The Vedic Gods

- April 4, 2023

By Malini Saigal

The earliest Hindu scriptures are the Vedas, which have hymns to many gods or devas, most of whom were linked to natural phenomena such as Indra (god of thunder and rain), Vayu (god of wind), Agni (god of fire), Surya (sun god), Chandra (moon god), and so on. These gods were also the Dikpalas or guardians of the eight directions.

Illustration: Sanjay Valecha, Durgesh Velhal

Indra is the king of the Vedic gods. He carries a thunderbolt and brings rain or life to the world. He rides on Airavata, the white elephant, and presides over a sumptuous court in Indralok, with beautiful apsaras in attendance. He is also the guardian of the eastern direction and the husband of the beautiful Shachi or Indrani.

Illustration: Sanjay Valecha, Durgesh Velhal

Agni is the god of fire. He is associated with the domestic cooking fire and also with the fire lit at yagnas. So, his is often shown with two flames around his crown. He is the one who carries all the offerings to the various gods (as the offerings are given into the fire). Agni rides a ram and is also the lord of the southeast direction. In later times, he also becomes the foster father to Kartikeya, the son of Shiva.

Illustration: Sanjay Valecha, Durgesh Velhal

Vayu is the Vedic god of wind. He is also the lord of prana or breath. His is the guardian of the northwest direction.

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Goddess Durga is as widely worshipped as Vishnu and Shiva. She is the fierce form of Devi who, as Shakti, is considered the personification of universal energy. According to the Devi Bhagavata the Universe is but Her manifestation - and even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva worship Her. Durga is worshipped in sixty-four forms as Ambika, Kali, Chamundi, Devi, Uma, etc. The worship of Durga is supposed to be more than 4,000 years old in India. The names of Uma and Parvati occur in the Taittiriya Aranyaka and the Kena Upanishad. Some Indologists are of the opinion that the figure seated on a lion in the coins of Azes I, the Shaka ruler (c. 5 B.C. to A.D. 30), represents Ambika or Durga. Durga is worshipped in one form or another in almost every Indian village. This Amar Chitra Katha is based on the Durga-Saptashati of the Markandeya Purana.

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