go out of this matter is to enter to ocean of bliss - in eternal world of Vaikuntha. Supreme planet in that ocean of Truth is Goloka, though only a few persons of thousands and thousands can come to conclusion that Absolute Truth may live on planet of cows, and that milk ocean exists. One may (or not) believe it, but Vedas give us such concepts of reality.

See also


  1. D. Dennis Hudson: The body of God: an emperor's palace for Krishna in eighth-century Kanchipuram, Oxford University Press US, 2008, ISBN 978-0-19-536922-9, pp.164-168
  2. "Churning the Ocean of Milk by Michael Buckley". 
  3. "Online version of the Ramayana Canto 45 in English". 
  4. "Online version of the Mahabharata in English". 
  5. "Churning of the Ocean of Milk Travel Guide, Angkor Wat". 

External links