Indra is the god of rain and thunder, and the weather is at his command supplying rains in the universe. As controller of the megha (cloud), he is master of the clouds and is also known as Maghavan.
The title "Lord of sacrifice" may refer to either Indra or Visnu. Visnu is the chief of the primal demigods, including Brahma and Siva, and Indra is the chief of the administrative demigods. Both Indra and Visnu are worshiped by yajna performances.
While Indra is the chief demigod of the heavenly planets, he is an ordinary living entity in the material world and possesses the four defects of the conditioned soul. King Indra is described as bhagavan, which is generally used in reference to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. King Indra is addressed as bhagavan because he has so much power in his hands.
Indra is the deity presiding over the hands. When the two hands of the universal form of the Lord became manifested, with them came the power of grasping and dropping things, and after that Lord Indra appeared. Indra is known as Vajra-dhara, the carrier of the thunderbolt (vajra), his favorite weapon.
King Indra is also known as sata-kratu, which indicates that he has performed one hundred horse sacrifices (asvamedha-yajna). One who desires powerful sex should worship Indra. Also called Sacipati, the King of heaven is an incarnation of the lusty feature of the Lord. He is also called Sahasraksa.
On Manasottara Mountain are the abodes of four demigods. East of Sumeru Mountain is Devadhani, where King Indra lives, and south of Sumeru is Samyamani, the abode of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death. Similarly, west of Sumeru is Nimlocani, the abode of Varuna, the demigod who controls the water, and north of Sumeru is Vibhavari, where the demigod of the moon lives.
As the demigod in charge of the eastern side of the universe, where the heavenly planet, or paradise is situated, Indra as known as the ruler of Svargaloka. The planet in which Indra reigns is called Indraloka.
Indra's consort is Indrani, and Brhaspati is Indra's priest. Indra rides on the king of the elephants, Airawat haathi, who is white in color and has four tusks.
Indra was begot of the sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi. Aditi had twelve sons, of whom Indra was the eleventh. Indra's wife was named Paulomi (Sacidevi). She gave birth to three sons--Jayanta, Rsabha and Midhusa.
Lord Vamanadeva is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but He appeared to have been "born" as one of the brothers of Indra. Although Vamanadeva is sometimes taken as a less important demigod, He is actually the maintainer of Indra, the King of the demigods. Thus, although sometimes Vamanadeva is considered to be a subordinate demigod, His actual position is that of the supreme whole, the source of the entire demigod system.
Queen Kuntidevi, who could call for any one of the demigods, called for Indra and Arjuna was born by him. Arjuna is therefore a plenary part of the heavenly King Indra. Indra wanted Arjuna to come to the heavenly kingdom, the Indraloka planet beyond the moon planet. In that planet he was cordially received by the local residents, and he was awarded reception in the heavenly parliament of Indradeva. Then he met Indradeva, who not only presented him with his vajra weapon, but also taught him the military and musical science as used in the heavenly planet.
The first Manu of the Kalpa was Svayambhuva. During the period of Svayambhuva Manu there was no suitable living being who could occupy the post of Indra, the King of the Indraloka (heaven) planet. The Lord Himself at that time became Indra. Assisted by His own sons like Yama and other demigods, Lord Yajna ruled the administration of the universal affairs.
In the age of Svarocisa, the second Manu, Rocana became Indra.
In the age of Uttama, the third Manu, Satyajit became Indra.
In the age of Tamasa, the fourth Manu, Trisikha became Indra.
In the age of Raivata, the fifth Manu, Vibhu became Indra.
In the age of Caksusa, the sixth Manu, Mantradruma became Indra.
In the age of Sraddhadeva, the seventh Manu, Purandara became Indra.
In the age of Savarni, the eighth Manu, Bali became Indra.
In the age of Daksa-savarni, the ninth Manu, Adbhuta became Indra.
In the age of Brahma-savarni, the tenth Manu, Sambhu became Indra.
In the age of Dharma-savarni, the eleventh Manu, Vaidhrta became Indra.
In the age of Rudra-savarni, the twelfth Manu, Rtadhama became Indra.
In the age of Deva-savarni, the thirteenth Manu, Divaspati became Indra.
In the age of Indra-savarni, the fourteenth Manu, Suci became Indra.
The total duration of the periods ruled by these Manus is calculated to be one thousand catur-yugas, or 4,300,000 times 1,000 years.
