Journals

Conferences

Agni

For other uses, see Agni (disambiguation).
Agni
God of Fire
File:Agni god of fire.jpg
Agni, the fire god
Devanagari अग्नि
Sanskrit Transliteration Agni
Tamil script b
Affiliation Deva
Mantra Oṃ Agnidēvāya Namaḥ
Weapon Javelin
Consort Svaha,
Children Agneya,
Mount Goat

Agni (Sanskrit: अग्नि Agni), pronounced " ăgˈnē ",[1] is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire[2] and the acceptor of sacrifices for onwards conveyance to other deities. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger[3] from and to the other gods. He is ever-young, because the fire is re-lit every day, and is immortal. In the Rig Veda (I.95.2), a Rishi prays - for the ten eternal powers to bless Tvashtr (the supreme mind which creates all things) with the birth of Agni which is a reference to the ten undisclosed powers that nourish Agni.[4] Yaskacharya explains that the fire-god is called अग्नि (Agni) because he is अग्रणी (Agrani), the forward leader who is the ever awake disseminator of knowledge and the first principle of thought which manifests as Speech; it is carried at the front in all ritualistic undertakings (yajnas). Pippalāda, the sage of the Prashna Upanishad, merely highlights the एकायुः (the Sole person) status of Agni when he tells Kābandhi Katayāna – " That very one, Surya who is Aditya, rises up who is Prana and Agni, who is identified with all creatures and who is possessed of all fame. " The Vedic Rishis knew knowledge to be the quality of the Atman. Surya, Aditya, Prana and Agni stand for the Atman who reveals itself as knowledge by the all-illuminating bright rays of light and who reveals itself as objects cognized by the mind and described through speech (Rig Veda X.135.7).[5] According to the Puranas, the origin of Krittika nakshatra (the Pleiades star-cluster) ruled by Agni, and the birth of Kartikeya is associated with Agni. The Death-conquering Agni-rahasya vidya, which was received by Prajapati from the self-existent Brahman, is detailed in the tenth kanda of the Shatapatha Brahmana. During Vedic times, animal sacrifices to propriate Agni were frequently made. Agni is also referred by the name Chagavahana.[6]

Overview

Agni occupies a prominent place in the Vedas and Brahmanas works. The ancient Indians recognized Agni as the power of heat and light and the will-power united with wisdom, they knew the human will-power to be a feeble projection of this power which they believed could be strengthened by the Rig Vedic chants to Agni.[7]

The Vedic people developed the worship of Agni, personified and deified Agni as the sacrificial fire, as the priest of the gods and as the god of the priests, who through yajna carries the oblations to the gods, the celestial controllers of the mysterious and potent forces of nature, to ensure the continuance of conditions favourable to mankind. In Vedic deities, Agni occupies, after Indra, the most important position. In the Rig Veda there are over 200 hymns addressed to and in praise of Agni. Agni is the Rishi ('hymn-seer') of Sukta X.124 of the Rig Veda, and along with Indra and Surya makes up the Vedic triad of deities.[8]

Agni, the Vedic god of fire, is depicted as having two heads, one head marks immortality and the other marks an unknown symbol of life. With Varuna and Indra he is one of the supreme gods in the Rig Veda. Due to the link between heaven and earth, and between deities and humans, he is associated with Vedic sacrifice, taking offerings to the other world in his fire. In Hinduism, his vehicle is the ram.[9] The Āryans (ārya meaning 'noble'), who developed the worship of fire, personified and deified the sacrificial fire as God Agni. Acquired as a gift from heaven, Agni’s birth at three levels – earth, mid-space and heaven, reflects the 'domestic fire', the 'defensive fire' and the 'offering fire' of the Vedic house-holder; the mid-space is the womb, the source of rain-water. Offended by Agni, Bhrigu had cursed Agni to become the devourer of all things on this earth, but Brahma modified that curse and made Agni the purifier of all things he touched.[10]

Etymology

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'.[11]

Sthaulāśthīvi informs us that Agni is the drying agent which neither wets nor moistens anything. Śakapūni tells us that the word Agni is derived from three verbs – from 'going', from 'shining or burning', and from 'leading'; the letter "a" (अ) is from root "i" which means 'to go', the letter "g" (ग्) is from the root "añj" meaning 'to shine' or "dah" meaning 'to burn', and the last letter is by itself the root "nī" (नी) which means 'to lead'.[12] Yaskacharya explains that it is called अग्नि (Agni) because it is अग्रणी (Agrani), the forward leader who is the ever awake disseminator of knowledge and the first principle of thought which manifests as Speech; it is carried at the front in all ritualistic undertakings (yajnas).

Variants of Agni

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), prayers (diva lamp), at weddings (the yajna where the bride and groom circle the fire seven times) and at death (cremation).

In Section VII of the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata, Narada speaks about the twenty-seven fires conveying the sacrificial butter,[13] which fires are:-

  • Angira (अङ्गिरा) – Angiras, son of Bharata, himself became Agni whom he surpassed when Agni began to practise penance,
  • Dakshinagni (दक्षिणाग्नि) - consecrated fire taken from the house-hold fire and placed in the south side,
  • Gārhapatya (गार्हपत्य) – the perpetual house-hold fire,
  • Āhavaniya (आहवनीय) – consecrated fire taken from the house-hold fire and placed in the east side,
  • Nirmanthya (निर्मन्थ्य) – fire produced by friction,
  • Vaidyuta (वैद्युत) – lightening,
  • Śūra (शूर) – powerful mighty fire,
  • Samvarta (संवर्त) – the fire that destroys,
  • Laukika (लौकिक) – the classical fire, belonging to the world of men,
  • Jathar (जठर) – the old or ancient fire, the fire pertaining to the stomach,
  • Vishaghā (विषघा) – the entwining fire,
  • Havya-vāhan (हव्य-वाहन) – the bearer of oblations,
  • Kshemāvān (क्षेमावान्) – the secure, tranquil fire,
  • Vaishnava (वैष्णव) – the fire relating to Vishnu,
  • Dasyuhan (दस्युहन्) – the fire who is the destroyer of the dasyus,
  • Balād (बलाद्) -
  • Śānta (शान्त) – the calm, peaceful, serene fire,
  • Pushta (पुष्ट) – the ever-equipped, protected fire,
  • Vibhāvasu (विभावसु) – the fire which is one of the eight vasus
  • Jotishmata (ज्योतिष्मत) – the luminous, pure, brilliant fire,
  • Bharat (भरत) – the fire who is the priest, maintained,
  • Bhadra (भद्र) – the great, auspicious fire,
  • Swistikrt (सवस्तिकृत्) – the fire causing welfare or prosperity,
  • Vasumaya (वसुमय) – the fire consisting of wealth or of good things
  • Ritu (ऋतु) – the fire of light, splendor,
  • Soma (सोम) – the fire which is nector, ethereal,
  • Pitryāna (पितृयाण) – the conveyor of virtuous persons to heaven.

There are five kinds of Agni (fire) – Kāla-agni ('the fire of time'), Kśudhā-agni ('the fire of hunger'), Śīta-agni ('the cold fire'), Kopa-agni ('the fire of anger') and Jñāna-agni ('the fire of knowledge'). Agni is also the name of one of the Saptarishi of the Svarocisa Manvantara, one of the Saptarishi of the Tamasa Manvantara and one of the Saptarishi of the Indrasavarni Manvantara which is yet to come. Agni is the name of the son of Dharma and Vasordhara, of an Achārya and of a disciple of Indra.[14]

Vedic conception of Agni