Brahma, the god who created knowledge and then universe
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Brahma (//; Brahmā) is the creator god in the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity. He has four faces, looking in the four directions. Brahma is also known as Svayambhu (self-born), Vāgīśa (Lord of Speech), and the creator of the four Vedas, one from each of his mouths. Though Brahma is often identified with the Vedic god Prajapati and Hiranyagarbha (the cosmic egg), he prominently features in the post-Vedic Hindu epics and the Puranic scriptural narratives. In the epics, he is conflated with Purusha.
While Brahma is often credited as the creator of the universe and various beings in it, many Puranas describe him being born from a lotus emerging from the navel of the god Vishnu. Brahma does not enjoy popular worship in present-age Hinduism and has lesser importance than the other members of the Trimurti, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is revered in ancient texts, yet rarely worshipped as a primary deity in India. Very few temples dedicated to him exist in India; the most famous being the Brahma Temple, Pushkar in Rajasthan. Brahma is also venerated in Buddhism and in Thailand as Phra Phrom.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Attributes
- 4 Temples
- 5 Duration of Brahmā's day
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 External links
The origins of deity Brahma are uncertain, in part because several related words such as one for Ultimate Reality (Brahman), and priest (Brahmin) are found in the Vedic literature and these are difficult to differentiate. The existence of a distinct deity named Brahma is evidenced in late Vedic text. A distinction between spiritual concept of Brahman, and deity Brahma, is that the former is gender neutral, while the latter is masculine. The spiritual concept of Brahman is far older, and some scholars suggest deity Brahma may have emerged as a personal conception and visible icon of the impersonal universal principle called Brahman.
Contrasted to the neuter noun is the masculine noun brahmán, whose nominative singular form is brahmā.[note 1] This noun is used to refer to a person, and as the proper name of a deity Brahmā it is the subject matter of the present article.
One of the earliest mention of Brahma with Vishnu and Shiva is in the fifth Prapathaka (lesson) of the Maitrayaniya Upanishad, probably composed in late 1st millennium BCE. Brahma is discussed in verse 5,1 also called the Kutsayana Hymn first, and expounded in verse 5,2.
In the pantheistic Kutsayana Hymn, the Upanishad asserts that one's Soul is Brahman, and this Ultimate Reality, Cosmic Universal or God is within each living being. It equates the Atman (Soul, Self) within to be Brahma and various alternate manifestations of Brahman, as follows, "Thou art Brahma, thou art Vishnu, thou art Rudra (Shiva), thou art Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Indra, thou art All."
In verse 5,2 Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are mapped into the theory of Guṇa, that is qualities, psyche and innate tendencies the text describes can be found in all living beings. This chapter of the Maitri Upanishad asserts that the universe emerged from darkness (Tamas), first as passion characterized by action qua action (Rajas), which then refined and differentiated into purity and goodness (Sattva). Of these three qualities, Rajas is then mapped to Brahma, as follows:
Now then, that part of him which belongs to Tamas, that, O students of sacred knowledge (Brahmacharins), is this Rudra.
That part of him which belongs to Rajas, that O students of sacred knowledge, is this Brahma.
That part of him which belongs to Sattva, that O students of sacred knowledge, is this Vishnu.
Verily, that One became threefold, became eightfold, elevenfold, twelvefold, into infinite fold.
This Being (neuter) entered all beings, he became the overlord of all beings.
That is the Atman (Soul, Self) within and without – yea, within and without !
While the Maitri Upanishad maps Brahma with one of the elements of Guṇa theory of Hinduism, the text does not depict him as one of the trifunctional elements of the Hindu Trimurti idea found in later Puranic literature.
Brahma functions as a "secondary creator" as described in the Mahabharata and Puranas. Born from a lotus emerging from the navel of Vishnu, Brahma creates all the forms in the universe, but not the primordial universe itself. Thus in most Puranic texts, Brahma's creative activity depends on the presence and power of a higher god.
In the Bhagavata Purana, Brahmā is portrayed several times as the one who rises from the "Ocean of Causes". Brahma, states this Purana, emerges at the moment when time and universe is born, inside a lotus rooted in the navel of Hari (deity Vishnu, whose praise is the primary focus on Bhagavata Purana). The myth asserts that Brahma is drowsy, errs and is temporarily incompetent as he puts together the universe. He then becomes aware of his confusion and drowsiness, meditates as an ascetic, then realizes Hari in his heart, sees the beginning and end of universe, and then his creative powers are revived. Brahma, states Bhagavata Purana, thereafter combines Prakriti (nature, matter) and Purusha (spirit, soul) to create a dazzling variety of living creatures, and tempest of casual nexus.
The Bhagavata Purana thus attributes the creation of Maya to Brahma, wherein he creates for the sake of creation, imbuing everything with both the good and the evil, the material and the spiritual, a beginning and an end.
The Puranas describe Brahma as the deity creating time. They correlate human time to Brahma's time, such as a mahākalpa being a large cosmic period, correlating to one day and one night in Brahma's existence.
The stories about Brahma in various Puranas are diverse and inconsistent. In Skanda Purana, for example, goddess Parvati is called the "mother of the universe", and she is credited with creating Brahma, gods and the three worlds. She is the one, states Skanda Purana, who combined the three Gunas - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas - into matter (Prakrti) to create the empirically observed world.
