Indra: Ruler of the East
Indra is the king of the gods. Highly revered and excessively feared, this eldest son of Aditi, the mother of the gods, also lords over rain and thunder. These latter he sometimes uses as his weapons in his not-so-infrequent skirmishes with his rival cousins, the sons of Diti, the mother of demons. He is endowed with great physical strength and charm. A terror to his enemies, he protects the gods and their interests with the immense prowess that he has earned through austerities. The gods, the sages, the beautiful heavenly maidens and a host of celestial beings stand in attendance in his court. It is only natural that power and plenty sometimes go to his head, and he lands himself in peculiarly unenviable situations. From there he comes out again and again to start afresh and the cycle goes on.
Indra conducted to completion a hundred yajnas and attained the over lordship of all the gods. His renown increased progressively as a result of his austerities. Sage Brihaspati; the preceptor of the gods, gave him spiritual initiation which increased his wealth and fame manifold. Over a period of time, Indra and the gods became all-powerful and prosperous.
This eventually made Indra fall a prey to arrogance, to the extent that he lost his entire sobriety and discrimination. As a consequence, he even failed to get up from his seat and render due respects to sage Brihaspati, his guru, who happened to visit his court. The guru was pained but uttered no word of reproach. He merely walked out of the assembly of the gods, wishing all the while that Indra should lose his riches.
It was some time before Indra realized that he had unwittingly slighted sage Brihaspati and this could have ominous forebodings for him. He got up and rushed straight to Brihaspati’s residence but the guru was nowhere to be seen. While Indra returned, he halted at the bank of the river Mandakini for a bath. There he happened to see Ahalya, the lovely young wife of the sage Gautama, wrapped in thin wet cloth, emerging from the river after a bath and proceeding toward the hermitage close by. Her half a smile, slanting glances, prominent curves and perfect limbs enchanted the lustful Indra so much that he followed the lady to the hermitage and the two of them indulged in sexual activity. It was here that the sage Gautama also arrived.
Indra sensed trouble, disengaged himself from Ahalya, and fell at the feet of the infuriated sage, seeking forgiveness. “Despite your glorious lineage,” thundered the sage, “being the son of the sage Kashyapa, the great grandson of the Creator Brahma, and related to Daksha, the Progenitor, how could you stoop to this wretchedness? Where has your wisdom and the knowledge of the Vedas gone? Your lofty preceptor, sage Brihaspati, is a dear friend of Mine and for his sake alone I spare your life. But suffer for your sin you must. May a thousand female organs, the apparent cause of your way-wardness, grow upon your skin.”
The mortified Indra implored for forgiveness. The sage then agreed to mollify his curse. “Go and offer worship to the Sun-god for a year, and your blemish will change into a thousand eyes on you body.”
Indra performed the penance as directed, and in due course became the thousand-eyed lord. It was not infrequent for Indra to deceive others to fulfill his own selfish motives. At many an occasion Indra deceived the trusting demons, the principal rivals of the gods, to get better of them. He obstructed many a sage in his penance so that none could acquire a status higher than his. Many a woman did he violate to satiate his lust. He developed friendship with the great and benevolent king Prahalada, a descendant of the demons, who ruled over the heaven. By sheer deceit, Indra robbed the benevolent king of his benevolence, virtue and character and ultimately displaced him to re-acquire the kingship of heaven.
Agni: Ruler of the South-East
Agni, the Fire-god, represents the fire-element in everything that exists. Through this element, the Fire-god performs several benevolent functions that ensure the survival of not only the earthlings but the entire universe. For the living beings, the
Fire-god provides the necessary heat to ensure survival, and to enable several metabolic functions in the body to proceed without hindrance. In the human body, the Fire-god acts through seven different ‘fires’ or ‘energies’ which perform varied functions. The first of these ‘fires’ helps in digestion of food and its absorption in a liquid form. The second converts the absorbed liquid food into blood. The third ‘fire’ converts blood into flesh. The fourth, acting on the flesh, creates lipid (fat). From the fat, the fifth ‘fire’ creates the skeleton. The sixth ‘fire’ produces the marrow inside the skeleton. And the seventh ‘fire’ generates from the marrow the highly precious seminal fluid. The same ‘fire’ in different forms thus conducts different body functions to help life go on and to propagate.
Agni was born out of the Ksheera-Saagara, the Celestial Ocean of Milk. This happened as a result of Lord Brahma depositing. His seminal fluid in the ‘Ocean’, soon after the incident, a child come out of the Ocean and sat in the lap of Lord Brahma who accepted him as His son.
Almost immediately, lord Varuna, the god of ‘Waters’ reached there and claimed the child to be his, since the child had emerged from the Ocean waters. There was thus an argument between Lord Brahma and Lord Varuna about who the real father of this child was. Lord Vishnu commented that Brahma was no doubt the father of the child but the right of fatherhood could not be denied to Varuna as well since the child had emerged from the body of the Ocean. Lord Shiva finally settled the dispute. “Brahma is no doubt the father of this child Agni,” said He. “Let Varuna grant this child learning and knowledge of the Mantras and thus accept the child as his disciple. Scriptures declare that a disciple is equivalent to the son too. May lord Vishnu grant him brilliance and incendivity? This Agni will be able to burn anything and everything, and lord Varuna will be able to pacify him.”
