THE Devas and Asuras had a common father, but their mothers were different. There was little affection between the two brothers.
But the Devas wanted the help of the Asuras to churn the Ocean of Milk. They could not do it themselves. But when Amrit (it gave eternal life) emerged out of the Ocean, the Devas stole it. This let to a bitter enmity between the two. In fact, they broke away from each other for ever.
The Devas wanted a new chief. Two hymns in the Rig Veda are devoted to the birth of Indra, the new chief of the Devas. It is said that when he was born, he set into motion the wheel of the sun. it is also said that heaven and earth trembled. He was a model for all heroes. In fact, Rama, Krishna and Buddha were modelled on Indra.
Polytheism was the religion of the Rig Veda. But the Rig speaks of a Supreme Being as also of other gods. It was rather confusing. But the other gods were only manifestations of the Supreme Being. “That which is one, sages called by various names”, we are told. In fact, there were only few gods and goddesses in the Rig Veda. They multiplied during the Puranic age.
In Hinduism, there is no hierarchy of gods as in Greece. Each god can, however, be supreme.
The Rig Veda exemplifies both Varuna (for his ethics) and Indra (for his mighty). Varuna says: “I, Varuna, am king, first for me were appointed the dignities of Asura, the Lord.” The Devas did not want Varuna. They wanted a warrior god. Indra, on his part declared: “My strength is over-whelming and no god-like power can check me.” Obviously, he thought of himself as invincible.
The Devas were war-like gods. They were also immoral. Reminds one of the Greek gods who were not ethical. The Avesta called the Devas “wicked”. Indra himself was describe as a “demon.”
The Devas were always afraid of being ousted from Heaven. So Indra did everything to destroy any potential threat to his throne.
But it was the growth of the Puranic gods (Rama, Krishna and others) which really threatened the “over-whelming power” of the Devas. The Puranic gods were critical of Indra.
Perhaps the first conflict was between Krishna and Indra. There is a story behind it. Krishna did not want men to worship Indra. So, while Nanda (foster father of Krishna) was preparing for his annual worship of Indra, Krishna objected. He wanted to know why he (Nanda) was worshipping Indra. Nanda told him that Indra was a mighty god and it was he who produced the rain. On this Krishna gave Nanda a long talk on the nature of the rain. He also told him that Indra had nothing to do with rain. As Nanda abandoned his worship of Indra. Indra was furious. He began to flood Gokul, the habitat of the gopis and Krishna. Krishna lifted the mountain Govardhan with his little finger and provided the cowherds and gopis shelter against the rain and floods. Indra realised his folly and sought pardon from Krishna. But, then, Indra was no more worshipped by men.
We have a parallel in Greece. As I said, the Greek gods were unprincipled. They had no ethics. But so were Greek heroes. They had no ethics. But when Socrates introduced ethics into the life of the Greeks, people lost their faith in their gods. In fact, they were ridiculed. Which is why Socrates was forced to drink poison because, as the charge says, he made the young “impious”.
As the worship of the Puranic gods gained ground, the Devas were forgotten. Only Agni is active in the Hindu pantheon.
The change has been revolutionary. While the Vedic gods-the Devas – were distant to man, the Puranic gods were close to men.Krishna, in particular.
It is a wonder to the world, how Hinduism, the oldest religion of the world, continues to flourish! It is because the Puranic gods are very close to men. And the Hindus love them. In contrast, the Semitic gods are feared. They are punishing gods. The Hindu gods left rewards and punishment to Karma.