Sri Krishna says in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita the following:

वेदानां सामवेदोऽस्मि देवानामस्मि वासवः।

इन्द्रियाणां मनश्चास्मि भूतानामस्मि चेतना।।10.22।।

Vedanam, among the Vedas; I am the Sama-veda. Devanam, among the gods-such as Rudras, Adityas and others; I am vasavah, Indra. Indriyanam, among the eleven organs, viz eye etc.; I am the manah, mind. I am the mind which is of the nature of reflection and doubt. And I am the cetana, intelligence [It is the medium for the manifestation of Consciousness.], the function of the intellect ever manifest in the aggregate of body and organs; bhtanam, in creatures.

I have read in the Srimad Ramayana that Indra was the eldest brother of Vishnu. Then he must be Aditya, the son of Aditi.

Then why is Indra called vAsava?


The Adityas and Vasus refer to two different groups of sons of Kashyapa and Aditi, and Indra is an Aditya and not a Vasu. But Indra is called Vasava for multiple reasons. First of all, because he is the king of the gods, he is also the lord of the Vasus. Second of all, it's because after his famous defeat of Vritrasura, he was considered the vasu or treasure of the gods; here is what this chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana:

When Indra had hurled the thunderbolt at Vritra, thinking himself to be the weaker, and fearing lest he had not brought him down, he concealed himself and went to the farthest distances.... Agni of the deities, Hiranyastûpa of the Rishis, and the Brihatî of the metres, set about searching for him. Agni discovered him and stayed with him (as a guest) that (day and) night. He (Indra), namely, is the Vasu of the gods, for he is their hero.

Here is how Sayana explains the use of the term Vasu:

That is, as would seem, the benefactor, or the treasure (dhanarûpa, Sâyana) of the gods. Indra is the chief of the Vasus. Indra being so beneficent and important a personage, it was, according to Sâyana, worth Agni's while to stay with him.

By the way, when the Ramayana calls Indra the elder brother of Vishnu and when the Bhagavad Gita says "Of the Adityas I am Vishnu", they mean Vishnu's incarnation Vamana the dwarf, who was the youngest son of Kashyapa and Aditi. As I discuss in my answer here, Vamana in particular is called Vishnu because when he grew large he pervaded the Universe. When you are looking in the Vedas for references to the god that we now call Vishnu, you should look for "Narayana" rather than "Vishnu", because references to the name Vishnu generally focus on Vishnu's Vamana incarnation.

  • Thanks for the explanation. However, apart from all pervasiveness - which you say attributable to Vamana, in many places in Srimad Ramayana, Vishnu was described as a warrior, - vishnutulya parAkramaha. Oct 23 '15 at 3:04
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    @srimannaraakv Well, on the subject of the Gita I'll just say that I suggest you look into the connection between the Bhagavad Gita and Pancharatra; it's quite an interesting subject. In any case, the answer I linked to doesn't really rest on that Bhagavad Gita verse. There are plenty of other scriptures, including the Vedas, that describe Vishnu as the preserver. I just chose that Gita verse because I thought people would be familiar with it. Oct 23 '15 at 3:44
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    @srimannarayanakv I discuss Purva Mimamsa in my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/6819/36 The Purva Mimamsa school used to be the dominant school of philosophy. It focused on the Samhitas and Brahmanas of the Vedas as understood by sage Jaimini's Mimamsa Sutras, in contrast to the Vedanta school which focuses on the Vedanta school which focuses on the Upanishads as understood by sage Vyasa's Brahma Sutras. Purva Mimamsa is basically what you get if you take the Hindu worldview and eliminate the gods. Oct 23 '15 at 11:33
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    @srimannarayanakv So they believed in karma, in reincarnation, in the fact that Yagnas confer benefits, etc. but they weren't really committed to the gods. At best they thought the gods were just functionaries giving people what they deserve according to the law of karma. In contrast to the Vedanta school, where the goal is to know/attain Brahman, the goal of the Purva Mimamsa school was to do lots of Yagnas so that you become the next Indra. In any case, the Purva Mimamsa school was popular for a long time, but it proved inadequate to defend Hinduism from attacks by Buddhists and Jains. Oct 23 '15 at 11:39
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    @srimannarayankv Then Adi Shankaracharya was born, and he was a member of the Vedanta school which was quite small at the time. But the Vedanta school proved more effective in defending Hinduism, so Adi Shankaracharya was able to win lots of debates against the leading Buddhist philosophers. As a result, the people who had abandoned Hinduism rejoined, except they became members of the Vedanta school rather than the Purva Mimamsa school. That is why almost all Hindus today belong to the Vedanta school; Advaita, Dvaita, Visishtadvaita, Achintya Bheda Abheda, etc. are all sub-schools of Vedanta. Oct 23 '15 at 11:45

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