Devraj Indra, the king of dev-s. Let’s first look at these Sanskrit words.
- Dev – deity, wish to overcome, desire to excel, prince, priest, play, sense-organs, king, divine, copy, cloud, offspring, radiance, divine light, resonance, etc.
- Raj – sovereign, meter in prosody, radiant, shining, guidance, governance, etc
- Indra – night, human soul, geometric figure, pupil of the eye, chief, first, excellent, ruler of the east direction, god of the sky, royal, the individual soul/ jiv-atma etc.
Indra is the hero, the warrior, the invincible King of the Dev-s. He is the enjoyer of absolute prosperity, Param-aishwarya. His other names are, Amrish, Devesh, Gyanendra, Mahendra, Purandar, Sachin, Shatamanyu, Satipati, Suresh, Svar-raj, Vajrapani, Vajrin, Vrittahan, Vruddha-shrava, Sutrama, Gotrabhit, Sunasheera, Purohuta etc. Now put these meanings together to get a glimmering as to who and what Indra really is.
Indra is the power who brings life on this earth in all ways possible. Indra controls the sense organs, by energising them with his power. His power is the power of the Jivatma directly linked to the Param-atma. On the esoteric levels, Indra is you, your individual soul/ Jivatma. The conscious essence that you are, is Indra. Your mind, body, soul, your existence. You are the hero of your world, Indra.
Indra is the ruler of the East/ poorva direction. He is the dawn of radiance. Also the ancestral energy most closely connected to the source.
Indra is the yajnya-palak. Yajnya is the continuous evolution of the individual soul/ jivatma. Every action you take is technically a ‘yajnya’. He protects you as you unceasing make efforts to attain the highest Param-Atma. He is the one who gets the energy of the main oblations/ havish offered in the Yadnya. ie when you perform any action you yourself get the main energy linked to that action. If you do good for others know that you are actually doing good for your own self. Conversely if you hurt others you hurt your own self first. Indra also destroys all those who obstruct the performance of yajnya-s. If you want to perform auspicious actions your internal Indra is the one who will help you. Shakra, he is the destroyer of discordant energy. Remember that yajnyas are essentially internal. You offer your Pran with the mantra into your own internal Agni. Thus Indra ie your individual soul receives this energy. There is no concept of an external ‘god’ in Sanatan Dharma. It is all internal, within you.
He is Lokpalak, the guardian/ ruler/ protector of the worlds including the Prithvi, Antariksha and Vyom. Without his support the universe cannot exist. He is the Marutvan. He controls the subsidiary deities called Marut-gan. They are 7 divided into further 7. आवहः Aavaha controls the movement of the earth. प्रवहः Pravaha is connected to the Surya mandala. उद्वहः Udvaha is the one who provides movement in the chandra mandala. सुवहः Suvaha for the luminous heavenly bodies. विवहः Vivaha provides motion to the graha of Jyotish. परावहः Paravaha provides movement in the realm of the Sapta-rishi/ Seven Seers. परिवहः Parivaha is the motion of the Dhruva mandala. These realms are not only in the external space but also within you. Do your spiritual practice to experience them.
The rakshak/ protector of the Dev-Lok, he guards the seat of the divine illumination. He is the Swarg-adhipati, he rules over and protects the incredible energies of the heavenly realms and its treasures. The Swarg-lok has the Ratna/ jewels which emerged out of the Samudra Manthan, these include the Kalpa-vriksha, Kaam-dhenu, Parijaat, Airavat, Amrut etc.
Indra is the Go-rakshak. He brought back the ‘Go’ when they were stolen by Asuras. Go is said to mean cows but it is one of the most complicated words in Sanskrit to understand and then experience, Go has hundreds of meanings like cows, thunderbolt, leather strap, stars, sky, skin, body, light rays, milk, hair, bow string, water, sun, singer, sense-organs, moon, medicinal plants, third eye, one who goes, billion, voice, speech, Devi Sarasvati, Vak, number 9, mother, earth, etc etc. Indra is the energy which protects the internal Go within you from the Asur/ discordant energies.
