Everything you wanted to know about Indra and were afraid to Ask
First, I think there is big confusion regarding what Hinduism is. One of the major tenets is that it is a polytheistic religion. If you do not understand that, there are options within smartha religions available as well as Semitic religions which can be monotheistic in first glance.
There are people who would choose a particular deity in the Pantheon and worship that deity exclusively, they are really monotheists and there can be no way or manner where I would like to challenge that belief, so debate starting from that point is meaningless. These are actually technically termed Henotheists by Max Mueller and modern lingo. Good old Max actually came up with that term to describe the religion of Rig Veda actually.
The sense of a polytheistic tradition striving towards a formulation of The One (ekam) Divinity aimed at by the worship of different cosmic principles. From this mix of monism, monotheism and naturalist polytheism Müller named the early Vedic religion henotheistic. A prime example of the monistic aspects of the late Rigveda is the Nasadiya Sukta, a hymn describing creation: “That One breathed by itself without breath, other than it there has been nothing.” Hinduism later developed the concept of Brahman, which implies a transcendent and immanent reality.
THAT Original ekam divinity was manifest as Indra.
Let’s look at the beginning of the Universe. Vishnu is sleeping through the long cosmic night, ready to wake up.
The Cosmic Night
‘ Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon sheer Sagar, and the child
Holy Bal Mukund, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Cosmic night, Holy night
The cosmic ocean quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above.
Not a sound, not a sound
Vayu is Born,
Vayu is Born.
Cosmic night, Holy Day
Life’s first breath, love’s pure light
Radiant lotus beams from thy holy navel
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Rochana, Lord at thy birth
Rochana, Lord at thy birth.’
When the Cosmic night ends, Narayana wakes up. Brahma is forming in the lotus from the bal mukund’s navel. Vayu is born. Vayu is the first and transitory form of Brahma. Brahma, being Vayu, moves over the Cosmic Celestial Ocean and looks for means to dive and raise the Earth. From the bottom of the silent depths of that Ocean, where the Earth swept like others in the pralaya of Pashupata unleashed and wielded by Vayu the Parabhanjana, the atom splitter.
Now as the light breaks over the celestial ocean, Vayu as Rochana the divine Thread of the Universe brings up the Earth from the bottom. This is the first appearance of Life and Movement, where the wind the vayu and the vital breath the prana cannot be dissociated which then becomes the Purusha and Prakriti is set in motion.
Vayu as Rochana is Brahma, as Prana is Vishnu and as Prabhanjana is Siva.
The age of Universe and Kalpas
Let us give you a picture, for Hindus to use the term loosely, the universe is very very old and gets destroyed and made again and again. The current universe as science states is about 14 billion years old but maybe even older now that we have estimated age of some farthest galaxies as 13 billion years so jury is out. For Brahma, that is one season of Game on Throne(s). After some time, he retires. That is a Kalpa. We have had several Brahmas. For every two Brahmas, we have a Vishnu. It is not uniform, the change happens to accommodate new Vishnu to take over. Every two Vishnus, we get a new Shiva. Brahma, Siva and Vishnu are also on higher scale examples of roles. A Brahma may be Siva down the road or Vishnu and may hold position several times. There may be Brahmas who had no Vishnus or Sivas in their Kalpa, there are Sivas who instead of relaxing on Himalayas have to run around trying to handle everything because Vishnu has taken a Kalpa off to go hiking in Himalayas and Brahma is backpacking his way through Europe and Vayu is naukar Biwi ka!
Yup, don’t forget Shakti, and her sisters Bhakti, Mukti and Dukhati!!!
And if you think, there is one Siva for two Vishnus and four Brahmas so Siva is the stroooongest (by the way a concept which is as foreign is to Polytheism as Chthoneism is part of Olympus lore). Then there is Kak Bhushandi who claims that he does not know Pashupataastra and did defeat Bheeshma in X-Box 360 Archery competition with Apsaras dancing as a distraction BUT does know TWO SEPARATE SIVAS atleast.
Kak Bhushandi also knows thirteen Vamanas also, ones who left him calling cards and drank up his ale and asked him to join in a Quest to get the Arkenstone. (Bheeshma is claiming that as one apsara came in front of the screen while he was shooting so he lost as he does not shoot at women!, Shabdabhedi Kalaa band bajane ke liye thee bas!)
On serious note, Thirty plus Vamanas are known to Kak Bhushandi, not when they are thirty plus in age, two cricket teams and umpires and twenty-twenty specialists, that thirty!!
Then there are Kalpas where there is sentient ash, or sentient animals or strangest creatures or just sentient clouds or sentient stones (that is a party Kalpa, many Rishis pray to be part of the rolling stones!!!).
Just in case, Hinduism is totally prepared for arrival of Aliens, it’s all in there, Avasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It is also prepared for Wordsworth.
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils!! Discussing which wind is the strongest
The east wind cried the monotheists,
The west claimed the Narcissists,
The north airs are favored by pantheists,
Southorn breeze, Vyasa said it was like Indra, exclaimed the PseudoNarcissists,
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance
Who is this Indra I wondered, Oy Vey, o Boy, o Bhai!
I am a kathenotheist, in case you are wondering.
by Pranshu B Saxena