Indra or Śakra is the leader of the Devas or gods and Lord of Svargaloka or heaven in Hindu mythology. He is the God of war, the god of thunderstorms. His weapon is
the lightning bolt (vajra). Indra is one of the chief deities in the Rigveda. He is the twin brother of Agni and hence said to be born of Dyaus Pitar (Father Heaven) and
Prithvi Mata (Mother Earth). He is also mentioned as an Aditya, a son of Aditi. His home is situated on Mount Meru.
He has many epithets, notably vṛṣan the bull, and vṛtrahan, slayer of Vṛtra, meghavahana "the one who rides the clouds" & Devapati "the lord of gods or devas". Indra
appears as the name of an arch-demon in the Zoroastrian religion, while his epithet Verethragna appears as a god of victory. Indra is also called Śakra frequently in the
Vedas and in Buddhism
He is celebrated as a demiurge who pushes up the sky, releases dawn (Ushas) from the Vala cave, and slays Vṛtra; both latter actions are central to the Soma sacrifice. He
is associated with Vajrapani - the Chief Dharmapala or Defender and Protector of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha who embodies the power of all primordial or Dhyani
Buddhas. On the other hand, he also commits many kinds of mischief for which he is sometimes punished. In Puranic mythology, Indra is bestowed with a heroic and
almost brash and amorous character at times, even as his reputation and role diminished in later Hinduism with the rise of the Trimurti.
Aspects of Indra as a deity are cognate to other Indo-European gods; they are either thunder gods such as Thor, Perun, and Zeus, or gods of intoxicating drinks such as
Dionysos. The name of Indra (Indara) is also mentioned among the gods of the Mitanni, a Hurrian speaking people who ruled northern Syria from ca.1500BC-1300BC.
Janda (1998:221) suggests that the Proto-Indo-European (or Graeco-Aryan) predecessor of Indra had the epithet *trigw-welumos "smasher of the enclosure" (of Vritra,
Vala) and diye-snūtyos "impeller of streams" (the liberated rivers, corresponding to Vedic apam ajas "agitator of the waters"), which resulted in the Greek gods
Vedic Indra corresponds to Verethragna of the Zoroastrian Avesta as the noun verethragna- corresponds to Vedic vrtrahan-, which is predominantly an epithet of Indra.
The word vrtra-/verethra- means "obstacle". Thus, vrtrahan-/verethragna- is the "smiter of resistance". Vritra as such does not appear in either the Avesta or in 9th-
12th century books of Zoroastrian tradition. Since the name 'Indra' appears in Zoroastrian texts as that of a demon opposing Truth (Vd. 10.9; Dk. 9.3; Gbd. 27.6, 34.27)
Zoroastrian tradition has separated both aspects of Indra.
In the Rig Veda
The Rig-Veda states,
He under whose supreme control are horses, all chariots, the villages, and cattle;
He who gave being to the Sun and Morning, who leads the waters, He, O men, is Indra. (2.12.7, trans. Griffith)
It further states,
Indra, you lifted up the outcast who was oppressed, you glorified the blind and the lame. (Rg-Veda 2:13:12)
Indra is, with Varuna and Mitra, one of the Ādityas, the chief gods of the Rigveda (besides Agni and the others such as the Ashvins). He delights in drinking Soma, and
the central Vedic myth is his heroic defeat of Vṛtrá, liberating the rivers, or alternatively, his smashing of the Vala cave, a stone enclosure where the Panis had
imprisoned the cows that are habitually identified with Ushas, the dawn(s). He is the god of war, smashing the stone fortresses of the Dasyu, but he is also is invoked by
combatants on both sides in the Battle of the Ten Kings.
Indra as depicted in Yakshagana, popular folk art of Karnataka
The Rig-Veda frequently refers to him as Śakra: the mighty-one. In the Vedic period, the number of gods was assumed to be thirty-three and Indra was their lord. (Some
early post Rigvedic texts such as the Khilas and the late Vedic Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad enumerates the gods as the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas,
Indra, and Prajapati). As lord of the Vasus, Indra was also referred to as Vāsava.
By the age of the Vedanta, Indra became the prototype for all lords and thus a king could be called Mānavendra (Indra or lord of men) and Rama, the hero of the
Ramayana, was referred to as Rāghavendra (Indra of the clan of Raghu). Hence the original Indra was also referred to as Devendra (Indra of the Devas). However, Sakra
and Vasava were used exclusively for the original Indra. Though modern texts usually adhere to the name Indra, the traditional Hindu texts (the Vedas, epics and
Puranas) use Indra, Sakra and Vasava interchangeably and with the same frequency.