Sage Bhrigu once cursed Agni thus: “May you become all-devouring.”
This annoyed Agni because he happens to be the mouth of the gods and the Pitras and carries to them the nutrients from the sacrificial rituals. So he retracted himself from all yajnas, fire rituals and earthly functions. As a result, the three worlds went into chaos and misery. Lord Brahma finally pacified Lord Agni and persuaded him to resume his usual functions.
Agni-deva is supposed to have been instrumental in the birth of Skanda, the six headed son of lord Shiva. The mighty Skanda killed the dreaded demon Taraka even while he was just seven days old. Agni-deva himself carries the essence of lord Shiva, and the consequent benevolence.
Yama: Ruler of the South
Lord Yama is the lord of Death. He enforces the rule of Dharma, law and justice, and grants the individual the fruits of his Karmas. He is stern and powerful and is not affected by attachments and allurements. Impartial in His disposition, He operates in both His forms, as Dharma and as Death. It is in His nature thus to ensure the implementation of discipline on the one hand and inflict punishment for any lapses on the other. None can escape His vigilant eye and His functionaries operate ceaselessly to carry out His command. Every living being has to proceed to the abode of Yama at the expiry of his term on earth and reap the fruits of his actions. Only the Creator can afford to mollify Him in His fury.
The wicked Raavana had become virtually invincible through his austerities. In his
Pushpaka Vimaana, he could fly from the world of mortals to that of the gods with the speed of the mind. It was his desire to conquer the three worlds and rule over them. With this aim in mind, he set out to first conquer the earthlings.
Once upon a time, while flying by the Pushpaka through the clouds, Raavana met sage Naarada, the Rishi of heavenly encyclopedic knowledge. The demon king saluted the sage and offered him the due courtesy. Naarada exhorted Raavana to give up his desire to overcome the earthlings by making him understand that the feeble-bodied earthlings were afflicted by miseries, ailments and old age. There was no greatness in destroying or subjugating those who were already proceeding to the world of Yama. Real strength would be to conquer Yama, the lord of Death, himself.
Raavana was amused. “I shall conquer Yama. The god who bestows death upon others would himself be afflicted with death.”
Indra, the king of gods, and all the movable and immovable creatures on the earth, meet their death at the hands of Yama as their longevity expires. Yama is witness to the good and bad deeds of all living beings, and bestows justice upon them on the basis of their Karmas.
He instills fear in the minds of all beings. The very thought of someone daring to face Death itself to conquer Him intrigued Naarada.
Naarada went to thekingdomofYamato warn the lord of Death about the intentions of the ten-headed Raavana. While Naarada was apprising Yama of the impending arrival of the demon king, the two of them spotted the glittering aircraft of Raavana approaching them from a distance. As he reached the Yama-loka, Raavana witnessed countless creatures receiving the fruits of their good and sinful Karmas at the hands of Yama’s men. Raavana had a close view of the numerous hells there and the creatures who suffered the torments in those hells. The mighty Raavana forcibly released all those suffering the torments of hell.
This annoyed Yama’s men who attacked Raavana in great numbers and broke the doors, the seats and the couches, etc., of his aircraft. The self-repairing aircraft, however, regained its original shape soon after being broken.
In the fierce fight that ensued, Raavana and his men were severely wounded but they continued their fight. Raavana was greatly harassed. His armor was broken and he had to use the never-failing Paashupata missile, acquired with the grace of lord Shiva, to overcome Yama’s men.
Yama, the son of the Sun-god, was incensed at the prospect of Raavana’s success and preceded to the battlefield. Seeing Yama in person, the forces of Raavana lost heart and ran helter-skelter leaving the fearless Raavana virtually alone. Raavana received a good beating at the hands of Yama so that at one stage he even appeared to have lost much desire to continue battle. But continue he did, for he still longed for victory. The fierce battle between the two of them wrought a lot of damage and destruction around.
As Yama decided to kill Raavana, He lifted His fierce and never-failing Kaala-Danda to strike him. Just then, the Creator Brahma intervened.
“O mighty son of Surya! Pray do not slay this demon with the Kaala-Danda. I have given this Raakshasa a boon that he would not be slain by any god. Do not, therefore, falsify my word. In earlier times, I alone constructed this formidable weapon of yours. With My strength behind it, it never fails, and causes certain death. Raavana too would not survive its blow. I have made the Kaala-Danda an unfailing weapon. If Raavana dies as a result of your strike, or if he survives your blow, in either case my word, the word of the Creator, would be falsified. Withhold your weapon and let my word remain true.”
“O’ Lord of the world,” said Yama, the lord of Dharma, to Lord Brahma, the Creator, and “may your word prevail. See, here, I withdraw my weapon. Besides, if I am not supposed to kill this demon, there is no sense in my continuing this fight with him.”
Saying this, Yama retreated and disappeared along with His chariot and His horses. Raavana shouted in triumph.