amṛta

(‘that which gives immortality’)

The desire to become immortal is most natural to all mortals. Hindu mytho-logy often mentions ‘amṛta,’ the nectar or ambrosia, by drinking which one can become immortal. The story goes that Indra, the king of gods, lost his all to the demons, owing to the curse of the sage Durvāsas, whom he had displeased. Lord Viṣṇu advised him to make up with the demons and with their help, to churn the ocean of milk, out of which amṛta could be got. By drinking it the gods could become immortal and regain their lost sovereignty. Amṛta was the last product got out of this churning. Lord Viṣṇu, in the guise of Mohinī (the enchantress) successfully deceived the demons and served it to the gods. Inebriated by the new strength and vigour got out of consuming it, the gods routed the demons and regained all they had lost.

See SAMUDRAMATHANA for details.

Garuḍa is said to have brought it from heaven to give it to Kadrū, his aunt, to release his mother Vinatā from her slavery. So also, Kṛṣṇa is believed to have got it for the sage Udaṅka.

The word amṛta is also used in several other senses. For instance: God, moon, liberation, what is left over after a sacrifice, food obtained without begging, milk, ghee, an auspicious time of conjunction of certain nakṣatras (stars) with certain week days and so on. The last is also known as ‘amṛtasiddhiyoga.’