July 6, 2020 — What follows is a short article presenting connections between the Norse god of thunder Thor (Þórr in Old Norse) and Indra, the Vedic cognate of lighting and storm.
Intriguingly, there are more than a few connections between the Norse and Indo-Vedic pantheons. In the older Indo-Vedic pantheon, Indra is the god of lightning, thunder, storm, and war. He is magnificent in stature, strong as a bull, and rides a golden chariot drawn by two tawny horses. He is also regarded as the protector of the earth and mankind. Indra’s primary weapon is Vajra, an indestructible thunderbolt and lightning-capable snare. He also carries arrows, a great hook, and a net.
Thor is the Norse god of thunder and strength who protects mankind from evil and rides a chariot drawn by two goats. He is strong as a bull, wields the indestructible hammer Mjǫllnir (Mjölnir) that also functions as lightning, commands the wind to create storms, and is also associated with sacred groves and trees.
Indra slays Vritra, a giant serpent in the Indo-Vedic myths, who restrains human prosperity and comfort. During the final battle between the two, Vritra spits enormous amounts of venom that risks destroying the world. In post-Vedic texts, Indra’s importance declines, and he evolves into a minor deity in comparison to others in the emerging Hindu pantheon.
In Norse mythology, Jǫrmungandr (Jörmungandr) is a giant, poisonous sea serpent that encircles the world and is a threat to mankind. Jǫrmungandr’s arch-enemy is Thor, who kills the world serpent in the final battle of Ragnarǫkkr (Ragnarök) that signals the end and rebirth of the world. Thor also dies in the fight, killed by the serpent’s poison.