The Devas and Asuras were cousins who were always at war. The Devas ruled Devalok, the world above Earth. The Asuras lived in the world below Earth, called Paatal. The Asuras grew stronger after sunset. So, the Asuras always attacked their cousins at night.
As the sun rose, the Devas grew stronger. They would be ready to attack the Asuras. But the Asuras would disappear! The Devas would search for them in heaven, earth and, below. But the Asuras could not be found anywhere.
At last the Devas saw the Asuras’ footprints leading to the ocean. Indra, lord of the Devas, shouted, “They are hiding here in the ocean!”
Vayu, the Wind God, shook in excitement, “Let’s get them!”
Agni, the Fire God hissed, “But can we fight them under water?”
Indra looked around. He saw Sage Agasthya sitting on the beach, eyes closed in meditation. Indra went up to him, bowed, and sought his help. Agasthya was a powerful sage, who liked the Devas. He agreed to help them.
Muttering a prayer to the Sun, he dipped his hands in the ocean and scooped some water. Lo, the next moment, all the water of the ocean was drawn into his palms! And the sage drank it all in one gulp!
As the great sage belched with satisfaction, the Asuras stood exposed on the dry ocean bed.
The Devas pounced on them. Badly beaten, the Asuras fled from battle. The Devas roared in triumph.
Seeing his cousins running away, Indra thought they would not trouble the Devas again. He thanked Sage Agasthya. “Sage, our job is done. You can now return the water to the ocean bed.”
Agasthya frowned, “Lord Indra, I have drunk and digested all the waters with my powers. How can I now put it back?”
Indra felt bad. Without the ocean all beings on earth would suffer.
“Only one river can fill this empty space,” said Agasthya looking up at the sky, “We must wait for Ganga to come down to earth.”
Thus began the long wait for Ganga.