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Indra




Summary

Indra (, Sanskrit: इन्द्र) is a ancient Vedic deity, a deity in Hinduism, a guardian deity (Indā, Pālī) in Buddhism, and the king of the highest heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism. His mythologies and powers are similar, though not identical, to other Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor.

In the Vedas, Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) and the Devas. He is the deity of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war. Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda. He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil (malevolent type of Asura) named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness. Indra destroys Vritra and his "deceiving forces", and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind. His importance diminishes in the post-Vedic Indian literature where he is depicted as a powerful hero but one who constantly gets into trouble with his drunken, hedonistic and adulterous ways, and the god who disturbs Hindu monks as they meditate because he fears self-realized human beings may become more powerful than him.

Indra rules over the much-sought Devas realm of rebirth within the Samsara doctrine of Buddhist traditions. However, like the Hindu texts, Indra also is a subject of ridicule and reduced to a figurehead status in Buddhist texts, shown as a god that suffers rebirth and redeath. In the Jainism traditions, unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Indra is not the king of Gods- the enlightened leaders (called Tirthankaras or Jinas), but King of superhumans residing in Swarga-Loka, and very much a part of Jain rebirth cosmology. He is also the one who appears with his wife Indrani to celebrate the auspicious moments in the life of a Jain Tirthankara, an iconography that suggests the king and queen of superhumans residing in heaven -Swarga reverentially marking the spiritual journey of a Jina.

Indra's iconography shows him wielding a lightning thunderbolt known as Vajra, riding on a white elephant known as Airavata. In Buddhist iconography the elephant sometimes features three heads, while Jaina icons sometimes show the elephant with five heads. Sometimes a single elephant is shown with four symbolic tusks. Indra's heavenly home is on or near Mount Meru (also called Sumeru).