Once Indra, the King of heaven, was cursed by his spiritual master, Brhaspati, on account of his misbehavior, and he became a hog on this planet. After many days, when Brahma wanted to recall him to his heavenly kingdom, Indra, in the form of a hog, forgot everything of his royal position in the heavenly kingdom, and he refused to go back. This is the spell of maya. Even Indra forgets his heavenly standard of life and is satisfied with the standard of a hog's life.
Arjuna once satisfied the fire-god by setting fire to the Khandava Forest, and thus the fire-god gave him one weapon. Indra was angry when the fire was set in the Khandava Forest, and thus Indra, assisted by all other demigods, began fighting with Arjuna for his great challenge. They were defeated by Arjuna, and Indradeva returned to his heavenly kingdom. Arjuna also promised all protection to one Mayasura, and the latter presented him one valuable conchshell celebrated as the Devadatta. Similarly, he received many other valuable weapons from Indradeva when he was satisfied to see his chivalry.
When Ravana was engaged in the battle, the trunk of the elephant which carried the King of heaven, Indra, broke in pieces, having collided with the chest of Ravana, and the scattered broken parts illuminated all directions. Ravana therefore felt proud of his prowess and began to loiter in the midst of the fighting soldiers, thinking himself the conqueror of all directions. But his laughter, overtaken by joy, along with his very air of life, suddenly ceased with the tingling sound of the bow of Ramacandra, the Personality of Godhead.
The cowherd men of Vrndavana, under instruction of Krsna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly King, Indra. Indra, not knowing Lord Krsna in Vrajabhumi, was angry at the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi and tried to avenge the offense, thus the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krsna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water.
King Indra of the heavenly planets is in charge of distributing water over the earth and other planetary systems. It is indicated that King Prthu would arrange for the distribution of rainfall personally if Indra failed to discharge his duty properly. Sometimes the King of heaven, Indra, would become angry at the inhabitants of the earth if they did not offer sacrifices to appease him. King Prthu, however, being an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, did not depend on the mercy of the heavenly King. It is foretold herein that if there would be a scarcity of rain, King Prthu would manage to counteract the deficiency by virtue of his godly powers. Such powers were also exhibited by Lord Krsna when He was present in Vrndavana. Indeed, when Indra poured incessant water on Vrndavana for seven days, the inhabitants were protected by Krsna, who raised Govardhana Hill over their heads as a great umbrella. Thus Lord Krsna is also known as Govardhana-dhari.
King Indra of the heavenly planets is in charge of throwing thunderbolts and giving rainfall. Generally thunderbolts are thrown on the tops of hills in order to break them to pieces. As these pieces are spread asunder in due course of time, the surface of the globe gradually becomes fit for agriculture. Level land is especially conducive to the production of grain. Thus the planet earth requested Maharaja Prthu to level the surface of the earth, breaking up the high land and mountains.
Once upon a time, Garuda, the carrier of the Lord, snatched away a nectar pot from the hands of the demigods in heaven in order to liberate his mother, Vinata, from the clutches of his stepmother, Kadru, the mother of the serpents. On learning of this, Indra, the King of heaven, hurled his thunderbolt against Garuda. With a view to respect the infallibility of Indra's weapon, Garuda, though otherwise invincible, being the Lord's own mount, dropped one of his wings, which was shattered to pieces by the thunderbolt. The inhabitants of higher planets are so sensible that even in the process of fighting they observe the preliminary rules and regulations of gentleness. In this case, Garuda wanted to show respect for Indra; since he knew that Indra's weapon must destroy something, he offered his wing.
All the demigods made Indra, the King of heaven, into a calf, and from the earth they milked the beverage soma, which is nectar. Thus they became very powerful in mental speculation and bodily and sensual strength.
