Online Encyclopedia

INDRA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 501 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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INDRA, in early Hindu mythology, god of the clear sky and greatest of the Vedic deities. The origin of the name is doubtful, but is by some connected with indu, drop. His importance is shown by the fact that about 250 hymns celebrate his greatness, nearly one-fourth of the total number in the Rig Veda. He is represented as specially lord of the elements, the thunder-god. But Indra was more than a great god in the ancient Vedic pantheon. He is the patron-deity of the invading Aryan race in India, the god of battle to whose help they look in their struggles with the dark aborigines. Indra is the child of Dyaus, the Heaven. In Indian art he is represented as a man with four arms and hands; in two he holds a lance and in the third a thunderbolt. He is often painted with eyes all over his body and then he is called Sahasraksha, " the thousand eyed." He lost much of his supremacy when the triad Brahma, Siva and Vishnu became predominant. He gradaally became identified merely with the headship of Swarga, a local vice-regent of the abode of the gods. See A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Strassburg, 1897).
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