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I heard many stories

about deeds of Indra and other gods in Puranas. For e.g. rape of Ahilya by Indra, rape of Tara by Saima etc. So my question is how can a Gods do this?

Are they really God? If they are not God why Vedas praise them? Is there anything from Hindu scriptures especially in Vedas or Upanishads denies them as God.

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Indra is a post which qualified living beings occupy and it changes with each manvantara. 11th Chapter of 3rd canto of Bhagavata says:

Text 24: Each and every Manu enjoys a life of a little more than seventy-one sets of four millenniums.

Text 25: After the dissolution of each and every Manu, the next Manu comes in order, along with his descendants, who rule over the different planets; but the seven famous sages, and demigods like Indra and their followers, such as the Gandharvas, all appear simultaneously with Manu.

Aitareya Brahmana 1.1.1 states:

agnirvai devanamavamo vishnuh paramah tadantara sarva devatah

Agni is the lowest and Vishnu is the highest among devas. All other gods occupy positions that are in between.

Taittiriya Upanishad 2.8.1 states:

bhishasmad vatah pavate bhishodeti suryah bhishasmad agnis candras ca mrityur dhavati pancamah

It is out of fear of the it(Brahman) that the wind is blowing, out of fear of Him that the sun rises , and out of fear of Him that fire acts. It is only due to fear of Him that death and Indra run( to perform their respective duties)

1

Indra is a job. Lord Indra is a jiva who is temporarily holding the post of Indra. A jiva can only get such a job if he has exceptionally good karma. This job is, however, inferior to moksha.

Vritra became the foe of Indra, but Indra slew him also with the Thunder-bolt. In consequence of the sin of Brahminicide, being thus doubled Indra thus became overcome with a great fear and as the consequence thereof he had to abandon the sovereignty of heaven. He entered a cool lotus stalk that grew in the Manas lake. In consequence of the Yoga attribute of Anima, he became very minute and entered the fibres of that lotus stalk. When the lord of the three worlds, the husband of Sachi, had thus disappeared from sight through fear of the sin of Brahminicide, the universe became lordless. The attributes of Rajas and Tamas assailed the deities. The Mantras uttered by the great Rishis lost all efficacy. Rakshasas appeared everywhere. The Vedas were about to disappear. The inhabitants of all the worlds, being destitute of a king, lost their strength and began to fall an easy prey to Rakshasas and other evil beings. Then the deities and Rishis, uniting together, made Nahusha, the son of Ayusha, the king of the three worlds and duly crowned him as such. Nahusha had on his forehead full five-hundred luminaries of blazing effulgence, which had the virtue of despoiling every creature of energy. Thus equipt Nahusha continued to rule heaven. The three worlds were restored to their normal condition. The inhabitants of the universe once more became happy and cheerful. Nahusha then said, - Everything that Indra used to enjoy is before me. Only his spouse Sachi is not by. Having said this, Nahusha proceeded to where Sachi was and addressing her, said, - O blessed lady, I have become the lord of the deities. Do thou accept me. Unto him Sachi replied, saying – Thou art, by nature, wedded righteousness of behaviour. Thou belongest, again, to the race of Shoma. It behoveth thee not to assail another person’s wife. – Nahusha, thus addressed by her said, - The position of Indra is now being occupied by me. I deserve to enjoy the dominions and all the precious possessions of Indra. In desiring to enjoy thee there can be no sin. Thou wert Indra’s and, therefore should be mine.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCCXLIII

I have not yet mentioned the exceptionally good Karma of Indra. How did he become chief of Gods? The answer is given in the passage posted below.

Devasthana said, ',,The Supreme Ordainer created wealth for sacrifice, and He created man also for taking care of that wealth and for performing sacrifice. For this reason the whole of one's wealth should be applied to sacrifice. Pleasure would follow from it as a natural consequence. Possessed of abundant energy, Indra, by the performance of diverse sacrifices with profuse gifts of valuables, surpassed all gods. Having got their chiefship by that means, he shineth in heaven,'

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section XX

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So my question is, how can a god do this?

