Battle between Brahma and Vishnu – Shiva Purana

Shiva manifesting himself as a column of the fire in the battlefield

In Vidyesvara Samhita of Shiva Purana Chapters 6, 7, and 8Nandikesvara talks about the journey of Devas to Kailash. Devas are terrified by the use of the Pashupatastra weapon in the fight between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Nandikesvara also talks about How Lord Shiva manifested himself as a column of the fire on the battlefield and curse Brahma and Ketaki Flower.

Battle Between Brahma and Vishnu

Once, long ago, O foremost among Yogins, Vishnu was having his nap on his serpent-couch. He was surrounded by the goddess of fortune, Devi Lakshmi, and his attendants. Brahma, the foremost among the Vedic scholars chanced to come there. He asked the lotus-eyed handsome Vishnu who was lying there. Who are you lying here like a haughty person even after seeing me? Get up, O dear, and see me who am your lord. I have come here. Expiatory rites are ordained for that spiteful wretch who behaves like a haughty fool at the visit of an honorable elderly person.

On hearing these words Vishnu was angry. But assuming a calm exterior he said, O dear, Hail thee. Welcome. Please sit on this couch. How is it that thy face is agitated and thy eyes look curious?

Brahma said: Dear Vishnu, know me to have come with the speed of the Time. I am to be honoured greatly. O dear one, I am ,the protector of the world, Grandfather, your protector as well.

Vishnu said: O dear one, the whole universe is situated within me but your way of thinking is like that of a thief. You are born of the lotus sprung from my navel-region. You are my son. Your words are futile, therefore.

Arguing with each other like this, saying that each is better than the other and claiming to be the lord, they got ready to fight, like two foolish goats, desirous of killing each other. The two heroic deities, seated on their respective vehicles—the Swan and the Garuda, fought together. The attendants of Brahma and Vishnu also came into a clash. In the meantime, the different groups of Devas moving about in flying chariots came there to witness the wonderful fight. Witnessing from heaven they scattered flowers everywhere.

Use of Maheshwara Astra and Pashupata Astra

The Garuda-vehicled deity (Vishnu) became infuriated and discharged unbearable arrows and many kinds of weapons on the chest of Brahma. The infuriated Brahma also hurled many arrows of fiery fury and different kinds of weapons on Vishnu. The Devas commented on this wondrous fight and were agitated much, Vishnu in his great fury and mental agitation breathed hard and discharged the Mahesvarastra over Brahma. Annoyed at this, Brahma aimed the terrible Pashupatastra at the chest of Vishnu.

The weapon rising high in the sky blazing like ten thousand suns, with thousands of terrible pointed spikes roared awfully like a gust of wind. These two weapons of Brahma and Vishnu thus faced each other in a terrible clash.

A journey of Devas To Kailash, Abode of Lord Shiva

Such was the mutual fight between Brahma and Vishnu. Then, O dear, the devas in their helpless agitation and vexation talked among themselves as people do at the time of war between their monarchs. The three-pointed-trident-bearing deity, the supreme Brahman, (i. e. Shiva) is the cause of creation, maintenance, annihilation, concealment, and blessing. Without His corroboration, even a blade of grass cannot be split by any individual anywhere. Thinking thus in their fright they desired to go to Shiva’s abode and accordingly came to the summit of Kailash where the moon-crested God resided.

On seeing that region of Paramesvara in the shape of Omkara they bent their heads down in reverence and entered the palace. There they saw the supreme leader of the Devas
brilliantly shining on the gem-set seat in the company of Uma on an altar in the middle of the council-chamber. His right leg was kept over the knee of the left; his lotus-like hands were placed over the legs; his attendants were all round him. He had all good characteristic features. The Vedas were extolling Him. The lord Shiva was blessing everyone.

On seeing the lord thus, the Devas shed tears of joy. O dear one, the hosts of Devas knelt down even from a great distance. The lord, on seeing the Devas, beckoned them to him through his attendants. Then causing the delight of the Devas, the crest-jewel of Devas (i. e. Shiva), addressed them gravely with sweet auspicious words.