"Of the Vedas I am the Sama Veda; of the demigods I am Indra, the king of heaven; of the senses I am the mind; and in living beings I am the living force." (Bhagavad Gita
In the Rig Veda, Indra is the king of the gods and ruler of the heavens. Indra is the god of thunder and rain and a great warrior, a symbol of courage and strength. He
leads the Deva (the gods who form and maintain Heaven) and the elements, such as Agni (Fire), Varuna (Water) and Surya (Sun), and constantly wages war against the
opponents of the gods, the demon-like Asuras. As the god of war, he is also regarded as one of the Guardians of the directions, representing the east. As the favourite
'national' god of the Vedic Indians, Indra has about 250 hymns dedicated to him in the Rigveda.
Detail of the Phra Prang, the central tower of the Wat Arun ("Temple of Dawn") in Bangkok, Thailand - showing Indra on his three-headed elephant Erawan (Airavata).
In Rig Veda, Indra the solar god is sometimes described as golden-bodied ("Gora" that means golden-yellowish) with golden jaw, nails, hair, beard.
One Atharva Vedic verse reads, "In Indra are set fast all forms of golden hue."
In the RV 1.65 reads, "SAKRA, who is the purifier (of his worshipers), and well-skilled in horses, who is wonderful and golden-bodied." Rig Veda also reads that Indra "is
the dancing god who, clothed in perfumed garments, golden-cheeked rides his golden cart." One passage calls him both brown and yellow. "Him with the fleece they
purify, brown, golden-hued, beloved of all, Who with exhilarating juice goes forth to all the deities"
Indra is described in the Rig Veda having blond, or 'yellow', hair. One part of the Rig Veda says, "At the swift draught the Soma-drinker waxed in might, the Iron One
with yellow beard and yellow hair." The Rig Veda/Mandala 10/Hymn 96
Like violent gusts of wind the droughts that I have drunk have lifted me Have I not drunk of Soma juice?
Fair cheeks hath Indra, Maghavan, the Victor, Lord of a great host, Stormer, strong in action. What once thou didst in might when mortals vexed thee, where now, O
Bull, are those thy hero exploits?
—RigVeda, Book 3, Hymn XXX: Griffith
May the strong Heaven make thee the Strong wax stronger: Strong, for thou art borne by thy two strong Bay Horses. So, fair of cheek, with mighty chariot, mighty,
uphold us, strong-willed, thunder armed, in battle.
—RigVeda, Book 5, Hymn XXXVI: Grffith
Indra's weapon, which he used to kill Vritra, is the (Vajra), though he also uses a bow, a net, and a hook. In the post-Vedic period, he rides a large, four-tusked white
elephant called Airavata. When portrayed having four arms, he has lances in two of his hands which resemble elephant goads. When he is shown to have two, he holds
the Vajra and a bow. He lives in Svarga in the clouds around Mt. Meru. Deceased warriors go to his hall after death, where they live without sadness, pain or fear. They
watch the Apsaras and the Gandharvas dance, and play games. The gods of the elements, celestial sages, great kings, and warriors enrich his court.
In Hindu mythology, the rainbow is called Indra's Bow (Sanskrit: indradhanushya इंद्रधनुष).
Relations with other gods
It is a contemporary belief that Indra is a designation assigned to the King of Gods. However, there is no official documentation proving the theory. In Hindu myth, he is
married to Shachi or Indrani or Pulomaja (whose father, Puloman, Indra killed), and is the father of Arjuna (by Kunti), Jayanta, Midhusa, Nilambara, Khamla, Rbhus,
Rsabha. Indra is a brother to Surya. He is attended to by the Maruts (and the Vasus), children of Diti (mother of demons), and Rudra. Indra had slain Diti's previous
wicked children, so she hoped her son would be more powerful than him and kept herself pregnant for a century, practicing magic to aid her fetal son. When Indra
discovered this, he threw a thunderbolt at her and shattered the fetus into 7 or 49 parts; each part regenerated into a complete individual, and the parts grew into the
Maruts, a group of storm gods, who are less powerful than Indra.
Indra and Vṛtrá
In post-Vedic myth, Vṛtrá, an asura, stole all the water in the world and Indra drank much Soma to prepare himself for the battle with the huge serpent. He passed
through Vṛtrá's ninety-nine fortresses, slew the monster and brought water back to Earth.
In another version of the story, Vṛtrá was created by Tvashtri to get revenge for Indra's murder of his son, Trisiras, a pious Brahmin whose increase of power worried
Indra. Vṛtrá won the battle and swallowed Indra, but the other gods forced him to vomit Indra out. The battle continued and Indra fled. Vishnu and the Rishis brokered a
truce, and Indra swore he would not attack Vṛtrá with anything made of metal, wood, or stone, nor anything that was dry or wet, or during the day or the night. Indra
used the foam from the waves of the ocean to kill him at twilight.
In yet another version, recounted in the Mahabharata, Vṛtrá was a Brahmin who got hold of supernatural powers, went rogue and became a danger to the gods. Indra had
to intervene, and slew him after a hard fight. A horrible goddess named Brāhmanahatya (the personified sin of Brahmin murder) came from the corpse of Vṛtrá and
pursued Indra, who hid inside a lotus flower. Indra went to Brahma and begged forgiveness for having killed a Brahmin. "Vajrayudha", which Indra possessed, is believed
to be prepared from backbone of a sage Dadhichi to kill Asuras.
In post-Vedic texts, Indra is described with more human characteristics and vices than any other Vedic deity. Modern Hindus, also tend to see Indra as minor deity in
comparison to others in the Hindu pantheon, such as Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi. A Puranic story illustrating the subjugation of Indra's pride is illustrated in the story of
Govardhan hill where Krishna, Avatar or incarnation of Vishnu carried the hill and protected his devotees when Indra, angered by non-worship of him, launched rains
over the village. In another Mahabharata story, Karna tries to earn merit and fame by becoming the lord of charity, a ‘daan-veer’. Krishna takes advantage of this
charitable nature and gets Indra, king of the gods, to ask as charity Karna’s natural armor 'Kavach and Kundal'. Karna donates this leaving himself vulnerable. Impressed
by Karna’s unwavering commitment to charity, Indra gifts Karna a spear that never misses its mark but can be used only once.
Indra never tricked Ahalya,the wife of Gautama Maharishi as most moden versions of the myths claim.The affair between Ahalya and Indra was mutual as Ahalya already
knew that it was Indra who was in the guise of the sage Gautama punished Indra with a curse of losing his manliness and Ahalya too was cursed of being invisible to the
eyes of everyone.
In this story from the Brahmavaivarta Purana, Indra defeats Vṛtrá and releases the waters. Elevated to the rank of King of the gods, Indra orders the heavenly craftsman,
Vishvakarma, to build him a grand palace. Full of pride, Indra continues to demand more and more improvements for the palace. At last, exhausted, Vishvakarma asks
Brahma the Creator for help. Brahma in turn appeals to Vishnu, the Supreme Being.
Vishnu visits Indra's palace in the form of a Brahmin boy; Indra welcomes him in. Vishnu praises Indra's palace, casually adding that no former Indra had succeeded in
building such a palace. At first, Indra is amused by the Brahmin boy's claim to know of former Indras. But the amusement turns to horror as the boy tells about Indra's
ancestors, about the great cycles of creation and destruction, and even about the infinite number of worlds scattered through the void, each with its own Indra. The boy
claims to have seen them all. During the boy's speech, a procession of ants had entered the hall. The boy saw the ants and laughed. Finally humbled, Indra asks the boy
why he laughed. The boy reveals that the ants are all former Indras.
Another visitor enters the hall. He is Shiva, in the form of a hermit. On his chest lies a circular cluster of hairs, intact at the circumference but with a gap in the middle.
Shiva reveals that each of these chest hairs corresponds to the life of one Indra. Each time a hair falls, one Indra dies and another replaces him.
No longer interested in wealth and honor, Indra rewards Vishvakarma and releases him from any further work on the palace. Indra himself decides to leave his life of
luxury to become a hermit and seek wisdom. Horrified, Indra's wife Shuchi asks the priest Brihaspati to change her husband's mind. He teaches Indra to see the virtues
of both the spiritual life and the worldly life. Thus, at the end of the story, Indra learns how to pursue wisdom while still fulfilling his kingly duties.
The 14 Indras
Each Manu rules during an eon called a Manvantara. 14 Manvantaras make up a Kalpa, a period corresponding to a day in the life of Brahma. Every Manvantara has 1
Indra that means with every Kalpa 14 Indras changes. Thae Markandye Rishi is said to have a complete age of one Kalpa and in a Puran on his name called "Markandey
Puran" the exact age corresponding to the human age or solar year is described in details. The following list is according to Vishnu Purana 3.1–2):
Svayambhuva Yajna (Avatar of Vishnu)
Shraaddhdev Purandar (the present Indra)
Daksha Saavarni Adbhut
Brahma Saavarni Shanti
Dharma Saavarni Vish
Rudraputra Saavarni Ritudhaama
Ruchi (Deva Saavarni) Devaspati
Bhaum (Indra Saavarni) Suchi
In Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism and Bali
Indra as Sakka and Sachi Riding the Divine Elephant Airavata, Folio from a Jain text, Panchakalyanaka (Five Auspicious Events in the Life of Jina Rishabha), circa 1670-
1680, Painting in LACMA museum, originally from Amer, Rajasthan
In Buddhism and Jainism, Indra is commonly called by his other name, Śakra or Sakka, ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven. However, Śakra is sometimes given the title
Indra, or, more commonly, Devānām Indra, "Lord of the Devas". The ceremonial name of Bangkok claims that the city was "given by Indra and built by Vishvakarman."
The provincial seal of Surin Province, Thailand is an image of Indra atop Airavata.
In Jainism, Indra is also known as Saudharmendra, and always serves the Tirthankaras. Indra most commonly appears in stories related to Mahavira, in which Indra himself manages and celebrates the five auspicious events in that Tirthankara's life, such as Chavan kalyanak, Janma kalyanak, Diksha kalyanak, Kevalgyan kalyanak, and Nirvan kalyanak.