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Indra


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Gauthama's curse

   Indra duped Ahalya, the wife of Gautama Maharishi, in the guise of a saint into letting him have sex with her. He was punished by Gautama with a curse that one thousand vaginas would cover his body in a grotesque and vulgar display, and that his reign as king of the gods would meet with disaster and catastrophe. Gautama later commuted the curse, upon the pleading of Brahma, to one thousand eyes instead. But according to Valmiki Ramayana the thousand eyed Indra was cursed by Gautama to loose his Testicles(1-48-28). Indra later gets a new pair of testicles from a Ram with the help of Agni.

   Due to this sin Indra's throne is supposed to remain insecure forever. He is repeatedly humiliated by demonic kings like Ravana of Lanka, whose son Indrajit (whose name means victor over Indra) bound Indra in serpent nooses and dragged him across Lanka in a humiliating display. Indrajit released Indra when Brahma convinced him to do so in exchange for celestial weapons, but Indra, as the defeated, had to pay tribute and accept Ravana's supremacy. Indra realized the consequences of his sin, and was later avenged by the Avatara of Vishnu, Rama, who slew Ravana to deliver the three worlds from evil, as described in the epic Ramayana.

   However, according to the tradition of the temple of Suchindrum, near Nagercoil, in Southern Tamil Nadu, Indra was promised relief from the curse, if he could manage to worship the Divine Trinity of Hinduism, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva simultaneously. This he succeeded in doing at Suchindrum, where the presiding deity is Sthanumalayan, a combined form of Shiva (Sthanu), Vishnu (Mal) and Brahma (Ayan), and was accordingly granted relief. Tradition maintains that he continues to worship each night at the temple, on account of which the priests of the temple, on appointment, are made to take a vow in Tamil "Aham kaṇdathai puram çolla mattān", meaning "I will never reveal anything I see within". Further, part of their duty is to clean the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and leave it ready for all rituals at night before closing the temple and clean it again, when they re-open it in the morning.

Indra and the Ants

   In this story from the Brahmavaivarta Purana, Indra defeats Vṛtrá and releases the waters. Elevated to the rank of King of the gods, Indra orders the heavenly craftsman, Vishvakarma, to build him a grand palace. Full of pride, Indra continues to demand more and more improvements for the palace. At last, exhausted, Vishvakarma asks Brahma the Creator for help. Brahma in turn appeals to Vishnu, the Supreme Being.

   Vishnu visits Indra's palace in the form of a brahmin boy; Indra welcomes him in. Vishnu praises Indra's palace, casually adding that no former Indra had succeeded in building such a palace. At first, Indra is amused by the brahmin boy's claim to know of former Indras. But the amusement turns to horror as the boy tells about Indra's ancestors, about the great cycles of creation and destruction, and even about the infinite number of worlds scattered through the void, each with its own Indra. The boy claims to have seen them all. During the boy's speech, a procession of ants had entered the hall. The boy saw the ants and laughed. Finally humbled, Indra asks the boy why he laughed. The boy reveals that the ants are all former Indras.

   Another visitor enters the hall. He is Shiva, in the form of a hermit. On his chest lies a circular cluster of hairs, intact at the circumference but with a gap in the middle. Shiva reveals that each of these chest hairs corresponds to the life of one Indra. Each time a hair falls, one Indra dies and another replaces him.

   No longer interested in wealth and honor, Indra rewards Vishvakarma and releases him from any further work on the palace. Indra himself decides to leave his life of luxury to become a hermit and seek wisdom. Horrified, Indra's wife Shuchi asks the priest Brihaspati to change her husband's mind. He teaches Indra to see the virtues of both the spiritual life and the worldly life. Thus, at the end of the story, Indra learns how to pursue wisdom while still fulfilling his kingly duties.

Indra and Dadhichi

Two stories that show how Indra, who tried to behead Dadhichi, ended up seeking his help to defeat the evil demon, Vritra, and how the noble sage willingly gave up his life for the sake of others. Click here to read the stories (Opens new page)

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