Agni

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Agni
God of Fire
Agni god of fire.jpg
Agni, the fire god
Devanagari अग्नि
Sanskrit Transliteration Agni
Affiliation Deva
Mantra Om agnaye svaha
Weapon Agnyastra
Consort Svaha, Svadha
Mount Ram

Agni (Sanskrit: अग्नि) is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire[1] and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger[2] from and to the other gods. He is ever-young, because the fire is re-lit every day, and also immortal.

Agni, the Vedic god of fire, has two heads, one marks immortality and the other marks an unknown symbol of life. Agni has made the transition into the Hindu pantheon of gods, without losing his importance. With Varuna and Indra he is one of the supreme gods in the Rigveda. The link between heaven and earth, the deities and the humans, he is associated with Vedic sacrifice, taking offerings to the other world in his fire. In Hinduism, his vehicle is the ram.[3]

Etymology[edit]

The word agni is Sanskrit for "fire" (noun), cognate with Latin ignis (the root of English ignite), Russian огонь (ogon), Polish "ogień", Slovenian "ogenj", Serbo-Croatian oganj, and Lithuanian ugnis—all with the meaning "fire", with the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root being h₁égni-. Agni has three forms: fire, lightning and the Sun.[4]

In Hindu scriptures, Agni is the God of Fire, and is present in many phases of life such as honouring of a birth (diva lamp), birthdays (birthday candles on a cake), prayers (diva lamp), weddings (Yagna where the bride and groom circle 7 times) and death (cremation).

Vedas[edit]

Agni is the first word of the first hymn of the Rigveda:

अग्नि॒म् ई॑ळे पुरो॒हि॑तं यज्ञ॒स्य॑ देव॒म् ऋत्वि॒ज॑म् । होता॑रं रत्नधा॒त॑मम् ॥

agním īḷe puróhitaṃ / yajñásya devám ṛtvíjam / hótāraṃ ratnadhâtamam

Pray Agni the receiver, holder and distributor (Purohit) of energy, which leads to victory of devta and wealth to the performer of yagya.

First mantr of the first sukt of the first mandal of Rig Veda consists of six words. The first word is agnimeeley. This word is made of two words Agni or Energy and Eeley or initiate or pray. There are three sources or springs or channels of agni. Sun, Fire and Chakr and there are three ways of initiating these sources or channels. Chanting mantr and offering aarck (water) to Sun, chanting mantras and performing yagya (offering ghee and aahuti) with fire and meditation, by directing flow of energy through the chakr in the body. Sun reaches every living being without limitation. Fire for yagya is lightened for worship and meditation is carried by channeling the energy by moving it through the chakr. Agnimeeley would, therefore, mean that - initiate agni or pray it by offering arck, performing yagya or doing meditation.

The second word is purohitam and it would mean ‘that which is positioned in the front’. That which exists in the front for receiving, holding, and distributing to the one to which it belongs. Purohit is the mouth or the receiver of the divine. Purohit is akin to the counter of a bank. The person to whom we give and he who receives the cheque or cash and the amount is deposited in the account of the account holder. When arck is offered to the Sun, the water evaporates and the mantr reach the Sun, initiating the energy of the Sun and to be spread it out all over to those it is directed. When yagya is performed, the fire hold the vibrations of the mantr and carries the vibrations of the mantras to respective divine or devta for whom the mantr is chanted. Similarly during meditation the energy of each chakr is initiated, activated and is moved from one to another.

The third word is 'yagyasya' which would mean 'resulting from yagya’. The result of the yagya would depend on the person performing the yagya and also the process of yagya. The doer of the yagya is the human being and the process is offering of the aarck, performing the yagya and doing meditation. For Sun, offering aarck at different timing and chanting different mantr will have different results. Performing Yagya before fire by chanting different mantr for different divine deity or devta/devi for whom the mantr is chanted would bring in different results and meditating on different chakr would bring in different results.

The fourth word is devmritvijayam. This word is made up of three words - dev + ritu + vijay. Devta are the deities or divine beings or repositories of different kind of energy in cosmic form. They are like different cabinet ministers holding key to different departments or portfolios or different spices which have different smell different colour and give different taste. Ritu is a beautiful, powerful and deep rooted word and means season, that which comes into existence by movement of Earth round the Sun and is dependent on true dharma or perfected laws of nature, which we continue to decipher. Ritu for yagya would mean the perfect procedure and correct phonetic pronunciation of the mantr; ritu for meditation would mean the exact step by step procedure for cleansing, pranayam, meditation, regulating and moving the life energy in the body and chakr. Devmritvijayam would, therefore, mean that it is an established law like the coming into existence of season that, that devta will become more victorious, energized and powerful whose more yagya are performed or in other words, that energy will get more activated for which more yagya are carried on.

