One of the member of the Hindu trinity – Brahma ( the other two being Vishnu and Shiva) ,is the creator of Universe, the revealer of knowledge of Vedas and the self born ( Swyambhu) God . He is one of the masculine manifestation of the supreme consciousness.
Brahma should not be confused with Brahman – the metaphysical supreme soul.He is a physical form( Saguna) of the formless Brahman.
Although Brahma is one of the Trimurtis , but he is very less frequently worshipped in comparison to other Gods,probably due to the rise and popularity of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism.
Brahma appears more often in Vedas and religious texts than in the place of worship. In fact there are very few temples dedicated to him in India.
Forms of Brahma
- Pitamaha – Patriarch
- Vidhi – Coordinator
- Lokesha – Master of the universe
- Dhatru – Sustainer
- Viswakarma – Architect of the world
Origin of Brahma
‘Brahma ‘ means the male manifestation of genderless Brahman( supreme consciousness).
According to Brahmanda Purana –
Before the creation of universe there was nothing but a eternal ocean from which a golden foetus called Hiranyagarbh emerged. Out of his own will Brahma was born from this foetus. So Brahma is also called ' Swayambhu' and ' Hiranyagarbha'. Then he created the universe and the people to populate and live on his creation.
According to Vaishnav tradition Brahma was born out of the lotus flower that spring out from the navel of Lord Vishnu. He thus got the name – ‘Nabhija’.
Appearance and Attributes
Brahma in most of the scriptures is depicted as a golden complexioned bearded man having four hands and heads. He is seated on a lotus and his Vahana ( mount ) is a swan symbolising beauty and peace.
Religious scriptures describe Saraswati as the consort of Brahma , she signifies the creative energy of Brahma and also the knowledge that he possess.
1.He has four heads that signifies the four Vedas( Rigveda ,Samveda, Yajurveda ,Atharvaveda), pointing to the four cardinal direction direction .
2.He has four hands holding:
(i).Kamandalu– Utensil containing water ,that signifies the basis of all creation .It is also the symbol of renunciation and Sanyasa.
(ii).Vedas- He hold the four Vedas in his second hand. It is belived that the knowledge of Vedas was revealed to sages by Brahma.
(iii).Rosary – It signifies the supreme energy which has no start and no end ,just like the rosary beads.
(iv).Sruva– He holds a sruva in his fourth hand ,signifying the vedic sacrifces .Sruva are specially designed spoons used to perform religious sacrifices (Yajna).
White beard and clothes – Brahma has such an eternal existence that his appearance must correspond to his eternity. Hence, Lord Brahma has a white beard as a symbol of wisdom. His white clothes, on the other hand, stand for purity.
Family of Brahma
The later vedic scriptures associates Saraswati with Brahma as her consort.
Brahma had many sons who were born out of his mind . So they are called Manasputra(mind born sons).
Manasputra of Brahma: 1.Atharvan 2.Angiras 3.Atri 4.Bhrigu 5.Chitragupta 6.Daksha 7.Himavan 8.Jambavana 9.Kama 10.Kratu 11.Four Kumaras- Sanaka Kumara,Sanatana Kumara, Sanandana Kumara,Sanat Kumara 12.Marichi 13.Narada 14.Pulaha 15.Pulastya 16.Shatarupa 17.Swayambhuva 18.Manu 19.Vashistha
Downfall of Brahma Worship
Brahma was worshipped as a major diety prior to the Vedic period.It is believed that after the creation of Manasputra , Bramha created Saraswati and fell deeply in love with her beauty and married her. This was conceived by the Gods as a sin , and Rudra ( the furious form of Shiva ) in the form of Kaal Bhairav cut off the fifth head of Brahma .Bhairav cursed him that he would not be prominently worshipped in future and would be embraced only in the scriptures and not by the devotees.
Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda describes it:
Pragâpati conceived a passion for his own daughter... 'May I pair with her!' thus (thinking) he united with her. This, assuredly, was a sin in the eyes of the gods. 'He who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister, [commits a sin],' they thought. The gods then said to this god who rules over the beasts (Rudra), 'This one, surely, commits a sin who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister. Pierce him!' Rudra, taking aim, pierced him.
After loosing the fifth head ,Brahma got the four headed form that we see today.
Mention in Scriptures
One of the earliest appearance of Brahma is in the Maitrayaniya Upanishad – which describes Brahma to be the soul within ( the self) . Brahma ,Vishnu and Shiva are linked to the three Gunas( Tamas,Rajas,Sattva) ,the innate tendencies within all creations.
Brahma is mapped to the Rajas Guna, the mode of passion .
Brahma as a creator is also mentioned in Mahabharata and Valmiki Ramayana.
According to BhagvatPurana – Brahma emerges at a moment when time and universe is born.It attributes the creation of Maya(illlusionary energy of God) to Brahma ,wherein he creates for the sake of creation, everything with both the good and the evil, the material and the spiritual, a beginning and an end.
Worship of Brahma in various parts of World
It is interesting that Brahma is more prominently worshipped in South east ,East Asia ,Indonesia and Bali in comparison of India. Many shrines are present in these countries which are attributed to Brahma . He is even worshipped as the main deity of many of these places.
(i). The Brahma temple in Pushkar ,Rajasthan , is the largest temple of India dedicated to him. Pushkar Mela is a cultural festival here during which pilgrims offer prayers to Brahma . On the full moon night, people bathe in the Pushkar lake. The ceremonies are brought to an end by a maha aarti (worship with fire) by the lake and firework displays.
(ii).Kheteshwar Brahmadham Temple is another temple in Barmer district of Rajasthan ,which is the second largest Brahma temple.This is one of the few temples where Brahma is with his consort Savitri(Saraswati).
(iii) Brahmaji Mandir in KhedBrahma ,Gujrat is another famous temple of Brahma.It was built in 11th century during the rule of Chalukya king Karna.
Other Parts of World:
- Combodia’s Angkorwat- A shrine dedicated to Brahma can be found here.
- A 9th century Brahma shrine is found in yogyakarta ,Indonesia -Prambanan temple.
- The Erawan Shrine is a Thai representation of brahma with all the features of Hindu deity Brahma.
- Hindus in Indonesia ,Bali and Thailand have high regards for Brahma .
Some Interesting facts about Brahma
- Myanmar, which was previously called Burma ,has its name derived from Brahma. In the medieval text it is called ‘Brahma Desh’.
- Mount Bromo is an active volcano in Java ,Indonesia. It is named after Brahma .It is believed that the mountain is connected to Brahma Lok – The supreme abode of Brahma.
- Brahma is the father of Saptrishis who were taught by the Adiyogi form of Shiva.