In the Ved it is said that Indra is the only one who drinks maximum amounts of Soma, Somapa. (I have described the nature of Soma in this post.) Essentially Anna is converted to Soma. Soma is further transduced into Pran. Indra consumes Soma, the purest form of conscious energy and then goes to fight his enemies. The esoteric significance of this is that only when the Jiv-atma has access to maximum amount of Soma can he create the necessary boost of Pran. This Pran will be then channelised into the Sushumna to fight the karmic imprints/ discordance within. Later this Pran will be used to activate the Kundalini, which will rise as a flashing thunderbolt.
Indra is mentioned in every allegory, every Ithihas of Sanatan Dharma.
Ramayan is about the ‘travels of Ram’ so naturally Shri Ram is the main hero. But the main deity mentioned maximum times in the Valmiki Ramayan is Indra. His name Shakra शक्र is mentioned 182 times, Indra इन्द्र 164 times, Mahendra महेन्द्र 95 times, Vasav वासव 74 times, Sahastraksh सहस्राक्ष 54 times, Purandar पुरन्दर 31 times, Shatkratu शतक्रतु 29 times, Vajrin वज्रिन् 25 times, Devraj देवराज 16 times, Pakshashan पाकशासन 11, Sureshwar सुरेश्वर 10, Shachipati शचीपति 8 and Maghvan मघवान् 6 times. In Ramayan, Indra first ‘kills’ Maruti by breaking his jaw and then later revives him and gives him the boon of immortality, makes him a Chiranjeevi. Indra gave Shri Ram his own chariot, charioteer, weapons etc during the war with Ravan. Indra brought back the dead Vanar-s to life when Shri Ram requested him to do so. Indra is very much a major part of the Ramayan.
Then when you study the Mahabharat, again there are several references to Indra. Arjun, the major actor of the Mahabharat, is the son of Indra. Arjun was created by mantras recited by Kunti. Kunti’s other name is Prutha, ie Earth. So then Arjun represents the creative power, the inherent divinity, the genius, the active intelligence, the projection etc, the ‘son’ of Indra which is materialised ie ‘brought by mantras on the earth’. Indra helps the Pandav-s several times, eg by ensuring that Karna gets cursed, by taking away Karna’s kavach-kundal, by giving the Pandav-s divine astra-weapons for fighting the war, protecting them from time to time etc. The Mahabharat is also an esoteric text. In this, Shri Krishna narrates the Yog-shastra Bhagvat Gita to Arjun. So the highest Consciousness (Param-atma), Krishna, describes to the genius of the limited consciousness (Jiv-atma), Arjun, how it can attain the highest Consciousness itself. This is the deepest secret within the Mahabharat.
My favourite Shri-sukta. As per the Laxmi tantra, Devi Mahalaxmi describes and gives this Sukta to none else but Indra. The Ved-s are majorly about Indra. If you read through the allegories and histories of Sanatan Dharma you will realise that Indra is the main pivot around which things happen.
Now I need to write a bit about the Ved-s and the Puran-s.
We have lost a significant portion of Ved, ie the associated Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyk, Upanishad texts etc are incompletely available now. But in what we have at this moment, Indra is without a doubt the most significant Vedic deity. Eg in the Rg Ved, 239 out of 1028 sukta are exclusively composed in his honor. Additional 27 sukta, where he is mentioned with other deities. The Ved describe Indra, his activities, his powers, his heroic achievements. Ved have no origin, there were directly seen from the Akash by enlightened Seers/ Rishi-s. The Vedic age was one of significant enlightenment where even general people were aware of the internal divinity/ Indra within them, and they would make active efforts using the Sukta-s etc to pull themselves higher towards the Param-Atma. The sukta-s dedicated to Indra were used to awaken/ energise their internal Indra. Now unfortunately we are not capable of using these as such and the knowledge too has hidden itself.
