The Rigveda 10.164.46 states:

ekam sad viprA bahudhA vadanti agnim yamam mAtrishvAnam Ahuh ||

The sages describe the one existence (ekam sat) in many ways. It is called as Agini, Yama, MatrishvAn.

But these forms are no longer worshipped by most hindus regularly in spite of being mentioned as the Forms of the Supreme God by the Highest Authority!

Indra is also such a form Who was glorified by the Vedas.

What is the reason behind this?

  • How Indra and Agni came to be replaced(?) by Vishnu and Shiva is, to me, one of the biggest mysteries of hinduism. – user16581 Apr 19 '19 at 14:09
  • @LazyLubber yes, Vishnu is mentioned as Upendra and Tikagnikala is one name of Shiva! – user17294 Apr 19 '19 at 14:15
  • @LazyLubber there is nothing mysterious- look into rise of Brahmanism and classical Sanskrit – B.N. Bhaskar Apr 21 '19 at 7:42
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    Look, the scriptures written in classical sanskrit amounts to a consistent character assasination of Indra , while in RigVeda he is supreme. – B.N. Bhaskar Apr 26 '19 at 8:20
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    @commonman yes you are right that ' Truth was revealed gradually ' to Brahmins , quite contrary to 'Truth' revealed to the sages of RigVeda. – B.N. Bhaskar Apr 26 '19 at 8:38

Indra is also such a form Who was glorified by the Vedas ... But these forms are no longer worshiped by most Hindus ... what is the reason behind this?

As P. L. Bhargava explains in The Origin and Development of Purāṇas and Their Relation With Vedic Literature the authors of various Purāṇas are responsible for bringing disrepute to Vedic gods like Indra, Varuṇa, etc.

The religion of the Ṛgveda is very simple and there is hardly any room for mythology in it. The later Vedas have also very little of mythology. It is the Brāhmaṇa literature with which real mythology starts. The mythology of the Brāhmaṇas is, however, mostly a natural development of the beliefs recorded in the Vedas, though at places it violates the spirit of the Vedic hymns. Later works like the Bṛhaddevatā are much nearer the Purāṇas. As a matter of fact the Purāṇas being mostly sectarian works, their main aim was to extol and elevate their own particular god at the expense of other gods. The Vaiṣṇava Purāṇas were particularly aggressive in this respect. They naturally wanted the exclusive worship of Viṣṇu and since some of the other Vedic gods, particularly Indra, stood in the way of the ascendancy of Viṣṇu, they distorted the Vedic account of this god and even fabricated new stories to bring Indra into disrepute. The truth is that Indra was already a very popular god when the ancestors of the Indians and Iranians were still one people. For this reason Zoroastrianism in Persia and Vaiṣṇavism in India had to face great difficulty in persuading the people not to worship Indra as a competitor of Ahura Mazda and Viṣṇu respectively. The Zoroastrian Avesta therefore converted Indra into a demon and the Vaiṣṇava Purāṇas did everything short of turning him into a demon in order to bring him into disrepute. Let us now see how the Purāṇas distorted the Vedic image of Indra.

One of the chief epithets of Indra in the Ṛgveda is Vṛtrahan, which he earned as a result of his victory over Vṛtra, the demon of drought. This is the greatest exploit of Indra in the Ṛgveda. This demon is pictured as a dragon encompassing the waters and by killing him Indra releases water for the mankind and thus acts as the saviour of humanity. In this fight the Maruts are his regular allies but Agni, Soma and Viṣṇu also often assist him. Now let us turn to the Purāṇas. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa has converted the dragon Vṛtra into a Brahman by killing whom Indra incurred the sin of Brahmanicide. This transformation is in itself amazing but when it is added that Vṛtra was a devotee of Viṣṇu, one simply feels astounded for in the Ṛgveda Viṣṇu helps Indra in the slaying of Vṛtra.

Another epithet of Indra in the Ṛgveda showing his great power is Śatakratu which means one having a hundred powers. This epithet was interpreted by the Purāṇic authors as meaning one who performs a hundred sacrifices and so in consonance with this meaning it was presumed that one who performs a hundred sacrifices becomes Indra. Hence Indra has been shown as being constantly afraid of kings who intend to perform a hundred sacrifices and trying to foil their intention. One such example is that of Pṛthu. Another is that of Sagara. The horses of both were stolen by Indra according to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. What a travesty! From a lover of sacrifices in the Ṛgveda Indra has been transformed into one who dreads the sacrifices in the Purāṇas.

