Was Indra a god or a post

Bernhard Peter
The Vedic gods

The oldest gods in Hindu culture and religion are the Vedic gods. Through the penetration of the Aryans into the Indian cultural area, non-Aryan indigenous belief in Dravida and the old Aryan religion mixed. The ancient Indo-European gods form the core of the pantheon. The Aryans left us a collection of sacred texts, the Vedas:

  • Rigveda - Hymns of the gods.
  • Samaveda - Sacrifice sayings
  • Yajurveda - Sacrifice instructions, ritual verses
  • Atharvaveda - magic formulas

The Vedas founded early Hinduism. The sacred texts are the source of all knowledge. They provide techniques to get in contact with the higher powers and set up rules with which one can influence them. The sacred works were only passed down orally. Writing down was considered a sin in the old days, even when writing systems first developed. The Vedas were orally preserved for about 3500 years, a mnemonic masterpiece. On Vedic literature from the 16th-7th centuries Century BC Chr. In a broader sense also include:

  • Brahmanas - describe mantras when performing the Yajnas (fire rituals)
  • Aranyakas - describe various meditations in connection with Vedic sacrifices in forests, also contain philosophical considerations
  • Upanishads - philosophical treatises

In Vedic times (approx. 1600 - 500 BC), mainly forces of nature such as the moon, sun and fire were worshiped as incarnations of various gods. Above all, a group of 33 deities (devas) is worshiped. The deity Prajapati is considered the origin and supreme creator of all beings. The following characteristics generally apply to the Vedic gods:

  • In Vedic times these gods stood in no hierarchy or competition to each other. The areas of responsibility were strictly separated, each god had his own area of ​​responsibility. This form of religion corresponds most closely to one polytheistic model.
  • The Vedic gods embody natural forces and contain forces of nature
  • The gods reflect in their behavior what is happening on earth, reflect what people experience. In this they resemble the gods of Greco-Roman antiquity. They are angry or nice, stupid or cunning, they love each other and they fight, they have weapons and they have touchingly human traits.
  • There is no sole Creator God in the Vedas. Many gods have more or less to do with creation. Creation is not limited to just one high god. At most Prajapati has a special position as first being, but he is only considered a creator in the figurative sense. Indra or Savitri etc. also have creative power.
  • The male gender dominates - the mother of all Vedic gods is Aditi (her sons are called Adityas), there are also goddesses like Sarasvati, Usas, Bhumi, Indrani, Varunani or Lakshmi, but they are relatively meaningless. Only in post-Vedic times did the goddesses assert themselves in the heaven of gods.

With the advent of Buddhism around 500 BC In the 4th century BC and Jainism, the Vedas lost their influence and new religious beliefs came to the fore, new ideas of gods replaced the old ones. Today, with a few exceptions, their meaning has faded or changed and their position is more of a secondary role, the old gods are now often found in lower positions such as guardian or planetary deities.

Brief overview of important Vedic gods:

Prajapati
Creator of the world, beginning of creation
Father of the gods, first being
Agni
Fire
Wealth, treasures
Aryaman
Hospitality
Ashvins
Twins of the Twilight
Helper of the people in need
Brihaspati
prayer
Daksha
Power of creation
Indra
rain
King of the Gods
Miter
light
Surya
Sun
Celestial sphere
Soma
moon
Sap of life
Varuna
law
order
Vayu
wind
air
Yama
death
Judge of the Dead

Maruts
Wind gods

Rudra
Medicinal herbs, plants
Animals, storm, wind

Vishnu
God with cosmic
importance

Parjanya
Weather gods
Rain and vegetation

People felt dependent on the gods because they ruled the forces of nature. The aim of the worship services in Vedic times was to maintain the balance and harmony between humans and the forces of nature. The people therefore put the gods through Victim satisfied - do ut that. The gods for their part gave people rain, food and everything else they needed for their livelihoods and a comfortable life. In order to establish the relationship between gods and nature on the one hand and humans on the other, fire rituals, the so-called yajnas, were performed. Vedism was thus a Fire cult - in contrast to later Hinduism, which became a cult of images. While certain sacred texts were recited, clarified butter and meat were sacrificed; H. burned to favor the gods. An intoxicating drink called soma was also consumed. The set of rules for the course of these fire rituals was very complex.

