By Swami Harshananda
When the devas (gods) and the dānavas (demons) were churning the kṣīrasamudra or the ocean of milk to get amṛta (ambrosia), one of the by-products was the Hālāhala poison. It was so terrific, that it started scalding everyone. The devas and the dānavas went to Śiva and supplicated him to save them.
Śiva gathered it in the palm of his hand and drank it. Pārvatī, his divine spouse, pressed his throat so that the poison would not go into his stomach and destroy the worlds contained there. It got stuck up there making it dark in color. Hence Śiva got the name ‘Nīlakaṇṭha’, which means ‘one with a blue or dark neck’. Other names of this poison are:
- Bhāgavata 8.7; Rāmāyana, Bālakānda, 45
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore