Millions of years ago,the most powerful beings in the universe,
inspired by the Supreme Lord,united to perform an astounding feat

The Srimad-Bhagavatam relates how, many millions of years ago in the heavenly planets of this universe, a fierce battle for supremacy was raging between the devas (demigods) and the asuras (demons). The demons were headed by Bali Maharaja, a descendant of the great demoniac king Hiranyakasipu. Lord Indra, the king of the demigods, had committed an offense against the great sage Durvasa Muni, who then cursed the demigods to become poverty-stricken. The demigods became bereft of all influence and strength, their lives lost all auspiciousness, and in due course they were defeated by the asuras. The demigods then appealed to Lord Visnu for help.

Lord Siva

The Supreme Personality of Godhead told them to make a truce with the demons. The Lord suggested that they work together to churn the ocean of milk to produce the nectar of immortality, which could be distributed equally among the devas and asuras.

Lord Visnu always protects the righteous demigods, and He wanted to stop the demons from expanding their influence all over the creation. Lord Visnu told the demigods to follow the logic of the snake and the mouse in dealing with the demons. A snake and a mouse were once caught in a basket The snake said to the mouse, "Look, I could eat you very easily, but it's more important for me to get out of this basket. So why don't you make a hole so that we can both escape?" The mouse agreed and started working. But as soon as the hole was big enough, the snake ate the mouse and came out of the basket.

The Lord had no intention of giving the nectar to the demons, because they were crooked and troublesome, and to distribute the nectar to such persons would be unwise.

"There are two kinds of created beings." Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita. "One is called divine and the other demoniac." Srila Prabhupada comments that those who are born with divine qualities follow the injunctions of the scriptures and obey the Lord and His representatives, whereas others act according to their whims to satisfy their own senses.

Following the instructions of Lord Visnu, the demigods approached the leaders of the demons, and an agreement was reached, after which they all left for the ocean of milk to start the churning. Lord Visnu helped them by carrying Mandara Mountain on the back of Garuda, His eagle carrier. When they arrived at the ocean of milk. He placed the mountain in the middle of it. The mountain was to be used as a churning rod. Then Garuda, because of his enmity toward snakes, was requested to leave so that Vasuki, who is honored by the devas as Nagaraja, "the king of the serpents," could come and be used as a churning rope.

The demons insisted that they should hold the front part of the snake during the churning, while the devas, on the encouragement of Lord Visnu, held its tail. As they began pulling the "rope" to produce nectar, smoke and blazing fire emanated from Vasuki's many mouths, causing great suffering for the asuras.

As the demons and demigods continued churning, the huge Mandara Mountain began sinking into the ocean of milk because it was without support. The Lord then took the form of a tortoise, entered the ocean, and held the mountain on His back to allow the churning to continue. It is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that the tortoise, known as Kurma-avatara, accepted the turning of the mountain to scratch His back and thus felt a pleasing sensation.

The churning of the ocean first produced a poison that spread in all directions. The demigods became afraid and sought the shelter of Lord Siva. Being compassionate. Lord Siva gathered the poison in his palms and drank it. He held it in his throat, and his neck became marked with a bluish line, which is now considered an ornament of Lord Siva, who is known as Nilakantha, "one who has a bluish neck."

While Lord Siva was drinking the poison, some of it fell from his hands. Various plants, scorpions, cobras, and similar creatures drank those drops of poison and thus acquired their venom.

After the poison, different opulent items were produced, and these were distributed among the members of the two churning parties. First a surabhi cow appeared, and she was taken by the great sages. A white horse named Uccaihsrava was produced, and it was taken by Bali Maharaja. When Airavata, the king of elephants, was generated, Indra took it for himself. The Kaustubha-mani, the most valuable gem, appeared and was offered to Lord Visnu to decorate His chest. Then came the Parijata tree, which was offered to the devas.

