Summary of the Myth
The Samudra Manthan is a Hindu tale that colourfully illustrates the symbolic richness of eclipses. In this myth, the gods (Devas) and demons (Asuras) agreed to work together to obtain the Amrita - the precious elixir of immortality that can only be conjured from the sweet nectar at the bottom of the ocean. The mammoth task of churning the ocean and the desire for the prized Amrita is what motivated these two warring parties to unite.
Eventually, the elixir rose from the seas and a process was initiated to distribute the Amrita by the seductress, Mohini (Lord Vishnu in disguise). She suggested that the Devas be first to receive the Amrita, but secretly had no plans to give it to the Asuras at all.
Blinded by her beauty, the Asuras were fooled by Mohini’s plans to exclude them from the prize. However, Asura caught wind of this deception and set off on an ambitious plan of his own to disguise himself as a Deva and stand in line for his share.
Surya and Chandra (the Sun and Moon) see the mischievous dragon’s deception and immediately tell Mohini of this act. Mohini beheads the dragon but seeing the elixir of immortality had already been consumed, the severed dragon’s head (Rahu), continues to live alongside his empty body (Ketu), and perpetually chases the Sun and Moon for revenge until this day. Every now and again, Rahu and Ketu catch up to the Sun and Moon in their newness and fullness, causing an eclipse to occur.
As the creation story of eclipses, the Samudra Manthan demonstrates the complex dynamics experienced when people come together. Every one of us brings a personal agenda, our priorities, needs and wants that are thrown into the melting pot we call “our community.”
When agendas clash and needs become greed, we see drama and chaos unfold around us. These are the transient projections of our ego stories that we hold on to, or other people’s projections that we get sucked into. They cause us incredible pain, suffering, losses and gains, yet become meaningless when we step out of our material bodies and into our eternal being.
Behind all the eventful happenings of this tale is the backdrop of the Mandara Mountain. It acts as the solid anchor from which the churning of the ocean can occur, and sits on top of a tortoise (Lord Vishnu in disguise again). Despite the drama around it, Mandara is still and passive. Even Lord Vishnu describes this sensation of holding up an entire mountain as merely a scratch on the back, rather than a burdensome load.
So while the world undergoes the intensity, drama and chaos of eclipse seasons, we can remind ourselves that at the center of the tumultuous storm is the peaceful place of stillness and calm. Embracing the essence of Mandara Mountain can offload our burdens by the simple act of not reacting to chaos or not allowing space for the ego to defend. By grounding and detachment, we can access our own Amrita within.
I painted this depiction of the Sumudra Manthan during my second nodal return, as a way to process the dramas of my life and detach my ego mind from identifying with subconscious stories and patterns. It’s a constant reminder to tap into my eternal being, that which is not the drama, chaos, stories and events of the external life but which is the part of me that remains when all material aspects are stripped away - my quintessence.
In painting this, I also wanted to shift the perception of maleficence associated with the nodes and eclipses to one of balance and order. In this myth, the elixir of immortality can only be materialized when the gods and demons work together to extract this from the ocean. We too can confront our own demons to join us on our path to true liberation. We’re reminded to do so every time an eclipse occurs, when the light of the Sun and Moon are temporarily obscured and offer a chance to face our darkness. The nodes and eclipses bring us hard lessons that make us question our purpose and challenge our attachment to materiality in ways that strip us bare or tempt our desires. Yet, their 19-year cycle around our charts ensures an even spread of trials, tribulations, successes and gains that viewed from the perspective of the prime mover, bring perfect balance and ultimate freedom through experiences of deep synchronicity and fatedness.