To my best knowledge, Indra has no temples of his own within India; however, there are a very few temples, dedicated to other Devas, which also contain his image. The Indian devotee may find him in the following places:
- Andhra Pradesh, Arasavalli, Sūryanārāyaṇa temple: There is purported to be a beautiful statue of Indra within the Sūryanārāyaṇa complex, as well as a sacred pond “Pushkarini” that Indra created with his vajra.
- Gujarat, Bilimora, Gāyatrī Mandir: There is an Indra murti within the temple, a lovely image with a photograph available.
- Himachal Pradesh, Sirmaur district, left bank of the Renuka Lake, Gāyatrī Devi temple: A marble idol of Indra is installed here.
- Maharashtra, Mumbai, Mumba Devi temple: There is a statue of Indra here.
- Maharashtra, Trimbak, Tryambakeśvara temple: The shrine of Indreshwar Mahadev (a form of Śiva) houses a statue of Indra on Airāvata. There is also an Indra tirtha here.
- Rajasthan, Pushkar, Brahmā temple: This unique temple in Pushkar seems to have an image of Indra among the temple murtis, though it is difficult to see in this photograph.
- Tamil Nadu, Puducherry (Morattandi), Navagraha temple: This newly-built temple has a statue group of Devī, Gaṇeśa, Bhairava, and Indra; you can see them in a photograph about halfway down this page, which also tells the story of the temple.
Images of Indra sometimes appear in ancient temples that are no longer used for worship. He is often depicted in temple carvings, and if a temple houses a statue at each of the eight compass directions, they are likely the Aṣṭa-Dikpālas (eight directional guardians), and Indra will be the one in the East.
One may best find Indra by knowing his attributes. In accordance with śāstra:
–He is depicted as either two- or four-armed, wearing the kirīṭa (a cylindrical crown, rounded at the top).
–He may sit either atop his vehicle, the elephant Airāvata, or in the seated posture known as rāja-līla: feet together with the right knee raised, the right arm resting gracefully on the knee.
–His four hands are: 1) Holding either a lotus or a water-vessel, 2) Wielding an aṅkuśa (elephant goad, which looks like a staff with a hook at the end), 3) Wielding his weapon Vajra or, less frequently, a mace, and 4) Either open in the wish-fulfilling or blessing gesture, or embracing his wife Śacī.
–In a few cases, his name in Devanāgarī script (इन्द्र or इंद्र) is carved by his feet.
Indra also appears sometimes as a character in dance performances. He is represented in Bharatanatyam dance by a double-hand gesture which may be seen here.
These are his characteristics as a Hindu Deva, but Indra is also worshipped by Buddhists and Jains and is depicted in numerous beautiful ways all over the world. Here are some examples of his many forms.
This slideshow houses a small collection of Indra depictions from many places and times, ranging from an 8th century gilded bronze statue in Sri Lanka to 20th century ISKCON paintings displayed in a Swedish gallery. The group includes free-standing statues from museums, parks, temples, and other public spaces; small murtis intended for home worship; paintings, drawings, and other art images; and modern depictions, such as television and film screenshots and frames of comic book art.
Of course this is not every image of Indra on earth, but a representative sample of the many ways he is imagined by different faiths and cultures. It’s also a little biased: I deliberately omitted some of the art depicting him, because the common representation of “thousand-eyed Indra” – a man whose flesh is covered with eyes – looks grotesque to me.
If you: a) can confirm the presence of Indra in any of the above-mentioned temples, b) know of other locations in India where Indra is worshipped, or c) have any image you would like to add to this slideshow, please contact me directly or leave a comment on this entry.
Last updated 20 October 2012.
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