Why is Lord Shiva called as Neelkantha?

Why is Lord Shiva called as Neelkantha? What is the story behind why Shiva became Neelakantha?

The festival of maha shivratri is celebrated each year on 13th or 14th day of Phalguna or Maagha month in reverence to Lord Shiva. As per Vedic literature, this festival is celebrated in association with samudra manthan (or churning of ocean), during the process the Gods and Asuras (demons) churned the ocean to bring out Amrut from the ocean.

This Amrut is believed to be the nectar for immortality. During churning several things came out and one among them was a pot of poison. This poison was potent enough to destroy the entire universe.

The biggest problem was when it was known that the poison could not be discarded and either devas or asuras should drink it. But no one wanted to put their life at risk by drinking the poision, everyone was scared and stepped back from taking the responsibility.

Upon request from God, Shiva came forward and in his calm composure he accepted to drink the poison, to save his family and the world. The destructive capacity of the poison was suppressed as he drank the poison. Goddess Parvathi was shocked by his act and stranded his neck, which resulted in the poison being restricted to his neck only. The poison was so dangerous that it turned the neck of Lord Shiva blue, and that is why he is also known as Neelkanth.

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