Agni in art : God of fire

      Agni is the God of fire. He is an important vedic deity in Hinduism. He is revered as dwelling in evry house. He is considered a mediator between Godas and humans, so he is present at every important 0ccasion. He is mentioned as a son of Brahma. He is also said to be the child of Dyaus and Prithvi. He is also thought to be the son of Sage Kashyap and Aditi. Many hymns have  been dedicated to him. Fire is an important part of Hindu ceremonies like weddings; the saptapadi and part of Diwali as the diya or lamp. Agni is part of all pujas as aarti.

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Rangoli with lamps, Diwali, 21st century,Hyderabad.

By JimReeves on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/joezach/285169752/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1552750

    Agni is found in south-east corners of Hindu temples. Agni as fire has been one of the five inert impermanent constituents Dhatus, along with space Akasa, water Ap, air, Vayu and earth,Prithvi. Agni is thought to exist on earth as fire, in atmosphere as lightning and in the sky as sun. This presence connects him as the messenger between Gods and humans in  Vedic thought.  Agni in his three forms, namely fire, lightning and the sun is symbolised by giving his icon three heads or three legs. He  is shown wearing a garland of fruits or flowers, symbolic of the offerings made into the fire.

     Agni is depicted as red skinned, riding a ram with a halo of flames emerging form his crown. he is sometimes shown bearded. He has a rosary in one hand and  an axe, torch, fan in others. Agni is also called saptajihva; one having seven tongues, one who consumes sacrifical butter rapidly. He emits seven rays of light from his body;the number seven also represents the colours of the rainbow in his form as the sun.

     The term Agni is part of Buddhist texts but not like that of  vedic God but in a metaphorical sense of inner heat; and appears as Agni-kumara in the theory of rebirth in Jainism. Agni is one of the fifty one Buddhist deities found in Tibetan Buddhism mandala for the Medicine Buddha.

     Goddess Swaha is Agni’s wife. Her name is pronounced with offerings such as butter and seeds poured into the fire during ceremonies.  Swaha is the daughter  of Daksha. She loves Agni  and marries him by impersonating the wives of the sapatarishis whom Agni is besotted to. She is one of the many divine mothers of Kartikeya or Skanda.

File:Karttikeya and Agni - Circa 1st Century CE - Katra Keshav Dev - ACCN 40-2883 - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-23 5717.JPG

Kartikeya and Agni, 1st Century, Government Museum, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Madhya pradesh, agni, dio del fuoco, x sec.JPG

Agni, sandstone sculpture, 10th century,Madhya Pradesh,Musée Guimet,Paris.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Agni, wood carving, Wellcome images, U.K.

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:9th century Agni god sculpture LACMA collection.jpg

Agni,copper alloy sculpture,9th century, West Bengal, LACMA, USA.

By LACMA permission reads, “The Los Angeles County Museum of Public Art has released some 20,000 PD images of their collection” [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture: Agni 18th century miniature.jpg

Agni , miniature painting, 18th century.

By Unknown – http://www.atributetohinduism.com/Hindu_Scriptures.htm – accessible 9. January 2013 as: http://web.archive.org/web/20060213050420/http://www.atributetohinduism.com/Hindu_Scriptures.htm , containing the picture at: http://web.archive.org/web/20060213050420im_/http://www.atributetohinduism.com/images/agni_god_of_fire.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=619526

File:Agni and consort.jpg

Agni with his consort Swaha, miniature painting,1800, British Museum, U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Agni,1830,painting,Tamil Nadu, British Museum, U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Agni, engraving by Charles Etienne Pierre, 19th century.

By Bardel, Louis Thomas (1804-p.1841) (after) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Below is shown an interesting depiction , a gouache painting on paper. Agni is on his ram mount and accompanied by two attendants. Agni is depicted with seven arms, two heads and three legs. He has seven fiery tongues with which he licks sacrificial butter. The attributes held in his hands included an axe and prayer beads.
File:Agni Poona painting.jpg

Agni with two attendants, painting, early 19th century.

By unknown Poona artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Agni as medicine Buddha,15th-century, Tibetan Buddhist art.

By Unknown – 5AF8TlDRx8MKDQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21908260

References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • wikipedia.org

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

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About historyreads

Book lover, art history buff !
This entry was posted in Agni, Ancient Indian history, art history, hinduism, sculpture of india and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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