Agni (Fire) The phenomenon of combustion as seen in light, flame and heat; one of man's essential tools. It was the control of fire, together with the making of stone tools that distinguished early man from his close primate relatives. The use of fire allowed man to leave the tropical habitat natural to primates and to develop in varied environments. Its great importance to humans, the mystery of its powers, and its seeming capriciousness has made fire divine or sacred to many peoples. In ancient times, agni or fire was considered one of the four basic elements, a substance from which all things were composed.
Agni is a Hindu and Vedic deity. With fire early man began to exert a powerful influence on his natural environment. The word agni is Sanskrit for "fire" (noun), cognate with Latin ignis (the root of English ignite), Russian ogon (fire), pronounced agon, and ogni, pronounced agni (fires). Lithuanian - ugnis (fire). Agni has three forms: fire, lightning and the sun.
Fire, as a God, is a characteristic feature of Zoroastrians, in which as in many sun-worshipping religions fire is considered the earthly representative or type of the sun. According to Hindu mythology, agni is one of the most ancient and most sacred objects of Hindu worship. As such, agni is considered as the mediator between men and gods, as protector of mankind and their home, and as witness of their actions; hence his invocation in all solemn occasions, including the nuptial ceremony. After cremating the dead, the close family members have to purify themselves by touching fire before returning to their houses.
Agni appears in the progress of mythological personification as a son of Angiras, as a king of the Pitris or Manesh, as a Marut, as a grandson of Sandila, as one of the seven sages during the reign of Tamasa, or the fourth Manu, as a star, and as a Rishi [Rshi] or inspired author of several Vedic hymns. He is generally described as having two faces, three legs and seven arms, of a red or flame colour and riding on a ram. Before him is a swallow-tailed banner on which a ram is also represented. He is described by others as a corpulent man of a red complexion, with eyes, eyebrows, head and hair, of a tawny colour, riding on a goat. From his body issues seven streams of glory, and in his right hand he holds a spear. Agni is the son of Kasyapa and Aditi. His consort or Shakti is Swaha. Agni is also the name of a star in the tail of the planetary porpoise.
Agni was one of the three Hindu gods of the Vedic era. Indra lived in the heavens, Barun in the sky and Agni on the earth. Agni was known in the heavens as the sun, in the sky as thunder and on the earth as fire. Agni was also known as the face or emissary of the gods as through fire the other gods received their share of the offerings at sacrificial rites. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. He is ever-young, because the fire is re-lit every day, yet he is also immortal.
At its inception fire worshipping required sacrificing human lives. But as it was considered cruel, it was replaced by sacrificing cattle. Sacrificing goats was introduced in its place when the necessity arose to preserve cattle in the interest of farming. This too is gradually disappearing on grounds of cruelty. As social changes favoured worshipping such Purana deities as Durga and Kali, worshipping fire and other Vedic deities lost its importance.
In Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, he is a lokapala guarding the Southeast. Jigten lugs kyi bstan bcos: which translates, "Make your hearth in the southeast corner of the house, which is the quarter of Agni". He also plays a central role in most Buddhist homa fire-puja rites. A typical praise to Agni starts "Son of Brahma, Lord of the World, King of fire gods empowered by Takki, Whose supreme wisdom burns all delusion. [Md Mahbub Murshed]