Apparently, it's the authors of Purāṇas and Itihāsas who made Indra and other Vedic gods commit such deplorable acts.

P. L. Bhargava in his paper The Origin and Development of Purāṇas and Their Relation With Vedic Literature discusses how the Vedic Indra and Varuṇa have been "transformed beyond recognition" in the Purāṇas:

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 (SB VI.12, VI.13). 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 (IV.19.10-11; IX.8.8). 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 (Brahma 87; Padma V.51). 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 (VP V.10-V.12; Brahma 187-88; SB X.24.7). 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 (VP V.30; Brahma 203; SB X.59.39-40).

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 (see the story of Raji and his sons, Vāyu 92.75-90; Brahmāṇḍa III.67.80-96; Matsya 24.35-43; VP IV.9; SB IX.17.12-15). 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 (see the story of Kaṇḍu in Brahma 178). 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 (SB X.28) 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 the denigrating of Vedic gods, the Purāṇic religion has many other features such as the glorification of temples, the consecration of images and the appeasement of planets which cannot be called the amplification of what we find in the Vedas. Thus the claim of the Purāṇas that they reinforce the Vedas cannot stand the test of scrutiny at least in the sphere of religion.

That does not, however, in the least mean that the Purāṇas are not valuable documents. In fact, we should be grateful to the authors of the Purāṇas for preserving for us, even in a distorted form, a record of the great deeds of our ancestors from the earliest times to the fourth century A. D. Much of our history would have been a void if the Purāṇas had not come down to us.

  • The Vedas already contain stories where Indra did all these sinful acts, so there was no need for puranic authors to fabricate these stories. – Ikshvaku Nov 1 at 0:35
  • @Ikshvaku Kindly re-read his answer. He covered your concern. – TheLittleNaruto Nov 1 at 2:27
  • @TheLittleNaruto I did and what he is saying is just wrong. The Vedas do denigrate Indra, but they also praise him. There are stories of him committing adultery in the Vedas, so no need for the Puranic authors to fabricate these stories. Also, he is citing secular Indologists, if you believe them you can also believe other things like the Vedas, are false, Indra doesn't even exist, etc. – Ikshvaku Nov 1 at 13:18
  • @Ikshvaku "Vedas already contain stories where Indra did all these sinful acts" - Indra-Ahalya affair as we know today is not found in the Vedas. It sprung from the imagination of authors of Purāṇas and Itihāsas. See this answer. – sv. Nov 2 at 0:30
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    @Ikshvaku That's not a story, that's just word play. Show me the full story of their affair as it's found in Puranas and Itihasas. Not mere adjectives like 'Lover of Ahalya!' Show me proof of Ahalya being married to Gautama in the Vedas. – sv. Nov 2 at 2:34
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Indra, Agni,Vayu etc., and other 33 Koti deities are divine forms but are born from one infinite immortal formless Brahman and absorbed in it in the end. This has been explained in Kena Upanishada and story of Devi Bhagvatam as well.

Kena Upanishada

Once Brahman won victory for the devas. But unknowing the devas were proud of victory. Thought they, "Ours alone is victory and to us only belongs all the glory."

Brahman knowing their vanity appeared in front of them as an Yaksha (ethereal spirit). But they did not know who that great Yaksha was.

So they said to Agni, "Jataveda, know well what this Yaksha is." And as requested Agni agreed.

He rushed to the Yaksha and the Yaksha (Brahman) asked, "What power do you have and of what nature?" And Agni replied," I am Agni (fire), the omniscient. I can burn all that is on earth."

Then Brahman placed a blade of grass in front of Agni saying, "Burn it." Agni rushed to it with all his strength, but could not burn it. He returned to the gods saying," What the Yaksha was I could not find."

So they said to Vayu (the wind) " O great Vayu, go and find out what this great Yaksha is and from where ." And as requested Vayu agreed.

He (Vayu) rushed to the Yaksha and Brahman asked him who he was. Replied Vayu, " I am Vayu. I am really the master of all skies."

And Brahman enquired," What is the nature of your power in you." And replied Vayu, "All this, whatever that is here , I can blow away."