The following list describes the more important gods of the Vedic age and is by no means exhaustive. A total of 33 gods are worshiped in Vedic times.

Agni:
"Fire". God of fire. Ancient Vedic God born of the divine mother Aditi. One of the 12 Adityas. Agni rules over the power of fire, the spark of life, the fire of the sun and the sap in plants. He is present even in dry branches, just waiting for the friction to ignite his fire. All light comes from Agni, every inspiration is fiery, all life is burning. Agni has destructive aspects such as burning, but also aspects of life, such as the warmth or the light that fire gives people, or symbolically the spark of life. Agni denotes the god and the physical phenomenon of fire and is seen as a divine power that has on the one hand a heavenly (hidden) and on the other hand an earthly (obvious) existence. It abstractly symbolizes the divine will or willpower in humanity. He is considered a wise man and the Vedas ascribe a certain intellectuality to him. Furthermore, Agni is the god of prosperity, wealth and material treasures. Another function of Agni is that of a messenger (duta) from the gods. On the one hand he was the mouth of the gods, on the other hand people entrusted him with their offerings. As the god of fire, he passed the gifts thrown into the sacrificial fire on to the recipients among the other gods. As a mediator between gods and humans, he carries the prayers of those who sacrifice as a messenger to heaven. When the call rings out at the beginning of the sacrifice, Agni seeks the gods and brings them the invitation of the people. He brings the offerings to the gods and the wishes of the sacrificing people to be heard. His wife is Svaha. Pictorial representation with 2 faces, 3 legs and 7 arms. There are 3 tongues in one mouth and 4 radial tongues in the other mouth. In his hands he holds a kind of ax, a bundle of firewood or a flag with a picture of a ram. Its color is red. His mount is a ram.

Aryaman, Arjaman:
Vedic god born of the divine mother Aditi. One of the 12 Adityas. The father is Kashyapa. Aryaman embodies the cohesion and specialty of the relationships within the clans, such as the laws that regulate the reception of human and divine guests. He is a personification of hospitality and appears in the Rigveda as the founder of the marriage covenant. His attributes are a club, two lotuses and a prayer wheel.

Ashvins:
Old Vedic gods, twins of twilight, as gods of dawn and dusk, they bring the night as a time of rest and relaxation and then take care of the dawn, in which the energy rises again. They are divine doctors. They are kind to people and save people in storms and drive darkness so that people can see and kill the evil demons of their ego. They became immortal by drinking soma juice. Children of Saranyu and Martanda (Vedic god, born of the divine mother Aditi, one of the 12 Adityas). Horse gods.

Brihaspati, Brahmanaspati:
God of prayers. It used to play a bigger role in Vedic times than it does today. He is the lord of the sacrificial fire and master of the word of creation; his grace gives religious rites the desired success. Brihaspati manifested through a huge light. On pictorial representations, Brihaspati holds a book and a mala.

Daksha:
Daksha is an ancient pre-Vedic god. Originally regarded as the son of Prajapati. In the Vedic and post-Vedic times he went through many different forms. The information about Daksha is correspondingly heterogeneous. In ancient times one of the lords of creation, an Adityas, a son of the Aditi. With his consort Prasuti, Daksha has many daughters who married gods. 27 of his daughters became houses of the moon. They were married to the moon god Soma. Soma preferred the Rohini. Daksha was very angry that the moon god Soma was neglecting his other daughters, and he cursed Soma with a curse that slowly drained him. Only at the request of Soma's women did Daksha change his curse, so that from then on Soma was only periodically emaciated and could then grow again. This explains the phases of the moon. Another famous son-in-law of Daksha is Shiva, who married Daksha's daughter Sati against Daksha's will. When he insulted Shiva by not inviting him to a party, Sati took his own life out of shame, and the angry Shiva tore off Daksha's head. After Shiva had calmed down again, he put a goat's head on Daksha again, because the old head could no longer be found.

