Most historians say that Lord Indra is praised more than Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva (Rudra) in Vedas and Indra is the real God of Sanathana Dharma (Pre-vedic time when Yagna is only way of worship of God and not idol worship) and not Vishnu or Shiva. In fact Indra ruler over other devas in Vedas and maintained Heaven and the material elements, such as Agni -Fire, Varuna -Water and Surya -Sun. According to them, Lord Vishnu later became famous in Puranic time (Most Puranas proclaim Vishnu is supreme than Indra and Bhagavad Gita thus became the supreme book of Hindus and not Vedas) . They say that Vishnu is called as supreme God in later books and was not famous in Prevedic times. This is not true from the verses of Rig Veda itself. It admits Vishnu’s factual superiority to Indra and all other devatas in several places. Here are a few of the verses of Rig Veda:
Rig Veda.10.113.2: – Vishnu is glorified because of who and what he intrinsically is. Indra, on the other hand, is only glorious circumstantially.
Rig Veda.1.156.2:- Vishnu is the most ancient of all, yet also the most recent. Nothing and no one creates Vishnu, yet Vishnu creates everyone and everything.
Rig Veda1.22.20:- om tat Vishno: paramam padam sadaa pashyanti sooraya: … This roughly means ‘which all gods seek is the supreme pada (abode) of Vishnu.’. This verse clears any doubt on Vishnu’s supremacy. Possibly there is no other God in Vedas who is described using ‘Paramam Padam’.
Another very compelling Rg Veda text (1.22.20) making clear that it is Vishnu who empowers all the heavenly gods extolled and glorified in Veda:
ओं तद् विष्णोः परमम् पदम्
सदा पश्यन्ति सूरयः
oṃ tad viṣṇoḥ paramam padam
sadā paśyanti sūrayaḥ
Vishnu occupies the paramount position.
All other gods look always to his feet.
The Brahmanas (lengthy commentaries on the Vedas) are centered on the yajna (fire ritual). The Taittiriya Brahmanas (TB) and Aitareya Brahmanas (AB) hail Vishnu as the Yajna-purusha (actual God who is worshiped in Yagna) and identify him with yajna (yajno vai Vishnuhuh) — (AB: 1.15.4), (TB: 2.1.83). He is the protector and preserver of the yajna (TB 18.104.22.168).He is the Yajna pathi (master of yajna) whom all the sacrifices are meant to please.
In fact the Vishnu Sahasra Naama (105) of Mahabharata, the book written in Puranic period (as per historians) tells the same truth:
Yagna-bhrut yagna krit yagee yagnabhuk yagna-sadhanah |
Yajna-ntakrut yagna guhyam anna mannada eva-cha ||
Yajna = Any good , dedicated and selfless act of service to others is yajna .
Yajna bhrit = he is the upholder and supporter of the yajna
Yajna krit = he is the one who performs yajna
Yajnee = the principle of yajna
Yajna bhuk = Lord Vishnu is the enjoyer of yajna
Yajna sadhana = he is obtained through yajna
Yajna antakrit = one who performs the last concluding act of yajna , which is poorna aahuti or The one who gives the fruits/ the results of yajna
Yajna guhyam = he is the secret / truth of yajna
Annam = the food
Annadah = one who eats the food/ enjoyer
If everything happens in Yagna due to Vishnu alone and not Indra dev, then a question remains. If Vishnu is really powerful than Indra and other gods (demigods), why Vishnu is glorified less number of times than Indra in Vedas? With over more than two hundred and fifty hymns addressed to Indra while very less hymns (Rg Veda mentions Vishnu 93 times) are addressed to Vishnu in Rig Veda. Isn’t it something fishy? Below are those verse from Sama Veda (translated by Rishi Dayananda Saraswathi) that prove that Indra alone is powerful:
Mandala 8/Sukta 1
O friends, do not worship any other but One, be
firm, never remiss, worship only Indra, sole lord
absolute, omnipotent and infinitely generous, and when
you have realised the bliss of the lord’s presence, sing
songs of divine adoration spontaneously, profusely,
again and again.
Actually, Arya Samaj followers have to worship Indra deva as supreme God as Vedas has more hymns addressed to Indra.
