The preeminent god of the Rig Veda is Indra, preeminent as much by the number of hymns addressed to him as by the wealth of the myths about him. Some 250 hymns are dedicated to him, while he shares honors with Vedic deities in 50 other hymns. Almost a third or more of the Rig Vedic hymns are concerned with Indra.
According to Georges Dumezil, Indra is a personification of the warrior class and as such he should be considered the Vedic homologue to the Greek Ares and Latin Mars.
Indra’s portrayal is that of a scorcher of the earth, the god inherent in the savagery of warfare, slaughtering, dealing out death and destruction at random.
From the Vedas we get an orgiastic, violent and cruel picture concerning Indra’s cult. Bloody animal sacrifices and ritual blood offerings were closely associated with the cult of Indra. This is well illustrated for example in Rig Veda 10.27. In the aforementioned verse the Vedic singer makes a promise to Indra of cooking a vigorous bull and pouring a sharp libation of soma for 15 days for him. The idea was to obtain Indra’s aid as the god of war by slaughtering a bull and mixing the blood with sóma/the wine offering.
(It is important to mention though that RV 10.27 is a critic toward those who sacrifice animals egoistically, for their own consumption and not in ritual sacrifice for the gods, Courtesy of Didier Calin.)
Indra’s special animal symbol was the bull and his name is mentioned during the midday oblation in the Agnishtoma and other sóma rites.
This daævic or demonic rite of mixing blood offering with the sacred wine (sóma) is most vehemently reviled in the poetic gathas, (See Yasna 48.10, 2nd rhymed verse line or Yasna 32.12, 2nd rhymed verse line.)
Furthermore, the idea to kill/murder a bull during sacred wine offering (sóma) to avert death and injury is alluded to and vigorously denounced in the poetic gathas, (See Yasna 32.14, 3rd rhymed verse line.)
The Rig Veda describes how Agní (to ignite FIRE) and Sóma (Avestan haômá SACRED WINE) were passed from the side of Varuná to that of Indra. (See Verses 2 to 4 of hymn of hymn 10.124 of the Rig Veda.
As for the transit of the sóma, haômá SACRED WINE from the side of the ásuras/Avestan ahûra, Old Norse æsir, to that of devás look up Rig Veda 9.71.2 and 9.97.41.)
In the Rig Veda Varuna is the head of ásuras and Indra the head of devás. The vedic ásuras are the Avestan ahûrá and Old Norse æsir.
It is NOT the haômá (sacred wine) that prophet Zarathûshtrá so vehemently reviles but the killing of the bull and the demonic blood offerings and animal sacrifices associated with it in the blood libation rituals.
Another fascinating subject in the Vedas is the antagonism of the ari toward Indra. Thanks to the pioneering research of Renou, we know that ari has other derivatives such as áryá, aryamán. Ari in the Vedas are the “foreign Aryan lords or masters” the lordly foes of Indra. Ari are those ancient Aryans who still clung to their pristine worship of ásura or ahûrá religion.
(Herodotus (7.62) mentions that the Medes called themselves Arioi; Eratosthenes apud Strabo (15.2.8) speaks of Arianē as being between Persia and India; Eudemus of Rhodes apud Damascius (Dubitationes et solutiones in Platonis Parmenidem 125 bis) refers to “the Magi and all those of Iranian (áreion) lineage”; Diodorus Siculus (1.94.2) describes Zoroaster (Zathraustēs) as one of the Arianoi.)
Indra’s chief epithet is Vritrahán, a term associated with the Avestan Verethra-ghna, “to triumph over obstacles, be victorious, overcome.”
In the poetic gathas Verethrem-já is the charm/sacred formula of Victory (See Yasna 44.16,) it is also the most popular hymn in the Yasht collection of the Avesta.
The epithet vrthrahán does appear in RV 1.186.6c, 2.20.7a, 8.96.20a,21a, 10.74.6b as vṛtrahéndraḥis, (Courtesy of Didier Calin.) According to Rig Veda 10.24, Vrtra is the father ásura.
Apparently Indra has started to assume the function of a proto Aryan ásurá/ahûrá in the Vedic period.
Indra is ásura AND devá. Indra – as the continuation of the Proto-Indo-European Thundergod – becomes an asura (like Hittite Tarhunnas is a hassus!), and called so in RV 1.174.1ab “you, O Indra, are the king, O asura (râjendra … asura)!”, RV 8.90.6a+c asura … indra (in the vocative: “O Indra, O asura!” (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)
After the period of the Rig Veda, Vritrá becomes a Brahman, and by killing Vritrá Indra commits a crime for which he has to expiate.
However, the cult of Indra, prominent at the time of the composition of the Rig Veda, waned considerably under the influence of post-Vedic period. This diminution in Indra’s celebrity coincided with the rise of cults associated with Shivá “the auspicious one.”
It is erroneously assumed that Shiva is a pre Aryan god-power. That Shiva was the god of the Harappans, is based on a single Harappan finding, the so-called Pashu-pati seal. It depicts a man with a strange headwear sitting in lotus posture and surrounded by animals. Though not well visible, he seems to have three faces, which may mean that he is a three-faced god (like the famous three-faced Shiva sculptures.) The common speculation is that this is Shiva in his Pashu-pati (protector of peaceful cattle) aspect.
Truth is that shivá (the bright, auspicious one) is an epithet of Rudra and other Vedic gods. Indra himself is called shivá several times (Rig-Veda 2:20:3, 6:45:17, 8:93:3). Shiva is by no means a non-Aryan god-force. But shivá might go back to the older cult of ásuras and/or ahûrá.
The association of shivá with “crescent moon, powers of fertility, growth and his role as protector of peaceful cattle” is very much reminiscent of Aryan Zoroastrian symbolism. In the poetic gathas speñtá (auspicious, bright) is the epithet of ahûrá, See Yasna 51.16, 3rd rhymed verse line for example.)
I shall add that the poetic style of speñtá mainyü gatha (auspicious mind force, bright power of the spirit) is the same as Indra poetry in the Vedas that in later times is taken over by the auspicious lord shivá.
Among other ásura/ahûrá epithets that Indra might have acquired later in the Vedas is yuvan “young.” For he is young, and has a youthful nature and at the same time has existed from time immemorial.
Above all his other epithets, is maghavan “great, the magnanimous, eminent in wisdom.” Magavan “great, eminent in wisdom” is the very term for the fellowship of Zarathûshtrá in the poetic gathas.
Indra is mentioned only twice in the Avestan commentaries of the poetic gathas, e.g the süd-kar commentary of Yasna 32. He is also mentioned twice in Vendidad 10.9 and Vendidad 19.43. He is the demon that stands opposed to “excellence, virtue, truth.” Indra in the Avesta is renowned for his opposition to the sacred belt; for the sacred belt is the symbol of the determination/fight to restore, renew and prosper the worlds.
Indra might have acquired some of the superb qualities of the older ásura, ahûrá cult during the Vedic period. However, he is a demon in essence because of his lust for blood sacrifice. For a true god-being never asks for the killing of innocent animals or other acts of ritual cruelty and sadism.
In Zoroastrianism, godhood is “virtue, excellence, goodness, triumph of spirit and boundless creativity.”
God-beings are NOT tyrannical, sadistic, spiteful, gloomy and arrogant autocrats. If so they are demons.
To be God means to be “good, mindful, wondrous, auspicious and bright.” And that is why devás such as Indra are not gods but demons, because they lack “mindfulness and virtue.”
I like to sincerely thank Mr Didier Calin for his most valuable contributions/corrections, citations and linguistic advise!!!