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One of the most famous incarnations of Vishnu is Kurma the tortoise, who helped the gods during the Churning of the Ocean. Now I had always assumed that the story of the churning of the ocean only took place in the Chakshusha Manvantara. For those who don't know, the four Yugas together make up one Mahayuga, and a thousand Mahayugas make up one Kalpa or day of Brahma. But as I discuss in this answer, a Kalpa is also divided into fourteen periods called Manvantaras, and during each Manvantara humanity is ruled by a different Manu, there is a different Indra ruling the three world, there is a different set of Saptarishis, etc.

Now we are living in the seventh Manvantara of the present Kalpa, known as the Vaivasvata Manvantara. And I thought that the Churning of the Ocean only took place in the Chakshusha Manvantara. For instance, this chapter and subsequent chapters of the Srimad Bhagavatam describes the story of the Churning of the Ocean which took place in the Chakshusha Manvantara:

The son of Cakṣu known as Cākṣuṣa was the sixth Manu. He had many sons, headed by Pūru, Pūruṣa and Sudyumna. During the reign of Cākṣuṣa Manu, the King of heaven was known as Mantradruma. Among the demigods were the Āpyas, and among the great sages were Haviṣmān and Vīraka. In this sixth manvantara millennium, Lord Viṣṇu, the master of the universe, appeared in His partial expansion. He was begotten by Vairāja in the womb of his wife, Devasambhūti, and His name was Ajita. By churning the Ocean of Milk, Ajita produced nectar for the demigods. In the form of a tortoise, He moved here and there, carrying on His back the great mountain known as Mandara.

But now I think this may not be the only time that the story of the Churning of the Ocean took place.

In this chapter and subsequent chapters of the Bala Kanda of the Ramayana, Vishwamitra tells Rama and Lakshmana a story about the Churning of the Ocean:

Oh, Rama, I tell of the legend of Indra as I was told and listen to it as I tell. What really chanced in this country, oh, Raghava, that be listened in its quintessence. *Once in Krita era, oh, Rama, the sons of Lady Diti were extremely energetic ones in their brawniness, whereas the sons of her younger sister Lady Aditi were venerable, vigorous and highly righteous ones.** Oh, tigerly-man, Rama, there was a thinking to those great-souls then, as to 'how we shall [thrive] deathless, ageless and wasteless...' Thus thought the sons of Diti and Aditi. For them who were thinking thus on that subject a thought occurred to those masterminds, 'on churning the Milky Ocean, therein we get its elixir, indeed. Then on deciding to churn the Milky Ocean, they made Vasuki, the mighty King of Snakes, with thousand heads, as the churning rope and Mt. Mandara as stirrer and those who have unlimited energy started churning the Milky Ocean.

Now the Adityas, i.e. the sons of Aditi, were not the gods who ruled in the Chakshusha Manvantara, rather they're the gods ruling right now in the Vaivasvata Manvantara. So my question is, did the Churning of the Ocean happen again in one of the Satya Yugas of the Vaivasvata Manvantara?

If it did happen more than once, that would explain a long-standing confusion I've had: Garuda transported mount Mandara to the ocean of milk, and the churning of the ocean produced the flying horse Ucchaishravas. Yet before Garuda was born, Garuda's mother Vinata and her co-wife Kadru had a bet over the color of Ucchaishravas' tail as he was flying through the sky. Perhaps this sort of thing can be explained by the Ucchaishravas that Vinata and Kadru bet on being from a previous Churning of the Ocean.

On a side note, given that Vishwamitra is telling the story of the Churning of the Ocean to Rama, is it possible that the story is described in the Vedas?

