Churning of the Ocean … from chapter 7

Bam Baba’s Story of the Kumbh Mela

The Churning of the Ocean of Milk

“For debased humans the kamandal is just a water pot,” said Bam Baba, “but in the hands of the physician of the gods, Dhanwantari, it is the container of amrit.” I wanted to make sure I knew what Bam Baba meant, so I looked up the word in my Universal Hindi Teacher and confirmed that it meant “ambrosia.”

“Not any ol’ juice,” continued Bam Baba, “but the nectar of immortality! That’s the real reason you are taking your kamandal to the Kumbh Mela. After all, kumbh is a jug and kamandal is a kind of kumbh. You must fill it with amrit.”

“And how will I find this amrit?” I asked.

“You have come to Kashi to find death, isn’t it?” he asked. “And you will go to Allahabad to find ‘no death.’”

This was a little confusing but I realized that he was defining amrit for me. Mrit means “death,” and a-mrit means “no death,” as the vowel “a” negates what it precedes.

“Hear the story of the churning of the Ocean of Milk by the Gods and Demons for obtaining the nectar of immortality:”

“Now,” he said, “before time was counted… (more)