Indra:
highest Vedic god, sovereign and omnipotent, main deity in the Rigveda, hero of the Vedas, king of the gods (devas), god of war, storm and thunder, lord of the sky, rain and associated with it the god of fertility. He gathers in himself all vital and creative energies. He is the liberator of the cattle who stole and kidnapped the enemies of the nomads of the early Vedic period, the demons. According to belief, Indra fought and drove away the demons of the drought after ingesting the juice Soma with his thunderbolt Vajra or Vajrayudha (lightning) and war roar (thunder). The subsequent rain was a sign of victory. Indra is at the head of the later generation of Vedic gods, the Devas. He was a defender of gods and men against the forces of evil. The other gods also gladly asked for his help when there was a fight to be carried out. Indra led the nomadic Aryans to victory over the natives in the new land. Indra was the god of natural elements such as rain, lightning and thunder in the Vedic age. According to legend, the Asura Vritra stole the world's water in the form of a mighty dragon. Indra first defeated its 99 fortresses, then Vritra, the dragon, himself. When Indra slit open the demon, rain fell from the sky again. Indra has many titles such as Sakra ("the mighty one"), Vajri ("the thunderer"), Purandara ("the city destroyer"), Meghavahana ("the cloud rider"), and Svargapati ("the lord of heaven"). Born of the divine mother Aditi and son of Kashjapa or of the sky god Dyaus Pita and the earth goddess Prthivi. Husband of the Salshi or the Indrani. His sons are Arjuna, Jayanta, Midhusa, Rbhus, Rsabha and Sitragupta. Indra's mount is the elephant Airavata. Alternatively, Indra drives across the sky in a wagon driven by his friend Matali (drawn by (ten) thousand horses) (note the analogy to a sun god). Indra, is fast - the speed of his vehicle is beyond thought. It symbolizes mental power and represents enlightened thinking. His weapon is Vajra (the terrible one), lightning and thunder that he holds in his hands. In combat, however, he also uses a bow and a club as weapons. Indra is depicted with a reddish complexion and with two or four long arms. Svarga is Indra's heaven, in the clouds that surround the summit of the world mountain Meru. At Indra's command, this sky could move anywhere it wanted to go. In Svarga there is a huge hall for the warriors who fell in battle. Indra and his wife Indrani ruled this warrior paradise, Apsaras danced while the Gandharven made the music. According to another representation, Indra's residence is on the mountain Mandara: The city of Amarvati holds its palace surrounded by Nandana. His servants are the 180 Maruts, gods of the wild winds. The Kshattria warrior caste worshiped Indra as a god of war. In Brahmanic times, Indra lost prestige and power. The god is easily pretentious and likes to hear himself talk, he is quite sociable, he never refuses a hearty drinking session with soma.

Marutas:
Low gods of the wild winds, wild and irrepressible storm gods, sons of Rudra, companions of Indra, they accompany Indra into battle and serve him at court. Their number is stated contradictingly, sometimes it is 2, sometimes 27, sometimes 60 and sometimes 180 in number. Your character is aggressive and wild. They drive the clouds across the sky, they cut down trees and cause damage. Her mother is the goddess Diti. Regarding the birth of the Marutas it is reported that Indra drove his thunderbolt into the lap of the pregnant Ditis, whereupon the fetus was shattered into many pieces. Far from being destroyed, these fragments gave rise to the many marutas.

Miter:
ancient pre-Vedic and Vedic god. An aditya. Light god. Sun god. Also God of friendship and contract. In Roman times also known under the name Mithras in Europe. Twin brother Varunas, many similarities in jurisdiction. But he was of a friendlier disposition than his brother and had a good connection with people and mediated between them and the gods. Mitra embodies the alliance made between humans and the gods at the beginning of the cosmic cycle. Mitra stands for everything that connects people rather than separates them from one another. Much more powerful in pre-Vedic times, then more and more the rank of other gods was overtaken him.

