The Gods and Demons Churn the Ocean of Milk
While the main narrative of the Mahabharata concerns the Great War, the epic contains many related stories. Some, like the episode of churning the Ocean of Milk, have variants in other Hindu sacred texts. Once, when the gods (devas) were in danger of being defeated by the demons (asuras) in the universe, Vishnu devised a plan to restore their strength by helping them acquire amrita, the nectar of immortality that was submerged in the Ocean of Milk.
Unable to churn the ocean by themselves, the gods tricked the demons into helping. Mount Mandara (Meru) was the churning tool; the giant serpent king, Vasuki, was the turning rope. As gods and demons pulled, their churning caused many beneficial things to rise.
Among the elements we can identify here are Ucchaishravas, the celestial seven-headed white steed; Airavata, the white elephant with double tusks; Surabhi, the wish-granting mother of all cows; Shankha, Vishnu's ritual conch; Chandra, the moon; and Parijata, the tree of paradise. One of the jars may contain the amrita and the other one a powerful poison.
Although illustrating a Hindu story, the painting features a central figure wearing a turban and jacket (jama) typical of Mughal court clothing of Akbar's time. The delicately shaded trees spotting the horizon were likely inspired by Flemish engravings, while the vertical mass of rock, colored flesh and pink, is a Persian painting convention.
Ascribed to Fattu.