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Lord Indra – Vedic god of rain and thunder

For many, the Vedas are books of scriptures to guide one’s mind through Hindu religion. But truth be told Vedic and Hindu are very philosophically different. While Hindu Dharma is polytheistic Vedic is Monotheistic on a macro level.

Hindu Vs Vedic

Many believe due to several splits that occurred after the Dasarajna war, different tribes and clans separated, who were once unified by the name of the supreme Indra. And eventually, after years, Indra’s names were made either different god or stolen by Puranic people to praise their “semidivine” heroes.

trataram indram avitaram indram have have suhavam suram indram
hvayami sakram puruhutam indram svasti no maghava dhatvindrah

Indra the protector, Indra the savior, Indra the best invited among invited ones; I call Him, strong, the frequently called Indra. May welfare be gifted us, by Indra Maghavan.

The importance of God Indra

In the original Vedas, which are the basic tenets of Hindu Religion, Indra is the supreme god. Most of the Rig Veda was dedicated to his praise. He was the chief God whom everyone worshiped, not the holy trinity which was again a later development.

Image Source – DeviantArt

Indra was the most important god in the Vedic religion and he later became a major figure in Hindu Dharma and an important deity in Buddhism, Cham, and Chinese tradition. For the Aryas he was their national god and he was regarded as the protector of the military aristocracy and the Kshatriyas warriors.

The Origin and Bravery of Lord Indra

In the Hindu Stories, Indra was born (along with his brother Agni) from the mouth of the primordial god or giant Purusha whose various other body parts gave birth to the other members of the Hindu pantheon.

He is known for his fearless battle against Vritra the stone serpent, the firstborn of dragons, immediately after his birth. Digest that. An infant Indra fought a stone dragon.

Indra, noted for his virility, was said to have been unfaithful to his wife on several other occasions when the god often disguised himself in order to better seduce his victims. One famous object of the god’s seemingly insatiable desire was the wife of the sage Gautama. Here is an attempt to shine the light on this event:

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Ahalya was first mentioned as Indra’s lover in Brahmanas. Indra is the symbol of life and hence associated with rain and soma ( later Amrta).There are several instances in Vedas that speak of Indra flooding the plains by smashing the Vrtra, the drought.

hala in sanskrit means “plough“. And halya means that which can be plowed; referred to a fertile land. a-halya means that which cannot be plowed; referring to infertile land. And the beautiful Brahmanic phrase tells how God, Indra, helps the infertile land become fertile, through His rains, as a true lover. And the story stops in a single phrase.

Image source – Pinterest

In the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, Indra is the father of the hero Arjuna and he manages to win the magic armor that would make his son invincible. Indra was involved in a famous fight against the Dāsas (or Dasyus) and in another famous adventure, he swiftly dealt with Vala who one day was bold enough to steal the god’s herd of sacred cattle. Vala cleverly hid his prize in the depths of a mountain but was tracked down by Indra’s companion the Maruts and Rudras (storm gods), then, one thunderbolt from Indra was enough to split the mountain in two and release the herd who were safely escorted back to the heavens.

Perhaps the most celebrated exploit involving the god Indra is his battle with the demon Vritra. This demon, also known as the Enemy, had transformed himself into a fearsome snake with no less than 99 coils. Unfortunately for local farmers these tremendous coils were blocking up the rivers and streams and causing a great drought. So horrifying was Vritra that none of the gods dared intervene and it was only Indra who found the courage, fortified with soma, to slay the beast with one of his thunderbolts. As a result of this episode, he won great favor among the other great gods and one of Indra’s surnames became Vritrahan, meaning the ‘slayer of Vritra’

Indra and the Ashwamedha Yagna

A day of Brahma called as Kalpa has 14 Manvantaras and each Manvantara has its own Indra. Indras come and go. It’s not a single God. It’s a title.

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To become the next Indra, you need to conduct successfully 100 Ashwamedha Yagnyas.The yagna is not just sacrificing a horse, offering it to god & eating it. It could take months or years to do (because the horse has to roam around other lands, and the king has to battle other kingdoms in the process). After the horse returns back, the horse is sacrificed and fumes from its brain offered to the sacred fire has to be inhaled by the king and his wives. After that is done, the ENTIRE Treasury has to be emptied and given away to all people in the kingdom to all 4 castes.

Then the king has to donate a lot of land to the officiators of the sacrifice along with cattle that grazes such lands. Then, the king also has to donate away all his personal belongings including his wives to the chief officiators of the yagnya (those officiators immediately would sell the wives back to the king and king would pay them some amount of gold). That is when the Ashwamedha Yagnya is deemed and declared by the officiators and a.. people who attended it from the kingdom as complete. This yagnya is not only the most expensive yagnya but also the most rewarding in benefits.

Indra depicted in other religion

  • Indra is known as Sakra in Buddhism and he rules the 33 gods.
  • In Cambodian tradition, he is known as Pah En the god of the sky and he is the most popular of the gods. He is considered to live atop Mt. Meru or Prah Sumer along with his servants the Yeaks (Yashas), fearsome ogres with fangs and red eyes who can transform themselves at will into any shape they please.
  • In the Cham religion of Vietnam, he is also the god of thunder and rides a white elephant.
  • In Chinese tradition, he is identified with the god Ti-shi.

God Indra is still worshiped today in the Rajasthan region of India in the festival of Inder Puja which calls for rains to prevent the frequent droughts prevalent in this desert state.

In Nepal, he is regarded as the God of rain and every year a Jatra (procession) is carried out in the month of October known as Indra Jatra.

Photo by Rupad Bajracharya on 500px.com

Source – Wikipedia

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