Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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Read about Agni Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Mythica or the Urday website (Khandava forest).

AGNI. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] Fire, one of the most ancient and most sacred objects of Hindu worship.

He appears in three phases: in heavens as the sun, in mid-air as lightning, on earth as ordinary fire. Agni is one of the chief deities of the Vedas, and great numbers of the hymns are addressed to him, more indeed than to any other god. He is one of the three great deities: Agni, Vayu (or Indra), and Surya, who respectively preside over earth, air, and sky, and are all equal in dignity.

He is considered as the mediator between men and gods, as protector of men and their homes, and as witness of their actions; hence his invocation at all solemn occasions, at the nuptial ceremony, etc. Fire has ceased to be an object of worship, but is held in honour for the part it performs in sacrifices.

Agni is represented as having seven tongues, each of which has a distinct name, for licking up the butter used in sacrifices. He is guardian of the southeast quarter, being one of the eight lokapalas (q. v.), and his region is called Purajyotis.

In a celebrated hymn of the Rigveda attributed to Vasishtha, Indra and other gods are called upon to destroy the Kravyads `the flesh-eaters,' or Rakshas enemies of the gods. Agni himself is also a Kravyad, and as such he takes an entirely different character. He is represented under a form as hideous as the beings he is invoked to devour. He sharpens his two iron tusks, puts his enemies into his mouth and swallows them. He heats the edges of his shafts and sends them into the hearts of the Rakshasas.

He appears in the progress of mythological personification as a son of Angiras, as a king of the Pitris or Manes, as a Marut, as a grandson of Sandila, as one of the seven sages or Rishis, during the reign of Tamasa the fourth Manu, and as a star.

In the Mahabharata Agni is represented as having exhausted his vigour by devouring too many oblations, and desiring to consume the whole Khandava forest as a means of recruiting his strength. He was prevented by Indra, but having obtained the assistance of Krishna and Arjuna, he baffled Indra and accomplished his object.

In the Vishnu Purana he is called Abhimani, and the eldest son of Brahma. His wife was Swaha; by her he had three sons, Pavaka, Pavamana, and Suchi, and these had forty-five sons; altogether forty-nine persons, identical with the forty-nine fires, which forty-nine fires the Vayu Purana endeavours to discriminate.

He is described in the Harivansa as clothed in black, having smoke for his standard and headpiece, and carrying a flaming javelin. He has four hands, and is borne in a chariot drawn by red horses, and the seven winds are the wheels of him car. He is accompanied by a ram, and sometimes he is represented riding on that animal. The representations of him vary.

The names and epithets of Agni are many: Vahni, Anala, Pavaka. Vaiswanara, son of Viswanara, the sun; Abjahasta, `lotus in hand;' Dhumaketu, 'whose sign is smoke;' Hutasa or Hutabhuj, `devourer of offerings;' Suchi or Sukra, 'the bright;' Rohitaswa, `having red horses;' Chhagaratha, `ram rider;' Jata vedas; Saptajihva, 'seven-tongued;' Tomaradhara, `javelin-bearer.'  

AGNEYA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] Son of Agni, a name of Karrtikeya or Mars; also an appellation of the Muni Agastya and others.  


Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM