In Dashavatars, Kurma (कूर्म; ) was the second Avatar of Vishnu, succeeding Matsya and preceding Varaha. Like Matsya this incarnation also occurred in Satya yuga.
Durvasa, The Sage, once gave a garland to Indra, the king of Gods. Indra placed the garland around his elephant, but the animal trampled it, insulting the sage. Durvasa then cursed the Gods to lose their immortality, strength, and all the divine powers. After losing the kingdom of heaven, and every thing they once had and enjoyed, they approached Vishnu for help.
Vishnu advised that they had to drink the nectar of immortality (Amrit) to regain their glory. Now to obtain the nectar of immortality, they needed to churn the ocean of milk, a body of water so large they needed Mount Mandara as the churning staff, and the serpent Vasuki as the churning rope. The Devas were not strong enough to churn on their own, and declared peace with their foes, the Asuras, to enlist their help.
The gods and demons got together for the the herculean task. The huge mountain, Mandara, was used as the pole to stir the waters. But the force was so great the mountain began to sink into the ocean of milk. To stop this, Vishnu quickly transformed himself into a tortoise and placed the mountain on his back. This image of Vishnu as the tortoise was his second avatar, ‘Kurma.’
Once the pole was balanced, it was tied to the gigantic snake, Vasuki, and the gods and demons started pulling it from either side.
As the churning began and the massive waves whirled, from the depths of the ocean also came out the ‘Halahal’ Or ‘Kalkoot’ visha(poison). When the poison was taken out, it started heating up the cosmos considerably. Such was its heat that people started running in dread, animals started dying and plants started withering. The “Visha” had no taker hence Shiva came to everyone’s rescue and he drank the Visha. But, he did not swallow it. He kept the poison in his throat. Since then, Shiva’s throat became blue, and he came to be known as Neelkantha or the blue-throated one. This is the reason why shiva is always high on marijuana, being a God.
The churning continued and poured forth a number of gifts and treasures. They included Kamdhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow; the goddess of wealth, Laxmi; the wish-fulfilling tree, Kalpavriksha; and finally, came Dhanvantari carrying the pot of amrita and a book of medicine called Ayurveda. Once the amrita was out, the demons forcefully took it away. Two demons, Rahu and Ketu, disguised themselves as gods and drank the amrita. The sun and moon gods recognised it to be a trick and complained to Vishnu, who in turn, severed their heads with his Sudarshan Chakra. As the divine nectar did not get time to reach below the throat, the heads remained immortal, but the body below died. This helps Rahu and Ketu take revenge on the Sun and Moon by devouring them every year during solar and lunar eclipse.
Kurma as per Theory Of Evolution:
The second step of evolution of life, were creatures that could live on land as well as in water, like
the tortoise. The reptiles appeared almost 385 million years ago on earth.
As mentioned above, Kurma Avatar is in form of a tortoise.
There are three temples dedicated to this incarnation of Vishnu in India, Kurmai of Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Kurmam in Andhra Pradesh, and Gavirangapur in the Chitradurg District of Karnataka.
The name of the village Kurmai mentioned above originated as there is historical temple of Kurma Varadarajaswamy(Kurmavatar of Lord Vishnu) god in this village. The temple located in srikurmam in srikakulam district, andhra pradesh is also the avatara of kurma.
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1. Hinduism is the world’s 3rd largest religion closely following Christianity and Islam. However, unlike the top 2 religions, 95% of Hindus live in a single nation! Source
2. If you ask a religious Hindu, when did Krishna or Rama live – they will give an answer like 50 million years ago or some other random big number. Actually, it doesn’t matter. Because, Hindus believe in a circular time (rather than the linear time concept in the Western world).
3. Each of our time cycles has 4 main periods – the Satya yuga (golden age of innocence), Tretha Yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali Yuga. In the last stage, people get so filthy that whole thing is cleaned up and the cycle starts all over again.
4. Hinduism is the oldest of the major extant religions. Its fundamental book – Rig Veda was written over 3800 years ago.
5. Rig Veda was orally passed for 3500+ years in parallel. And yet, its current form has no major discrepancies. It is indeed a stupendous achievement that a major body of work can be orally passed between people in such a large nation with no loss in quality/content.
