Friday, June 6, 2014

The Churning of the Ocean, carving at Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

These carvings are only a small section of the gopuram of the famous Meenakshi Temple in Tamil Nadu. See how richly detailed they are!

The top panel depicts the Hindu legend of the churning of the Ocean of Milk (paal kadal) and in the lower panel you can see Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati riding their mount, Nandi the bull.

Legend has it that the Gods and the asuras (demons) once began their search for amritam (ambrosia) by churning the Ocean of Milk (the Milky Way galaxy). They used the serpent-king Vasuki, for rope and the mountain Mandara as the churning pole. As the churning continued, either the snake’s head started to spew venom. The Gods fearfully rushed to Lord Shiva asking him to save them. He drank the poison. Fearing for his life, his wife Parvati squeezed his neck to prevent the poison from spreading to the rest of his body. The potent venom turned Shiva’s throat blue, thus giving him his name, Neelakantha (The Blue-Throated One).

The Meenakhshi Temple at Madurai is full of such carvings. At every nook and corner one is likely to find some interesting mythological depiction or reference. What a heaven for a mythology buff!

Photo credit: Vandita Parashar

No comments:

Post a Comment