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Indra Home -› Lesser Gods -› Indra
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Indra riding the airavat
Indra held court at SWARGA, his heaven in the clouds surrounding the highest peak of the sacred mountain MERU. This heaven could move anywhere at its lord's command. In Swarga, there is an enormous hall when slain warriors went after death. Indra and the beautiful Indrani presided over their paradise. No sorrow, suffering, or fear was allowed in Indra's home. Apsaras (beautiful damsels) and Gandharvas (celestial beings) danced and entertained those who attended court, and gaming and athletic contests were held.

In the post-Vedic period and during the age of Puranas Indra falls from the front rank status and is given the lower grade in all respects. Though still the king of other smaller gods, Indra is much inferior to the holy triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Indra is still regarded as the controller of atmosphere, but only under the supervision of the Almighty. Indra in later ages is the ruler of only SWARG, the heaven where the gods live enjoying life in the company of beautiful APSARAS, the female dancers. He is now shown having great weakness and big faults. He is shown even to have a lascivious character; indulging in sexual wrongs. He tried to seduce the pious wife of sage GAUTAMA, named AHILYA. This enraged the sage, who cursed him to have a thousand wounds resembling female organ on his whole body. When he repented and prayed, these thousand wound marks were changed into thousand eyes; hence Indra is also called SAHASRA CHAKSHU (the thousand eyed).

In later versions of the story of his battle against Vritra, he is portrayed as vengeful and cowardly, and needs the help of Shiva and Vishnu to slay the dragon. In the Mahabharata, a terrible female goddess called only Brahminicide who rose up out of the dead Vritra, who was a Brahman in that version of the story, pursues Indra. She relentlessly chased him and overtook him in his chariot and clung to him so that he could not escape; he hid inside a lotus blossom, but he still could not dislodge her. Finally, he went before Brahma and acknowledged his crime, for the killing of a Brahman was considered a terrible sin, and Brahma agreed to help him become free. The king of the gods had to perform penance to atone for his transgression. Indra also suffered such indignities as having his elephant's head cut off by Shiva to be given to Shiva's son Ganesha.

In the Ramayana comes the story that Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka, attacked heaven and fought against Indra. Indra was badly defeated by Ravana's son, named MEGHNAD, who since then was called INDRAJEET. As Meghnad took Indra captive, other gods under the leadership of Brahma had to purchase Indra' s freedom by bestowing on the demon the blessing of an immortal life. He is very much afraid to lose his throne of heaven and regularly sends beautiful female singing and dancing girls to disturb the penances of the holy men, whom Indra thinks may dethrone him.

In the life of god Krishna, he presents himself as one whom the incarnated god teaches a great lesson. He pours incessant rains to drown the people of Brajbhumi; God Krishna raises the mountain named Govardhan on his little finger and defeats the design of Indra. Again when Krishna goes to visit Swarg, he wants to carry the divine Parijata tree. Indra opposes it and fights. In the battle too Krishna defeats him and the tree is carried off.

Indra is actually a position, which the aspirant god attains if his divine conduct is beyond any blemish. According to the mythological details even a moral being or a man could get it, like king Nahush got once. But he fell from grace when he tried to lay hold on the previous Indra's wife. Hence whoever becomes the Indra has to guard his position by his good conduct. Though Indra is not the object of direct worship in temples, he is constantly appearing in all tales of religious scriptures as the king of lesser gods.
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