Shiva manifesting himself as a column of the fire in the battlefield

Shiva manifesting himself as a column of the fire in the battlefield

Shiva said: Dear children, I hope the universe and the race of the deities, under my suzerainty, flourish in their respective duties. O gods, the fight between Brahma and Vishnu is already known to me. This agitation on your part is like a redundant speech. Thus the consort of Amba consoled the concourse of devas with honeylike speech sweetened with a smile in the manner of appeasing children. In that very assembly, the lord announced his desire to go to the battlefield of Vishnu and Brahma and accordingly issued His directive to a hundred of the commanders of his attendants.

Different kinds of musical instruments were played to announce the start of the journey of Lord Shiva to the battlefield of Lord Vishnu and Lord Bramha. The commanders of the attendants were in readiness fully bedecked in their ornaments, seated in their respective vehicles. The lord, consort of Ambika, mounted the holy chariot shaped like Omkara from front to the back and embellished in five circular rings. He was accompanied by his sons and Ganas. All the devas, Indra and others, followed. Honored suitably by the display of banners of various colors, fans, chowries, scattered flowers, music, dance, and the instrument players, and accompanied by the Maha Devi (Parvati), Pashupati (Shiva) went to the battle-field with the whole army.

On espying the battle, the lord vanished in the firmament. The play of the music stopped and the tumult of the Ganas subsided. There on the battlefield, Brahma and Achyuta (Vishnu) desirous of killing each other were awaiting the result of the Mahesvara Astra and the Pashupata Astra hurled by them. The flames emitted by the two weapons of Brahma and Vishnu burned the three worlds.

On seeing this imminent untimely dissolution the bodiless form of Shiva assumed the terrific form of a huge column of fire in their midst. The two weapons of fiery flame potential enough to destroy the entire world fell into the huge column of fire that manifested itself there instantaneously. Seeing that auspicious wonderful phenomenon assuaging the weapons they asked each other: What is this wonderful form? What is this column of fire that has risen up? It is beyond the range of senses. We have to find’ out its top and bottom.

Jointly deciding like this, the two gods proud of their prowess immediately set about assiduously in their quest.

“Nothing will turn up if we are together”. Saying this, Vishnu assumed the form of a Boar and went in search of the root. Brahma in the form of a swan went up in search of the top. Piercing through the netherworlds and going very far below, Vishnu could not see the root of the fiery column. Utterly exhausted, Vishnu in the form of a Boar returned to the former battle-ground.

Brahma who went high up in the sky saw a certain bunch of Ketaki flower of mysterious nature falling from above. On seeing the mutual fight of Brahma and Vishnu, Lord Shiva laughed. When his head shook, the Ketaki flower dropped down. Although it had been in its downward course for many years, neither its fragrance nor its lustre had been diminished even a bit. The flower had been intended to bless them.

(Brahma said) “O Lord of flowers, by whom had you been worn? Why do you fall? I have come here to seek out the top, in the form of a swan.” (The flower replied) “I am falling down from the middle of this primordial column that is inscrutable. It has taken me a long time. Hence I do not see how you can see the top.”  “Dear friend, hereafter you must do as I desire. In the presence of Vishnu, you must say like this. O Achyuta, the top of the column has been seen by Brahma. I am the witness for the same.” Saying this he bowed to the Ketaki flower again and again. Even falsehood is recommended in times of danger. So say the authoritative texts.

(Returning to the original place ) on seeing Vishnu there, utterly exhausted and lacking pleasure, Brahma danced with joy. Vishnu, in the manner of a eunuch admitting his
inability (to a woman), told him the truth (that he could not see the bottom). But Brahma told Vishnu like this.

“O Hari, the top of this column has been seen by me. This Ketaki flower is my witness.” The Ketaki flower repeated the falsehood endorsing the words of Brahma in his presence. Hari, taking it to be true, made obeisance to Brahma. He worshipped Brahma with all the sixteen means of service and homage. Lord Shiva taking up a visible form in order to chastise Brahma who practiced trickery, came out of the column of fire. On seeing the lord, Vishnu stood up and with his hands shaking with fear caught hold of the lord’s feet.