Next the apsaras, beautiful women dancers who entertain in the courts of the demigods, were produced, followed by Laksmi the goddess of fortune, who preferred to become the consort of Lord Visnu. Then came Varuni, the goddess of liquor, and the demons took possession of her. The ocean also produced Balacandra, the crescent moon. Because of its cooling effect, Balacandra was offered to Lord Siva to wear on his head, since he was feeling dizzy from having drunk the poison. Then a conch shell named Pancajanya and a bow named Haridhanu ("the bow of Hari") appeared and were taken by Lord Visnu.

Samudra Manthan

Finally, a very wonderful male person appeared. His name was Dhanvantari. In his hands he carried the amrta-kumbha, a jug filled to the brim with nectar. Before the appearance of the nectar, for which the demons and demigods had been working so hard, there had been no disputes. But upon seeing Dhanvantari holding the jug of nectar, their most cherished object, they all lost self-control and patience. The demons immediately snatched the pot away by force, and a fight ensued.

According the Skanda Purana, at one point during the fight, Jayanta, the son of Indra, took the pitcher and ran away toward the heavenly planets. The demons followed him there, and the fierce fighting continued.

From time to time. over a period of twelve days of fighting, some of the nectar was spilled, and it fell on four places on earth: Nasika, in Maharashtra; Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh; and Haridwar and Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh. A day in heaven equals one year on earth. Therefore, to commemorate the auspicious dropping of the nectar on earth, festivals, or melas, are held at each of these sites once every twelve years, (e.g., Allahabad 1977, Nasika 1980, Ujjain 1983, Haridwar 1986, Allahabad 1989, etc.). The same nectar still comes to these sites during certain planetary configurations. Even today millions of people come to partake of this nectar, or amrta, to become immortal by bathing in the holy rivers and drinking the sacred water. At Nasik, the pilgrims bathe in the Godavari River; at Ujjain, in the Ksipra; at Haridwar, in the Ganges; and at Allahabad, in the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati.

The asuras finally defeated the devas and carried off the pot of nectar, leaving the devas morose. The Lord told them, "Do not be aggrieved. By My own energy I shall bewilder the demons by creating a quarrel between them. In this way I shall fulfill your desire to have the nectar."

Soon after, the demons began quarreling among themselves over who would get to drink the nectar first While they were fighting. Lord Visnu assumed the form of an extremely beautiful woman, known as Mohini-murti. When the demons saw the beautiful features of Mohinidevi, who was glancing at them and slightly smiling, they were all completely enchanted. The beauty of the form assumed by the Personality of Godhead surpassed the beauty of the goddess of fortune. The demons, completely overwhelmed by Her charm, asked Her to serve as an arbitrator. She accepted the position on the condition that no one would oppose Her or protest against whatever She would do or say.

The asuras agreed and handed the amrta-kumbha over to Her, requesting Her to distribute it. Although they had easily snatched the pot from Dhanvantari and were in a position to keep it for themselves, they stupidly lost it, being bewildered by the Lord's incomparable, genuine beauty. Mohini-murti Herself had even openly warned them of the trick.

Mohini-murti made the devas and asuras sit in separate lines, and She delivered the nectar to the demigods while speaking sweet words to the demons. One demon, named Rahu, understood Her trick. He dressed himself like a demigod, sat down in the line of the demigods, and received the nectar. The sun and moon detected him and disclosed his identity to Mohini-murti, who immediately took up Her disc, which is razor-sharp, and severed his head before he could swallow the immortal beverage. Although his body from the neck down died, his head remained alive because of the nectar in his mouth.

After giving the nectar to the demigods, Mohini-murti revealed that She was Lord Visnu. The Lord then returned to the spiritual world on the back of Garuda.

