Indra: Hindu God of War, Heavens, & Thunderstorms

‘He under whose supreme control are horses, all chariots, the villages, and cattle;
He who gave being to the Sun and Morning, who leads the waters, He, O men, is Indra.’
Rigveda

God of War, Indra Hindu god

Indra Hindu God of War

Originally, Indra was one of the most prominent deities within the Rigveda as the leader of the Gods and Lord of Heaven according to Hindu myth.  He was the God of war, storms, thunder, and the ultimate warrior carrying his famous lightning bolt, Vajra, as weapon protecting Dharma alongside Vajrapani, the Chief Defender. Indra, Agni’s twin, was said to be the strongest of all beings defending all the Hindu Gods and humans alike from danger.  Indra was described as being very powerful with either two or four very long arms wielding his bolt or at times bow or hook. His parents were the sky god Dyaus Pita and the earth goddess Prthivi.  It is even said he was born fully grown and fully armed from his mother’s side ready to defend the world.

His most notable achievement was fighting the asura Vrita who in form of a mighty dragon stole all the water from the earth.  When Indra was born he heard of the offenses of Vrita and fought to reclaim the precious water he had stolen form the world.  He rode forth to seek him out, smashed through all 99 of Vritra’s fortresses, and battled Vrita as dragon and destroyed him.  Water began flowing from his fallen adversary after battle which restored the earth from its perpetual drought.  Replenishing the land of its most necessary nutrient, Indra became a hero not only to the people, but to the Gods alike.  In show of allegiance the gods elected him as their king.

Although a notable deity within the Rigveda, over time Indras importance as a prominent deity began to diminish in favor of Vishnu and Shiva.  More recent accounts of his famous battle even include his rescuing by Vishnu and Shiva in order to defeat the dragon.  He was eventually demoted to that of simply god of weather and of the lesser gods.

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Agni: Hindu God of Fire

“Agni I laud, the high priest, god, minister of sacrifice, the invoker, lavishest of wealth.” Rigveda

Agni: Hindu God of Fire

Agni, Hindu God of Fire, is one of the most renowned Hindu deities within the Rigveda. Fire is a central component of all Vedic rituals.  According to Vedic myth he is second in importance to only his twin brother Indra, Lord of the Heavens, and is distinguished as the supreme director of religious ceremonies serving as a middleman delivering Gods word to man.  Agni is said to be a divine model for all priests, mediating between the Gods and humans.  Priests should aspire to mirror his image in practice and devotion as he projects a patient and dignified reflection.  No Vedic sacrificial ritual is complete without his presence.  Angi is often depicted as having either two or seven hands, two heads, three legs, and seven fiery tongues as he rides atop a ram or fiery chariot.

As oldest son of Brahma, Agni joins with Indra and Surya, the Lord of the Skies, in the first Hindu holy trinity.  He is said to embody ten forms, the first five of which are physical forms, and the last five ritual forms: ordinary fire, lightening, the sun, digestive fire, destructive fire, fire lit by sticks for ceremony, fire for home worship, fire given to initiate students, funeral fire, and fire of the ancestors.  Although mostly seen as religious teacher, Agni is also sometimes feared for his destructive capacities.  He is priest of Hindu Gods and God of priests.  Among certain Vedic hymns, Agni can even be portrayed as that as a Supreme God:

‘Commingling, restless, he ascends the sky, unveiling nights and all that stands or moves, as he the sole God is preeminent in greatness among all these other Gods.’

Agni is one of the only Vedic deities to be so highly regarded still into present day.  All life’s journeys are presided over by Agni and end with Agni as funeral fire marks our eventual end.

Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand

Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand

Agni is rarely depicted in sculpture as a stand alone figure.  However, he is included in one of the most recognizable poses in all of Hinduism; Shiva as the Lord of Dance Nataraja.  Shiva holds the a burning flame in the palm of his left hand.  The flame represents the Hindu god Agni.