Significance of Legends



In researching and reading texts related to Hinduism, I came across this legend that tells a story of danger and rescue that could be used to help people make the connection between poor hygiene practices and illness. In the story, Lord Shiva rescues humanity by consuming a poison doomed to end all of creation. Pashupatinath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is a protector, lord of destruction and death. Just as the architecture at the Pashupaintath Temple aids ritual and keeps traditions alive, architecture that aids good hygiene practices could be developed and a parallel could be drawn between Shiva and the purifying of water. Filtration, cleaning systems, and good hygiene practices could be develop in the community and at the same time build upon cultural traditions and values thus allowing safe interaction with the water.


The Legend of Samudra Manthan and the Celebration of Shivaratri


One day, a king named Indra was riding an elephant when he met Durvasa Muni, a wise man, who gave him a garland. The king placed the garland on the trunk of the elephant, but the elephant didn't like the smell of the garland and tossed it to the floor.

Unfortunately, this made the wise man angry because the garland was said to have fortune and therefore should be treated with grace. Durvasa Muni responded to this disrespect by placing a curse on Indra and all devas so that they would lose strength, energy and fortune. In the years that followed, devas battled demons but lost, and demons eventually controlled the universe. Feeling desperate, the devas sought the help of Lord Vishnu who suggested they fair treatment of demons was the answer. This prompted the devas to join hands with the demons in order to churn the milk ocean of immortality. While the idea was to share immortality equally, Lord Vishnu secretly advised the devas that only they would receive immortality.

Churning the milk ocean was no easy task and required the help of many. Mt. Mandara became the stirring rod. Vasuki, King of the Serpents, was used as the stirring rope. The churning of the ocean caused many things to happen and one thing was that a pot of poison so toxic that it was capable of destroying all of creation came spewing from the ocean. Again not knowing what to do, the devas consulted with Lord Vishnu who recommended asking Lord Shiva for help because he could swallow the poison without being harmed. Lord Shiva drank the poison, but his wife Parivati intervened and froze the poison in Shiva's throat.

The poison was so strong that it turned blue, a color that represents purity in Hinduism. The doctors watching over Shiva suggested he not sleep that night, and for entertainment, they sang songs to him and danced so that he'd stay awake. Shivaratri is the celebration of the day that Shiva saved the world. To celebrate, followers fast, meditate and mark the day with songs to the Lord and by staying up all night.


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