The fifth word is 'hotaaram' and would mean ‘happening because of some effort or action or karma’. It would also mean the logical result that comes out of some doing or doing something. A result or reward comes into existence when the being gives arck to the Sun, a result or reward is achieved when a being performs yagya and a result or reward is achieved by meditating on the chakr.

The sixth and the last word is ‘ratndhatmam’. This word consists of two words ‘ratn’ and ‘dhatri’. Ratna would mean wealth in all forms. That which is shining, revels and exhibits brilliance and would also mean fame, power, victory, wealth, property, all forms of fortunes and a value etc. everything that gives happiness, joy, delight, security, ecstasy and bliss. Health, integrity, knowledge of all sciences and art, wisdom, any form of skill or talent, etc. are also ratn. ‘Dhatmam’ has its root in ‘dhatri’ and means the receiver and possessor or the one who gets, receives and continues to keep. Ratn-dhatmam would, therefore, mean she/he who becomes the beneficiary, recipient and possessor of ratn.

Sun exists in the human world and reaches every being. Invocation of the cosmic energy of the Sun by offering or giving aarck to the Sun and chanting the mantra, would make the person who offers, beneficiary, recipient and possessor of fame, recognition and eminence etc.

When a person performs yagya and offers offerings to agni and chants mantr relating to a particular divine, that divine becomes empowered. The food of the divine is the offerings and the mantr, more the offering and more the mantr, more the empowerment of that divine and this happens or occurs like season, a logical consequence a rule of law. The result is a matter of rule and not just hearsay. The empowerment of the divine results in making the performer of yagya rich, wealthy and prosperous in the worldly sense.

When a person meditates on the chakr and activates the dormant energy in kundalini the person who meditates enjoy the bliss and ecstasy and may also obtain siddhi of healing, prediction, channeling or other metaphysical powers of co-information and co-creativity etc.

The complete transliteration/ interpretation would be: Initiate, pray and meditate the Sun, Fire and Chakras, the distributor, receiver, holder and channel of the divine energy. Such initiation, prayer and meditation as a law empowers the divine. As a result thereof the performer of yagya is provided with fame, victory and health; wealth and prosperity; ecstasy and bliss.

“Pray agni, the purohit (of the divine). The performance of yagya as of rule empowers the divine, which results in the divine making the performer of yagya possessor of wealth and prosperity.”


Agni I laud, the high priest, god, minister of sacrifice, The invoker, lavishest of wealth.

He is the supreme director of religious ceremonies and duties, and figures as messenger between mortals and gods. Vedic rituals all involve Agni, for example the elaborate Agnicayana, that is, the piling of the fire altar, the Agnihotra, viz., offering to Agni.

The Rigveda often says that Agni arises from water or dwells in the waters. He may have originally been the same as Apam Napat, who is also sometimes described as fire arising from water, which in a natural explanation may have referred to flames from natural gas or oil seepages surfacing through water, or as the seven rays or bands of light of a rainbow. Other Rigvedic names, epithets or aspects of Agni include Matarishvan, Jatavedas, or Bharata.

Agni is a deva, second only to Indra in the power and importance attributed to him in Vedic mythology, with 218 out of 1,028 hymns of the Rigveda dedicated to him. He is Indra's twin, and therefore a son of Dyaus Pita and Prthivi. However, he is also said to have two mothers[5] (the two parts of the firedrill used to start the fire), and ten servant maids (the fingers of the man who is lighting the fire) or as the twice-born.[6] He is one of the Guardians of the directions, representing the southeast.

Nature and significance of Agni[edit]

Agni has two forms: Jaataveda and Kravyada. Jaataveda is invoked to burn and carry the offerings (except flesh) to the respective Gods. Kravyada is invoked to burn the flesh (corpses and animal parts).

In the Jaataveda form Agni, god of fire acts as the divine model for the sacrificial priest. He is the messenger who carries the oblation from humans to the gods, bringing the Gods to sacrifice, and interceding between gods and humans (RgV.1.26.3). When Agni is pleased, the gods are generous. Agni represents the cultivated, cooked and cultured aspects of Vedic ritual. Together with Soma, Agni is invoked in the Rig Veda more than any other gods.[7]

A Hindu Marriage Ceremony in progress
Yajna being performed at Vishnu Yangna Kunda on the occasion of Kumbhabhishekam of renovated Gunjanarsimhaswamy Temple at Tirumakudal Narsipur

Depictions[edit]

Agni with his consort Svaha.

