The sage Durvasa was returning from Vaikuntha with a garland bestowed on him by SriHari. He meets Indra who was on his Airavatha. He gives the flower garland to Indra. With disdain, Indra threw it on the head of Airavatha, which in turn, hurls it to the ground and tramples it. Angered, Durvasa curses Indra, that he and the world he ruled, would be divested of power and splendour.
The gods lose their glory and seek Brahma's counsel. Brahma meditates on the Supreme. Hari says: "It is Amritha (nectar) which will help you regain your lost glory and make you immortal. But first you have to make peace with your cousins, the daityas (demons). You will obtain nectar only by churning the ocean of milk. Throw the medicinal herbs, grass and creepers into the ksheerasagar (ocean of milk). Place the mandara mountain as the churning rod, and churn it with the snake Vasuki as the rope. You should not be afraid of the severe poison which will emanate out of it, nor you should desire or be jealous with respect to objects arising out of the churning; it is those objects who will chose its owners. I will be there to help you in this endeavour."
The gods conciliated the demons by speaking to their great king Bali about the churning of the ocean of milk.
Cultivating a friendship, they put forward their robust energies for the sake of amritha.
Together, they uproot the Mandara mountain and carry it to the ocean. Unable to withstand the weight, the exhausted gods and demons dropped it on the way, crushing and injuring many. They are disheartened. Hari appears on Garuda. He heals and revives all those who came under the impact of the mountain's weight. He helps place the mountain on the seaside, with the help of Garuda. After the effort, Garuda withdraws, to make way for Vasuki (who was afraid of Garuda), to assume his role as the rope. Vasuki (assured of a share in the rewards) is twined around the mountain for the churning.
Srihari holds Vasuki at the fore part (the head) for the churning. The daityas consider it an insult to hold the other part, the tail of the snake, and refuse. Srihari smilingly concedes and the gods hold the tail of Vasuki. Thus defining their positions, the sons of sage Kashyapa, the devas and the daityas begin the churning with vigour.
But the mountain, having no support under the ocean, sank due to its massive weight. Lord Srihari, assuming the form of a giant tortoise, plunges into the ocean and bears up the mountain on his back. Enthused, the team begins to churn again. The thousand heads of Vasuki spewed fire and scorched the demons. Srihari manifests himself in both the devas and the daityas, stimulating their energies required for the churning. Also, he strengthens Vasuki with suspension of consciousness, to numb the pain rising out of his mammoth task. With one hand, Srihari also held the mountain at the top to prevent it from springing up. They continue churning for a long time, but there was no sign of any nectar. To speed up things, Srihari holds both ends of Vasuki with his arms and hastens the churning. This churning agitated all the creatures living in the ocean.
What first arose was the Kaalakuta, a deadly poison, which spread very fast, threating all life forms. They all appeal with prayers to Lord Siva. Siva tells his consort, "Observe, Bhavani, how the living beings are on the verge of a calamity in the form of the Kaalakuta poison. The virtuous protect others by sacrificing their own transient life. I hereby swallow this poison, to please Hari and ensure a prosperous life to all created beings." With Bhavani's consent, Siva squeezed into his palm the Kaalakuta and swallowed it out of compassion, the power of which even made an impact on the Supreme person's throat, which turned blue. This spot became an ornament to that benevolent soul. He was hailed and glorified by the living beings as Neelkantha.(contd.-- part II)