Sri Kurma Dwadashi is observed on the twelfth day of Shukla Paksha of Pausha month which is the next day of Pausha Putrata Ekadashi.
Sri Kurma is the second Avatar of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu in the form of Kurma (Tortoise).
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Sri Kurma Dwadashi story
Once there was a fierce fight between Devas and Asuras with respect to living in Devaloka. Living in Devaloka meant perennial life.
They went to Sri Maha Vishnu. He said-
“You devas can attain eternity only if you have the Amrut(nectar) from the cosmic ocean, Ksheera Sagara. So, go and get mandara parvata to use as the catalyst to stir the ocean. Also, get Vasuki, the snake as the rope to churn the mandara. You promise Vasuki that she will also be given the portion of Amrut”.
Churning of the cosmic ocean
The Devas duly brought the Mandara mountain. The Devas and the Asuras started to churn the cosmic ocean. The Asuras kept the head side of Vasuki and the Devas had the tail side. However, the Mandara kept slipping as it had no base to stand upon.
Again, Devas went to Sri Vishnu for help. He himself took the form of tortoise and asked Devas to keep the Mandara on Him and do the churning. They did so.
Upon churning, lot of things emerged.
Lord Shiva having Halahala poison
The first one was the Halahala, the poisonous substance. As guided by Sri Vishnu, the Devas had requested Lord Shiva to protect them from Halahala. For the universal benefit, Lord Shiva had consumed the poison.
However, Sri Parvathi stopped it at His neck itself.
Due to the retention of the poison, Lord Shiva’s neck had become blue in colour. For this reason, He is called Sri Neela Kanta.
Though the poison stayed in His throat, it had caused too much heat in His head. To quench the heat, He had to take continuous water shower. That is why He has river Ganga in His head. That is also the reason for doing constant abhishekams to Lord Shiva.
Other treasures from the cosmic ocean
Amrut had emerged from the ocean.
The other treasures are Sri Dhanvantri (God of medicines), Sri Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Sri Jyestha (Goddess of Poverty), Sri Chandra (the Moon), a white elephant named Airavata, a horse named Uchchaisravaa and Kalpavriksha (the tree that fulfills the desires).
Sri Maha Vishnu as Jagan Mohini
The Asuras usurped the Amrut Kalash (pot of nectar) and took it with them. Devas appealed to Sri Vishnu for help. Sri Vishnu took the female form of Mohini. He enticed the Asuras with His looks and grabbed the Amrut Kalash from them.
He asked the Devas and Asuras to sit on either side of His Mohini form. He kept the Amrut Kalash on the dried grass (darba) and carried it. He gave the looks on the Asura side and kept pouring Amrut to Devas.
On consuming Amrut, Devas got the permanent position in Deva lok / Amar lok.
Rahu’s attempt to get Amrut
One of the demons named Rahu understood the situation. He disguised himself as a Deva and joined their group. When Sri Mohini distributed the Amrut, She guessed Rahu’s identity and gave only a portion of Amrut to him.
So he became a snake headed and Deva bodied person. He is called Rahu Deva. As he is Demi-Deva, he was angered at Indra, the King of Devas and the Surya. Hence, it is believed that he causes Chandra / Surya eclipses every year.
Though Devas promised Vasuki a share of Amrut, they forgot about sharing with her. Vasuki felt forlorn. As nothing was left in the Amrut Kalash, she licked the droplets in the darba on which the Kalash was kept.
As the darba was dry and sharp, it had split Vasuki’s tongue into two. From then on, all the snakes were born with split tongues.
What happened to the other treasures
Sri Dhanvantri was made the celestial physician and Airavata had become the property of Indra.
Sri Lakshmi got wedded to Sri Maha Vishnu and had been His consort ever since.
Sri Maha Vishnu had given a place for Sri Maha Lakshmi in His heart, which is called vaksha sthalam.
Sri Kurma Dwadashi Vrat Puja
-On a wooden plank (peeta), a rangoli / kolam / muggu has to be drawn.
-Beside the peeta, the symbols of Shank and Chakra are to be drawn.
-The Peeta has to be covered in a red cloth.
-On the cloth, Sri Ganapathi (in turmeric form) has to be kept on a betal leaf.
-The picture of Sri Maha Vishnu either in Kurma Avatar or any other form has to be kept.
-In a small enclosure, the form of tortoise or turtle in crystal is to be kept.
-If no crystal form is available, the form of tortoise can be drawn on a betal leaf with Chandan and kept.
-Deepams and Dhups are to be lit.
-The picture and tortoise are to be decorated with flowers.
-Small quantity of water has to be poured on the tortoise form as abhishekam.
-Then the story of the Kurma Avatar has to be chanted and listened to.
-A cup of milk can be offered as Neivedyam.
-Arati has to be taken.
-Chanting of Sri Kurma Gayathri / any other Kurma sloka is said to be beneficial.
Sri Kurma Dwadashi Vrat Benefits
It is believed that following this Vrat helps redeeming sins. It also helps in attaining Moksha, the ultimate liberation.
Fasting and chanting of Vishnu Slokas are followed on this day.
Some persons observe Vrat for both the Pausha Putrata Ekadashi and Kurma Dwadashi.
Om Namo Narayanaya Namaha!!!