Indra's Rain

East Pediment, North Library
Banteay Srei (plan)

At the top of the relief, Indra (riding Airavata and surrounded by pleading worshippers) produces rain in order to extinguish a fire in the Khandava forest. This action is opposed by Krishna and Balarama (bottom right and left, standing on chariots), who are sending their arrows skywards to prevent the rain from reaching the ground. The arrows fly so close together that they form a kind of roof, supported by a line of hamsas, between Indra's waters (horizontal wavy lines) and the forest below.

At the center of the relief, nagas attempt to escape the fire and rejoin Indra's waters by climbing the roof of arrows, while forest animals that include monkeys, elephants, lions, and deer cower fearfully below. Recalling that Krishna and Balarama are avatars of Vishnu, a solar deity, the myth can be read as an allegory of the sun's rays (Krishna's arrows) dispersing a storm, perhaps at the end of the monsoon season. In allowing the forest fire to burn unimpeded, the gods are also providing cleared land to mankind for agriculture and settlement. Water and fire both have their places, each having good as well as bad effects, in the great cycle of nature.