Brahman placed before him a blade of grass saying, "Blow it away." Vayu approached it with his full might, but could not move it even a little. He too returned to the gods saying, "I could not find that which this Spirit is."

Then the gods requested Indra, "Chief of gods, find out for us this great Spirit and from where." But as he approached, the Spirit disappeared.

And at the very same spot in the sky appeared extremely charming Uma Haimavati (daughter of Himavat). He (Indra) asked her who the great Yaksha was.

Chapter IV "Indeed It was Brahman," she replied. "Through Him alone you all achieved victory." Then only Indra could discern who the incredible Brahman was.

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    You disappointed me with this answer my friend. You can write better . You have to write from vedas @Manu Kumar – srimannarayana k v Oct 31 at 16:15
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    @srimannarayanakv Kena Upanishad is part of Vedas. – Ikshvaku Oct 31 at 16:56
  • @srimannarayanakv i already explained in detail in some of the previous answer,hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/35071/… there are several deities, but God is one and for it there is no action, actions and forms are prone to mistakes,fears and finiteness. – Manu Kumar Oct 31 at 17:39
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Are Devas like indra god?

They are Devas, but they are not the supreme Brahman. They are Jivatmas who have done lots of good deeds, so they are born as deities such as Indra, Rudra, Brahma, Agni, etc.

So my question is how can a Gods do this?

Because deities like Rudra, Brahma, Indra, Agni, etc. are not the supreme Brahman (God); they are impure and still bound by karma and the three gunas.

Narayana (Vishnu) on the other hand is the supreme Brahman and his acts are pure; hence, he does not rape or murder.

Rudra is a created deity still bound by sin (papa), as shown in this Shatapata Brahmana verse:

“Pragâpati said to him [Rudra], 'My boy, why do you cry, when you are born out of labor and trouble?' He said, 'Nay, but I am not freed from sin; I have no name given me: give me a name!' Hence one should give a name to the boy that is born, for thereby one frees him from evil;--even a second, even a third (name), for thereby one frees him from evil time after time” - (Satapatah Brahmana 6:1:3:9)

The medieval Sri Vaishnava scholar Pillai Lokacharya has elaborated on the faults of these mortal Devas, and have shown that they are not adequate protectors:

And more, they [the Devas] are sometimes known to be vanquished by such mighty Asuras as Hiranya and Ravana, and compelled to do for them all sorts of menial services.

But what about Indra, Brahma, and Rudra? an objector may ask. The answer is: It is true that Iinidra is the ruler of the three worlds, and yet it is too well-known how he is in constant fear of losing this high estate. He is often curse-stricken, pays the penalty by suffering for Brahmahatya, is bound as a captive by Indrajit, and allows his sway to get into the hands of such beings as Mahabali. Such then is Indra, weeping and crawling in the dust!

Brahma is no better than Indra, for he is assailed by such evil genii as Madhu and Kaitabha, and is deprived of the Vedas which to him are his 'eyes and treasure.' And his head he allows to be ripped by Rudra (his own son).

Nor again is Rudra any the better. For he is to begin with, the Destroyer par excellence, how can he then protect? Water is wished for by the thirsty, but Rudra of the fire-colour offers himself to such thirsty worshippers of his as fire! He exacts horrid offerings from his devotees by saying, "Kill for me, roast for me." Banasura was his votary, so much so that Rudra pledged himself to guard him so that even 'the flower he wore on his head should not fade.' But when Krishna was hacking Bana's one thousand arms as if they were so many cactus stems, the boasted guardian Rudra shut his eyes and slipped away from his ward uttering, 'If life is spared, I can live by selling salt.' Again, he a sinner, cut the throat of Brahma, the guide of the worlds, his own father, and wandered about after such acts of treason in his won house, with the skull of his father fast clinging to his hand, from door to door, in search of a savior.

So,

Are they really God?

The answer is no.

If they are not God why Vedas praise them?

They do some sins, but generally the Devas are very righteous people. They are devotees of Brahman, protect the universe from Asuras, and are knowledgeable about Brahman.

Is there anything from Hindu scriptures especially in Vedas or Upanishads denies them as God.

See above.

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