Agni is the protector of mankind, He is the lord of the house, dwelling in every abode, guest in every home. He despises no man and lives with every family. He is the fire that burns in the hearth and inside the human body. He is the mediator between the Gods and human beings. He is the light that illumines ignorance and He is the spark of Divine Consciousness in all living beings.
This post links to Rudra, Shiva, Agni and Loki which explores the connection between these Gods.
In the sacred Vedic scriptures, Agni is revered as a major God next to Indra (who is the King of the Gods). Agni (in Sanskrit) means “fire” and the God’s nature reflects the primordial powers of this element – to consume, transform and convey. He exists on three levels – on earth as fire, in the atmosphere as lightening and in the sky (heaven) as the sun. Agni is invoked often as He is considered the medium that conveys offerings to the Gods. In the Vedas Agni is described as a mediator between the Gods and human beings, being able to freely travel between the worlds. Later, in the Upanishads, He evolved to represent all transformative energy and knowledge. He represents the immortal existence inside human beings and also the light that dispels darkness, destroys illusion, transforms ignorance and procreates an enlightened state of being. Agni is the the flame of aspiration burning inside every human heart, the inner fire that illumines and lets us go beyond our limitations and bondage in search for the highest knowledge – the knowledge of the Self.
Agni is said to love those who worship Him equally and in turn He is loved by all. He visits every hearth no matter if the family is rich or poor.
Some refer to Agni as the ultimate source of the Hindu trinity – while Shiva takes this role in the Shivapuran when he appears to Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu as a column of fire and refers to Himself as the creator of all.
Agni is said to be ‘Agrani’ the first principle of thought which manifests as speech and the leader who spreads knowledge. “About the beginning of language or the beginning of human aspiration in the form of language, we know a little. We know that there is a particular pattern that many languages followed. In Sanskrit, the mother of all our Indian languages, A is the first letter of the alphabet as it is in English. Agni is the first and foremost priest and his name starts with A. The beginning of the Rig Veda starts with a hymn to Agni, so the Vedas start with A. Now let us look very briefly at some Western languages. Hebrew begins with aleph and Greek with alpha, the same sound approximately as our A. Latin and the various roman languages derived from it also begin with the letter A. So also do the Germanic languages. In fact, probably all the languages of the Indo-European language groups begin with the sound A and many other language groups also start their alphabet with this sound.
We can be proud of our human oneness. It seems that the first sound that arose from the human consciousness at the very beginning of the awakening of the human race was the sound of ‘a’ symbolised by the letter A.”
Agni has two forms:
“Jātaveda is the fire that carries the quid-pro-quo offerings to the gods, in which case Agni is light identified with knowledge and with Brahman. “He who knows all creatures”, Agni acts as the divine model for the priest. He is the messenger who carries the oblation from humans to the gods, bringing the Gods to sacrifice, and intercedes between gods and humans (Rig Veda I.26.3). Together with Indra and Soma, Agni is invoked in the Rig Veda more than any other god.
Kravyād is the form of Agni which cremates corpses, the fire of the funeral pyre that triggers the recycling of matter and spirit. In this way, states Shatapatha Brahmana in verse 126.96.36.199, after one’s death and at the time of cremation, Agni heats up and burns only the body, yet by its heat, one is reborn.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni
The word “Agni” is used in many contexts, ranging from the fire in stomach, the cooking fire in a home, the sacrificial fire in an altar, the fire of cremation, the fire of rebirth, the fire in the energetic saps concealed within plants, the atmospheric fire in lightning and the celestial fire in the sun.
Agni’ means fire. This fire refers to the aspiring flame that rises from our inmost being; again, ‘Agni’ also refers to the fire god himself. We are all aspirants; we are all seekers of the infinite Truth. It is we who have to embody Agni, the flame of aspiration, in the inmost recesses of our hearts. We also have to grow upwards with this flame until we become the embodiment of Agni, the fire god himself.
Agni is an Immortal who has taken up his abode with mortals as their guest. He is the domestic priest who rises before the dawn. He is a sage, the divinest among the sages, immediately acquainted with all the forms of worship; the wise director, the successful accomplisher, and the protector of all ceremonies, who enables men to serve the gods in a correct and acceptable manner in cases where they could not do this with their own unaided skill. He is a swift messenger, moving between heaven and earth, commissioned both by gods and men to maintain their mutual communication, to announce to the immortals the hymns, and to convey to them the oblations of their worshippers; or to bring them (the immortals) down from the sky to the place of sacrifice. He accompanies the gods when they visit the earth, and shares in the reverence and adoration which they receive. He makes the oblations fragrant; without him the gods experience no satisfaction.
Agni is the lord, protector, king of men. He is the lord of the house, dwelling in every abode. He is a guest in every home; he despises no man, he lives in every family. He is therefore considered as a mediator between gods and men, and as a witness of their actions; hence to the present day he is worshipped, and his blessing sought on all solemn occasions, as at marriage, death, etc. In these old hymns Agni is spoken of as dwelling in the two pieces of wood which being rubbed together produce fire; and it is noticed as a remarkable thing that a living being should spring out of dry (dead) wood. Strange to say, says the poet, the child, as soon as born, begins with unnatural voracity to consume his parents. Wonderful is his growth, seeing that he is born of a mother who cannot nourish him; but he is nourished by the oblations of clarified butter which are poured into his mouth, and which he consumes.
The highest divine functions are ascribed to Agni. Although in some places he is spoken of as the son of heaven and earth, in others he is said to have formed them, and all that flies or walks, or stands or moves. He formed the sun, and adorned the heavens with stars. Men tremble at his mighty deeds, and his ordinances cannot be resisted. Earth, heaven, and all things obey his commands. All the gods fear, and do homage to him. He knows the secrets of mortals, and hears the invocations that are addressed to him.
