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While some puranas describe Indra as a devotee of Lord Vishnu or other gods, the Vedas, in contrast depict Lord Indra as the most important gods. This is visible across the length and breadth of the Vedic literature.

However, in the puranas we find stories that Indra was defeated by Lord Krishna and others, Lord Indra was helpless and hence went and prayed to Lord Vishnu etc.

Why is that the importance of Vedic gods, especially Indra, Agni, etc. reduced after the advent of puranic worship?

Indra: About a quarter of the Rig Veda is addressed to Indra. There is hardly any hymn where Indra has not been celebrated. Even in the Soma Mandala, Indra has been called out as the Greatest Somapa (Drinker of Soma). He is the Satakratu (Performer of hundred yajnas), the Maghavan (Bestower of plenty), the Purandr (Destroyer of enemies’ forts). He is the Hero of the Heroes.

Vishnu: Vishnu is a minor God (less mainframe), linked to his 3 strides. Only 6 hymns of the Holy Rg Veda extol Lord Visnu. Vishnu has been variously called Urukrama (wide strides) Urugaya (Wide moving). In Rig Veda Vishnu has been several times associated with Indra. Vishnu accompanied the Great Indra in several battles against Dasas and A-suras, most significant being the annihilation of Vrtr.

Subsequent Vaishnav cult and Puranic literature reversed the roles, identifying Lord Vishnu with the sustainor and relegating Indra to a minor rain-God, who was vanquished by an Avatar - Lord Krshna.

What is then the reason that mainstream Vedic gods were replaced by others?

Who is responsible for this shift from Vedic to puranic worship?

  • The shift from Vedic to Puranic religion is the transfer of power from SaptaSindhu to Madhyadesa. The RigVedic events took place in Pakistan/Western Punjab - the battle between Indra and Krishna (govardhana giri) marks Vedic/Hindu culture moving to Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas. – S K Nov 28 '17 at 0:24
  • What is opinion of Sri Aurobindo on this? – The Destroyer Nov 28 '17 at 4:40
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    In Rigveda, different different sages are performing yajna to Devas and calling Devas to accept their offering. Indra as a kings of gods and Agni as a mediator b/w gods & sages got more preference. – YDS Nov 28 '17 at 8:50
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    And if you want to merely consider percentages of hymns, consider the MBH. The core story of Pandavas is already a minor part. And the story of Krishna is even smaller. That does not mean that one is above the other, or that the MBH is not about the Pandavas and the war. – user1952500 Nov 28 '17 at 19:16
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    The final point I want to make is: we need to consider what each work is for. Do we need to know about Indra etc in the ManuSmriti? Not really because it's not intended to talk about Indra. What is the purpose of the Vedic works? Is it to extol Gods? It has been chiefly an instrument for yagnas and hymns for material benefits. Yes, you will not find a hymn to cause rain which is addressed to Vishnu / Shiva. Does that mean anything more than the fact that the easiest way to get rain is to pray to Varuna / Indra / Mitra? – user1952500 Nov 28 '17 at 19:19
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Is Indra the chief god of the Vedas?

Yes. This is already discussed in Which Vedic verses describe Indra as Brahman?

But, please note that Agni, Surya, Prajapati, Brahma, Shakti, Shiva and Vishnu also can be proved Supreme. This is already discussed in below questions:

How were the Trimurthi born?

Which Vedic verses describe Indra as Brahman?

Do any verses in the Vedas declare Agni to be supreme?

Why is Lord Surya also called Suryanarayana?

Which scriptures or Vedic hymns declare the Sun as the Supreme God (Brahman)?

Do any Vedic verses depict Lord Vishnu to be supreme?

Are the Vedic Gods Prajapati and Brahma the same?

Why Lord Vishnu is refereed as Upendra (Junior to Indra) in Vedas?

Just because of his incarnation as Vamana (as younger brother of Indra). And due to this very reason Lord Vishnu is called as Aditya. Vishnu in Adityas is not the Lord Vishnu from Trinity but his incarnation as a son of Aditi. Even being a Upendra he saved Indra's throne from Bali by measuring the entire Universe in his three steps.

