Birth of Uchchaihshravas

    Indra, King of Heaven and the gods, keeps the King of Horses, Uchchaihshravas as one of his trusted mounts. Their love for each other is infinite and there is nothing they would not do for one another. Indra is the only “master” Uchchaihshravas has ever known, and at the beginning of their companionship, Uchchaihshravas often approached Indra with curiosity. Indra was strolling through the heavenly gardens on one of these occasions. The seven-headed white horse pricked his ears up and nickered when he caught Indra's scent, and then he eagerly pranced to Indra from the patch of luscious blue clovers and grasses he had been grazing upon.

    “Oh greatest Deva of all, when I graze in solitude, I reflect on my life and many questions occur to me about myself that only a parent could answer to a child. You are all I have–my father, my brother and my master. Why is this so? Why have I no sire or dam like the horses we see on Earth?” Uchchaishravas asked sweetly.

    Indra stopped and stroked his beloved friend’s seven milky white forelocks, and then climbed up onto Uchchaihshravas’ back.

    “Take me for a ride down the path I was strolling, and I’ll tell you,” Indra said softly.

    They drifted along a path laid with platinum and smoothed crystals, past translucent glowing trees in varying shades of purple, blue and pink. Uchchaihshravas turned all fourteen of his ears back towards Indra, and the King of Heaven began the story.


    “In ancient times, before the memory of man, the sea was pure milk made from the breast of Mother Earth. There was no sweeter milk in existence, and this milk would never spoil.

    My only mount at this time, Airavata the elephant, carried me across its shores often, and at one point we came across Sage Durvasa, who presented me with a garland of fortune made by Shiva. I draped the garland over Airavata’s trunk as a sign of putting the Ego aside, but Airavata stubbornly cast the garland to the ground, knowing that my Ego was far from aside. Airavata does not enable me to mislead others in his presence, and for that I am grateful. Durvasa was angered by this display, as Sri, Goddess of Fortune–whose essence lived within that garland–was not to be cast down carelessly nor used as a symbol of false reverence. Thus Durvasa cast a curse on me and all the other gods, that we would be without fortune, energy and vigor. Truly he was right to do this; I have learned my lesson.

    Asuras, lesser deities always seeking power, fought us and easily conquered the universe as a result of Durvasa’s curse. Out of desperation, Vishnu came up with a plan to meet with the Asuras and agree to jointly churn the milk ocean--thus producing the amrita, the elixir of immortality--and share the elixir among themselves, but take it for the gods once it was produced. Flattered and excited, the Asuras accepted the offer at once.

    Vasuki, King of Serpents, volunteered himself to be the churning rope, and we tied him to the tall and sturdy Mount Mandara. The Asuras gathered at Vasuki's head, thinking this an advantage somehow, and the gods took the tail-end of the great amber-scaled serpent king. Churning the ocean was a painfully long process, and at first it seemed hopeless when Mount Mandara began to sink to the bottom. Vishnu, our blessed preserver, made himself into a giant sea turtle and dove beneath the mountain, propping it so that it was half above and half below the sea. We churned vehemently, forming a whirlpool that sent tidal waves of the ocean’s milk splashing and crashing every which way against the shores.

    Many of us gods were still having our doubts when the Asuras began freezing up and dropping unconscious one by one, sucked out into the milky whirlpool. Vasuki, as instructed by ever-clever Vishnu, had been emitting toxic fumes from his nostrils, putting the Asuras into a catatonic stupor.

    All of the gods rejoiced at this sight and we were inspired to continue on churning more strenuously than ever. The milk ocean bubbled and sizzled and then began losing its frothy nature as forms appeared before us out of the milk. As the treasures--Ratnas, as they are called--solidified, the ocean no longer shone pure white, but was clear and sparkling with salt, as it is now.

    You, the amrita, and many other treasures and heavenly beings were born from the churning of the milk ocean. You gleam with the essence of the milk ocean, and the joys and efforts of the Devas pump through your veins. Mother Earth bore you for us, and you are divine. I chose you as my mount because I was entranced by your radiance–like that of a supernova. I loved and admired you when you first crossed my gaze, and it is an honor and a blessing to be your master.”


    Uchchaihshravas was pleased and pervaded with glory. He laughed and whinnied and sat back partly on his thick, stout haunches, throwing his powerful forelegs out before him in a display of celebratory reverence. Indra smiled and Airavata, who had seen the two during their ride and walked side-by-side with them, sounded his trunk like a trumpet, rearing up as Uchchaishravas did.

    Indra dismounted Uchchaihshravas, and as he turned to look at the horse, Uchchaihshravas gracefully bowed his seven heads and vowed, “I will carry you until the end of Time, and if it never ends, I will carry you forever. I am your faithful servant and friend, and I will never disobey you.”

    “So too will I; so too am I!” Airavata shouted.

    And so it is, and so they are.

megrar's DeviantArt
Uchchaihshravas, by megrar.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The story of Uchchaihshravas was mentioned briefly in Buck’s version of the Ramayana, as Uchchaihshravas was used in Kadru’s scheme to win a bet against Vinata (her “sister-wife”). Kadru bet Vinata that Uchchaihshravas was not pure white, and when they went to determine who won the bet, Kadru’s one thousand demon children had collected among Uchchaihshravas’ tail hairs in the form of black hairs, making the horse appear not to be completely white. I completely expanded the brief note that Indra makes about Uchchaihshravas being created by the churning of the milk ocean, and turned it into a story of its own. I put Indra and Uchchaihshravas in Heaven, with Indra as the storyteller and Uchchaihshravas as the inquirer and listener. I completely made up this scene in Heaven in which Uchchaihshravas asks Indra about his origin and Airavata enters the scene partway through. I thought it would make for a pleasant story offering details about an event mentioned in Buck’s Ramayana that wasn’t explained or detailed. I used the Wikipedia listing of Samudra manthan (the churning of the milk ocean) for the information on this event. Through this story, Uchchaihshravas and Samudra manthan are given the proper attention I feel that they deserve. Of course, the other Ratnas produced from the churning of the milk ocean deserve this as well, but for the sake of keeping the story concise and not stretching it too far, and since Indra is telling the story to Uchchaihshravas for a certain purpose and not just to talk about the event itself, I did not include much about the other Ratnas.

Bibliography

Buck, William (1976). Ramayana: King Rama’s Way.

Samudra manthan, Wikipedia.

Uchchaihshravas, Wikipedia.