Monday, February 14, 2005

Amrita Kumbha

If the name "Lusung" comes from the native word meaning "mortar," we could see here a relationship with "Krater" which can mean "mixing bowl" or "volcanic crater."

The alchemical mixing or pounding together of dual materials ejected from the dual erupting volcanoes of Lusung produced a sort of Philosopher's Stone. According to legend, the Philosopher's Stone was used to transmute base metals into gold and to create the "water of life," which was envisioned as water with gold, or gold and silver (electrum), suspended in solution.

However, the gold and silver here may refer instead to the Gold and Silver mountains, also known as the mountains of the Sun and Moon. The "white powder of gold" associated with the Philosopher's Stone may be simply a type of volcanic clay.

The mixed clay formed into jars which were used to store water and other beverages constitutes the basis, in my view, for the "pot of elixir" motif found in the tale of the Churning of the Milky Ocean. This pot known as the amrita kumbha appears time and time again in tales where the Asuras (Demons) attempt to steal it from the Devas (Gods).

Pot worship of this type is rather rampant from India to Southeast Asia. In the Pacific, the gourd symbolically replaces the pot. In ancient Sumeria, we find the motif of jars containing the water of life, sometimes with the water flowing out from the mouth of the jar.

Indeed, the concept of the Holy Grail as a chalice, bowl or vessel from which to drink would derive from the same idea. The original clay vessel can be seen as a manifestation of the larger volcanic Krater, but holds drink rather than the holy bathing lake. The principle though is the same.

Water, wine, tea or other drinks stored in these simple earthenware jars supposedly took on special qualities that were considered nothing less than magical. They became the aqua vitae or elixir vitae, the water or elixir of life.

When the pot of elixir arose from the Milky Ocean, the Asuras immediately grabbed the jar and a chase ensured. It is said that each place the Asuras stopped they left a bit of amrita behind that dropped from the jar. These locations became places of pilgrimage and include the Ganges River, the site of the grand Kumbha Mela festival where pilgrims come to take a holy dip in the river.

Amrita is associated with a mountain to the East across the Milky Ocean, usually Mt. Mandara. The great mythical bird Garuda went to steal the elixir to gain the release of his mother, who had been captured by the Asuras. The amrita kumbha was said to be found off the shores of the Milky Ocean on the mountain where Indra creates the monsoons.

In Sumerian iconography, Enki is often shown with water flowing directly from his shoulders, but in the oldest forms of this motif we see instead a yoke placed on the back with a water-spouting jar on each side of the head. These waters are linked with the underworld Apsu, the royal domain of Enki. The traditional entrance to the Apsu, again, is at the twin gates of Mt. Mashu in the furthest East.

Paul Kekai Manansala