Whenever a great sage undergoes severe austerities for material power, the King of heaven, Indra, becomes very envious. All the demigods have responsible posts for the management of universal affairs and are very highly qualified with pious activities. Although they are ordinary living entities, they are able to attain responsible posts, like Lord Brahma, Indra, Candra and Varuna. As is the nature of this material world, the King of heaven, Indra, is very anxious if a great sage undergoes severe austerities. The whole material world is filled with such envy that everyone becomes afraid of his neighbors. Every businessman is afraid of his associates because this material world is the field of activities for all kinds of envious people who have come here to compete with the opulence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus Indra was very much afraid of the severe austerities performed by the great sage Kandu, and he sent Pramloca to break his vows and austerities. A similar incident took place in the case of Visvamitra. From other incidents in the sastras, it appears that Indra has always been envious. When King Prthu was celebrating various sacrifices, outdoing Indra, Indra became very envious, and he disturbed King Prthu's sacrifice. This has already been discussed in previous chapters. King Indra became successful in breaking the vow of the great sage Kandu, who became attracted by the beauty of the heavenly society girl Pramloca and begot a female child. This child is described herein as lotus-eyed and very beautiful. Being thus successful in her mission, Pramloca returned to the heavenly planets, leaving the newborn child to the care of the trees. Fortunately, the trees accepted the child and agreed to raise her.
Bali Maharaja was so powerful that he fought with Indra and took possession of the three worlds. Indra was certainly very advanced in knowledge, but instead of asking Vamanadeva for engagement in His service, he used the Lord to beg for material possessions that would lie finished at the end of one age of Manu. An age of Manu, which is the duration of Manu's life, is calculated to last seventy-two yugas. One yuga consists of 4,300,000 years, and therefore the duration of Manu's life is 309,600,000 years. The demigods possess their material opulence only until the end of the life of Manu. Time is insurmountable. The time one is allotted, even if it be millions of years, is quickly gone. The demigods own their material possessions only within the limits of time. Therefore Bali Maharaja lamented that although Indra was very learned, he did not know how to use his intelligence properly, for instead of asking Vamanadeva to allow him to engage in His service, Indra used Him to beg Bali Maharaja for material wealth. Although Indra was learned and his prime minister, Brhaspati, was also learned, neither of them begged to be able to render loving service to Lord Vamanadeva. Therefore Bali Maharaja lamented for Indra.
Once upon a time, Indra, the King of the demigods, was sitting with his wife Sacidevi and being praised by various demigods like the Siddhas, Caranas and Gandharvas when Brhaspati, the spiritual master of the demigods, entered the assembly. Indra, being too absorbed in material opulence, forgot himself and did not respect Brhaspati, who thus became aware of Indra's pride in his material opulence and immediately disappeared from the assembly to teach him a lesson. Indra became most repentant, understanding that because of his opulence he had forgotten to respect his spiritual master. He left the palace to beg pardon from his spiritual master, but could not find Brhaspati anywhere.
Because of his disrespectful behavior toward his spiritual master. Indra lost all his opulence and was conquered by the demons, who defeated the demigods in a great fight and occupied Indra's throne. King Indra, along with the other demigods, later took shelter of Lord Brahma. Understanding the situation, Lord Brahma chastised the demigods for their offense to their spiritual master. Following Lord Brahma's orders, the demigods accepted Visvarupa, who was a brahmana and the son of Tvasta, as their priest. Then they performed yajnas under the priesthood of Visvarupa and were able to conquer the demons.
Always thinking of how he could be relieved from the sinful reaction for killing Vrtrasura, a brahmana, King Indra, invisible to everyone, lived in the lake for one thousand years in the subtle fibers of the stem of a lotus. The fire-god used to bring him his share of all yajnas, but because the fire-god was afraid to enter the water, Indra was practically starving. Indra's sins were diminished by the influence of Rudra, the demigod of all directions. Because Indra was protected by the goddess of fortune, Lord Visnu's wife, who resides in the lotus clusters of Manasa-sarovara Lake, Indra's sins could not affect him. Indra was ultimately relieved of all the reactions of his sinful deeds by strictly worshiping Lord Visnu. Then he was called back to the heavenly planets by the brahmanas and reinstated in his position.
Puranjaya agreed to kill all the demons, on the condition that Indra would be his carrier. Because of pride, Indra could not accept this proposal, but later, by the order of the Supreme Lord, Visnu, Indra did accept it and became a great bull carrier for Puranjaya.
It is said that Indra, the King of heaven, is very lusty. Once he tactfully had sexual intercourse with the wife of a great sage, and when the sage learned about this, he cursed the lusty Indra with a curse that put vaginas all over his body. Being very ashamed, Indra fell down at the lotus feet of the great sage and begged his pardon. Being compassionate, the sage turned the vaginas into eyes; therefore Indra possesses hundreds and thousands of eyes all over his body. Just as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva have many faces, the King of heaven, Indra, has many eyes.
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Excerpted from various sources, including text and Purports of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.