“For centuries, Indians have waited for the monsoons and in most years it has arrived like clockwork, bringing its life giving showers. Through the hot summer months, the earth is baked dry, the rivers turn into thin trickles, the trees are leafless skeletons. The people, the earth, the flora and fauna all wait breathlessly for the rains. Can you wonder that in Hindu mythology, the supreme Lord of the Heavens, Indra, is also the god of thunder, lightning and rain? Some of the most heartfelt paeans were sung to him in the Vedas: He whose magic powers, from earth withhold the genial showers.
Varuna, the god of oceans and rivers, is invoked too, but it is Lord Indra who plays an active role in bringing rain. Every year at the end of summer, Indra gets down from his celestial throne and takes a few draughts of the intoxicating drink, Soma, and thus fortified, rides out on his magic elephant Airavat, to give battle to the demon of drought, Vritra. This cloud-dwelling demon is the villain who is holding back the rains, so Indra uses his arsenal of booming thunder and bolts of lightning and watches in divine satisfaction as “the dying demon headlong fell, down from his cloud-built tower”.
Indra’s many names poetically echo his powers. He is Vajrin, who wields the thunderbolt, and Meghavahana, he who rides on the clouds. In later times he lost his eminent position, and in modern India there are no temples for him. But just let the rains fail, and old Indra is invoked again in elaborate yajanas and days of prayers.”
–Subhadra Sen Gupta, “Rain is like ropes of pearls,” The Deccan Herald