Prajapati:
"Lord of beings", world creator, primeval creator god of male form. In Vedic times, the deity Prajapati is considered the origin and supreme lord of all beings. He is thought of as the first being. He is the lord of all creatures as well as the father of gods, demons and all other creatures. Pronouncing the syllable "Bhuh" he brought out the earth, with the syllable "Bhuvah" he created the air and singing "Svah" he created the sky. From his breath Asu he first created the Asuras and Suras, then the people and animals of the earth. The Suras became the "good guys", the Asuras the "mighty ones" who went in opposition to the Devas and were finally defeated by the Suras / Devas, whereupon the Asuras became demons. In the beginning the gods sacrificed themselves to himself, from this sacrifice came the moon, sun, gods, heaven, earth and the cardinal points. From his own body he created the world. His mouth became the priestly caste, the Brahmins, his arms became the warrior caste, the Kshatriyas, his legs became the peasant and merchant caste, the Vesiyas, and his feet became the working caste, the Sudras. Another variant of the story of creation tells that a bull emerged from his breath, a person from his soul, a horse from his eyes, a sheep out of his ears and a goat out of his voice.

Rudra:
Rudra: "The red one", the terrifying one, the howling. God of storm and wind, wildly malicious in character. He was depicted as three-eyed, blue-necked and with a matted mane of hair; he lived in remote areas. His head is adorned by the river goddess Ganga and a crescent moon. Cobras crawl around his neck, hanging down like necklaces. His naked body is smeared with ashes, he is only dressed with fur around his loins. As an ascetic, he meditates on cremation sites. His mount is a bull. He used to be a god of death as well. He is the personification of untamed and wild nature. Lord of medicinal herbs and Lord of diseases. He is an excellent doctor. God of sacred rituals. The animals of the earth are under his rule. He became the lord of the animals and the patron saint of the hunters. His wife is Rudasi. His sons are the 180 Marutas, gods of the winds. Depiction as a terrible god with a bow and arrow. He fires arrows of doom at people, animals, and even gods.

Surya:
Sun god at sunrise and sunset (when the sun is at its zenith, another god is responsible: Savitar). Ancient Vedic God, one of the 12 Adityas. Surya is considered a life-giving force and symbolizes infinity. The sun rises forever, crosses the sky on its orbit and finally disappears from view to repeat this cycle forever. The Indians of the Vedic period had a heliocentric worldview. As the Lord of Enlightenment, Surya stands for the rising light of truth in the human mind. Surya is shown as a dark red man with 3 eyes and 4 arms. Often the god was depicted on the wings of a giant bird or as the handlebars of a chariot pulled by seven horses (for the days of the week). He is famous for crushing a demon with the wheels of the heavenly chariot. His wife is Saranyu, his sons are Manu and Yama, his daughter is Yamuna, both children are twins. Both twins are the first humans and play the role like Adam and Eve in Semitic monotheism.

Soma:
an important old Vedic god, the moon god. Soma is difficult to understand because soma connects very different levels. Soma is a plant, a drink that is brewed from this plant, life energy, because Soma is the blood of humans and animals and the juice of plants, the god Soma is the apotheosis of the drink Soma. Soma also represents the moon, which rules the harvest. And Soma is the god of inspiration and thus the god of poetry. Soma has many different shapes, sometimes he is a heavenly bull, then again a bird, or a giant that rises from the water, sometimes an embryo, sometimes the master of the plants. He is seldom portrayed as an adult. Soma is divine drink, the water of life, wine, which is obtained from a climbing plant called Somalata. The potion Soma is ambrosia for the gods. They drink soma before their exploits to gain huge powers. The renewed absorption of Soma regenerates the gods and lets people hope for a new, immortal life at the side of the gods. Indra in particular is an enthusiastic supporter of Soma and finally indulges in intoxicating indulgence without cause. Aswin's twins drank soma to gain immortality. Agni also values ​​the Soma potion very much. Soma gave immortality to the Vedic gods. Soma symbolically stands for drunkenness with ananda, the divine bliss of being. Vishvavasu once stole the god potion. For mortals, stimulating and hallucinogenic soma is extracted from ephedra vulgaris. It helped the warriors to overcome the fear of battle, it let the poet's thoughts flow. Mortals and gods alike used their soma, so soma is a connecting element between gods and humans. As the moon god, Soma replaced the ancient god Chandra. The moon was the vessel with soma for the gods. When they drank, the crescent moon narrowed. When the potion was refilled, the moon became full again. Soma had 27 wives, corresponding to the 27 lunar houses of Indian astronomy, all of them daughters of Daksha. Soma preferred the Rohini. Daksha was very angry that the moon god Soma was neglecting his other daughters, and he cursed Soma with a curse that slowly drained him. Only at the request of the women of Soma did Daksha change his curse, so that from then on Soma was only periodically emaciated and could then grow again. This is a second explanation for the phases of the moon.

