In very ancient times, there was a mighty mountain called Mount Meru. Sun’s rays struck the shining summit of this mountain, shivered and fell. One day, the gods gathered in council on the summit. They wished to obtain the ambrosia which would make them immortal like the three supreme deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The jar in which the ambrosia was kept lay at the bottom of the ocean and the gods could not agree upon a plan by which they could get possession of the jar. The gods asked Vishnu for advice. Vishnu answered, "Call the demons to your aid and churn the ocean. You will not only get the ambrosia, but also a wealth of jewels and other precious objects."
Following Vishnu’s counsel, the gods retired to another mountain named Mount Mandara. This mountain was covered with forests and full of wild elephants, lions, tigers and leopards. The gods tried to uproot this mountain to use it as the churning rod to churn the ocean. Despite all their efforts, they could not move the Mount Mandara even a hair’s breadth. The celestial gods turned to both Vishnu and Brahma for help, "O Great Gods! Tell us how we may uproot Mount Mandara with which we can churn the ocean to get the ambrosia." Lord Vishnu called Vasuki, the king of snakes and said, "O Snake King Vasuki! I give you this commad. Go with the gods and help them uproot the Mount Mandara." Vasuki obeyed Vishnu’s instructions. Vasuki fastened himself around the mountain with his endless coils. Pressing the coils against the base of the mountain, Vasuki tore up Mount Mandara by the roots. The gods, led by Vasuki, rolled the mountain to the shores of the ocean. "Lord Ocean!" they said, "we desire the ambrosia which lies fathoms deep below your surface. To win this, we shall churn your water with the Mount Mandara." The ocean agreed, "As you wish! Give me but a draught of the ambrosia and I will gladly allow you to churn my waters."
The gods were happy with the Lord Ocean’s response. They invited the demons to join them. Together, the gods and the demons went to the king of the tortoises. Finding him in his palace, they said to him, "O Tortoise King! Come to our aid, we pray to you. We want to win the ambrosia. If we place the Mount Mandara on the bottom of the ocean, it will sink into the sands. We need you, O King of the Tortoises, to lie at the bottom of the ocean. If you bear the mountain on your mighty back, we shall be able to pull Mount Mandara to and fro and so churn the ocean." The Tortoise King consented and walked with the gods and the demons to the shore of the ocean.
When they reached the edge of the waters, the god Indra, the king of gods, placed Mount Mandara upon the back of the Tortoise King. Bearing the burden of the mountain, the Tortoise King entered the ocean and walked along its bottom until he reached the deepest part. Then, Vasuki the Snake King swam out across the surface of the water until he reached the spot where the top of Mount Mandara stood high above he waves. Coiling himself round the mountain, he bade the gods to hold him by the tail and the demons hold his head. The demons and gods seized Vasuki, as he bade them, and pulling him forwards and backwards, they began to churn the ocean, together. Great masses of foam rose upon the waters. Clouds of vapour issued frm the mouth of the Snake King Vasuki and scorched the faces of the demons who pulled the Snake King’s head. Then rising higher the vapour descended in cooling rain to refresh the gods.