Indra – The King of Heaven – Indian Mythology


Indra is the king of the lesser gods, known as the Devas. He is the son of Aditi and sage Kashyapa, and is one of the Adityas. His capital city is Amaravathi, in the heavens. He posseses an elephant known as Iyravata and a divine cow named Kamadhenu. This cow is capable of yielding anything desired by the seekers and hence Indra is very rich. He also posses a tree called Kalpatharu, which is also capable of yielding riches.
Indra is the principal deity of the Rig Veda. Most of the hymns in this primary text of Hinduism are addressed to him. Sometimes he is addressed as a dual Mitra-Indra. He is capable of granting minor boons to his devotees. He is not directly worshipped, but often invoked in sacrifices.
It is said that Indra is not one person, but rather the generic name of the king of heaven. Upon performing certain sacrifices or penances, a mortal can ascend to heaven and attain the position of the king of heaven. His reign shall last till another person becomes eligible for this position. It is said that performing a thousand Ashwamedha sacrifices makes one eligible to be Indra. Therefore, the present Indra will always be jealous of his position and always keeps an eye on mortals performing sacrifices or penances, lest they fulfill the condition and dethrone him.
In the Rig Veda, Indra is depicted as the most powerful god. However, in latter texts, his importance has been considerably diminished. He is no longer all-powerful, instead he is subject to the overlordship of the supreme trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. He is depicted as deceitful and weak-minded in many stories. Due to his actions, he is often cursed by sages. In one such story he is cursed to be turned into a woman by the sage Gautama.
Indra, the slayer of Vritra is all powerful and supreme among gods.
He is the lord of the skies, of thunder and rain
He is the greatest of the Audityas, the begetter of fire

However, the first hymn in the Rig Veda is addressed to Agni, the God of fire, and not to the king of heaven. His queen and consort is Sachi. The Asuras are his mortal enemies. The war between the Asuras and Devas is an eternal one, with occasionally the Asuras gaining the upper hand and overthrowing the gods from their heavenly abode. [R.V.10.1]

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