Is the "ocean of milk" made of milk or is it a metaphor for a frothy ocean?

How can something like Kalakuta arise from churning milk?

1 Answer 1


This is a fascinating question, and the canon is surprisingly ambiguous about it first. But it seems that it truly was an ocean full of milk, since this part of the Mahabharata explains that some of the milk turned into butter:

"After the churning, O Brahmana, had gone on for some time, gummy exudations of various trees and herbs vested with the properties of amrita mingled with the waters of the Ocean. And the celestials attained to immortality by drinking of the water mixed with those gums and with the liquid extract of gold. By degrees, the milky water of the agitated deep turned into clarified butter by virtue of those gums and juices. But nectar did not appear even then. The gods came before the boon-granting Brahman seated on his seat and said, 'Sire, we are spent up, we have no strength left to churn further. Nectar hath not yet arisen so that now we have no resource save Narayana.'

Mahabharata, Astika Parva, Chapter 18

We can support this theory by looking at the other two places where the churning of the ocean is mentioned, the Vishnu Purana and the Ramayana, and seeing that there's nothing to contradict or anything that indicates that this is just frothy water. (The word frothy is also never mentioned in any retellings.) Finally, note that the name of the ocean appears in many Indian languages, and all of them translate to 'ocean of milk.'

I have no explanation for how it produced Kalakuta (Halahala), but again, how could any of the things that came from the Samudra Manthan have arisen from the churning of milk? :)

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