Agni Nakshetram, which continues until June 1, is traditionally the hottest time of the year in Chennai. It is also the inspiration for the title of this weblog. (I lifted this picture from here.)
Agni is one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire, the messenger of the gods, the acceptor of sacrifice. Agni is in everyone's hearth; he is the vital spark of life, and so a part of him is in all living things; he is the fire which consumes food in peoples' stomachs, as well as the fire which consumes the offerings to the gods. He is the fire of the sun, in the lightening bolt, and in the smoke column which holds up the heavens. The stars are sparks from his flame. He was so important to the ancient Indians that 200 hymns in the Rig Veda are addressed to him, and eight of its ten books begin with praises dedicated to him. When Agni is described in anthropomorphic form, he sometimes has two faces which are smeared with butter. He has seven fiery tongues and sharpened, golden teeth. He is red in color, with black eyes and wild, black hair. He has seven arms and three legs, and seven rays of light emanate from his body. He either rides on a ram, or on a chariot, pulled by goats or sometimes parrots. (more)
The Indo-Aryan word 'agni' is related to ‘ignite’ and igneous.’
A couple of years ago I tried my hand at writing Sapphic stanzas. This one is for Agni Nakshetram:
Sidewalk vendors raise heaps of green-rimmed melons
bright papayas, oranges made of sunlight.
Bursts of bougainvillea glow magenta
under the Fire Star.
Pick a mango when it is half-green, half-ripe,
wrap in straw strands carefully, nest-like, hatch it.
It’s the egg that brings forth another year – it’s
hot season’s augur.
Air like water hinders each heavy footstep,
holds the scents of car exhaust, incense, jasmine,
brings us news of mating crows’ squabbling caucus.
Summer’s upon us.