Who is Lord Brahma?

In Hinduism, the God Brahma is the senior member of the triad of great gods, which also includes Vishnu and Shiva. He is one of the more complex Hindu deities, alternatively hurting, and then helping, mankind as well as other Hindu gods and goddesses.

Brahma is considered the creator of the universe. Before the cosmos existed, Brahma was all alone, self contained and self-content. Eventually, he felt inadequate and longed for company. Brahma split himself and created the goddess Shatarupa. Her many forms captivated Brahma, and he desired to posses her.

But that was not to be. Like all material things, Shatarupa would turn into something else every time Brahma got to her. She turned into a cow, a mare, a goose and a doe. Lord Brahma kept pursuing her, taking the form of the corresponding male - a bull, a horse, a gander, a buck. Thus all creatures of the cosmos, from the smallest insect to the largest mammal, came into being.

The Hindu God Brahma sprouted five heads, so that he could watch Shatarupa at all times. To restrain Brahma's lust, Shiva wrenched off one of Brahma's five heads. This helped Brahma come to his senses, and he took Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, as his consort. With her help, he regained control of his mind.

For creating the universe, Brahma became known as the lord of progeny. But he is not worshiped because he is responsible for distracting the mind away from the soul and towards the cravings of the flesh. However, you will see shrines dedicated to Brahma on the grounds of buildings. A very famous shrine is on the grounds of the Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, and people to make offerings to Brahma there, such as hiring musicians and dancers to perform for him.

Brahma the Trouble Maker

From time to time in religious texts, Lord Brahma appears to aid the side of chaos. In the Mahabharata, for example, Brahma provides a magic arrow to the enemies of Arjuna. It then seems that the Hindu Gods spend a significant amount of time helping to defeat those who have benefited from Brahma's misdeeds, as opposed to fighting the God Brahma himself.

Another story from the Puranas has a demigod (known as an Asura) named Hiranyakashipu performing sacrifices and austerities to honor Lord Brahma so that Brahma would look favorable on Hiranyakashipu and grant him a divine gift (known as a Boon). Lord Brahma granted a sort of invincibility, preventing Hiranyakashipu to not be vulnerable to either man nor beast, and could not be killed either in the daytime nor night time, and could not be killed indoors nor outside.

On the other hand, usually when Brahma helps an adversary, the heroes learn an important lesson, or make a realization that they wouldn't have if Lord Brahma had not meddled in the first place. In the case of Hiranyakashipu, his invincibility results in Lord Vishnu taking on the form of a half-man, half-lion (known as Lord Narashima), who killed Hiranyakashipu at twilight (so neither daytime nor nighttime), and at the entrance to his home (neither indoors nor outdoors).

It's also important to note that while Brahma has a history of misdeeds, He was also "responsible" for encouraging The Buddha to teach the Dharma to mankind, as Buddha Gautama was at first reluctant to share the path to Nirvana, believing that it would be difficult for lay people to understand. Brahma countered that there were many people who would be able to comprehend the Dharma, hence there are often images of Lord Brahma in Buddhist murals, usually seated upon a cloud.

Brahma Not The Creator of The Universe After All?

One interesting aspect of different creation stories is that sometimes Vishnu or Shiva are given credit for creating the world. It is believed that they dreamed up the creation of the universe, with Brahma doing all the heavy lifting in the dream, as if he were just following the blueprints laid out by the other two gods.

Brahma's Pose and Hand Gestures

Unlike most Hindu Gods Brahma is not depicted with weapons. Instead, he is shown holding prayer beads, a water vase, and a book, symbolizing the Vedas (the original Hindu religious texts). It is said that Brahma's four mouths constantly recite the four Vedas. Brahma's fourth hand is sometimes shown holding a lotus blossom, and sometimes shown holding a staff.

A Member Of The Hindu Trinity

Lord Brahma is often depicted in a murti (religious statue) along with the Gods Vishnu and Shiva, and this is known as the Trimurti. Hindu religious scholars believe that this is a "synthetic" creation in later Hinduism. They cite growing tensions between the devotees of Vishnu (and of Vishnu's avatars) and the devotees of Shiva as being the main cause to create a "harmonious" deity. But as mentioned above, Brahma is rarely worshiped solely, due to the mischievous nature and association with uncontrolled desire.