Hindu God Brahma

Brahma has four face though only three can be seen. He has matted hair, wears a pointed beard and the eyes are usually closed in meditation. He has four hands which may hold a variety of objects such as a rosary, a water-pot, a book (the Vedas), a sceptre, a spoon, a bow or a lotus. Sometimes two of his hands may be in a boon-giving and protective attitudes. His four faces represent the four Vedas and the four hands the four directions. The rosary which he is counting represents time. The whole universe evolves out of water, therefore Brahma carries water in the water-pot.

He may wear a tigerskin or the skin of a black antelope as a garment and the sacred cord over his left shoulder. If coloured, he is pink or red. He is sometimes shown riding the goose, or sitting in the lotus position in a chariot being pulled by seven swans. The swan which is the symbol of knowledge, is his vehicle.

In the Rig-Veda the word Brahman (or Brahma) was used to indicate the mysterious power contained in sacred utterances. Later, this was associated with the skill of the priest who spoke the ‘words’ and he was described as a Brahmin. In the Upanishads, by a further development, this power was regarded as being universal and forming the elemental matter from which everything (including the gods themselves) originally emerged. Eventually this supreme creative spirit became fully personalized under the name of Brahma.

Since this idea is linked with the origin of the universe, it was inevitable that Brahma should become associated with Hindu cosmogony. Many legends grew, particularly in the later texts, surrounding the connection with the origin and control of the universe. In one of them the supreme soul and self-existent lord created the waters of the earth and deposited in them a seed which became the golden egg, out of which He was born as Brahma. According to other texts, he became a boar who raised the earth from the primeval waters and thus created the world. He is described as assuming the appearance of a fish or a tortoise at the beginning of the ages. In much later developments of Hindu mythology these aspects are attributed to Vishnu and Brahma assumes a secondary role. His worship slowly declined and has not been widespread since the 6th century

Images of Brahma are still made. Many temples include one somewhere in their scheme of sculptural decoration, although it is only in extremely rare cases that he occupies the position of the main icon. In the whole of India there are very few temples of Brahma. There is one at Pushkar, near Ajmer (Rajasthan) and another in Orissa.

In Hindu cosmology the basic cycle which through the cosmos, passes through all eternity, is the Kalpa or the Day of Brahma, equivalent to 4320 million years. A night is of equal length, and 360 days and nights of this duration form one year of Brahma’s life. This is expected to last 100 years.


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