6. Unlike other major religions, Hinduism doesn’t consider the pursuit of wealth as a sin. In fact, we celebrate wealth in the form of many gods such as Lakshmi, Kubera and Vishnu. Hinduism has a 4 level hierarchy – Kama (pursuit of pleasures including sexual/sensual) – Artha (pursuit of livelihood , wealth and power), Dharma (pursuit of philosophy, religion and doing duties to society) and Moksha (liberation) and we progress from the top to bottom. This is very close to Maslow’s hierarchy and thus Hindus are natural capitalists.
7. Hinduism is the parent religion for 2 of the other major religions of South Asia – Buddhism and Sikhism. It is also closely associated with its sister religion – Jainism.
8. The holiest number for Hindus is 108. This is the ratio of Sun’s distance (from earth)/Sun’s diameter or Moon’s distance (from earth)/Moon’s diameter. Thus, most of our prayer beads have 108 beads.
9. Beyond India, Hinduism is the dominant religion of many exotic regions such as Nepal, Mauritius, Bali, second biggest religion of Fiji & Sri Lanka and at one point covered most of South east Asia – including Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia. Source
10. The Hindu epic of Mahabharatha – that is often used to teach the principles of Hinduism – is written in 1.8 million words long poem (10X the combined length of the Illiad and Odyssey)
11. Unlike all other major religions, we don’t have a founder or a prophet (like Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammad or Buddha). According to Hindus, the religion has no origin (again coming back to the circular concept).
12. Unlike the popular Western conception, Yoga in Hinduism is not merely an exercise routine. It is one of the founding blocks of the religion.
13. The 4 most holiest animals for Hindus are the cow, elephant, snake and peacock (India’s national bird and a wagon of many Hindu gods) – 4 main animals of India.
14.The largest religious structures in the world – Angkor Vat in Cambodia were built by the Hindu kings of South East Asia.
15. Hinduism has no formal Institution – no Pope, no Bible and no central body.
16. Unlike Christians or Muslims, we go to the temple at any time, any day. There are no special Sabbath, Sunday congregations or Friday prayers.
17. Hindu scriptures are organized into Vedas (poems that written in multiple levels from abstract rural level and going deeper into cosmic universe), Upanishads (scientific discourses and arguments about the world), Brahmanas (manuals for ritual performances), Aranyakas (experiments done on human mind and nature in the forests), Puranas (mythologies about Hindu gods) and Itihasas (notebooks on “historical” events”).
18. Hindus don’t mourn for anything and believe that happiness is the highest form of religious achievement. Thus, unlike most other religions there is no sad festivals for us where we are supposed to mourn.
19. Fire & Light are among the holiest of offerings for Hindus. The concept of Yajna – offering things to fire – is considered one of the highest forms of worships in Hinduism. It symbolizes the idea that everything meets its end.
20. Hinduism’s holiest body of works – Rig Veda – talks of 33 main gods.Although most Hindus consider the Vedas as the holiest, none of those 33 gods are in mainstream worship now. Also READ: 330Million Hindu Gods
21. Unlike other major religions, Hindu scriptures ask a number of philosophical questions and is ok with “don’t know” answer for some of them. One of the critical body of these questions is the Prashna Upanishad. unfortunately most of us cannot understand the answer to the fundamental questions posted there.
22. Hindus strongly believe in rebirth and karma. That means my next birth will be determined by my actions of this birth.
23. Hindus hold big chariot processions to carry their gods during special occasions. Some of these chariots can be huge and marauding – sometimes killing people in their path when they lose control. The biggest one of all – Jagannath – gave the English dictionary term Juggernaut -meaning the unstoppable one.
24. Hindus hold Ganga as the purest of all waters and believe that bathing in it can purify them of their sins.
25. Kumbh Mela. It is considered to be largest peaceful gathering in the world with over 100 million people visiting during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013. Most of the sadhus and saints are said to be in samadhi and appear only to kumbh mela.
The holiest number for Hindus is 108. This is the ratio of Sun’s distance (from earth)/Sun’s diameter or Moon’s distance (from earth)/Moon’s diameter. Thus, most of our prayer beads have 108 beads.
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Long long ago there lived an asura(demon) named Dambhodbhava. He wanted to become immortal and so prayed to the Sun god, Surya. Pleased with his penance, Surya appeared before him. Dambhodbhava asked Surya to make him immortal. But Surya couldnt grant this boon since anything, anyone who was born on this planet will have to die. Surya offered him to ask for something else instead of immortality. Dambhodbhava thought of tricking the sun god and came up with a cunning request.