Then we come to the Puran-s. In these stories, other deities like Shankar (sometimes called Shiv), Vishnu Brahmadev come into focus. These three deities are the conscious energy of the Satva, Raja and Tamas Gun-s. The Puran were composed by Rishi-s, eg the author of several major Puran-s is Maharshi Vyas. Regarding Indra, in the Puran, there are mainly two recurring themes.
Theme 1 – Indra by his action/ inaction gets into trouble. The negative forces like Daityas, Rakshas-s, Danav-s etc attack him and the Dev-lok, the realm of Divine radiance is in trouble. He rushes to the Tri-dev ie Vishnu Shankar, Brahmadev and requests help. These three deities are generally shown to be in deep Dhyan or asleep, ie inanimate. Only when Indra comes knocking, are they roused and help him defeat his foes. If you analyse this, the only player who acts of his own volition is Indra. He commits mistakes, loses, does penances, wins etc. The several other players help/ hinder/ interact with him in different ways, eg by giving him blessings, weapons, taking avatars or by attacking, cursing him etc. (ie You have to use the energies of the Satva, Raja and Tama Gun to destroy the discordance within you. eg Satva-gun ie Mahavishnu will help Indra in making his Vajra.)
Theme 2 – A Rishi starts doing intense spiritual practice/ Tap. The fierce energy created by this Tap starts shaking the throne of Indra. He feels insecure and sends his Apsara-s to disturb the Rishi and break his sadhana. Sometimes the Apsara succeed and sometimes fail. The Apsara are turbulences in the stillness of the mind, but here these are controlled by Indra. Here Indra is operating at his dullest level of consciousness thus scared of the fire generated by Tapasya. He tries to stop the Tapasya so that he can continue to enjoy the illusion of the jiv-atma/ individual soul. (ie. If you are at the lower levels of spiritual evolution, then try not to get scared by the concept of spiritual practice. Initally the mind will fight it, but later will actively help you in your routine.)
What actually happened during the Puranic times was that the inner awareness of the general population decreased. They started losing touch with their internal divinity. Their internal Indra started getting into trouble, attacked more by negative forces. So the Gun-s, Satva-Vishnu, Raja-Brahmadev and Tamas-Shankar had to be invoked to help Indra. Here the level of the aspirant was lowered in the sense he could not directly invoke Indra using the Vedic suktas directly anymore. So the via media of the three Gun-s energy had to be used. So we have the typical puranic prayers to the Tri-dev. Indra, though shown to be less glamorous, still is the central theme. Indra will always remain the central theme, because he is the Jiv-atma, the player in the Game of Creation. You are the only hero, the only actor in your life, the rest around you only help/ hinder you.
And now we are in the Kali yug, so the internal Indra for most of us is generally overwhelmed by Asur forces, unable to counter-act them.
You are Indra. Puranic or Vedic? Or at a level even lower than the Puranic? Evaluate for yourself.
Indra, as per the Puran-s, is the son of Maharishi Kashyap and Aditi. He is thus the grandson of Brahmadev, ie Raja-gun. Kashyap is a Sanskrit word which essentially is the energy which makes visible or makes something brilliant. Aditi is literally the energy of manifestation, heaven and earth, speech, inexhaustible creative power, perfection, boundlessness, freedom, happiness, completion etc. So Indra is essentially the visible brilliance of the boundless power of manifested creation, which is in motion and is also capable of causing movement.
Aditi and Kashyap have 33 sons, ie the 33 koti Devata-s which exist within all of us. They are Indra, Prajapati, the 8 Vasu, the 11 Rudra and the 12 Aditya. (These are all within you, do click on these links to read about them)
Indra is married to Sachi. Sachi-pati is his name. Pati is the catalyst energy which acts on another substance and causes it to change. The word Sachi has several meanings like speech, skills, activity etc but it is also another name for Vak, Prajnya, Karma. This means that the power of the individual soul/ Jiv-atma enters the substance of Vak, Prajnya and Karma and causes changes in them, leading to further creation. Indra is more esoteric than people today realise.