In Hindu scriptures, Agni is depicted with two or seven hands, two heads and three legs. He has seven fiery tongues with which he licks sacrificial butter. He rides a ram or in a chariot harnessed by fiery horses. Agni is represented as red and two-faced, suggesting both his destructive and beneficent qualities, and with black eyes and hair, three legs and seven arms. He rides a ram, or a chariot pulled by goats or, more rarely, parrots. Seven rays of light emanate from his body. One of his names is Saptajihva, "having seven tongues".[8] Another one of his epithets is Abhimani (from Sanskrit: abhi towards + the verbal root man to think, reflect upon) meaning dignified, proud; longing for, thinking.

Legends[edit]

Agni is the eldest son of Brahma. In Visnu Purana, Agni (Abhimani) the fire god is said to have sprung from the mouth of the Virat purusha, the Cosmic Man. His wife is Svaha. Abhimani had three sons of surpassing brilliancy: Pavaka, Pavamana, and Suchi, the personifications of the three fires that produced our earth and humanity (VP 1:10).[9] All these three names indicate purity. Abhimanin, his three sons, and their 45 sons constitute the 49 mystic fires of the Puranas and theosophy. (cf Agni Purana.) Agneya or Aagneya is the Hindu Goddess of Fire and the daughter of Agni.

His three sons, according to the Vayu Purana, stand for three different aspects of Agni (fire): Pavaka is the electric fire, Pavamana the fire produced by friction, and Suchi the solar fire. Interpreted on the cosmic and human planes, these three fires are "Spirit, Soul, and Body, the three great Root groups, with their four additional divisions" (SD 2:247). They are said to have been cursed by the sage Vasishtha to be born again and again (cf BP 4:24,4; SD 2:247–8). "Every fire has a distinct function and meaning in the worlds of the physical and the spiritual. He has, moreover, in its essential nature a corresponding relation to one of the human psychic faculties, besides its well determined chemical and physical potencies when coming in contact with the terrestrially differentiated matter" (SD 1:521).

Agni is also an important entity in Ayurveda. It is considered to be the one which is responsible for the sustenance of life. Agni helps in the various physiological functions of the body.[citation needed]

In some Hindu symbolism, Agni's parents are said to be the two components of the firedrill used to start the fire, and when young he was said to be cared for by ten servants, which represent the fingers of the man who is starting the fire.

Cultural influence[edit]

Agni is the name of India's first long-range strategic missile capable of nuclear weapons delivery, becoming only the fourth country to have this combined technology (after the United States of America, the Soviet Union/Russia, and China). The Agni-V was successfully test launched on April 19, 2012.

Other religions[edit]

Sculpture of Agni from Musée Guimet

In Newar, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism, he is a lokapāla guarding the Southeast. In the Tibetan text Jigten lugs kyi bstan bcos it says "Make your hearth in the southeast corner of the house, which is the quarter of Agni". He also plays a central role in most Buddhist homa fire-puja rites. A typical praise to Agni starts "Son of Brahma, Lord of the World, King of fire gods empowered by Takki, Whose supreme wisdom burns all delusion [...]"[10] In Mikkyō tradition Agni is known as Katen (火天). In the Philippine Mythology, Agni is also the god of fire as their local beliefs in pre-Spanish times have some Hindu influences.[11]

Popular culture[edit]

In the Multiplayer online battle arena, SMITE, Agni is a playable god. Agni is a ranged caster and is nicknamed the God of Fire .[12]

See also[edit]

Media related to Agni (God) at Wikimedia Commons

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cavendish, Richard (1998). Mythology, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Principal Myths and Religions of the World. ISBN 1-84056-070-3
  2. ^ January 19, 2013 (2013-01-19). "Agni - The Messenger God". Rigvedaanalysis.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  3. ^ Bowker, John (1997). World Religions. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.
  4. ^ "Agni, the Vedic God of Fire". Hinduwebsite.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  5. ^ The Illumination of Knowledge. New Delhi: GBD Books. p. 197. "Rig Veda I.31.2" 
  6. ^ The Illumination of Knowledge. New Delhi: GBD Books. p. 43. "Rig Veda 1.149.4" 
  7. ^ Doniger, Wendy (2010). The Hindus: An Alternative History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959334-7 (Pbk)
  8. ^ Jansen, Eva Rudy (1993). The Book of Hindu Imagery: Gods, Manifestations and Their Meaning. p. 64
  9. ^ Dowson, John (1961). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion: Geography, History, and Literature. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-7589-8
  10. ^ Perrott, Michael; Tuluku, Sharpa (1987). A Manual of Ritual Fire Offerings. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. ISBN 81-85102-66-X p. 20.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Agni". Smite Wiki. Retrieved 2013-08-09.