As described in this chapter, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in His incarnation as a tortoise, dove deep into the ocean to carry Mandara Mountain on His back. At first the churning of the ocean produced kālakūṭa poison. Everyone feared this poison, but Lord Śiva satisfied them by drinking it.
Tortoise incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead
- 1 Srimad-Bhagavatam
- 2 Sri Caitanya-caritamrta
- 3 Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
- 4 Lectures
- 5 Conversations and Morning Walks
- 6 Correspondence
SB Canto 1
The eleventh incarnation of the Lord took the form of a tortoise whose shell served as a pivot for the Mandarācala Hill, which was being used as a churning rod by the theists and atheists of the universe.
Once both the atheists and the theists were engaged in producing nectar from the sea so that all of them could become deathless by drinking it. At that time the Mandarācala Hill was used as the churning rod, and the shell of Lord Tortoise, the incarnation of Godhead, became the resting place (pivot) of the hill in the seawater.
SB Canto 2
The primeval Lord then assumed the tortoise incarnation in order to serve as a resting place (pivot) for the Mandara Mountain, which was acting as a churning rod. The demigods and demons were churning the ocean of milk with the Mandara Mountain in order to extract nectar. The mountain moved back and forth, scratching the back of Lord Tortoise, who, while partially sleeping, was experiencing an itching sensation.
The primeval Lord, being all-powerful, can do whatever He likes, and therefore His assuming the incarnation of a tortoise or a fish for serving a particular purpose is not at all astonishing. Therefore we should not have any hesitation whatsoever in accepting the statements of the authentic scriptures like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
The gigantic work of churning the milk ocean by the combined effort of the demigods and the demons required a gigantic resting ground or pivot for the gigantic Mandara Hill. Thus to help the attempt of the demigods the primeval Lord assumed the incarnation of a gigantic tortoise, swimming in the ocean of milk. At the same time, the mountain scratched His backbone as He was partially sleeping and thus relieved His itching sensation.
SB Canto 3
All departments of law and order emanate from the arms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The law and order of the universe is directed by different demigods, and it is here said to emanate from the Lord's arms. Mandara Hill is mentioned here because when the ocean was churned by the demons on one side and the demigods on the other, Mandara Hill was taken as the churning rod. The Lord in His tortoise incarnation became the pivot for the churning rod, and thus His ornaments were polished by the turning of Mandara Hill. In other words, the ornaments on the arms of the Lord are as brilliant and lustrous as if they had been polished very recently. The wheel in the hand of the Lord, called the Sudarśana cakra, has one thousand spokes. The yogī is advised to meditate upon each of the spokes. He should meditate upon each and every one of the component parts of the transcendental form of the Lord.
SB Canto 6
May Sanat-kumāra protect me from lusty desires. As I begin some auspicious activity, may Lord Hayagrīva protect me from being an offender by neglecting to offer respectful obeisances to the Supreme Lord. May Devarṣi Nārada protect me from committing offenses in worshiping the Deity, and may Lord Kūrma, the tortoise, protect me from falling to the unlimited hellish planets.
SB Canto 8
Thus the Lord's incarnations were enumerated, including Matsya, the fish incarnation; Kūrma, the tortoise; Lord Rāmacandra; Nṛsiṁhadeva; Vāmanadeva; and Varāha, the boar incarnation. Thus there are innumerable līlā-avatāras, and all of these exhibit wonderful pastimes. Lord Varāha, the boar incarnation, lifted the entire planet earth from the depths of the Garbhodaka Ocean. The tortoise incarnation, Lord Kūrma, became a pivot for the emulsification of the whole sea, and Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva appeared as half-man, half-lion. These are some of the wonderful and uncommon features of līlā-avatāras.
“Some of the pastime incarnations are the fish incarnation, the tortoise incarnation, Lord Rāmacandra, Lord Nṛsiṁha, Lord Vāmana and Lord Varāha. There is no end to them."
