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ARCHITECTURE & ICONOGRAPHY

  

 

 

  Churning of the Ocean of Milk

 

Cambodia

The exterior walls on the first level of the  southern section of the eastern gallery at Angkor Wat (fig.) is covered with bas-reliefs and carvings depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.

 

To obtain the elixir of immortality, known as amrita, the devas and asuras (fig.)worked together. They placed Mandara, the peak of Mt. Meru, upside-down in the Ocean of Milk and used the snake Ananta as a stirring rope, each group taking a side. Whereas the demons stood at the head of the snake, which is represented by a giant multi-headed naga, the gods held the tail.

 

  Churning of the Ocean of Milk

 

  Churning of the Ocean of Milk

 

When the weight of the heavy mountain made the peak sink in the soft mud of the sea floor, Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, i.e. a tortoise and his second avatar, in order to to support the mountain with its shell, thus preventing it from sinking any further (fig.).