Kurma (called also Kurmavatara, i.e. the "avatar of the tortoise") is the name by which the second incarnation of Vishnu is designated. It is related in Hindu mythology that Kurma took the form of a tortoise so as to furnish a support to Mount Mandara while the gods and Asurs churned the ocean. The mountain being the churn-stick, the great serpent Sesha was made use of for the string. It may be proper to observe that in India churning is usually performed by causing a body termed the churn-stick to revolve rapidly in the cream osr milk by means of a string, in the same manner as a drill is made to revolve. In some of the Hindu pictures of the churning of the ocean the gods are represented as standing on one side of Mount Mandara and the Asurs on the other, both grasping in their hands the serpent Sesha, which is wound round the mountain. This rests upon the back of the tortoise (Vishnu). At the same time, the preserving deity, in consequence of his ubiquitous character, is seen standing among the gods and grasping Sesha, and also as dancing on the top of Mandara (see Plate 49 in Moor's Hindu Pantheon). The churning of the ocean is one of the most famous and popular fables related in the mythology of the Hindus. It resulted in the production of the fourteen gems, as they are called, namely,
1. Chandra (the moon), 2. Lakshini, the incomparable consort of Vishnu;
3. Suradevi, or the goddess of wine; 4. Uchisrava, a wonderful eight-headed horse; 5. Kustubha, a jewel of inestimable value; 6. Parijata, a tree that yielded whatever one might desire; 7. Surabhi or Kamadhenu, a cow similarly bountiful; 8. Dhanwantara, a wondrous physician; 9. Iravata or Iravat, the elephant of India; 10. Shank, a shell which conferred victory on whosoever sounded it; 11. Danusha, an unerring bow; 12. Vish, a remarkable drug or poison; 13. Rembha (or Rambha), an Apsara possessed of surpassing charms; 14. Amrita. or Amrit, the beverage of immortality. See Moor, Hindu Pantheon.