Brahma, A Hindu Creator God

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Brahma, the Hindu creator god—a god of antiquity. Like the creator god of Egyptian mythology, Brahma was born from a golden egg and, like Ra, he created the earth and all things in it. The three main gods/goddesses found in Hindu mythology are Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma with Brahma being the main creator god. Some myths even have Brahma emerging from a lotus born out of Vishnu’s navel, however the main creator god will always be Brahma.

Who is He?

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Between the years 500BCE and 500CE, Brahma was considered one of the major gods of Hindu mythology a title he shared with Vishnu and Shiva. In this triad (Trimurti), Brahma remained the supreme god. In Hindu mythology, you will often find Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma closely linked with Brahma’s role being that of creation. By the time of the poet Kumarasambhava, this triad was well-known to Hindu culture. However, Brahma slowly became over-shadowed by Vishnu and Shiva as well as the Great Goddess Devi in all her forms. Later on, he would take on the identity of the Vedic creator god, Prajapati.

In Hinduism, Brahma’s epithet is ekahamsa meaning “One Swan” and his “vehicle” or vahanam is a peacock, swan or goose. Brahma’s high status made him less involved in myths where gods took on human form and character. In this regard, Brahma is usually abstract or a metaphysical idea. Brahma is the first god in the triumvirate and is responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. It is also believed that the four Vedas came from Brahma’s four heads. Brahma had many sons and daughters because of his many wives. In the mythology, Brahma is also accompanied by Savitri and Sarasvati. He had many wives with his favourite being his daughter, the goddess of knowledge, Sarasvati. Out of her would come the four holy books of Hinduism.   

Brahma’s Worship

In Hindu epics, Brahma’s myths are normally attributed to other gods. This left him unworshipped, however, he did not lose his status in the eyes of the Hindus as the great creator god. There are many stories in mythology explaining why Brahma is no longer worshipped. By the middle of the 1st millennium CE, they tried to synthesize Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma as the three forms of the supreme unmanifested deity via the sectarian traditions of the Trimurti. Up until the 7th century, Brahma had been worshipped as the supreme being, but after the 7th century Brahma had lost his title. Although Brahma had lost his title, temples dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva have images of Brahma. There is also the Pushkar in Rajasthan the annual ceremony where Brahma is still honoured. Brahma is still worshipped in Southeast Asia and also very specifically in Thailand and Bali.

Brahma’s Creation

As mentioned above, Brahma was responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Depending on which myth you elect to believe, it could have either been Brahma or Daksa that was responsible for creation.

Emerging out of Brahma had come light and dark, good and evil. He also created the gods, demons, ancestors and Manu, the first man. Some people even hold that the caste system came from certain parts of Brahma’s body. However, tragically, in a moment of distraction, out of Brahma’s thigh were born the demons. This would cause him to abandon his own body and create Night. After he had created the good gods, he again abandoned his body and it would then become Day. This left demons to rule the night while gods ruled the day. After Brahma had created the ancestors and men, he shed his body each time, thus creating Dusk and Dawn. This process happens every aeon.

After the creation of man, Brahma noticed the power of men and, in fear, he created wanton women. These women would then stir up men to anger and desire. This would distract men from rising up against the gods. According to one particular myth, the first woman Brahma created was Death. She was the source of evil and was created to provide balance to the universe. Her job was to destroy all living creatures. Death did all she could to convince Brahma to relieve her of her task, but he would not. Shiva would then be given humanity to rule over by Brahma with some myths later having Brahma become her servant.

Brahma in Art

In art, Brahma is normally drawn with four faces as expressed in the four Vedas in poems and hymns. The four facets being the four ages, four social classes, four directions, four stages of life and so forth. Brahma originally had five heads, but he was caught lusting after his daughter Sandhya, so Shiva cut off the head that been ogling his daughter, Sandhya. Brahma is normally drawn with four arms holding an alms bowl, bow, a book and prayer beads. He is depicted as seated or standing on a lotus throne or on his mount, a goose. He is also depicted as having a beard. Brahma is often in red and some depictions have him with one hand holding the brahma-tandram, which is used the mark man’s foreheads with their destiny. His right hand holds a rosary of rudraksha seeds. One left hand has a cleansing vase, sometimes he has his own bow Paravita/Vedas. The lotus he sits on came out of Vishnu’s navel. There are various countries each with their own depiction of Brahma.

Conclusion

An ancient figure in Hindusim, Brahma is no longer exclusively worshipped by anyone anymore. Brahma has been worshipped through many centuries and, even though he is not exclusively worshipped anymore, there are plenty of religious sites where Brahma’s presence is evident whether in word or artistic depiction. He shares temples with Shiva and Vishnu and his artistic presence is very evident in those sites. The original religious themes in Hinduism, the temple, was consecrated to Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. These three are always together in Hindu mythology, inseparable. They are featured in all the main parts of the Hindu creation; however, Brahma is always the most prominent of the three.

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