Indra in art : Lord of the heavens

      Indra is a Vedic deity in Hinduism ,a guardian deity in Buddhism and also the king of the first heaven in Jainsim. He has been represented in sculpture and paintings. In Hindu mythology too he is the Lord of swarga or heaven. He has been highly mentioned in the Rigveda. Indra is the destroyer of Vritra who is against human happiness. Indra is not mentioned much in post-Vedic literature as he is known to disturb monks and sages who meditate because he thinks they will develop powers more than him.

   In Buddhism he is referred to as Shakra as someone paying homage to Buddha.He rules over the realm of devas with the samsara doctrine of Buddhism.In Jainism he is the king of Gods and a part of Jain rebirth cosmology. He is seen with his wife Indrani to celbrate auspicious moments with Jain tirthankaras.

  Indra wields the thunderbolt known as Vajra, riding on his white elephant Airavata. The rainbow too is considered the visible symbol of his mighty bow. In Buddhism Airavata has three heads, an in Jainsim he is shown with five heads. His heaven is called Amaravati and pious mortals go there to be reborn again on earth.

High-relief of Indra, god of the firmament. Wellcome M0009457.jpg

Indra, wood relief, Wellcome images, U.K.

By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/3b/8c/ee7781370ae8b76ea3397896b01e.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/M0009457.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36340498

File:Chaitya Window - Indra - Circa 5th Century CE - Bhumara - Madhya Pradesh - Indian Museum - Kolkata 2013-04-10 7797.JPG

Indra, chaitya window, 5th Century, Bhumara, Madhya Pradesh, Indian Museum, Kolkata

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

Fire vs Rain - The Defeat of Indra.jpg

Battle between Indra and Lord Krishna,painting,mid-19th century, ,Jaipur,Rajasthan.

By Unknown – http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/PostWork.aspx?l=6680, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42871509

       This beautiful Jaipur painting above  portrays the grand finale in the fierce battle between Indra the God of heaven and Lord Krishna who was aided by Arjuna. Agni, the god of fire wanted to eat the Khandava forest. But Indra, the God of heaven stopped the process with torrential rain to protect a friend of his. Thus the battle between fire and rain continued. A tired Agni finally approached Krishna and Arjuna for help. A battle ensued between Indra and his supporters on one side and Krishna and Arjuna on the other. In this scene one can see a blue sky with thundering clouds. Indra is seated on Airavata with his allies seated on horses. All of them are seen making a humble retreat. They are surrounded by celestial beings seated in their respective chariots. Manama Daitya, a bare-bodied demon in a short tight lower vestment, stands with folded hands before Krishna and Arjuna. The vast, undulating landscape and the forest on fire add to the beauty.  The chariots also have very fine motifs. The main figures have been identified with inscriptions. On careful observation one can even see the pearl settings on the headgears of the charioteers, peacock feathers adorning Krishna’s crown and hair on the body of the demon, Manama Daitya. This Jaipur painting is one based on themes from the epic, Mahabharata. 

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Indra sculpture  in Indrasabha, cave no 32, Ellora, Maharashtra.

By J. Johnston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Deity riding elephant in relief at Keshava temple in Somanathapura.jpg

Indra,Chennakeshava temple,13th century, Somanathapura, Karnataka.

By Hemanth M Y – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21133786

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Indra, painting,19th century, South India.

Autor: Unknown – http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=3080760&partid=1&searchText=indra&fromADBC=ad&toADBC=ad&numpages=10&images=on&orig=%2fresearch%2fsearch_the_collection_database.aspx&currentPage=1, Voľné dielo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9874867

          The Harivamsa , was a continuation of epic, Mahabharata. The Mughal emperor Akbar ordered it to be translated into Persian so that it could be read by non-Hindus. In this illustration to the text done in about 1590, Krishna sweeps down on the bird Garuda to triumph over Indra,  riding on his white elephant Airavata, watched by gods and other celestial beings. The swirling fabrics, billowing clouds, and the boat in the lower part of the scene, are all the result of the influence on Mughal court artists of European style  of painting. The original manuscript was dispersed and some pages were remounted for later albums, as here. The borders were probably added in Lucknow in the 18th century.

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Indra on Airavata ,Mughal painting, late 16th century.

By Unknown (production) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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 Indra on Airavata, Banteay Srei Temple,10th century,Cambodia.

By Anandajoti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra and Indrani , sculpture, Musée des arts asiatiques, Nice, France.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Indra et Indrani (Musée des arts asiatiques, Nice)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Indradeva.jpg

Indra and Sachi riding the elephant Airavata, folio from a Panchakalyanaka (Five Auspicious Events in the Life of Jina Rishabhanatha [Adinatha]),17th century,painting, Amber, Rajasthan.

By Unknown, India, Rajasthan, Amber, South Asia (from LACMA [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra on Airavata, Banteay Srei temple, 10th century,Cambodia.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Indra sur Airâvana (Banteay Srei, Angkor)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra paying homage to Krishna, folio from a Bhagavata Purana,1640,Malwa,  Madhya Pradesh.

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

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Indra with Lord Vishnu,illustration,20th century.

By Ramanarayanadatta astri (http://archive.org/details/mahabharata06ramauoft) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra on Airavata, his elephant,sculpture,12th century, Halebidu, Karnataka.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ankurp;Image by Ankur P.

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Indra conveying Jina Rishabhanatha (Adinatha) on Airavata, early 19th century,folio from a Bhaktamara Stotra (Hymn of the Immortal Devotee),LACMA,USA.

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

 

 

References :

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

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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This entry was posted in art history, asian art, history of india, Indra, miniature paintings, sculpture of india and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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