Yet another epithet of Indra in the Vedas is Ahalyāyai jara which only means favourer of the unploughed land. The personification of Ahalyā began in the Brāhmaṇas but the Purāṇas fabricated a most unseemly story wherein Ahalyā has been depicted as the wife of a ṛṣi named Gautama who pronounces a very ugly curse on Indra for seducing her. Thus the ṛṣis who used to worship Indra in the Vedas have been given the role of cursing him in the Purāṇas.

In the Vaiṣṇava Purāṇas which give the story of Kṛṣṇa, Indra has been several times depicted in an unfavourable light in order to prove the superiority of Kṛṣṇa. A notable example is the incident of Kṛṣṇa's substituting the worship of the Govardhana hill for that of Indra and Indra's subsequent wrath and humiliation. Another example is provided by Kṛṣṇa's invasion of Indra's heaven for carrying away the Pārijāta tree in order to satisfy the whim of his wife Satyabhāmā and for bringing about Indra's complete debacle.

Another feature of the Purāṇic Indra is his fear of the demons for which he constantly seeks the aid of human kings. Sometimes even human kings are represented as subduing him. He is also afraid of ascetics who by their austerities can capture heaven and so whenever any ascetic performs severe austerities Indra sends some Apsaras to distract his mind. Thus in the hands of the Purāṇic authors the Vedic Indra has been transformed beyond recognition.

What applies to Indra applies in a lesser degree to the other great Vedic god Varuṇa because of his much less popularity. This omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent god of the Vedas has become a god of pools and puddles in the Purāṇas. One example from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa will suffice to show how completely he has been shorn of his greatness by the Purāṇas. Once when Nanda, the fosterfather of Kṛṣṇa, went to bathe in the Yamuna a servant of Varuṇa made him a captive and took him to Varuṇa. When Kṛṣṇa came to know of this he went to Varuṇa who, while beseeching him to take back his father, pacified him by humble prayers and apologies.

Besides Indra-Ahalyā story, Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa also shows Vāyu in a bad light. After reading such stories it is but natural to lose respect towards Vedic gods.

Bālakāṇḍa - Chapter 31

O Rama! ... Through Ghritachi, the great-souled royal sage, Kushanabha, with dharma in his soul, had one hundred supreme daughters. They were young and beautiful. Once, ornamented, they went to a grove and were like one hundred flashes of lightning during the monsoon. O Raghava! They sang, danced and played on musical instruments. Adorned in excellent ornaments, they were in a paroxysm of delight. Their limbs were beautiful and their beauty was unmatched on earth. They went to that grove and were like stars amidst clouds. Having seen them, Vayu, who pervades everything, told them, "I desire all of you. Become my wives. Abandon your human forms and obtain long lifespans instead." They heard the words of Vayu, unsullied in his deeds. However, those one hundred maidens laughed at his words and replied, "O supreme among gods! You roam around inside all creatures. All of us know about your powers. But why are you slighting us? O supreme among gods! All of us are Kushanabha's daughters and are capable of dislodging you from your status. It is just that we want to preserve our store of austerities. O evil-minded one! Our father is truthful in speech. The time will never come when we will cross our father, transgress dharma and resort to svayamvara. Our father is our lord. He is our supreme divinity. Our husband will be the one to whom our father bestows us." Hearing their words, Vayu was greatly enraged. The illustrious lord entered their bodies and disfigured their limbs. Mangled by Vayu, those maidens entered the king's residence. On seeing that they had been mangled, the king was terrified and spoke these words. "O daughters! How did this happen? Who has shown disrespect towards dharma? Who has made your bodies crooked? Why are you trembling and not saying anything?"'

(Debroy, Bibek. The Valmiki Ramayana: Vol. 1)


According to my understanding, if we omit interpolations like "Purusha Sukata", the Rig Veda contains pure spiritual aspects of of that era. Apparently, those hymns from Rig Veda might be referring to Indra (Over a quarter of the 1,028 hymns of the Rigveda mention Indra, making him the most referred to deity than any other), Agni, Vishnu, etc, but to the seers, who heard from within, they might have gave deep SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS.

In Rig Veda, the Almighty God was described in different names like Indra, Agni, Vayu, Vishnu, etc, according to the form, the Almighty's power was perceived.

a) The God was described as Indra, when he was praised as the saviour.

b) Vishnu indicates the all pervasiveness of the God. In Rig Veda, it was described as Vishnu made space by taking 3 great strides, for Indra for wielding him his Vijra, for eliminating Vritra.

Similarly, with Agni, Vayu, etc.

c) The allegorical stories of Indra's slaying of Vritra, etc, have deep SPIRITUAL meaning, but understood by later day generations in too literal ways.

d) This resulted in evolving of ritualistic concepts like Yagna, sacrifices, etc, in Yajurvedic era.