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
“Our dear Lord, You are appearing as the best of the Yadu dynasty, and we are offering our respectful humble obeisances unto Your lotus feet. Before this appearance, You also appeared as the fish incarnation, as the horse incarnation, as the tortoise incarnation, as the half-man, half-lion incarnation, as the boar incarnation, as the swan incarnation, as King Rāmacandra, as Paraśurāma and as many other incarnations. You appeared just to protect the devotees, and we request You in Your present appearance as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself to give us similar protection all over the three worlds and remove all obstacles for the peaceful execution of our lives."
Now, here it is said: līlāvatārānurato deva-tiryaṅ-narādiṣu (SB 1.2.34). God is always anxious to get us back, back to home, back to Godhead. So apart from His incarnations amongst the deva, demigods... Just like Upendra, Lord Vāmanadeva, He appeared amongst the demigods. There are so many other incarnations, demigods. Tiryaṅ-narādi, tiryak. God appeared as incarnation of boar, incarnation of horse, incarnation of tortoise. Keśava dhṛta-kūrma-śarīra jaya jagadīśa hare. Kūrma śarīra. Keśava dhṛta-mīna-śarīra jaya jagadīśa hare. There are so many incarnations. Keśava dhṛta-narahari-rūpa jaya jagadīśa hare. Keśava dhṛta-vāmana-rūpa jaya jagadīśa hare. So He has got innumerable incarnations. As I have told you several times, just like the waves of the river, one cannot count, similarly, nobody can count how many incarnations are coming always, incessantly, one after another. So līlāvatārānurato deva-tiryaṅ-narādiṣu. And amongst the human beings, we know Lord Rāmacandra came, Lord Kṛṣṇa came, Ṛṣabhadeva came and Lord Caitanya came.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Lectures
So this is Godly power. He can take the shape... As the ocean is big, so He'll take and take this bigger-than-the-ocean form. But He is the maker of all forms. He has made ocean. But is it very difficult to understand how God becomes fish? That does not mean that every fish is God. No. So there is Matsyāvatāra.
- pralaya-payodhi-jale dhṛtavān asi vedaṁ
- vihita-vahitra-caritram akhedam **
Similarly, He took the incarnation of tortoise, Kūrma. There was a churning of the ocean, and the churning rod must be rested on something solid. So He became the churning rod, resting. And the hill, Mandara Hill, was placed, and He was feeling some itching sensation. So it was nicely itched by churning rod. So this is... He is Kūrmāvatāra. Then Raghunātha. Raghunātha. Raghunātha, this Rāma, Lord Rāma, He came to kill that daśanana, who had ten faces. Vitarasi dikṣu raṇe dik-pati-kamanīyam. So in this way there are innumerable incarnation of pastime.
Conversations and Morning Walks
1977 Conversations and Morning Walks
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Just like as we're talking, we're a little... Sometimes it's difficult to understand the Bhāgavatam.
Prabhupāda: But I take it simply—that there is ocean, and it was churned. So there is no difficulty.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: No. Mostly we have understood. Only in one place we are a little...
Prabhupāda: But nobody has seen that ocean. And nobody can believe that ocean can be churned. Would you believe it? Because it is. And the Vāsuki was taken as rope.
Bhakti-prema: And this Mandara mountain, fifty thousand miles high, was taken there, carried by.
Prabhupāda: And it was born by tortoise incarnation.
Bhakti-prema: This is combined with description.
Prabhupāda: Acintyāḥ khalu ye bhāvā na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet. What is beyond your conception, don't try to. So that is Vedic civilization. They were satisfied with information received from the Vedas.
Bhakti-prema: The first and last thing we have to prove logically that this is...
Prabhupāda: No, no. Logically you cannot. Acintya. Logic comes when it is conceivable; but it is inconceivable. Where is your logic?
Nara Narayana has four arms and they are bluish; Datyatreya, Prthu and Dhanvantari are yellowish; Lord Buddha is flesh colored; Yajna is bluish; Mohini is extraordinarily beautiful woman. There is no comparison to her beauty, so much so that Lord Siva is captivated by her beauty, what to speak of others. Vyasadeva did not speak all the Vedas to Ganesa. He simply dictated. But the picture is all right. Ravana has twenty arms, 10 heads, and he is blackish in color. The tortoise incarnation, his head portion should be Visnu, as I have told you in my last letter. Kalki should be on the horse's back with sword in hand. It is not clear in the picture.