Hinduism knows three classical deities in the trimurti (“Hindiu triad” or “great trinity”), Vishnu is, in the view of Hinduism, the preserver, while Brahma is the creator and Shiva is the destroyer of ignorance. Religious stories usually place Brahma as an intermediate authority who cannot handle a problem and passes it on to either Vishnu or Shiva. The concept of the trinity (trimurti ), expressed in beautiful art works or invoked even by believers, is in practice a philosophical construct that unites all deistic traditions within Hinduism into one overarching symbol. Brahma is a representation of the impersonal brahman in a human form, usually with four faces facing the cardinal directions and four arms.
In reality, Brahma receives little devotion from worshipers, who may mention him in passing while giving their attention to the other main gods. There are few temples in India dedicated to him; instead, his image may stand in niches on the walls of temples built for other deities.
Brahma is the first of the three great Hindu gods, the personified emanations of the Supreme Spirit, Brahma. He is called the Creator, the framer of the Universe. Like Jupiter he is "the father of gods and men," and in the Vedas his style and title is Prajapati, "Lord of Creatures." From him all created things proceeded, as in him all things pre-existed. As the oak exists in the acorn, or, as the Hindu would express it, " the fruit is in the seed," so all material forms existed in Brahma awaiting development and expansion.
Brahma is represented in pictures as a red man with four heads, though in the Puranas, it is said, he originally had five. He is dressed in white garments and rides upon a goose. In one hand he carries a staff, and in the other a dish for receiving alms." The following legend is given to explain the origin of Brahma's five faces. According to the Matsya Purana: "Brahma assumed a mortal form and one half of his body springing forth, without its suffering any diminution whatever, he framed out of it the beauteous Satariipa. She was so lovely that he became fascinated by her charms; but as she was born from his body Brahma considered her to be his daughter and was ashamed of his emotion. During this conflict between desire and shame he remained motionless with his eyes fixed upon her. Satariipa, understanding the situation and anxious to avoid his looks, stepped aside. Brahma, unable to move, but still desirous to see her, caused a face to spring out in the direction to which she moved. She shifted her place four times and as many faces, corresponding to the four corners of the world, grew out of his head." The four Vedas are said to have issued one out of each mouth.
The loss of the fifth head is described in the Mahabharata: One day Brahma was asked by the Sages (Divine Rishis) in the presence of Vishnu who was greatest, Brahma, Shiva, or Vishnu. Brahma declared that he was; whereupon a dispute arose between Brahma and Vishnu. At length they agreed to refer the matter to the authority of the Vedas. The sacred books declared that this honour belonged to &va. The other two protested: "How can the lord of goblins, the delighter in graveyards, the naked devotee covered with ashes, haggard in appearance, wearing twisted locks ornamented by snakes, be supreme?" Even as they said this Shiva sprang into their midst in human form, vast and terrible. On seeing him the fifth head of Brahma glowed with anger, and said: "I know thee well, O Chandra Sekhara, for from my forehead didst thou spring, and because thou didst weep I called thee Rudra. Hasten then to seek the refuge of my feet, and I will protect thee, 0 my son!" At these proud words Siva was incensed, and from his anger sprang a most terrible form (Bhairava) who instantly cut off the head of Brahma with the thumb of his left hand ! What a scene is this for the wonder of the world! The great Creator's head cut off by the thumb nail of Bhairava's left hand!
Brahma, notwithstanding his venerable appearance, his majestic task, and his lordly name, has an unenviable moral record. He, the Creator of the three worlds, committed incest with his own daughter, and for this horrible crime was punished by the rest of the gods by having his worship restricted. We find drunkenness also laid to his charge, and in the Skanda Purana is an indelicate legend in which the charge of falsehood is proved against him, and this fact also is given as a reason why his worship has almost ceased: "Since thou hast childishly and with weak understanding asserted a falsehood, let no one henceforth perform worship to thee."
To-day he is scarcely worshipped at all in India. Only two temples exist, one at Lake Pushkara in Rajputana, and the other near Idar, close to Mount Abu. It is true that Brahmans, in spite of this prohibition, repeat in their morning and evening worship an incantation containing a description of Brahma, and at noon present to him sometimes a single flower and at other times offerings of clarified butter.
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