LORD BRAHMA - THE CREATOR

Lord Brahma is part of the Hindu trinity, which includes Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Brahma, the infinite, the source of all space, time, causation, names and forms, has many interesting and instructive designations. Theologically, he is the single letter (eka aksharam) AUM, and the uncreated creator (svayambhu), the self-born first person. Philosophically, he is the first manifestation of one's existence (ahankara). Cosmologically, he is hiranya garbha (golden embryo), the ball of fire, from which the universe develops. He is Prajapati, since all creatures are his progeny. He is pitamaha (patriarch), vidhi (ordinator), Iokesha (master of the universe), dhatru (sustainer) and Viswakarma (architect of the world). Mythology describes Brahma as springing from Kamala (lotus), from the nabhi (navel) of Vishnu. Hence, his names Nabhija (navel born), Kanja (water born). His consort Saraswati manifested out of him and all creatures of the world resulted from their union.

Brahma and Saraswati

Brahma and his consort Saraswati, represent the vedas, their spirit and meaning. They form the subject of many tales in Hindu literature. All knowledge, religious and secular emanate from them. The name Narayana (one dwelling in the causal water, the abode of man) was applied to him first and later to Vishnu. The Avataras (incarnations) of fish (matsya) and tortoise (koorma) (later called the avataras of Vishnu), the boar (varaha) to raise the earth from under the waters and created the world, the sages, and prajapatis were all attributed to Brahma originally and shifted to Vishnu later. Brahma, created all knowledge, sciences, arts, music, dance and drama. He also officiated over the wedding of Shiva and Parvati.

Origin of Brahma

Accounts of creation differ in many respects. As per Hindu mythology, Brahma was born from a (kamala) lotus springing from Vishnu's navel and created the world through his daughter Saraswati. According to Manu Smriti, the self- existent Lord manifested to dispel the darkness enveloping universe. He created the waters and deposited a seed that became a golden egg from which he was born as Brahma. He divided the egg into two parts to construct the heaven and earth, and created the ten Prajapatis, mind-born sons, who completed the work of creation. By a third account, the Lord separated himself into two parts, the male and the female after dividing the golden egg. From him sprang Viraja and from him Manu. Ramayana states that Brahma sprang from the ether and that sages Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Narada, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Sanasujata and others are his manasa putras (mentally conceived sons). From Marichi sprang Kashyapa from whom sprang Vishwavata who created Manu, the procreator of all human beings. Thus, Manu is Brahma's great grandson.

Demise of Brahma Concept

Despite the fact that Brahma is one of the trimurthis, there are no temples dedicated to his worship, except the place of pilgrimage, Pushkar in Ajmer. Puranas give crude reasons for this. Some scholars believe that Brahma cult existed in pre- Vedic Hinduism and was superseded by Siva-Vishnu cult later. The Shakti concept, in which both Shiva and Vishnu have their consort and creation proceeds from the combination of the god and his shakti, has made the Brahma concept redundant.

Representations of Brahma

Mythology has it that Brahma originally had five heads. One of them was cut down by Shiva in his rage. Now, Brahma's icon has four heads (chatur mukha brahma) facing the four quartem. They represent the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), the four yugas (krita, treta, dwapara, kali) (epochs of time), the four varnas (brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra). The faces have beards with eyes closed in meditation. There are four arms holding up different objects, akshamala (rosary), kurcha (kusha grass), sruk (ladle), sruva (spoon), kamandala (water pot) and pustaka (book) and in different poses representing the four quartem. Their combination and arrangement vary with the image. Akshamala symbolizes time; Kamandala, the waters of all creation. The implements kusha, sruk and sruva, denote the system of sacrifices used by creatures to sustain each other. The book represents religious and secular knowledge. Hand postures (mudras) are abhaya (protector) and varada (giver of boons). The icon may be in standing posture on a lotus or in sitting posture on a hamsa (swan). Hamsa stands for wisdom and discrimination.

Brahma is also shown riding a chariot drawn by seven swans, representing the seven worlds. Temples dedicated to Brahma show his Viswakarma aspect with four heads, the four arms holding the rosary, the book, kusha and kamandala and riding his swan. Temples of Shiva or Vishnu have a niche in the northern wall for Brahma as a parivara devata and his image receives daily worship.


Source: Hindu Gods and Goddesses-Swami Harshananda, Published by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore, 1982.

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