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What is Kurma Jayanti?

According to Indian mythology, whenever there is an evolution in the history of mankind, God materializes on earth to reinstate the cosmic order. There are numerous fascinating and intriguing tales in Hindu mythology. One of them is that of Lord Vishnu and his 10 avatars or ‘Swaroop’. Collectively referred to as ‘Dashavatara’ or Ten Incarnations, the Preserver of the Universe, assumes one form every time mankind is in danger or when evil or tyranny overthrows righteousness. One of them is the Kurma avatar where Lord Vishnu materializes in the form of a giant Tortoise. Worshippers observe Kurma Jayanti honor this specific avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Kurma Jayanti will be celebrated on Friday, May 5, 2023

Who Is Kurma

Kurma Avtar

The festival of Kurma Jayanti commemorates the birth anniversary of Lord Vishnu in the tortoise form. In Sanskrit, Kurma means ‘tortoise.’ It typically falls on the ‘Purnima’ (full moon day) in the month of ‘Vaisakh’, according to the Hindu calendar. As per the English calendar, this date falls sometime between the months of May and June.

If you go by stories from Indian mythology, this is the day Lord Vishnu assumed the tortoise avatar – referred to as ‘Kurma’ and carried the humongous ‘Mandranchal Parvat’ on his back during the ‘Ksheera Sagara Manthan’. From then onwards, Kurma Jayanti is marked as the birth anniversary of Lord Kurma. This form is believed to be the second avatar of Vishnu and Hindu worshippers venerate him staunchly with utmost sincerity and devotion on this auspicious occasion with grand pomp and fervor.

On this day, Kurma Jayanti special pujas and rituals happen in numerous Lord Vishnu temples all across India. The magnificent festivity at the ‘Sri Kurman Sri Kurmanadha Swamy Temple’ in Andhra Pradesh is marvelous and the ceremonies help in drawing worshippers from all over the globe.

In 2022, Kurma Jayanti will be celebrated on 15th May that falls on a Sunday.


Origins of Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu

Origin of Lord Vishnu's Kurma Avtar

The origin of the Kurma avatar is mentioned in the Vedas, particularly in the Shatapatha Brahmana (associated with the Yajurveda), where the name is also considered to be synonymous with Kashyapa, one of the Saptarishi (seven sages).

Kurma is believed to be an avatar of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu. Kurma is generally related to the post-Vedic scriptures like the Puranas with the tale of the churning of the Ocean of Milk, popularly renowned as the Samudra Manthan. It is also believed to be the same as Akupara, the World-Turtle carrying the globe on its back. The Kurma avatar of Lord Vishnu is believed to be the second Dashavatara as there are ten chief incarnations of the deity.

The Kurma avatar is typically showcased in painting and sculpture in a mixed human-animal form. The human half, which is generally the upper half, is portrayed wearing the same ornaments and carrying the same weapons as it is with the images of Lord Vishnu. The zoomorphic representation of Lord Kurma is that of half human, half tortoise.

The Kurmai in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Kurman in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh, Gavirangapur in Chitragupta District of Karnataka, and the Swarupnarayan in the Goghat village in the Hoogly district of West Bengal are the four temples in India that are devoted to the Lord Vishnu Kurma Avatar.


Vishnu Kurma Avatar Story

Legend surrounding Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu

Story of Kurma Jayanti

This mythology is about how Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Kurma (tortoise or turtle) in Sat-Yug to help the Devas (demi-gods) win against the Asuras (demons).

Once a highly revered but short-tempered sage Durvasa offered a garland to Lord Indra, God of Heavens and Lightning. Lord Indra placed it on the tusk of his elephant, Airwata, who crushed it. After witnessing Lord Indra’s disrespect, the learned sage was extremely hurt, angry and upset. He cursed Indra and all the demi-gods to be sapped of their strength, energy and fortune.

The Devas and Asuras were battling at that time and tension between them was escalating at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the demi-gods were losing as they had less strength thanks to the unforgiving curse of Saint Durvasa. Because of this reason, the devtas were on the verge of surrendering and accepting defeat as they felt helpless and their forces were killed in huge numbers. They visited Lord Brahma and begged for help.

Lord Brahma directed them to seek refuge from Lord Vishnu who in turn recommended them to work hard to acquire Amrit (elixir of immortality) by churning the ocean of milk. That’s the only way to defeat the asuras (demons). After listening to the suggestion, Lord Indra inquired as to how they could churn an ocean? Lord Vishnu responded that they could churn the ocean of milk after adding medicines such as all kinds of plants, herbs and creepers into the ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality. They should make use of Mount Mandarachal as a churning stick and Vasuki (King of Serpents) as a rope to churn the mountain.

But the Devas were unsure they could move a gigantic mountain on their own. To this, Lord Vishnu was of the opinion, that the Devas need to seek help from the Asuras and use them to attain the nectar but they need to be careful and not be tempted by any of the things that emerge out of the ocean and not give in to wrath if any of those things were forcibly snatched by the Asuras.

Lord Vishnu reassured the Devas that the asuras will not obtain the nectar. After being convinced, Lord Indra and the other Devas proceeded to meet Bali (King of Asuras). Indra informed Bali about their mission and requested them to look beyond their battle and work together to attain the nectar. They made a pact to equally share the Amrit that would be generated from the churning. Bali and his men were pleased with the proposal and peace was restored between the asuras and Devas.