Why is Lord Vishnu referred to as Upendra in the Vedas?

Lord Vishnu is not only Upendra but also Mahendra. Valmiki Ramayana ६-११७-१७:

इन्द्रकर्मा महेन्द्रस्त्वं पद्मनाभो रणान्तकृत् || शरण्यं शरणम् च त्वामहुर्दिव्या महर्षयः |

And last point, Puranas didn't make Indra as rain god, he is depicted as rain god in Rigveda too.

Is Indra of the Vedas the rain god Indra?

  • Many deities are.told as brahman but cheif means prominent – Rakesh Joshi Dec 7 '17 at 9:48
  • @RakeshJoshi Yes, Indra is prominent too..if we talk about Devas then how come their king is not prominent..And when we say Indra, Prajapati, Vedvyas, Manu etc we actually talk about a Post and not about an individual.. ofcourse Indra (king of Devas) is definitely a prominent post.... – YDS Dec 7 '17 at 10:00
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normally indra was at vedic times the god who defeated vritra , rain causing god, helper of cows and also the friend of men who helped men against dasyus and dasas and protector of rivers, lord indra freed rivers and usas[ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vala_(Vedic) ]
but at that time this was only indra who defeated vritra and vala so till that time he was the prominent god also agni was the prpminent god and both were twin brothers well in that case also all gods were great and were praised in their hymns. ' https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

well the reason of prominence of indra and agni that time i will explain with examples Maruta ganas were sons of lord rudra in vedas but they have more hymns dedicated to them than lord rudra in rigveda. The reason behind this is they were compainions of indra and helped him finding the cows which were hidden.

So after in post-vedic age when asuras appeared which can not be killed by indra and were killed by the great gods like lord shiva, lord vishnu and godness durga etc. the got more prominence like in vedic days lord vishnu was famous for his three strides which of two are seen by mortals and the third by immortals.

As rigveda means "the book of praises"

This answer is upto you to consider this is just my opinion. ;)

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • It is not about being ultimate god or not. Its about prime deity. This is not to. Mean that other deities are lesser. – Rakesh Joshi Nov 28 '17 at 22:07
  • answer updated thanks for your opinion. ;) – Fierce lord Nov 29 '17 at 8:18
  • puranas say that indra.cannot defeat asuras.in.order to introduce the concept of avataras – Rakesh Joshi Feb 7 '18 at 23:47
  • @Rakesh joshi i thought the question is about vedas prime diety??? And btw if you not remember till epic period till he got some importance like he revived the vanara sena of rama and in mahabharata great warriors like arjun and karna were compared with sakra(indra) but in purans he got a lot down and not very powerfull. – Fierce lord Feb 8 '18 at 7:59
  • so its up to you if you go by vedas or mahabharata. And puranas – Rakesh Joshi Feb 8 '18 at 11:04
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You're talking about rig Veda, even in all four Vedas, narayana suktam talks about supreme brahman and purusha suktam, both for Lord Vishnu. westerners want to divide India using rig Veda. The biggest of hymns are only for Lord Vishnu.

Also having more hymns doesn't mean he is supreme. He is born to aditi. He has a soul and will die.

  • Its totally wrong. I can show you many more verses showing greatness and supremacy of lord Indra who is the chief vedic god – Rakesh Joshi Feb 7 '18 at 23:45
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Yes, Who old that Designation will be the GOD of that.

Indra is not a one person, it's position hold one after one. As per Adi parva of Shiva Purana. When Discussing about Draupadi Janma rahasya. Shiva will test the Indira and ask him to make two pieces of the cave with his Vajrayuda. Once he break, he will she another 4 persons like him and will ask shiva with surprising. Who are there, Then Shiva replies, Before you Take over, these people hold that position and weapon.

So, as per this Indra is not a God, it's a designation

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    Puranic stories are made.in.order to show avataras superior to vedic gods – Rakesh Joshi Feb 7 '18 at 23:46

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