Varuna:
Vedic god. One of the twelve Adityas. His mother is Aditi. Stand at the head of the Asuras. Varuna appears very early in the Vedic era (Rigveda). In pre-Vedic times he was the supreme lord of the cosmos. He creates heaven and earth and determines the outermost limits, such as the horizon. He is a. responsible for the fact that the sun moves across the sky, that day and night as well as the seasons follow one another. Varuna is the strict guardian of the universal cosmic laws - natural, moral and concrete, the maintainer of the cosmic order. He is the all-pervading expansion and purity of the divine that supports the world and makes it more perfect. He is omnipotent and omniscient. His spies see everything that is going on in the world. No human secret remains hidden from him. Varuna is a strict, serious god who can get very angry when someone breaks the rules. Varuna is portrayed as a white man in golden armor. His mount is Makara, a sea monster. In his hands he holds a lasso shaped from a snake. His worship also had a few traits of fear - after all, Varuna is an asura and therefore also has dark traits. He is also the God of the true word and contracts. He punishes people who don't keep their word. Varuna punishes people for their sins, for violating rituals and for immoral speech or action. He is also the god of rain who controls the sky locks. Although there is also the death god Yama, Varuna is also the judge of people in Vedic times, who decides whether people go to heaven (world of the fathers) or to hell (world of earth).

Only later, but still in Vedic times, does it become less important and less universal. Its meaning is changing. Indra overtakes him, both as rain god and supreme lord of the gods. This is because Varuna was the keeper of the water but failed when Vritra stole the water and drought hit the world. Only Indra could defeat Vritra and make it rain again. Lack of fulfillment of duty probably cost Varuna the post. After that, Varuna is only god of water, patron god of the oceans. His servants are the Nagas, the souls of the drowned come to Varuna. He has his seat in a pure white castle. His wife is Varuni.

Vayu:
Wind god, god of the air, old Vedic god. Vayu represents the life forces, symbolized by the life energy Prana. Vayu symbolizes the cosmic breath and the soul of the world. By nature, he is a destructive god with an unbalanced character who has no control over his emotions. He is said to have countless illegitimate children. In post-Vedic, Brahmanic times, it lost its importance and status. He is also known as the king of the Gandharven. He once broke off the top of the world mountain Meru when its defender Garuda slacked off for a moment in his attention. The tip fell into the sea and became the island of Sri Lanka. Now Vayu is watching and protecting the northwest corner of the world. Actually married to a daughter of Vishvakarma. Vayu is the father of Hanuman (also illegitimate). The Pandava Bhima from the Mahabharata is also an offspring of Vayu and Kunti.

Vishnu:
Vishnu in Vedism is a god with a cosmic meaning, not just a hero. Vishnu was already around 1000 BC. Adored and associated with the rising sun. Vishnu is a being who has spread all over the world, heaven and earth. Vishnu created the three worlds. He paced the earth three times to drive away demons. Compare the later story of the demon king Bali, which is already being prepared here.

Yama:
Vedic God, "the tamer", Yama restricts, throttles and regulates. God of death and judge of the deceased. Yama keeps a record of everyone's good and bad deeds. If the lifetime has expired, the god of the dead brings people into his kingdom and judges on the basis of their good and bad deeds about their future whereabouts in heaven, hell or as rebirth on earth. He assigns appropriate rewards and penalties. Yama is a son of the sun god Surya and his wife Saranyu. His twin sister is Yamuna. Both play the role of the first humans, similar to Adam and Eve. Yama is revered as the judge of the dead because he was the first person on earth and was therefore the first to die. Yama was the first man to find death and then took the position of the lord of death and time (kala). According to belief, the journey to the realm of the dead takes four and a half hours, which is why the corpse may only be cremated after this period has elapsed. Yama's mount is a buffalo.

Hindu Mythology Lexicon:
A.B.C.D.E. F. GHI.JKL.M.N O P. Q R.S.TUV. W X Y Z

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© Text, graphics and photos: Bernhard Peter 2005
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