Allahabad's Triveni Sangam

Lord Dhanvantari

Lord Dhanvantari

ALLAHABAD, one of the major cities of Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, is situated at the confluence of three sacred rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sarasvati. The present name of the city was given by Emperor Akbar. It means "the city of Allah." In Vedic literature this city is known as Prayaga or Prayaga Raja. Prayaga refers to a place at the confluence of sacred rivers where great sacrifices are held. There are fourteen prayaga's on the Ganges, and Prayaga Raja, "the king of confluences," is the most important The Mahabharata relates that Lord Brahma once performed an elaborate sacrifice at Prayaga Raja.

The Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sarasvati rivers manifest on this planet at the top of the Himalayan range. Only the Ganges and the Yamuna are visible at Allahabad. For ordinary persons, the Sarasvati is not visible. The personification of the Sarasvati River is the daughter of Lord Brahma, Sarasvati, or Vidyadevi, by whose blessings one gets vidya, or knowledge. In previous ages the entire course of the Sarasvati was visible, but because of the influence of Kali-yuga, it has become subterranean. It can still be seen in the Himalayas, flowing for about a hundred kilometers before it goes underground. Although the Sarasvati River is not visible at Allahabad, it is understood that she is present there as the transcendental sound that flows from the mouths of the many saints who attend the Kumbha-mela to deliver spiritual knowledge for the benefit of the pilgrims.

The Yamuna, whose personification is the daughter of the sun-god, is considered to be one of the seven branches of the Ganges and is very intimately connected with Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana. Her bluish color resembles Krsna's complexion.

The Ganges emanates from the lotus feet of the Lord and flows through all the planetary systems. She was formerly only in the heavenly regions, but a king named Bhagiratha requested her to descend to earth to liberate his sixty thousand ancestors. The Ganges agreed, being pleased by the king's severe penances. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, srotasam asmi jahnavi: "Of flowing rivers. I am the Ganges."

There are hundreds and thousands of places of pilgrimage on the banks of these sacred rivers, whose waters arc considered to be immortal nectar.

Notable Pilgrims

Rahu Begins Drinking The Nectar

ALLAHABAD has been visited in every age by either the Lord Himself or His pure devotees, making this holy place significantly holier. During Treta-yuga, Lord Ramacandra, Laksmana, and Sitadevi spent some time at Bharadvaja Muni's asrama near the Triveni-sangam (the confluence of the three rivers). This was the first place Lord Rama visited after departing from His capital, Ayodhya, to enter into exile.

It is not recorded whether or not Lord Krsna visited Prayaga during Dvapara-yuga. But His intimate devotees the five Pandavas (Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva) spent some time there. Their visit to Prayaga is mentioned in the Vanaparva section of the Mahabharata, which deals with their pastimes while in exile in the forest.

Approximately five hundred years ago. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Allahabad and on ten successive days bathed in the Triveni-sangam. His visit is described in the Caitanya-caritamrta. He was there during the yearly Magha-mela. When the Lord went to see the temple of Bindhu Madhava, He was followed by thousands of people, all hankering for His association. It is mentioned in the Caitanya-caritamrta that although the river was low at that time and therefore could not flood Allahabad, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu inundated the whole area with the waves of the chanting of the holy names of the Lord: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By performing the sankirtana-yajna at this confluence, a place meant for sacrifices, He set the example for all future pilgrims coming to the Kumbha-mela. It was also here at the time of Kumbha-mela that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Rupa Gosvami.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived for some time in Allahabad as a married man. and he was initiated here by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura at the Rupa Gaudiya Matha. After his success in propagating the holy name of the Lord in the Western countries. Srila Prabhupada returned to India with some of his Western disciples and took part in the Ardha Kumbha-mela (six years after the Purna Kumbha-mela) in 1971. In 1977, despite his ill health, he attended Kumbha-mela again. He spent four days there, preaching to guests and encouraging his disciples to hold large chanting festivals and distribute thousands of books.

During that time, Srila Prabhupada said, "Although most of the pilgrims come for liberation, the devotees have come only to preach. Being engaged in Krsna's service, we are already liberated; we are not interested in liberation. We have come to preach devotional service."