He said that he has to be protected by a thousand armors and laid the following conditions:
1. The thousand armors can be broken only by someone who performs penance for a thousand years!
2. Whoever breaks the armor should die immediately!
Surya was horribly worried. He knew that Dambhodbhava had performed a very powerful penance and that he could get the entire boon he had asked for. And Surya had a feeling that Dambhodbhava was not going to use his powers for good. However having no choice in the matter, Surya granted Dambhodbhava the boon. But deep down Surya was worried and seeked Lord Vishnu’s help, Vishnu asked him not to worry and he would save earth by eliminating adharma.
Immediately after getting the boon from Surya, Dambhodbhava started wrecking havoc on people. People were scared of fighting with him. There was no way of defeating him. Anybody who stood in his way was crushed by him. People started calling him Sahasrakavacha [meaning one who has a thousand armours]. It was around this time that King Daksha [the father of Sati, the first wife of Shiva] got one of his daughters, Murti married to Dharma – one of the ‘Manas putras’ of Lord Brahma, the God of Creation
Murti had also heard of Sahasrakavacha and wanted to put an end to his menace. So she prayed to Lord Vishnu to come and help the people. Lord Vishnu pleased with her appeared before her and said
‘I am pleased with your devotion! I will come and slay Sahasrakavacha! Because you have prayed to me, you would be the reason for slaying Sahasrakavacha!’.
Murti gave birth to not one child, but twins- Narayana and Nara. Narayana and Nara grew up in the ashrama surrounded by the forests. They were great devotees of Lord Shiva. The two brothers learnt the art of warfare.The two brothers were inseparable. What one thought the other was always able to finish. Both of them trusted each other implicitly and never questioned the other.
As time went on, Sahasrakavacha started attacking the forest areas surrounding Badrinath, where both Narayana and Nara were staying. As Nara was meditating, Narayana went and challenged Sahasrakavacha for a fight. Sahasrakavacha looked at the calm eyes of Narayana and for the first time since he got his boon, felt fear building inside him.
Sahasrakavacha faced the attack of Narayana and was astounded. He found that Narayana was powerful and had indeed got a lot of power from the penance of his brother. As the fight went on, Sahasrakavacha realized that the penance of Nara was giving Narayana strength. As Sahasrakavacha’s first armour broke he realized that Nara and Narayana were for all purposes one. They were just two persons having the same soul. But Sahasrakavacha was not too worried. He had lost one of his armours. He watched in glee as Narayana dropped dead, the minute one of his armours broke!
As Narayana fell down dead, Nara came running towards him. By his years of penance and pleasing Lord Shiva, he had gained the Maha Mritunjaya mantra – a mantra which brought back dead to life. Now Nara took the fighting with Sahasrakavacha while Narayana meditated! After thousand years, Nara broke another armor and dropped dead while Narayana came back and revived him. This went on until 999 armors were down. Sahasrakavacha realized that he could never beat the two brothers and ran away seeking refuge with Surya. When Nara approached Surya to give him up, Surya did not since he was protecting his devotee. Nara cursed Surya to be born as a human for this act and Surya accepted the curse for this devotee.
All this happened at the end of Treta yuga. Immediately after Surya refused to part with Sahasrakavacha, the Treta Yuga ended and the Dwapar Yuga started. To fulfil the promise to destroying Sahasrakavacha, Narayana and Nara were reborn – this time as Krishna and Arjuna.
Due to the curse, Dambhodbhava with Surya’s ansh within him was born as Karna, the eldest son of Kunti! Karna was born with one of armours as a natural protection, the last one left of Sahasrakavacha.
As Arjuna would have died if Karna had had the armour, on Krishna’s advise, Indra [Arjuna’s father] went in disguise and got the last armor of Karna, much before the war began.
As Karna was actually the monster Dambodbhava in his previous life, he led a very difficult life to pay for all the sins committed by him in his past life. But Karna also had Surya, the Sun God inside him, so Karna was a hero as well! It was Karna’s karma from his previous life that he had to be with Duryodhana and take part of the all the evil things he did. But the Surya in him made him brave, strong, fearless and charitable. It brought him long lasting fame.
Thus after learning the truth about Karna’s previous birth, Pandavas apologised to Kunti and Krishna for lamenting them…