The worshippers of Agni prosper, are wealthy, and live long. He watches with a thousand eyes over the man who brings him food, and nourishes him with oblations. No mortal enemy can by any wondrous power gain the mastery over him who sacrifices to this god. He carries men across calamities, as a ship over the sea. He commands all the riches in earth and heaven; hence he is invoked for riches, food, deliverance, and in fact all temporal good. He is also prayed to as the forgiver of sins that may have been committed through folly. All gods are said to be comprehended in him; he surrounds them as the circumference of a wheel does the spokes.
In a celebrated hymn of the Rig-Veda, attributed to Vasishtha, Indra and the other gods are called upon to destroy the Kravyāds (the flesh-eaters), or Rākshas, enemies of the gods. Agni himself is a Kravyād, and as such takes an entirely different character. He is then represented under a form as hideous as the beings he, in common with the other gods, is called upon to devour. He sharpens his two iron tusks, puts his enemies into his mouth, and devours them. He heats the edges of his shafts, and sends them into the hearts of the Rākshasas.
There are four Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda. You all know that the Rig Veda is our most ancient, most profound, most sacred and most hallowed scripture. In the Rig Veda you will read about Indra, the lord of the gods, who is considered the most important and most powerful of the cosmic gods. Next to him is Agni. In the Rig Veda, Agni is the first of the cosmic gods to be invoked; our Hindu scriptures start with Agni, not Indra.
He is at once three different priests. First he is the priest who prays. He is praying on our behalf, on behalf of the earth-consciousness. Then he is the officiating priest, which resembles what we might call the minister in a church. He officiates at the divine sacrifice on our behalf. In his third aspect, Agni is the priest who bestows the divine wealth upon us. In this role, he carries our aspiration to the Highest and brings down the message of the Highest for us. He is like a spiritual Master who enters into his disciple’s ignorance, carries it up into the Highest and then brings down God’s Peace, Light and Bliss. The Master is a messenger and Agni also plays the part of a messenger. He takes our human aspiration to the Absolute Supreme and brings Divine Grace down into unlit and crying humanity.
Agni is very often associated with Indra. It is mentioned at times in the Rig Veda that Agni and Indra are twin brothers. But the one who performs the spiritual rites and religious duties most successfully is Agni. Some spiritual Masters say that Agni takes human aspiration to the Highest in the form of power, while Indra brings down Light into the earth atmosphere. Simultaneously they move; one goes up and the other comes down.
Full of divine energy and divine vigour is this lord, Agni. You will see boundless willpower within him and around him. The dynamic form of Agni is, at times, associated with Rudra, the Terrible, with the Thunder aspect of the Supreme. Rudra and Agni are friends. They go together. We see Rudra in the cosmic god Agni in his aspect of dynamic law.
On Agni’s appearance: “One will see different forms of the gods, according to one’s own individual realisation. For example, when someone invokes the power aspect of Agni, then in the vital world he sees Agni with his tongue out and his hair a mass of flames. But another aspirant, invoking the benevolent aspect of the god, will see Agni as a benign, glowing deity full of luminous, compassionate power. A third aspirant, after committing some serious moral blunder in the physical plane and thinking that the god will be terribly displeased with him, meets Agni’s destructive and angry form. But the real Agni, in his highest consciousness and in his nitya rupa, or eternal form, will appear in front of a seeker in normal human form with two arms, two legs and so on. He will look tall and very beautiful.
“O Agni, O Fire God,
lead us along the right path
so that we can enjoy the fruits
of our divine actions.
You know, O God, all our deeds.
O God, take away from us all our
unaspiring and binding sins and
To You we offer our teeming,
soulful salutations and prayers,
to you we offer.”
Heart’s aspiration is the right path.
God’s Compassion is the genuine guidance.
The fruits of our divine actions are Peace, Light and Bliss.
Sin is the smile of self limiting bondage.
In our prayers and salutations abides God the illumining Saviour.
Agni is loved by all and sundry, irrespective of age. Sometimes you will notice that an elderly gentleman is admired and adored by his colleagues, whereas new generations find it difficult to appreciate his genius. The old and the new do not go together. But in the case of Agni, it is not like that. The second verse in the Rig Veda tells us that Agni is adored and worshipped by the ancient sages and, at the same time, by the newly-born seekers. He can please a little child and he also can please an octogenarian.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Agni is a household god in the sense that Agni is cherished most in the family either to fulfil desire or to fulfil aspiration. He is called “Griha Pati” or “Griha Swami”, lord of the house. He is lord of the house and also guest of the house. He is the supreme guest. The sages felt the necessity of cherishing and adoring Agni all the time because they felt that there was no end to their aspiration and that Agni was the only answer to their aspiration. At the same time, they came to realise that the flame of aspiration could be kindled by Agni alone. We need Agni to kindle the flames of aspiration and, at the same time, we need Agni to achieve our highest realisation.
Agni is never old. He is ever young and he is being reborn every day. When we kindle the flame of aspiration early in the morning, Agni takes birth. He is a newborn babe. Then again, he is the most ancient god because he is the first priest mentioned in the Rig Veda:
O Flame! Master Strength! O Leader! You gather around you all the peoples of the world and bind them together. You burn bright in the high seat of Revelation. You bring us all the Riches.
Agni is human aspiration and divine realisation all at once. If you would like to repeat the name Agni silently a few times early in the morning, then you are bound to feel the climbing flame of aspiration within you. Please repeat ‘Agni’ most soulfully, most devotedly; then you will feel the bumper crop of divine realisation within you.
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