Home » Blog » Three legs of Agni and the story of Pururava

There is a rare and interesting stone carving of Agni, the God of fire. This image of Agni has three legs, two faces. Experts say that this iconic representation of Agni follows the literal meaning of a Mantra which invokes the power of Agni in the Yagna fire. Surely, the three legs of Agni too must be a metaphor. What is the metaphor? Can we gain some clues from stories related to Agni?

Urvashi and her two Sheep

The Vedas, the Puranas and the epic Mahabharata tell the story of Pururava and Urvashi, the celestial dancer. The great poet Kalidasa too has glorified this story in his literary work, the Vikramorvashiya. Therefore, most people are familiar with the episode of how Pururava and Urvashi fell in love and separated by the play of fate. In this episode, two rams (sheep) and the Gandharva who steals them cause their separation. However, later episodes more interesting to explore. However, these later episodes are not as well known.

Pururava discovers fire

Pururava continued to pine for his beloved after their fateful separation. After a while, he heard of a way to find Urvashi with the blessings of Gandharvas. Subsequently, Pururava performed a Yagna to please the Gandharvas who grant him a pot of fire. He cherished the futile hope of Urvashi arising from the pot of fire. Ultimately the dejected King abandoned the fire in the forest and returned to his kingdom. Long time after, he remembered and returned to the location of the fire pot.

Pururava saw a Sami tree there. The fire pot had turned into the tree. The King immediately recognized the tree to be the secret repository of the sacred Agni. He decided to start a fire by striking the Sami or the Arani sticks together.  Further, he split the fire into three Vedis or stations. Besides, he clearly understood the role of each of these Vedis. Ultimately, he was able to unite with his beloved by performing a Yagna in these three Vedis. From that time on, three Vedis became the standard for Yagnas performed by human beings. The three legs of Agni are a metaphor for the three stations of Agni.

Three Vedis, three feet of Agni

Firstly, Agni, the cosmic fire is subtle in nature. Secondly, terrestrial fire is only a channel for this Agni. The Vedas are clear about these two facts. Therefore the magic of a Yagna cannot unfold without the presence of Agni. Certainly, Mantras have the power to bring the power of Agni in the Yagna fire, the Vedi. However, Pururava was the first to discover the need for three Vedis for optimal results. The three legs of Agni is therefore a metaphor for the way in which Agni can influence the material plane.

What is the fire pot and what is the Vedi

The fire pot is called the Agni-Sthali. The Agni-Sthali maintains the presence of Agni. It is like the pilot flame. However, a Vedi is the place where offerings are made to Devas.

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