The Vedic discussion of Brahma as a Rajas-quality god expands in the Puranic and Tantric literature. However, these texts state that his wife Saraswati has Sattva (quality of balance, harmony, goodness, purity, holistic, constructive, creative, positive, peaceful, virtuous), thus complementing Brahma's Rajas (quality of passion, activity, neither good nor bad and sometimes either, action qua action, individualizing, driven, dynamic).
Brahmā is traditionally depicted with four faces and four arms. Each face of his points to a cardinal direction. His hands hold no weapons, rather symbols of knowledge and creation. In one hand he holds the sacred texts of Vedas, in second he holds mala (rosary beads) symbolizing time, in third he holds a ladle symbolizing means to feed sacrificial fire, and in fourth a utensil with water symbolizing the means where all creation emanates from. His four mouths are credited with creating the four Vedas. He is often depicted with a white beard, implying his sage like experience. He sits on lotus, dressed in white (or red, pink), with his vehicle – a swan – nearby.
Brahma's consort is the goddess Saraswati. She is considered to be "the embodiment of his power, the instrument of creation and the energy that drives his actions".
Chapter 51 of Manasara-Silpasastra, an ancient design manual in Sanskrit for making Murti and temples, states that Brahma statue should be golden in color. The text recommends that the statue have four faces and four arms, have jata-mukuta-mandita (matted hair of an ascetic), and wear a diadem (crown). Two of his hands should be in refuge granting and gift giving mudra, while he should be shown with kundika (water pot), akshamala (rosary), a small and a large sruk-sruva (laddles used in yajna ceremonies). The text details the different proportions of the murti, describes the ornaments, and suggests that the idol wear chira (bark strip) as lower garment, and either be alone or be accompanied with goddesses Sarasvati on his right and Savitri on his left.
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Though almost all Hindu religious rites involve prayer to Brahmā, very few temples are dedicated to His worship. Among the most prominent is Brahma Temple, Pushkar. Once a year, on Kartik Poornima, the full moon night of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik (October – November), a religious festival is held in Brahmā's honour. Thousands of pilgrims come to bathe in the holy Pushkar Lake adjacent to the temple. There is a temple in Asotra village in Balotra taluka of Rajasthan's Barmer district, which is known as Kheteshwar Brahmadham Tirtha.
Temples to Brahmā also exist in Tirunavaya in Kerala. The Trimurti temple and the temple dedicated to Brahma accompanied by Ganesha, located outside Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is also famous. He is also a part of the Trimurti in Thripaya Trimurti Temple and Mithrananthapuram Trimurti Temple in Kerala. Regular pujas are held for Brahmā at the temple in Tirunavaya, and during Navratris, this temple comes to life with multi-varied festivities.
Other temples dedicated to Brahma
- Brahma Temple at Khokhan, in Kullu District, Himachal Pradesh
- Brahma Temple at Asotra, District Barmer, Rajasthan
- Brahma Temple at Oachira in Kollam district, Kerala
- Brahma temple at village aleo shrishty narayan, in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
- Brahma temple at Annamputhur village srinidheeswarar in Tindivanam,Tamil Nadu
- Brahma Temple at Pushkar , Rajasthan
- Thirunavaya, Thiruvallam , Kerala
- Brahma Temple at Royakotta road in Hosur , Tamil Nadu
- Uttamar Kovil in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu
- Kumbakonam, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu
- Khedbrahma, Gujarat
- The Brahma Temple near Panajiin the village of Brahma-Carambolim in the Satari taluka, Goa
- Brahma (accompanied by Ganesh) Temple, near the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram , Kerala
- Bramhapureeswarar temple in Tirupattur, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu
- BrahmaKuti Temple at Brahmaavart (Bithoor), Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh)
- Brahma Temple at village Chhinch, Tehsil Bagidoa, District Banswara, Rajasthan
- Chaturmukha Brahma temple in Chebrolu, Andhra Pradesh
- Chaturmukha (Four Faces) Brahma temple at Bengaluru, Karnataka,
- As Part of Trimurti at Thripaya Trimurti Temple in Irinjalakuda, Thrissur in Kerala, India
- As Part of Trimurti at Mithrananthapuram Trimurti Temple in Thiruvanathapuram in in Kerala, India
- Jagatpita Brahma in Ponmeri Shiva Temple in Vadakara in Kerala, India
The largest and most famous shrine to Brahmā may be found in Cambodia's Angkor Wat. One of the three largest temples in the 9th-century Prambanan temples complex in Yogyakarta, central Java (Indonesia) is dedicated to Brahma, the other two to Shiva (largest of three) and Vishnu respectively. The temple dedicated to Brahmā is on southern side of Śiva temple.
A statue of Brahmā is present at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, and continues to be revered in modern times. The golden dome of the Government House of Thailand also contains a statue of Phra Phrom (Thai representation of Brahmā). An early 18th-century painting at Wat Yai Suwannaram in Phetchaburi city of Thailand shows Brahma.
Duration of Brahmā's day
With regard to Brahmā's day and night, each consists of 14 of his hours or 4.32 billion human years. "Brahma has four heads" (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.8.2–5).
Notes and references
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