Indra is also identified separate from Varuna, Agni, Yama, etc. If Vishnu is supreme than Indra, why Vedas glorify Indra more than Visnu? The answer for this confusion is cleared in Puranas. In the very first Manvantara (Svayambhuva Manvantara when universe was created) Vishnu takes the position of Indra. Infact all the names of demigods like Indra, Varuna, Brahma are primarily the names of the supreme God Vishnu as per Madhwacharya. God has just distributed His names as titles to eligible demigods to decentralize His power. In the latter Manvantara, Vishnu delegated this position to the demigod who was eligible for this position. The scriptural proof for this is found in Vedas only:
yo nah pitaa janitaa yo vidhaataa dhaamaani veda bhuvanaani vishvaa I yo devaanaam naamadhaa eka eva tam samprashnam bhuvanaa yantyanyaa II "Our Father who is our creator and disposer, knows all the worlds and all things existing; He is one alone, the name-giver of all devas. Him other beings attain (for) He is the only solution for all our interrogations."
Rig Veda 10.82.3 ( Vishakrama Sukta )
Father who made us, he who, as Disposer, knoweth all races and all things existing, Even he alone, the Deities’ name-giver,him other beings seek for information.
2.2. It is said the Devas derive their power (shakthi), pervasion (vyapthi) and position (pada) from Vishnu, as he is the very source of all demigods. He is the Supreme God (Aitareya Brahmanas : 1:1:1).
This means there is a God (called as pitaa) who gives names (titles or padavi) to all demigods. That means demigods themselves are not real God.
If demigods themselves are not real God, why Rig vedas again give the following contradicting information?:
indraM mitraM varuNamagnimaahuratho divyaH sa suparNo garutmaan.h | ekaM sadvipraa bahudhaa vadantyagniM yamaM maatarishvaanamaahuH ||
Sages speak of the one Reality in different ways; they call It Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, the heavenly bird Garutman, Yama, and Matarishvan (wind).
If we go by historical records why Indra was the supreme God during Vedic times, then it is because of this reason only. In Vedic period, people used to worship Vishnu as Indra. In Mahabharatha, you might have seen Lord Krishna lifted the Mandara Mountain and stopped the worship of Indra dev who was proud of himself as supreme God. This Indra is different from the Indra who is hailed in Vedas.
There are fourteen manvantaras in one day of Brahma (comparatively large time span of Brahma dev who takes in charge of Brahma Padavi). Each such manvantara is ruled over by a Manu again a demigod who takes control of that post. Most demigods also change from one manvantara to another. In addition, the Indra padavi changes hands.
Madhwacharya has pointed out that each verse/word of Vedas have atleast 3 levels of meanings depending on context as stated in Skanda Purana
trayoarthaha sarvavedeshu dasharthah sarvabharate
vishnon sahasranamapi nirantarasatarthakam || Skanda Purana
For instance the Agni in a verse agnimile purohitam conveys both Agni (demigod) and Vishnu (supreme God). This is the first and second level of meaning. If the definition of Agni is to burn, then Agni dev has this powerful characteristic but Vishnu has infinitness of this characteristic as He can burn the whole brahmanda with just a side glance (during pralaya).
Most pandits give only the first level of meaning while translating the Vedas.
From all this, it is clear that Vedas are like old testament and Puranas (Bhagavad Gita especially) are like new testament (present Bible). You may say why names of Shri Raama and Krishna are not there in Vedas. The answer is same as why Jesus is not mentioned in old testament. Raama and Krishna are the incarnation of the same God who is glorified in Vedas. That is why following verse comes in Bhagavad Gita:
Chapter 4: Transcendental Knowledge
imam vivasvate yogam
proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha
manur iksvakave ‘bravit
sri bhagavan uvaca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; imam—this; vivasvate—unto the sun-god; yogam—the science of one’s relationship to the Supreme; proktavan—instructed; aham—I; avyayam—imperishable; vivasvan—Vivasvan (the sun-god’s name); manave—unto the father of mankind (of the name Vaivasvata); praha—told; manuh—the father of mankind; iksvakave—unto King Iksvaku; abravit—said.
The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga (Bhagavad Gita) to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.
Herein we find the history of the Bhagavad-gita traced from a remote time when it was delivered to the royal order, the kings of all planets.
In addition, Sri Hari himself, had mentioned in Bhagavat Gita when describing his complete omnipresence, that HE is the one who is present in vajrayudam (Aayudhanam aham vajram). What is Vajrayudha? It is nothing but the sacred weapon of Indra devata which he always uses to protect himself and other devatas. What is Vajrayudha made of? It was made out of the back-bone of a very famous brahma gynani called Thathisi. From this incident, it is clear about the power of bones of Brahma Gynanis as well which has been finally mentioned by Sri Hari himself.
In fact, the essential secret of the Vedic scriptures (whom to be worshiped as absolute God), is concealed in Vedas itself as per Kalisantarana Upanishad. By knowing this knowledge from Kalisantarana Upanishad, one can swim across material existence during Kali-yuga (and enter spiritual world). For more info, read at https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/2012/05/kalisantarana-upanishad/