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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Agni

Sanskrit for “fire,” especially “sacrificial fire.” The word is related to the Latin ignis and English “ignite.” As the personification of fire, Agni is one of the chief gods of the Vedas, regarded as the intercessor or mediator between humans and the gods, protector of humanity, and witness to all human actions. Since Vedic rituals were done around a fire altar, Agni was said to consume the offerings and convey them in a subtle form to heaven. Numerous hymns are dedicated to Agni in the Rig Veda, who is called there Vaisvanara (omnipresent, universal, belonging to all men) in recognition that although there are many individual fires they are all manifestations of the one Agni. He is also associated with three “fiery” bodily functions: the fire in the belly or stomach, the fire of digestion, and the fire of gastric juice, which early Hindus considered separate bodily functions.

In the Vishnu Puranas, he is identified with ABHIMANIN, the son of Brahma. In later Hinduism, his prominence declined and he became identified as one of eight Guardians of the World (loka-palas), associated with the southeast direction or sector and invoked during certain solemn ceremonies, such as weddings. H. P. Blavatsky, in Isis Unveiled refers to him occultly as “the refulgent deity from whose body issue a thousand streams of glory and seven tongues of flame . . .” (IU I:156; quoted in SD I:341).

V.H.C.

 

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