Indra, the king of gods, was aviating on the back of his chariot, ‘Airavata’ the white elephant with four tusks. En route he found Narad, the celestial saint coming on his way. Indra and Narad greeted each other.“What news saint Narad?” he enquired.“Narayan…Narayan…All is well with your mercy Lord.” Replied Narad. “Bhagavan”, he addressed Indra: “Please take this never-fading garland of Parijata flowers that permeates matchless fragrance. I do not think any other God worthier of wearing this than you.” Indra accepted the gift with pleasure and delight. The exuberant Indra adorned the garland and moved on. Attracted by the sweet, tempting smell of the flowers, bees from all sides came in flocks and moved around, obviously disturbing and annoying Indra. He took the garland out of his neck and kept it on the back of his chariot.
With a large number of bees attacking the garland with ceaseless humming and hitting the pachyderm, the animal got irritated. It took the garland off his back and threw it on the ground. Narad, unable to bear the insult, turned out in wrath and asked Indra:“You have belittled me. You should not have accepted the garland, if you did not like it which I gave you with love. You are well known for your arrogance and contempt for saints like us. May you learn a fitting lesson for your vanity. May you including your race grow old, skins drooped and wrinkled, blind and weak with grey hairs instantly.”
Indra at once transformed into the state of Narad’s curse. He, seeing his plight, fell at the feet of Narad and craved:“Brahmarshe, please pardon my folly. I never thought even in my wildest of dreams to hurt you. Unable to bear the attack of the bees, I kept the garland that you gave me on the back of my chariot. My action was not any deliberate attempt to dishonour you. Please bear with me and forgive.” “My curse will not go in vain,” replied Narad. “Your subjects and self will undergo this torturous condition until you consume the nectar that will be churned out from the ‘Milky Ocean’… Narayan… Narayan..”And Maharshi Narad walked away.
All have become dull and old with grey hairs. Indra told Devas what had happened. He said: “Unless, therefore, we churn the milky ocean and take out the nectar and eat, we may not go back to our old state. What is your opinion?”When Indra asked them, the Devas put their heads together and found no other way. They conceded to his suggestion. The Devas, in consultation withthe Asuras decided to churn the ocean. The Asuras also had a keen desire to prevent old age, consequent decay of their bodies and death. It was decided that the Mount Mandhara would be made the churning club. Lord Vishnu as tortoise would bear the mountain on his back. The serpent Vasuki would be made the stout rope. It was also decided that the Devas would catch hold of the head portion of the serpent and the tail portion would be held by the Asuras while churning. Both the groups were in great enthusiasm and cheers when they started churning the ocean. With the mighty pull and push from both sides, the all powerful Vasuki, the serpent king exhorted and he vomited the deadly poison with atomic potency, a very small drop of which could burn the entire worlds into ashes. All the Devas and Asuras, en masse, were alarmed and went berserk. They had no solution to save the world from the likely total destruction. Lord Shiva who saw the poison oozing out of Vasuki’s mouth swung into action and collected the entire drops of poison in his palms and drank it.
Observing this horrendous act of her husband, Goddess Parvati came running and gripped tightly around the neck of her Lord. The poison, with the force of her grip did not flow down Shiva’s throat. It stuck there and his neck became blue in colour.From then onwards he came to be known as Neelakanth. K K Shanmukhan