Rgveda: Importance of Agni in Indian Religion and Philosophies
India is the country with rich and strong traditions that draw the attention of people around the whole world. The reader cannot stay indifferent to the ideas and philosophies offered by the Indians, especially those of the Vedic period. The Rgveda hymns, composed in early 1000s BC (Maurer, 2000), contain references to a number of gods, and Agni is considered to be one of the most fascinating and important deities due to his primary function as the priest of sacrifice. The hymns “Agni” represent a true nature of Indian culture; these hymns show how devoted the Indians can be. Comprehension is a crucial aspect in Indian philosophy, and the hymns devoted to Agni explain its importance. The investigation of the importance of the god Agni in Rgveda as well as in history captivates a lot: his great wisdom, his function of the main priest of sacrifice and the messenger between the two worlds, terrestrial and celestial, and his ability to encourage and support people with their intentions and ideas are the main reasons to focus on the “Agni” hymns.
Indian philosophy is characterized by a certain attention to the role of animals, fruits, magic, etc. This culture is characterized by an enormous respect to gods. Each god has his own purpose, function, and power, and it is hard to define which god is more important. However, many authors admit that the contributions made by Agni remain to be the most considerable (Maurer, 2000; Keith, 2007). The Indians have a strong belief that their destiny, achievements, and abilities depend on how grateful they are to their gods. In the hymns, it is admitted that not each god may hear human prayers, and Agni is the only one, who can promote the communication between the representatives of the terrestrial world and the celestial world. In addition, he is the god of fire, and his functions cannot be compared to any other god, his control of fire is the key to the sacrifices.
Agni is the first god mentioned in the Rgveda hymns and defined as “the divine ministrant” (Maurer, 2000, p. 12). There are several hymns devoted to Agni, and each of them demonstrates Agni as the god with various functions and proves that people’s attitude to this god has a lot of reasons from the very first lines. He is not only the judge of human actions. He is the guest, whose presence at the sacrifice is a gift. He “has the powers of sage” (Maurer, 2000, p.12) that make him wise and helpful to ordinary people. This god is appealing to the reader due to the fact that people are not scared of him. They call on him to get the necessary assistance, and the desire to know what kind of help is possible to get from the god captivates the reader.
In addition to his wisdom, Agni has an extraordinary ability to promote the contact between the terrestrial and celestial worlds, in other words, to be a messenger between people and gods (Maurer, 2000). The process of sacrifice is the central one in the life of any Indian person that could brought a god to the process: Keith (2007) underlines that it is “an important rite addressed to one god only: the effort on the contrary was clearly to find as much room as possible for as many gods as possible” (p.313); and it is Agni, who can bring the gods to the sacrifice and explain the importance of the feast. No other god, even Indra, who is regarded to be the leader of other gods, can take responsibility for the development of such kind of contact. Therefore, Agni’s importance is particularly obvious.
Human belief is a powerful thing: it is not only a kind of the light at the end of the tunnel; it is an inspiration, a power that supports people. It is fire that is offered by Agni. The hymns devoted to this god show how powerful the concept of faith is. On the one hand, it may seem that the Indians are weak due to their constant dependence on god’s will and obligations to obey the laws of nature. On the other hand, the Indians are considered to be a strong nation, whose desire to follow the traditions and respect every element of nature is impressing. The Rgveda is a perfect source to understand a true nature of the Indian philosophy and religion. It is not only a collection of hymns to particular gods, it is a chance to get to know the importance of each god and enjoy the uniqueness of Agni among the rest.
The Rgveda hymns have a long history, and even if it is hard to define its actual date of creation, it is still possible to understand their primary purpose and the impact of the information given. People always take care of the traditions, and the Rgveda shows the origins of Indian culture, and the sacrifice feast in particular. The hymns “Agni” explain the peculiar features of the rite and the role of Agni. The ability to establish the contact between the gods and men and unbelievable wisdom make Agni one of the most favorite gods. He may be a teacher, an example, and a comrade at the same time. Even having a great power in two different worlds, this god does not find it necessary to take leading positions. His main purpose is to maintain the piece, promote comprehension, and encourage people never lose their faith and hope.