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Agni deva, with fire around him, riding on his ram

Agni: The Fire God

Agni deva is the fire god and acceptor of sacrifices. He is the god of divine knowledge. He is also the ashta-dikapala (guardians of the directions) of the southeast direction. To invoke Agni deva the mantra is ‘Om Agnidevaya Namaha’. In the Vedas, Agni is the second-most important deva after Devapati Indra. His mount is a goat named Rama (not Rama, the avatar of Lord Vishnu).

Family

  • Father: Brahma
  • Wife: Svaha
  • Sons: Pavak, Pavanmaan, Shuchi

Marrying Swaha

Once Agni attended a yagna. The Saptarishis and their wives had also come to this yagna. Agni fell in love with them, but he knew that none of them would cheat on their husbands. Dejected, Agni wandered around in the forest. Swaha, the daughter of Daksha, had wanted to marry Agni for a long time. She took advantage of this opportunity and disguised herself as the wife of Angiras. Disguised as the wife of Angiras, she was able to seduce Agni. Swaha then went on to disguise herself as six of the wives of the Saptarishis. However, when she tried took the form of Arundhati, Vashishta’s wife, and seduced Agni, Agni realized it was a trick. This is because Arundhati is really devoted to Vashishta.

Agni said to Swaha, “Thanks to you, I was able to fulfill my desire of making love with the wives of the Saptarishis without breaking the rules of marriage. I am very pleased with you and wish to have you as my wife,” Agni said.

Swaha was really happy and accepted the proposal. Agni and Swaha were then married. Agni declared that in a yagna, he would not accept an offering unless the name “Swaha” was uttered. That is why priests say Swaha before pouring anything into the fire.

Conflict with Bhrigu

In this second birth, Bhrigu rishi married Puloma, a daughter of Kashyapa. Puloma and Bhrigu started living together in an ashram. She soon became pregnant with a son.

Once, Bhrigu went for his morning ablutions and left Puloma in the care of Agni deva. At that time, a rakshasa named Puloma came to the ashram and saw the beauty of Puloma. This rakshasa had actually been betrothed to Puloma before she married Bhrigu and was still enamored by her. But the Rakshasa then saw Agni deva and asked him, “Was Puloma wedded with Bhrigu through sacred Vedic rights?” Reluctantly, Agni said no. Hearing this, Puloma rakshasa decided to abduct Puloma. He turned into the form of a boar and he ran away with her. Frightened by this, Puloma gave birth to a son who fell to the ground. He was called Chyavana, which means “fallen from the womb”, and he was shining brightly. Overwhelmed by this, Puloma rakshasa ran away.

Puloma then came back to the ashram and told Bhrigu what had happened to her and her son. Bhrigu was pleased with the birth of their son, but he was enraged when he was told that Agni had revealed Puloma’s status. In a fit of rage, Bhrigu cursed, “Agni! You will become the consumer of all things!”

Agni became furious after hearing Bhrigu’s curse. “I am omnipresent. The gods and the pitrs (ancestors) accept oblations offered to me. Thus, it would be improper for me to consume an offering of unclean things,” he thundered. Agni refrained from cursing Bhrigu because he was a revered Brahmin and rishi. After this incident, Agni went into incognito. Brahma then called Agni and told him that the curse stands modified because his flames will consume everything but his body will remain pure. Satisfied, Agni went back to his duties.

Angiras becomes the Son of Agni

Once, sage Angiras performed severe penance and became more brilliant than Agni. The entire world was illuminated by his brilliant flames. Since Angiras was fulfilling the role of Agni, the people of the world started disregarding Agni. Agni was really upset by this and he once again went into hiding in a forest. When Agni disappeared, everyone was dismayed. Angiras went to the forest and consoled Agni and took him to Brahma. Brahma declared that from that day on, Angiras would be known as the son of Agni. Agni then resumed his regular duties.


Agni deva is seated on his ram with his head ablaze

Testing King Shibi

Shibi was a famous king. He was very righteous and virtuous. Once, he was doing a large yagna that would elevate him to the status of a minor deva. When Agni and Indra heard about this, they decided to test him. Agni turned into a pigeon and flew to King Shibi. Indra turned into a hawk which was trying to eat the pigeon (Agni). Agni settled in Shibi’s hand and said, “King, please protect me from this hawk that is trying to eat me.” Shibi replied, “I will protect you.”

