In early Hinduism, Agni is one of the most important of the Vedic gods. Agni is the god of fire, and much of his importance comes from the role of fire in sacrifices and Hindu rituals.
Agni is the embodiment of the fire which consumes the offerings to the Hindu gods, so he is seen as the mediator between heaven and earth.
Agni 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 Agni the Fire God.
To honor Agni, Hindus are expected to face fires in the proper direction for different purposes. When facing East, the fire should be used for sacrifices to the gods; when facing South, the fire should be used for sacrifices to the spirits of the dead. Fires should face west when used for cooking.
As Hinduism evolved over the centuries and the emphasis became less on performing sacrifices and more focused on devotion, Agni’s status fell off dramatically. He became an incarnation of either the Hindu Gods Shiva or Brahma. Eventually Agni has come only to be called on by lovers. But Agni still has a role in the worship of other Hindu gods and goddesses.
The sacrificial fire used in Hindu rituals is seen as an incarnation of Agni, so he serves as a conduit that “carries” the sacrifice of a worshiper to the gods or goddesses that are being worshiped. He is the burning ghee (clarified butter) that is used in devotional offerings.
The god Agni is also seen in ring of fire that surrounds the Dancing Shiva Statues found in Hindu temples. He is also thought to exist as the fire in the soul of all of us, and is the heat energy that lights the stars and the sun.