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Agni (ăgˈnē): see Veda.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Agni is the Hindu god of fire, from whose name are derived the English words "igneous" and "ignite."

The harnessing of fire was one of the first crucial steps humans had to take in order to advance. The fire sacrifice is one of the earliest of religious rituals, brought down through the famous Khyber Pass around 1500 BCE by Indo-European Aryans and imposed upon the existing culture of India. This migration began what we now call intellectual Hinduism. The world's first scripture, the Hindu Rig Veda, appeared at about this time. It told of Agni, the magician of fire, existing on Earth not only to consume but also to give warmth and to help in cooking food. In the atmosphere, he is the lightning. In the sky, the sun. Inhabiting all three levels of the cosmos—Earth, sky, and atmosphere—he is able to bear prayers and sacrifices to the gods.

Gradually Agni became internalized. Fire is a mystery and burns within Earth and the sun. But the fire of life also burns within each human. Sometimes it even breaks out in fever during times of emotional turmoil or illness. Agni, then, dwells within as well as without.

Although the Sanskrit doctrine of tat tvam asi, "thou art that" (see Brahman/Atman), had not yet been fully developed, it was a small but formative step to picture Agni as the fire of life itself. Within humans burned the fire that is at the very heart of the universe.

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), the Indian spiritual master, has written:

The Vedic deity Agni is the first of the powers that have issued from the vast and secret Godhead. Agni is the form, the fire, the forceful heat and flaming will of this Divinity. [The word Agni] means a burning brightness, whence its use for fire. When man, awakened from his night, wills to offer his inner and outer activities to the gods of a truer and higher existence and so to arise out of mortality into the far-off immortality, it is this flame of upward aspiring Force and Will that he must kindle; into this fire he must cast the sacrifice.

Thus Agni, oldest of the Hindu gods, evolved into a metaphor for creativity and spiritual yearning.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


intermediary of the gods through sacrificial fire. [Hindu Myth.: Parrinder, 12]
See: Fire


god of fire and lightning. [Hindu Myth.: Benét, 15]


Vedic light god; embodies eternal youth. [Vedic Myth.: LLEI, I: 322]
See: Youth
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Currently a Tennessee Williams Scholar in poetry at the Sewanee Writers Conference at the University of the South in Tennessee, Kelle's poems have previously appeared in such publications as "Agni", "The New Yorker", "Luna", and "Witness", and she was named the Norma Millay Ellis Fellow for 2003 by the Millay Colony for the Arts in New York.