Since the beginning of time, Lord Vishnu has manifested on earth to uphold dharma. In this series of articles, we will take you through His various incarnations as a reminder of the force of Preserver.
The second avatar of Lord Vishnu was in the form of a tortoise, known as the ‘Kurma Avatar’.
It was the time of Satyug. Rishi Durvasa, returning from his journey of the earth, presented a garland of flowers to Indra. Indra accepted the garland and placed it on the trunk of his elephant, Airavat. Airavat got restless wearing the garland and threw it off on the ground and stomped it with its foot. Rishi Durvasa was enraged with the callousness with which his present was treated and cursed Indra and all the devs to be bereft of strength, energy, and fortune. In the battles between devs and asurs that followed, devs were defeated at the hands of King Bali and asurs began to dominate Creation.
At that time, Lord Indra along with other gods sought help from the Preserver, Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu then advised them to churn the ksheer sagar to obtain the nectar of immortality. He asked them to make truce with the asurs, as the task required phenomenal power, which could not be done by devs alone. The asurs agreed to help churn the ocean on the condition that the nectar be shared with them. Lord Vishnu assured the devs that he would ensure the nectar does not reach the asurs who will use its power to destroy Creation.
Devs and asurs began churning the ocean of milk, using Mount Mandhara as the churner and Lord of Serpents, Vasuki as the churning rope. With the sheer force of the churning, Mount Mandhara began to sink in the ocean. It was then that Lord Vishnu incarnated as a kurma (tortoise) and held the mountain on His back to keep it from sinking. As the churning happened, various ratnas came out of the ocean. Finally, Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, emerged with a pot containing amrita, the heavenly nectar of immortality.
Fierce fighting ensued between devs and asurs for the nectar. To protect the nectar from asurs, Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) took the pot, and flew away from the battle-scene. Lord Vishnu then took the form of Mohini and as a beautiful and enchanting damsel distracted the asurs, took the amrita, and distributed it amongst the devs, who drank it regaining their lost power and strength.