It is out of ignorance and delusion about you whose body is without a beginning or an end that we indulged in this quest prompted by our own desire. Hence O, Sympathetic Being, forgive us for our fault. In fact, it is but another form of your divine sport.

Lord Shiva said: “O dear Hari, I am pleased with you because you strictly adhered to the truth in spite of your desire to be a lord. Hence among the general public, you will have a footing equal to mine. You will be honored too likewise. Hereafter you will be separate from me having a separate temple, installation of idols, festivals, and worship.” Thus, formerly, the lord was delighted by the truthfulness of Vishnu and offered him a footing equal to his own even as the assembly of the devas was witnessing the same.

Lord Shiva Curse Lord Brahma – Shiva’s forgiveness of Brahma

Nandikesvara said: Mahadeva then created a wonderful person, Bhairava, from the middle of his brows to quell the pride of Brahma. Bhairava knelt before the lord on the battlefield and said—“O Lord, what shall I do? Please give me your directives quickly.”  “Dear, here is Brahma, the first deity of the universe. Worship him with your sharp-pointed quick-moving sword.” With one of his hands, he caught hold of the tuft of Brahma’s fifth head was guilty of haughtily uttering a falsehood, and with the hands, he furiously shook his sword in order to cut it off. Lord Brahma trembled like a plantain tree in a whirlwind, with his ornaments scattered here and there, his cloth ruffled and loosened, the garland displaced, the upper cloth hanging loose and the glossy tuft disheveled, and fell at the feet of Bhairava.

Meanwhile, the sympathetic Vishnu desirous of saving Brahma shed tears over the lotus-like feet of our Lord and said with palms joined in reverence just like a child lisping words of entreaty to his father.

Vishnu said: O Lord, it was you who gave him five heads as a special symbol, long ago. Hence please forgive him for his first guilt. Please favor him. The lord thus requested by Vishnu relented and in the presence of all devas asked Bhairava to desist from punishing Brahma. Then the Lord turned to the deceitful Brahma who bent down his neck and said “O Brahma, in order to extort honor from the people you assumed the role of the lord in a roguish manner. Hence you shall not be honored, nor shall you have your own temple or festival. (This is the reason why there are only few Brahma temples)

Brahma said: O Lord, be pleased. O flourishing one, I consider this sparing of my head itself a great blessing and a boon. Obeisance to Thee, the lord, the kinsman, the originator of the universe, the forbearing, the forgiver of defects, the benevolent one, wielding the mountain as his bow.

Shiva said: O child, the whole universe will be ruined if it loses the fear of a king Hence you mete out punishment to the guilty and bear the burden of administering this universe. I shall grant you another boon which is very difficult to get. In all domestic and public sacrifices you will be the presiding deity. Even though a sacrifice is complete with all the ancillary rites and offerings of monetary gifts, it will be fruitless without you. Then the lord turned to the deceitful Ketaki flower guilty of perjury and said — “O you Ketaki flower, you are roguish and deceitful. Go away from here. Hereafter I have no desire to include you in my worship.’ When the lord said thus, all the devas shunned the very presence of the flower.

Ketaki said: Obeisance to Thee, O Lord, Your bidding will mean that my very birth is fruitless. May the Lord be pleased to make it fruitful by forgiving my sin. Thy remembrance is reputed to quell all sins perpetrated consciously or unconsciously. Now that I have seen Thee, how can the sin of uttering falsehood sully me? Thus entreated in the middle of the council the Lord said—“It is not proper for me to wear you. I am the lord and my words must stay true. My attendants and followers shall wear thee. Hence thy birth shall be fruitful. Of course in the canopies over my idol, you can be used for decoration.” The lord thus blessed the three—the flower Ketaki, Brahma and Vishnu. He shone in the assembly duly eulogized by the Devas.

Shiva Purana: Vidyesvara Samhita, Chapter 6, 7 and 8