The hawk arrived there and said, “Give up that pigeon, it is my food.” The king replied,” It has sought my protection. I cannot give it to you.” “I too need your protection. If I don’t catch that pigeon, my wife, my children and I will starve to death,” the hawk said. The pigeon whispered,” Please do not give me to him!” The king said, “I won’t.” The hawk replied, “If you care so much about that pigeon, slice a piece of your flesh from your right thigh equal to the pigeon.” The king immediately agreed to cut his thigh. He cut a portion of his thigh and weighed it with the pigeon. Since the pigeon weighed more, Shibi cut even more of his thigh.

Suddenly, the pigeon turned back into Agni and the hawk turned back into Indra. The part that Shibi had cut from his thigh was restored. Shibi bowed down to Agni and Indra. Agni and Indra gave Shbi the blessing that his name would remain immortal and that there would have a special place in Swarga reserved for Shibi.

Agni’s Indigestion

There was once a mighty king called Svetaki. He conducted many long yagnas. Not able to tolerate the high amounts of smoke in the yagna hall, all the sages left the king. Undismayed, Svetaki started another 12-year yagna in which no sages took part. Instead, the sages said that if he wanted to conduct another yagna, he could invite sudras (the lowest caste). Svetaki could not tolerate this insult and started doing penance on Mount Kailash. Soon, Lord Shiva appeared before him and made Durvasa rishi his priest. Durvasa rishi agreed to conduct the 12-year yagna. Throughout the 12-year period, Durvasa rishi fed the Agni (fire) lots of food. Agni was overfed and he developed indigestion. He lost his appetite, became weak, and his brilliance vanished.

Agni and the Khandava Forest

Agni’s indigestion continued for a long time. Dismayed, Agni approached Brahma for advice. Brahma said that Agni’s indigestion would be cured if he could burn the Khandava forest, the abode of the Nagas. Agni tried to consume the forest by burning it, but the Nagas quickly extinguished his fires. Agni was disheartened and once again approached Brahma. Brahma told him to wait for the arrival of Nara-Narayana at the forest. They would be the ones who would assist him.

Agni waited for the arrival of the pair for many years. At that time, Arjuna and Krishna, who were Nara and Narayana, were living in Indraprastha. The Khandava forest was part of their half of the Kuru kingdom. Wishing to explore and civilize their lands, Arjuna and Krishna arrived at the Khandava forest. Hearing about the arrival of Arjuna and Krishna, Agni disguised himself as a Brahmin and requested their help.

“I have tried countless times to burn this forest, but my efforts are always futile due to Indra. His friend Takshaka, the king of the Nagas, resides in this forest. Every time I set off a fire, Indra sends down rains to protect his friend’s tribe,” Agni explained.

Arjuna and Krishna agreed to help Agni. But they needed to arm themselves. Agni gave Arjuna a chariot bearing the flag of Hanuman and four white horses. Arjuna then prayed to Varuna deva, who gave him the Gandiva bow and two inexhaustible quivers.

Agni then started burning the forest. Immediately, Indra sent down a rainstorm, but Arjuna created a canopy of arrows above the forest to block the rain. Krishna used his Sudarshan chakra and assisted Arjuna. Soon, the entire forest was reduced to ashes and Agni was cured of his indigestion.

Agni and Sudarshana

King Nila of Mahishmati had a beautiful daughter named Sudarshana. Once, Agni took a small glance at her and immediately fell in love. Agni started dreaming about the beautiful lips of Sudarshana. In the end, Agni married Sudarshana and started staying at the palace of King Nila.

At this time, Yudhistira launched the Rajasuya military campaign and Sahadeva was sent south. After conquering Vidarbha, Sahadeva entered the kingdom of Nila. Before long, a fire erupted in his camp. Sahadeva was distressed by this setback and started praying to Agni deva. This lead to him learning about the relationship between Nila and Agni.

But Agni deva knew that for the Rajasuya yagna to be successful, Nila would have to surrender and pay tribute. He advised Nila to peacefully surrender. Nila listened to the advice of Agni and surrendered. Sahadeva then moved on to other southern kingdoms.

Reciting the Agni Purana to Vashistha

Once, Vashistha (one of the saptarishis), came to Agni. He wanted to have the knowledge of the Brahman.

Agni willingly explained the entire knowledge of the Brahmana to Vashistha. Later, Vashistha narrated what Agni had said to Ved Vyas, who wrote everything down. He called his writings the Agni Purana.

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2 thoughts on “Agni: The Fire God”

  1. Thanks for uploading this story but I want to know about the birth story of Agni. I wonder if you could upload it?

    1. Sure. I will definitely research and then add the birth story of Agni. I am happy you liked the post.

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