Brahma is the creator god of the Hindu Trinity, and is accepted as the Creator of the entire universe. The other two of the Trinity are Vishnu, the protector god, and Shiva, the destroyer god. Brahma’s consort is Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning. He is the custodian of the Vedas and his vehicle is a swan. Bearing a mystic symbolism, Brahma sits on a lotus flower, and he has four faces, each representing the four Vedas. The faces also symbolize the functioning of the inner personality, in the form of the four ways in which the thoughts go – the mind, the intellect, the ego and the conditioned consciousness.
If Brahma did create all this, who created Brahma? Wonderful is the way the great Hindu texts like the Vedas handled this question – probably one of the first questions humans had asked and have been asking till now. Have a look at what Manusmriti, one of the earliest texts of Hindu faith, has to say about the first moments of creation:
At the beginning of the process of creation, Brahma created eleven prajapatis who are believed to be the fathers of the human race. They were Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Vasishta, Daksha, Bhrigu, Narada and others. Brahma also created the seven great sages or the Saptarshis to help him create the universe…
This was the belief or an idea evolved during the Braahmanic period in the history of India. Unlike in the Christian belief where god created first a human being, to be called Adam, in his own image, the Brahman ideologues postulated that Brahma created eight or eleven men to become the fathers of human race as seen above. A number of rishis were also created to assist in the creation of the universe.
When did Brahma begin his creation? How long did it last?
Before finding an answer to this interesting question, let us see what the Rigveda, the earliest text of Vedic thinking of India has to say about it.
There was not then what is nor what is not. There was no sky, and no heaven beyond the sky. What power was there? Where? Who was that power? Was there an abyss of fathomless waters?
There was neither death nor immortality then. No signs were there of night or day. The ONE was breathing by its own power, in deep peace. Only the ONE was: there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden in darkness. The all was fluid and formless. Therein, in the void, by the fire of fervor arose the ONE.
And in the ONE arose love. Love the first seed of soul. The truth of this the sages found in their hearts: seeking in their hearts with wisdom, the sages found that bond of union between being and non-being.
Who knows in truth? Who can tell us whence and how arose this universe? The gods are later than its beginning: who knows therefore whence comes this creation?
Only that god who sees in highest heaven: he only knows whence comes this universe, and whether it was made or uncreated. He only knows, or perhaps he knows not.
This is stanza x, 129 of the Rigveda, translated and quoted in the introduction written by Juan Mascaro, to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita, published by Penguin (1962). Even HE knows not whether the universe was made or uncreated is what the Rigveda wonders.
But after centuries of thinking, the Braahmanic period perfected its theory of the Time and Creation of the Universe. According to this, “universal time is a never-ending cycle of both creation and destruction, each complete cycle being represented by one hundred years in the life of Brahma. At the end of this cycle, everything, including Brahma himself, is dissolved in the Great Deluge – Mahapralaya. This is followed by another period of chaos of one hundred years. Another Brahma arises. Another process of creation begins. The cycle goes on. What we have to note is that one day of Brahma is equivalent to 4,320 million years on earth. This is a Kalpa. Each Kalpa is divided into four yugas or ages – the Kritayuga (of 1,728,000 years), the Tretayuga (of 1,296,000 years), the Dvaparayuga (of 864,000 years), and the Kaliyuga (of 432,000 years).
There are several legends about the origin of Brahma, the Creator. The Puranas, a group of texts prepared to popularize the religion of the Vedas, proclaim that Brahma is self-born, without a mother, in the lotus flower, which grew from the navel of Vishnu. This mystic symbolism brings up a question about the beginning of Vishnu and the lotus. Another legend describes Brahma as the son of the Supreme Being and the female energy form, Prakriti or Maya, which is illusion.
Though Brahma is the first member of the Hindu Trinity of Gods, he is not as popular as the other two, Vishnu and Shiva. There are thousands of temples dedicated to these two all over India, but temples dedicated to Brahma are very few. Of these the most famous is at Pushkar, near Ajmer. There are temples dedicated to Brahma in Tirunavaya in Kerala, Kumbakonam in Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu, and one near Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. The larges is in Angkor Wat, the famous temple complex of Cambodia.