The Story Behind Shiva’s Blue Throat
Lord Shiva from Indian mythology goes by many names. Shankar, Bholenath, Bhairava, Kailashnath, Veerabhadra, Rudra, Mahadev, Mahesh are just a few of them. One of his names is also Neelkanth, which is literally translated as ‘ blue throat’. This is the legend which tells us how he came to be called by that name.
One day, it so happened that Durvasa, an ancient Indian sage, had a chance encounter with the king of gods, Indra, who was on his mount, the mighty white elephant Airavata. To pay homage to Indra, Durvasa offered him a garland, which the king of the gods placed on Airavata. Unfortunately, the elephant could not tolerate the smell of the garland, so he threw it on the ground, which angered the sage greatly. In a fit of rage, he cursed Indra by saying “Let all the richness and power of Yours be gone.” Immediately, Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, disappeared into the depths of the ocean with all her wealth, leaving heaven in dire straits. At this crucial juncture, all the gods assembled together and went to Lord Vishnu for aid, who told them that there was only one solution to their problem: to undertake the extremely difficult task of churning the ocean. This event was called Sagar Manthan or Samudra Manthan.
One lesson that we can imbibe from Shiva’s blue throat is that not every vice needs to be completely shunned or avoided. Sometimes, those vices only need to be controlled effectively by us for the greater good of others, so that both we and others can lead a peaceful life, free of worries and obstacles.
But the task was too difficult even for the brave and mighty gods, so they asked the demons for their help on the condition that they would share the loot amongst themselves equally. Mount Mandara was used as the rod to churn the ocean, while Vasuki Naag became the rope to be tied around the rod. During the churning process, many precious things emerged from the ocean, including animals, jewels, Goddess Lakshmi, Dhanvantri, etc., which was distributed equally as promised between both parties. However, one of the things which was extracted from the ocean was also Halahala, a deadly poison.
Slowly, the earthly beings and even the gods and demons began to die one by one, due to contact with the poison. At this point, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, who were unable to watch the pitiful sight anymore, prayed to Lord Shiva to intervene and consume the poison, since only he could accomplish such an impossible and dangerous feat. So Lord Shiva quickly consumed the Halahala, but even he was not spared from the effects of the poison. His body began to turn blue due to the vicious poison that had entered him. Afraid of what was going to happen to Shiva, his wife Goddess Parvati entered his body in the form of Mahavidya (Goddess of Great Knowledge) and restricted the poison to his throat, which caused Lord Shiva to get a charming blue throat and the name, Neelkanth.