Mount Mandarachal was required to be a churning rod. Powerful warriors put in a lot of effort to lift the mountain and take it to the ocean. But they were not able to do it as they got tired after covering half the distance. The gigantic mountain fell, thereby squashing huge numbers of Devas and Asuras under it. Observing this, Lord Indra invoked Lord Vishnu to request his aid.

Lord Vishnu materialized in his Garuda (his vahana) to help the Devas. He brought the mighty mountain to the ocean with the assistance of Garuda. After the mountain was appropriately positioned in the ocean, they got Vasuki to play a vital role as a churning rope. After being promised that he will receive the share of the nectar and will not be hurt by the mountain, Vasuki draped himself around Mandarachal.

With trembling anticipation, both the Devas and Asuras began to churn the ocean. They began to worry when the mighty and strong Mount Mandarachal, which had no support at the bottom, began to sink in the enormous ocean. It was extremely tough to lift the mountain and proved to be a huge issue. Once again, Devas requested Lord Vishnu for his help. The deity came to the aid of the celestial demi-gods as he assumed the form of a Kurma (tortoise or turtle) and held the mountain on his back until the ocean was completely churned and the nectar obtained.

Then, Lord Vishnu in the Kurma form managed to have the mountain floating and for it to not sink. As soon as the bowl of Amrit emerged, the Asuras swiftly snatched it. To retrieve the elixir of immortality from the demons, Lord Vishnu manifested into an apsara (a gorgeous maiden) called Mohini to charm the demons into allowing her to distribute the nectar. Mohini obtained the pot of Amrit and began dispensing the nectar between the Devas and the Asuras. She very smartly kept presenting the elixir only to the demi-gods.

But one of the demons Rahuketu caught on to Mohini’s deception and stood next to the Devas. He barely began drinking the nectar, when Lord Vishnu was able to identify him and cut his throat. Since he did drink some nectar, he did not die but his body was segregated into two parts – the head and the body. On the other hand, the demi-gods became immortal due to the Amrit they were able to drink.

This Kurma Avatar story informed us how the devtas attained immortality and defeated the Asuras. This is why the Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu is revered. This is the reason why Kurma Jayanti is celebrated by millions of worshippers all over the world every year.


Significance of Kurma Jayanti

Significance of Kurma Jayanti

Kurma Jayanti is believed to be an auspicious festival for Hindus all over the globe. On this day, the Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu is venerated by worshippers. According to legend, during the celestial event of ‘Khseera Samudra Manthan’, the powerful Mandarachal Parvat was utilized as a rod for churning the ocean. But when the mountain began sinking, Lord Vishnu showed up as a gigantic tortoise or turtle and held the mountain on his back.

Thus, without the Kurma Avatar, it would not have been possible for the ocean to be churned and the fourteen divine gifts or ‘Ratnas’ would not have been granted to the Devas. Apart from this, churning the ocean of milk also removed a poison called ‘Halahala’ that was drunk by Lord Shiva to keep the Universe from experiencing destruction and catastrophe.

The churning of the ocean is meant to denote an actual tug of war among the Gods and the Demons. The sea stands for the state of deep awareness of the human mind. The Gods and the Demons are symbolic of the good and evil tendencies that exist in every individual. The battle between the Devas and the Asuras signifies the effort put in to choose good and bad karma in our everyday lives. The Mandrachal mountain indicates the hard work we put in our lives and to develop our mind for success and prosperity. It is only due to our rightful actions (as represented by Lord Vishnu) can we flourish in your lives.

This is why Kurma Jayanti is believed to have a powerful religious significance for Hindus. Devotees are known to convey their gratitude and praise for Lord Vishnu Kurma Avatar. The day of Kurma Jayanti is believed to be favorable for beginning construction work thanks to the popular assumption that Yogmaya lives with Lord Kurma. This day is even auspicious for moving into a new home or work-related to Vaastu.

Rituals of Kurma Jayanti(Kurma Jayanti Puja Vidhi)

Kurma Jayanti Puja Vidhi (Rituals of Kurma Jayanti)
  • Cleanse yourself with a sacred bath before sunrise on this auspicious day as it is believed to be holy.
  • After the bath, the worshippers drape themselves in fresh and neat puja vastra (worship outfit).
  • Devotees pray to Lord Vishnu by presenting Chandan, Tulsi leaves, Kumkum, incense sticks, flowers and sweets to the deity.
  • Worshippers keep a strict fast or a silent vow on this day.
  • The devotees who observe the fast prevent themselves from eating pulses or cereals and can only have milk products and fruits.
  • While keeping the Kurma Jayanti Vrat, the observers are not allowed to do any type of sinful or evil deed and cannot speak lies.
  • The observers are not permitted to sleep during the night. They need to spend the entire time chanting Kurma Avatar Mantra to make Lord Vishnu happy.
  • Reciting the ‘Vishnu Sarhasranama’ is believed to be extremely auspicious.
  • After the rituals are done, the worshippers perform Aarti.
  • Performing charity on the eve of Kurma Jayanti is considered to be extremely beneficial. The observer needs to donate food, clothes and money to the Brahmins.

How to celebrate Kurma Jayanti?

Devotees commemorate the auspicious occasion of Kurma Jayanti with utmost devotion and sincerity. On this day, special ceremonies and pujas are arranged in many Lord Vishnu temples or at the place of worship. The celebrations are carried out with grand pomp and fervor, particularly in Andhra Pradesh in Sri Kurman Sri Kurmanadha Swamy Temple, devoted to Lord Kurma.

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