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An irritated sage cursed the gods, because of their negligence, to lose all their possessions.

To obtain back their treasures, the gods teamed up with the demons (the asuras) to churn the oceans. They broke off a mountain and put it in the ocean, used the snake king of the underworld as the rope, and they churned--gods on one side and the demons on the other.

Early in this process the mountain began to sink, so Vishnu the fixer became a big turtle, jumped into the ocean and supported the mount on his back.

Then came lots of good things that make the earth. But the gods and the demons were not satisfied, so they kept churning. And lo, out came the blue elixir of halahala, the deadly poison that threatened to extinguish all life, including that of the gods and the asuras.

Siva graciously drank the poison half way down his throat, so his throat went blue in pain, yet he did not die because he did not absorb it. So life survived.

Undeterred by the unpredictability of what it will yield next, the gods and the asuras kept churning, and at last out came amrita, the elixir of immortality.

The gods and the demons rushed in for a share, but there was a great consternation among the gods that they should not share it with the asuras. So Vishnu took the form of a beguiling enchantress and distracted the asuras--who fell for this pride of achievement as it were--while the gods divided the elixir among themselves and drank it--except one of the asuras, Raahu, who was too focused on the goal to be distracted so by their accomplishment, that he also drank a bit. But Vishnu noticed this and immediately cut off his head before the elixir could be absorbed by his body.

So Raahu's head remains immortal to this day when he, enraged because of the fraud by the gods, engulfs the sun and the moon every so often, but only for the celestial objects to reemerge unharmed from his severed throat.
From The Puranas

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Additional Photos by Animesh Ray (AnimeshRay) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 689 W: 44 N: 846] (9089)
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