This lead to converting allegorical stories of/epithets like Prajapati used in Rig Vedic era into deifying different Gods like Brahma, Indra, Vishnu, into fixed forms and stories like Varaha, attributing to Prajapati Brahma, etc, were woven.

स वराहः ततो भूत्वा प्रोज्जहार वसुंधराम् | असृजच् च जगत् सर्वम् सह पुत्रैः कृत आत्मभिः || २-११०-४

"Thereafter, that Brahma, assuming the form of boar, caused the earth to rise from water and with his sons of pure soul, created the entire world."

Ayodhya Kanda, Ramayana

e) This decline in the capacity of successive generations in comprehending the pure SPIRITUAL concepts and consequential development of ritualistic ways, deviated the people from the pure SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS, further deteriorating the system into fixed ritualistic society.

f) Even in Ramayana, importance was given to physical rituals and Sri Rama was described as expert in Yajurveda (यजुः वेद विनीतः - 35th Sarga 14th Sloka of Sundara Kanda).

It does not mean to say that Ramayana occurred at that point of time, but was composed in that ritualistic Yajurvedic period.

g) It was in that chaotic period, Gautama, the Buddha was born. The teachers of ritualistic generation could not offer proper answers to the Buddha. Hence, he discarded the ritualistic methods and found his own way of SELF REALISATION.

h) His methods may be different, but the ultimate goal is the same as the seers of Rig Vedic visualised. However, the successive followers of Buddha could not fully comprehend his ABSTRACT concepts, and they also got degenerated and split into groups.

i) Finally, Sri Sankara was forced to held arguments at length with various scholars of his time for bringing back many of them in to the fold of SANAATANA DHARMA and purging of Buddhism from India.

However, due to his shorter life span, he could not rejuvenate the Rig vedic concepts to original place. Perhaps, due to this vaccum created by his departure, the 6 methods of worship, writing of Puranas, etc, were taken place.

In SPIRITUAL concepts, irrespective of understanding of the scriptures, one should have been gifted with INTUITION, without which the real meaning of the SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS, can NEVER be understood.

1) INDRA, the Chief of Gods in Rig Vedic Period, was degraded in the later part of literature and was attributed with so many vices and avarice, viz., his misadventure with Ahalya, etc.

2) Prajapati appears late in the Vedic layer of texts, and the hymns that mention him provide different cosmological theories in different chapters. His role peaked in the Brahmanas layer of Vedic text, then declined to being a group of helpers in the creation process.

This prajapati concept was converted into Brahma in later stages and 6 Prajapatis were stated to have been created by Brahma. Brahma was temporarily elevated to the status of Creator of all in Ramayana, but later degraded and placed next to Vishnu and Shiva. Further, he was attributed with various vices, like his lust towards Parvati.

3) We do not find Shakti, Ganapati, etc, in Vedic Era. Even in Bhagvad Gita we do not find mention of Shakti, Ganapati.

4) In Puranas, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, etc , were elevated to the level of SUPREME GODS, and Indra was defamed, while attributing various vices.

5) Yama was not mentioned in the oldest part of Rig Veda, but had been mentioned in Mandala 1 and 10.

There was a clear shift, in my view, from Pure SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS of Rig Vedic era to ritualistic Yajurveda period. This shift was more pronounced in Puranas.

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    Jamison and Brereton write - "But the R̥ gveda is first of all a liturgical text. The great majority of its hymns were composed for rituals and, more specifically, for the soma rituals of their period. After the collection of the R̥ gveda, its verses were adapted to the recitations and chants of the classical soma ritual and employed in a variety of other ritual contexts. Understanding the R̥ gveda, therefore, first requires understanding the Vedic rituals and, above all, the soma ritual." – user16581 Dec 12 '19 at 1:45
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    So also, in vedantic schools like advaita, most of the Rig veda, is treated as karma kanda (ritualistic section) rather than jnana kanda (knowledge section). – user16581 Dec 12 '19 at 1:48
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion: The sacrifices mentioned in Rig Veda, as per my understanding, are epithets used for mental Yajna instead of physical Yajna. Soma is not a physical juice, but an epithet used to indicate a BLISS as a result of SPIRITUAL practices. – Srimannarayana K V Dec 12 '19 at 2:25
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    There is a tendency at times to suspect a higher hidden meaning in and impute sophistication to ancient rituals where these don't exist. This answer is speculative and Occam's Razor would stipulate there is nothing more to these rituals than meets the eye – iruvar Dec 12 '19 at 3:37
  • @iruvar: Human nature is such that it will not accept a simple concept head on, but try to make it complex and then try to solve it. – Srimannarayana K V Dec 12 '19 at 5:25

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