This question discusses how poison was the first thing that came out of Samudra Manthana. Shiva drank that poison to save everyone and is known as Neelakantha. The poison itself is called हलाहलं (Halahalam) or कालकूटं (KaalaKootam).

I heard that the word हलाहलं is mentioned in different forms in different texts.

Also, this wiki article describes (maybe not correctly) two of the meanings of KaalaKootam as 'black mass' or 'time puzzle'.

Why is the poison given these two names - हलाहलं and कालकूटं ? Is there any hidden symbolism behind it?

  • 1
    Maybe you can ask about the different pronunciations as well.
    – Surya
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 11:31
  • I can give an interpretation though I don't know whether it is right - Halahala is that which makes the world cry out 'Hala Hala' in terror.
    – Surya
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 11:33
  • Or maybe if you split it as Hala-Ahala then it can mean that which undoes the fabric (literally vowels) of the universe.
    – Surya
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 11:34
  • @Surya Done.... Commented May 21, 2016 at 11:48
  • I think Sagara Madanam is alluding to something. Many people provide different interpretations. See this answer on Quora.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


The Amarakosha gives the names Kalakuta and Halahala to the poison of the Nagas in Bhogivarga or The Section about Snakes.

The Amarapadavivrtti Commentary By Lingayasuri gives the following meanings:


  • Kalavarnasya Kootah Iti - The poison (fumes) that is black in colour
  • Kalam Yamam Api Kootayati Iti Va - That which burns even Yama, the god of Death


  • Halati Vilikhati Jatharam Na Halati Cha - That which ploughs and twists the stomach while simultaneously straightening it (in short, torturing and re-torturing a person)

The Amarapadaparijata of Mallinatha says the following:


  • Hrdaye Halahalam Mahad Visham - Halahala is a toxic poison to the heart (implying that it can cause instant death)
  • What are these two works, works on Nirukta or what? Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 1:56
  • @Keshav Both are commentaries to Amarakosha the Sanskrit Lexicon.
    – Surya
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 2:33
  • So is the Amarakosha a work in the Nirukta genre or something else? Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 2:47
  • @Keshav No the Amarakosha is the Sanskrit Thesaurus which is accepted by all Sanskrit scholars as the definitive thesaurus.
    – Surya
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 11:37

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