Hinduism, originally known as Sanatana Dharma is a pantheistic religion as it equates God with the universe. Brahma (the creator) is the first member of the Hindu trinity (three Gods) consisting of Lord Vishnu (the preserver) being the second and Lord Shiva (the destroyer/transformer) being the third.
The meanings of Brahma in Sanskrit are growth, expansion, and creation. In this way, Brahma is recognized as the God of creation. He is attributed to the creation of Brahmanda (the entire universe) and all forms of life within it. So he is also known as the Creator and the Director of the entire universe. It is said that Goddess Saraswati is the wife of Brahma. She is the God of knowledge and wisdom.
Emergence of Brahma
Brahma is believed to be born from the Kamal, (lotus) springing from Vishnu’s Navi (navel) as he was laying on the great serpent in the milky ocean. Hence, he is also known as Nabhija (navel-born) and Kanja (water born), according to Hindu doctrine. Growing from the lotus of Narayana, Brahma is the name that creates the realm of the universe. He is a symbol of celestials and divine beings of all kinds of nature.
Purusha Suktam of the Rigveda (Hymn 10.90) states that the three main bodies of the Universe (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) are indestructible and they are the subjects to creation, preservation, and dissolution of the whole universe. Narayana is the Sanskrit name given in the Upanishad which means supreme lord. Narayana is the Para Brahma, one who creates unlimited universes and enters each one of them as Lord of the Universe.
Brahma creates and operates in various forms of the universe for years and years, then dissolves back into Narayana. Narayana is he who cannot be created or destroyed. Theologically, he is Savayambhu (self-creator). Cosmologically, he is Vishwakarma (master of the universe) and Vidhi (originator).
Surroundings of Brahma
The picture of Brahma like the other Hindu Gods bears mystic imagery. When one comes across statues of Brahma, the God of Creation is drenched in symbolism. Brahma is unique as he has four faces (Chatur Mukha) and four hands. Brahma is seen sitting on the lotus that designates the infinite truth. Reality is the basis on which his traits rest. The four faces of Brahma embody the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva).
The animal hide worn by Brahma stands for severity. Out of his four hands, Brahma holds the Kamandalu in his first hand, which is the symbol of sannyasa or renunciation. Vedas are held on the second hand. Likewise, he also carries a rosary (mala) in the third hand which is meant to be used for chanting and meditation.
And on his fourth hand, he holds lotus which represents nature and the energy of creation. Brahma is often seen riding a swan, his sacred vehicle upon which he travels. The swan is supposed to symbolize grace, beauty, and peace. Lastly, the crown that Brahma wears stands for his supreme authority over the world as the King of Creation.
Three Principals of Brahma
Life in this world is the demonstration of the three principles of Brahma that is creation, sustenance, and destruction. All these three principles are interconnected. Destruction, creation, and sustenance are all united. They are like the wheels of the same cart. Hence the three Gods of the Trinity viz. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva representing creation, maintenance, and destruction, are basically one and the same.
The above idea is pretty well depicted in Lord Dattatreya, in whose form the three Gods are united. Dattatreya has the three faces of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to point out that the three principles for which they stand for are indivisible. Everything in this universe except Brahman is created and maintained for a certain amount of time, and then it is destroyed in order to be renewed in other ideal forms again. Thus, the Hindu religion is based on the principle of rebirth. (What does Hindu dharma say about Reincarnation?)
According to Hindu philosophy, all creation is the outcome of Vikshepa Shakti which the Lord Brahma contains. Although Lord Brahma is the God of creation, he is not popularly worshipped as Vishnu and Shiva. There are very few shrines of Brahma in comparison to Vishnu and Shiva, even though Lord Brahma has his own significance in the Hindu dharma.
Interesting Brahma Facts
- Brahma’s four heads signify the four Vedas
- Shiva Purana talks about how Brahma was
- Brahma is a title and after him, Lord Hanuman will reign the title in the next Manvantara.
- 1 Day of Brahma is 4.38 billion human years
Representations of Brahma
Early representations of Lord Brahma can be found on artifacts such as the Bimaran casket from the 1st century CE. In Vedic literature, Brahma is mentioned in the Maitrayaniya Upanishad, composed around the late 1st millennium BCE. The Upanishad describes Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and equates the individual soul (atman) with the cosmic soul (Brahman). It also associates Brahma with the quality of rajas, representing innate tendencies found in all living beings.
During the post-Vedic period, Brahma was a prominent deity. According to texts like the Brahmananda Purana, Brahma emerged from a golden egg called Hiranyagarbha and created the universe and all beings. However, by the 7th century, Brahma’s importance declined. Puranic legends attribute this decline to factors such as conflicts with Vishnu and Shiva, the rise of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, and attacks from Buddhist and Jain followers.
In the post-Vedic texts, Brahma is considered a secondary creator. Different theories of cosmogony, including the concepts of Sarga (primary creation) and Visarga (secondary creation), involve Brahma. He is described as being born from a lotus emerging from Vishnu’s navel or from the goddess Devi. However, Brahma’s creative activity depends on a higher deity in most Puranic texts.
The Bhagavata Purana portrays Brahma as emerging from the “Ocean of Causes” and creating the universe. It describes his initial confusion and drowsiness, followed by meditation and realization of the divine within him. Brahma then combines matter and spirit to create a diverse array of living creatures. The Puranas also attributes the creation of Maya (illusion) to Brahma.
The stories and attributes of Brahma vary in different Puranic and Tantric texts. In some, the goddess Parvati is credited with creating Brahma and the world. Brahma is often associated with the quality of rajas, while his wife Saraswati embodies the quality of sattva, creating a complementary balance.