Kurma Avatar
   The Kurma Avatar or tortoise AVATA R (incarna-tion) of VISHNU plays a small role in the myth of the churning of the MILK OCEAN, which is widely repeated in Sanskrit epics, the PURANAS, and story. There, the story goes that the fate of the gods took a bad turn when the king of the gods, INDRA, was cursed by the sage DURVASAS for slighting him. The gods asked Vishnu his advice on how to restore their good fortunes. Vishnu suggested that they churn the Milk Ocean, from which they might obtain the nectar of immortality. They were advised to do this in concert with their enemies the ASURAS or antigods (demons), since the task was monumentally difficult. When they stirred the Milk Ocean, they used the divine serpent Vasuki as the churning stick. Vishnu offered him-self as a huge tortoise (kurma) upon which to rest the churning stick.
   Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); Shakti M. Gupta, Vishnu and His Incarna-tions (Bombay: Somaiya, 1993); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986); Pandrimalai Swamigal, The Ten Incarnations: Dasavatara (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1982); W. J. Wilkins Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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