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    @Tezz I think it was Sati who was present during Samudra Mathana, because the Bhagavatam says, "Dakshayani praised Shiva for drinking poison." See this question I asked about this. Also, Sati never held Shiva's neck, Lord Shiva stopped it by his own will. Sati holding his neck is folklore, which may or may not be true.
    – Surya
    May 5, 2016 at 16:23
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    @Keshav I have a theory about this, that though the devas are just posts, which change every Manvantara, I think the original essence of the gods is the same. Like the divine essence of the devas enters whoever becomes a deva for the Manvantara. It is sort of like the Egyptian concept of Horus pervading the body of whoever is the Pharaoh, and also the concept of the same divinities reincarnating in different lifetimes to fulfil some purpose - yet they remain the same.
    – Surya
    May 5, 2016 at 16:27
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    And I think the Garuda who transported Mandara mountain is the Nityasuri Garuda, not Vainateya. He is the same Garuda who appeared in Daksha's and Nabhi's Yajnas, and was present when Prishnigarbha blessed Dhruva, and when Lord Hari rescued Gajendra, all of which were before the birth of Vainateya.
    – Surya
    May 5, 2016 at 16:31
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    @Keshav "There were twelve celebrated deities in a former Manwantara, called Tushitas, who, upon the approach of the present period, or in the reign of the last Manu, Chákshusha, assembled, and said to one another, "Come, let us quickly enter into the womb of Adití, that we may be born in the next Manwantara, for thereby we shall again enjoy the rank of gods:" and accordingly they were born the sons of Kaśyapa, the son of Maríchi, by Adití, the daughter of Daksha." So the same deities who churned the ocean were reborn as Adityas. 2/2
    – Surya
    May 5, 2016 at 17:42
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    @Surya I think I have proof that the churning of the ocean happened in the Vaivasvata Manvantara. In the Aranya Kanda of the Ramayana, Jatayu says that he witnessed the churning of the ocean. Yet Jatayu is the son of Garuda's brother Aruna, and Garuda and Aruna were born after the churning of the ocean because Vinata and Kadru see Ucchaishravas in the sky, and Ucchaishravas was born from the churning of the ocean. So that means the churning of the ocean must have happened again. Nov 20, 2017 at 15:13

1 Answer 1

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There is no discrepancy at all. The churning of the ocean happened in the current Vaivasvata Manvantara only. It is just that the Avatara of the 6th Manvantara is responsible for the churning in the following Vaivasvata Manvantara.

After the mention of Ajita, the 6th Manvanatara avatara being the one responsible for Samudra manthana, Parikshit goes on to ask Shukadeva Goswami (ŚB 8.5.11-12) to describe this very incident where the lord became a tortoise as well as churned the ocean. While describing this incident, the characters mentioned as engaging in the Samudra manthana are those of the Vaivasvata Manvantara as can be evidenced from the following references:

  1. Mention of Indra and Varuna (sons of Kashyapa):

Lord Indra, Varuṇa and the other demigods, seeing their lives in such a state, consulted among themselves, but they could not find any solution.
-ŚB 8.5.17

The above is a clear reference to the Adityas, as though Indra is a title, Varuna is clearly the name of one of the Adityas. These all devatas of the current Manvantara go to the abode of Ajita (the 6th Manvantara avatara) as can be seen in ŚB 8.5.24.

  1. Mention of King Bali, for whom Lord Vishnu had taken the Vamana Avatara (Vaivasvata Manvantara):

The demigods approached Bali Mahārāja, the son of Virocana, and sat down near him. Bali Mahārāja was protected by the commanders of the demons and was most opulent, having conquered the entire universe.
-ŚB 8.6.29

The mention of Bali, grandson of Prahlada, is indicative of the fact that the churning of the ocean takes place after Narasimha pradurbhava, which, as per this answer, took place in the Vaivasvata Manvanantara only.

So, just because Ajita was responsible for the churning, does not indicate that it happened in the chakshusha Manvantara. The above verses show us that the devatas and asuras of the current Manvantara are responsible for the churning; and as stated above, they approached the abode of the 6th Manvantara incarnation.

It’s not a case of there being two Samudra manthanas, one in the chakshusha and another in the Vaivasvata.

Thus there is no discrepancy and the churning of the ocean took place in the Vaivasvata Manvanatara, in consonance with the facts stated in Valmiki Ramayana.

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    The question that arises from this interpretation is, why would Shukabrahma talk about an event of another Manvantara instead of saying about Ajita's pastimes? It's like saying, Lord Vishnu, who stole butter and curds from the gopis houses, was born as Vamana to Kashyapa and Aditi. That diverts the focus of the narration from one Avatara to another, which is not exactly a good narration.
    – Surya
    Apr 17, 2021 at 4:36
  • @Surya Correct, edited.
    – Adiyarkku
    Apr 25, 2023 at 14:56

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