Indra is the destroyer of several Asur forces including Vala, Panis, Namuchi, Shushna, Sambhara, Himarina, Vrittasur etc. He released Sapta-sindhu, released the Go, created the Agni etc. All these allegories are full of esoteric meanings. I will just briefly write on the esoteric theme of the killing of Vrittasur, you can explore the other allegories on your own if you feel inclined. This is from the Rg ved, 1.80.1-16.
Our minds are very low in consciousness, the several ideas, thoughts, desires, wishes which stir up the serenity of the mind are called Vritti. These Vritti cause turbulence, these are the barriers to self-realisation. Only when the mind becomes still, does the light of the Self dawn. Indra uses his weapon Vajra to kill Vrittasur. This in the esoteric sense means that when you have Indra on your side in your spiritual practice, you put a stop to the waves of disturbance rising in your mind. These waves are Asur, discordant. They stop you from your spiritual practice, cause distress, pain and keep you at a low levels of awareness. When Indra kills Vritasur, the spiritual aspirant starts resonating with OM.
Indra is the only deity who carries a Vajra in his hands. I read about Tibetan Vajrayana and was surprised to note that it is also called Mantrayan, ‘the travel of the Mantra’. One of the major deities of Vajrayana is Vajrasatva, he carries the Vajra and a bell in his hands. The Vajra is used to destroy the turbulence of the mind and the bell with its resonating sound of Om creates the resonance of Om in the aspirant. The Tibetan Vajrayana is deeply connected to Sanatan dharma, especially its practical Tantra/ Mantra/ Yantra aspect.
Now Indra’s weapon, the Vajra. It actually looks like a dumb-bell shaped object, about as big as can be gripped comfortably. It is said to create thunderbolts, which is accurate. Vajra was created by Vishvakarma from the Asti of the body of the enlightened MahaRishi Dadhyang specifically for Indra’s war with Vrittasur. The MahaRishi ‘donated’ his body, specifically his head, as a weapon fashioned only from its Asti could kill Vritasur. The fire of his Tapasya had made his Asti/ essence intensely powerful so if used as a weapon could easily destroy Vrittasur. And there is a proper definition for Vajra, ‘tapovya sa vajra asit’. ie Vajra is the essence, the fire of Tapasya, the radiance emitted when you perform intense spiritual practice. It is the thunderbolt flash of the ascending Kundalini. And Tapa in its essence is the discarding of vasana/ desires which is precisely what killing of Vrittasur implies.
There are endless allegories linked to Indra and his exploits. If you wish you can read them and try to glean their hidden meaning for yourself.
But one thing is true, you become aware of the internal Indra, when you perform your regular spiritual practice, by the blessings of the Param-atma. As per the allegories if you perform 100 Ashvamedh yadnyas you attain the title of Indra. Here Indra is the Vedic Indra, the hero Indra. If you are still at the Puranic or even lower stages of evolution you have to perform 100 Ashva-medh yajnyas to reach this level. Then there is a very confused concept of Ashva-medh going around these days. No one sacrificed horses! In Sanatan Dharma you can never never kill another living thing as a sacrifice, if you do you will create horrendous karma for yourself. Ashva is literally the external and the internal Sun. Medh means ‘essence’. So to first realise the essence of internal Sun, you have to work /act /perform yajnya, ie your regular sustained spiritual practice over several lives consistently.
Understanding and experiencing yourself as Indra is a very significant step in your spiritual practice. Every deity in Sanatan Dharma is there for a specific reason, there are no superstitions in Dharma.
I had to write this post as a response to an adverse comment on Indra. Disparaging Indra means disparaging your individual soul, your own jiv-atma. Who are you now? Indra, the Jiv-atma. What do you want to experience? Advaita, the Param-Atman. This is the secret of all spiritual practice.