- Agni, the god of fire, is one of the most central divinities in the early Vedic tradition. There are more hymns to Agni in the RIG VEDA, the earli-est SANSKRIT text, than to any other divinity. Agni is sometimes said to be the son of earth and sky. He is also sometimes said to be the offspring of BRAHMA. He is sometimes called the son of ADITI and the RISHI Kashyapa. Finally, he is also some-times called the son of the rishi Angiras.Agni’s most important role is in the Vedic ritual, where he is the messenger between human-ity and the gods. He is called upon always to take the gods to the ritual place so that they can hear the pleas and praises of the chanters. In Vedic poetry he is called a domestic priest, a poet, and a sage, as though to identify him directly with the RISHIS. There is a sense of his presence in every home as the hearth fire, and there are a close-ness and intimacy expressed in the Vedic poetry with him that are lacking with many of the other Vedic divinities. He is seen to extend protection to humans in many ways and to grant wealth and length of life.Iconographically, in later times Agni is seen as red or black in color, riding a ram. He is guard-ian of the southeastern direction among the eight guardians of the directions. Fire is considered one of the five elements (PANCHA BHUTAs).Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); Alfred Hillebrandt, Vedic Mythology (Delhi: Moti-lal Banarsidass, 1990); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986); Sachidan-anda Mahapatra, Concept of Jatavedas in Vedic Literature (Delhi: Eastern Book Linkers, 2003); W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, 2d ed. (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.