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Indra with thunderbolt ( vajra ) on the elephant Airavata , Somanathapura (around 1265)
Indra on Airavata in the lintel of the Khmer temple of Prasat Ban Phluang , Thailand (around 1170)
Indra on Airavata in the Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia (around 960)
Indra and his wife Indrani on Airavata (around 1675)

Indra ( Sanskrit , m., इन्द्र "mighty, strong") is a Vedic deity, which, however, is of little importance in today's religious life of Hinduism . Together with his brothers Agni and Vayu , he forms a Vedic triad of gods. Many of its aspects were transferred to the Hindu deities Shiva and Vishnu in India from the Gupta period or earlier ; in Khmer art, on the other hand, it is often depicted later.


Indra's parents were heaven ( Dyaus ) and earth ( Prithivi ), whom the god separated from each other forever immediately after birth. He dethroned his father, overturned the old order and usurped control of the world. In addition, he seems to have ousted the god Varuna as the highest god and has surpassed him in popularity over time.

In the early Indian Vedic religion Indra is presented as the highest, warlike god of the sky, the god of storms and rain, "without whom no victory is possible, whom one invokes in battle ..." (Rigveda 2,12,9 de sa ). He is the god of warriors, of the Kshatriya class. He is also regarded as the god of fertility, creation and rain, as well as the king of the gods. In general, he embodies the productive forces of nature. Indra is the most famous god of the Vedic period and is the god most invoked and sung about: around 250 hymns of the Rig Veda are addressed to him alone. According to the Vedic scriptures, it is he who shatters any resistance.

He performs a series of heroic deeds. So Indra kills the dragon or drought demon Vritra with his thunderbolt ( vajra ) and frees the cows from the panis , a host of rich and stingy demons. Likewise, according to mythology, he kills the demon Namuci , who steals his soma from him. Indra has strong anthropomorphic traits. The Indologist Jan Gonda describes him as the most anthropomorphic of the Vedic gods. He is the great conqueror and hero as well as the fighter against the Asuras , for gods and people, bursts with strength and vitality, is the greatest eater and drinker, drinks huge amounts of Soma (an invigorating drink), brings material things to bloom, gives wealth and punishes the lie. Indra leads the gods into battle against the Asuras. In this capacity he is also counted among the Adityas , the sons of the goddess Aditi . Other Vedic gods are Agni and Varuna . His brothers are Agni and Surya . He is married to Indrani , the goddess of anger, jealousy and nagging. His servants and comrades in arms are the divine Maruts or Rudras , the gods of the air and the storm. Since he commits a brahmin murder , the worst sin, he is freed from this sin by a cleansing offering.

Indra is considered in the Vedas as the “King of the Gods”, who appears in many forms and meanings in Indian myths. His weapon is the thunderbolt ( vajra ). He lives in the city of Amaravati as lord of the heavenly world ( svargaloka ) in a palace on the top of Mount Meru . There he rules together with his wife Indrani over a kind of "warrior's paradise" in the clouds, similar to the Germanic Walhalla . Gandharven make the music there, while Apsaras perform dances and plays for Indra's fallen warriors. Occasionally, from Svarga , Indra sends his apsaras to earth to seduce people whom the god considers too ascetic . Indra herself also has numerous love affairs. The god is generally considered benevolent, helpful, active, dynamic, ecstatic, sensual, fast, wild, warlike, heroic, brave and strong. Indra has numerous epithets such as Vritrahan ("Vritra-slaughter"), Sakra ("the mighty"), Sacipati ("lord of strength"), Vajri ("thunderer"), Svargapati ("lord of heaven"), Purandara (" City Destroyer ") and Meghavahana (" Cloud Rider ").


Indra is shown frightening, huge, with a thick somatic belly, a hundred testicles and four arms. In one hand he holds the vajra , his special weapon with which he kills demons and brings fallen warriors back to life, the other holds a barbed stick or spear, the third holds a quiver of arrows, and the fourth holds a web of illusions and a hook ready to catch and stumble enemies. His bow is the rainbow. Its body color is usually red or gold. His mount ( vahana ) is the white, heavenly giant elephant Airavata , the heavenly ancestor of all Indian elephants, "the animal-shaped archetype of the rain-giving monsoon cloud or a white horse." Occasionally he is also shown next to his dog Sarama . Sometimes, however, he is also shown in a cart pulled by Rossen, driven by his friend Matali .

Indra today

In today's Hinduism, Indra is of comparatively little importance. He is only considered the deified king and rain giver and lord of the heavenly kingdom ( Svarga ) on the world mountain Meru. He also has a function as the Lokapala of the East. In addition, he is mentioned in the Mahabharata as the father of the Pandava hero and legendary archer Arjuna from the Bhagavadgita , whom he repeatedly supports in exile. In battle, he is regularly defeated by demons like Ravana and more popular newer gods and heroes like Krishna . According to the Puranas , Indra's main weaknesses are being overly devoted to his sensual pleasures and intoxicating somatic potion. He is portrayed as a penitent for killing the Brahmin Vritra and is considered a bit dumb. In the course of time, many of his functions were taken over by Vishnu , who seems to have replaced him as preserver of the world and fighter against demons.

In the Nepalese capital Kathmandu , the week-long Indra Jatra festival is held annually at the end of the rainy season in September , during which the Mahakali pyakhan dance theater is performed.


  • Heinrich Zimmer : Indian Myths and Symbols. Diederichs, Cologne 1981, ISBN 3-424-00693-9 .
  • Jan Gonda : Veda and older Hinduism. ( The religions of mankind , Volume 11) W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 1960, Indra .
  • Peter and Anneliese Keilhauer: The Imagery of Hinduism. The Indian world of gods and their symbolism. DuMont, Cologne 1985, ISBN 3-7701-1347-0 , pp. 219f.
  • Rachel Storm: Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology. Reichelsheim 2000, Indra .
  • Gerhard J. Bellinger: Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie. Knaur, Munich 1999, Indra .

Web links

Commons : Indra  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard J. Bellinger: Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie. Knaur, Munich 1999, Indra
  2. ^ Gerhard J. Bellinger: Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie. Knaur, Munich 1999, Indra .
  3. Storm, Rachel, Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology , Reichelsheim 2000, Indra
  4. Jan Gonda: Religions of Mankind. Volume 11, Veda and Older Hinduism. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1960, Indra, Varuna and the Adityas
  5. Jan Golda: Religions of mankind. Volume 11: Veda and Older Hinduism. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1960, Indra .
  6. Storm, Rachel, Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology , Reichelsheim 2000, Indra, Apsaras, Gandharvas
  7. Storm, Rachel, Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology , Reichelsheim 2000, Indra
  8. Storm, Rachel, Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology , Reichelsheim 2000, Indra
  9. ^ Gerhard J. Bellinger, Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie , Knaur, Munich 1999, Indra
  10. ^ Gerhard J. Bellinger, Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie , Knaur, Munich 1999, Indra
  11. Gonda, Jan, Religionen der Menschheit, Volume 11, Veda and older Hinduism, W. Kohlhammer Verlag Stuttgart 1960, Indra, Varuna and the Adityas