Brahma, the first member of the Hindu trinity though much less important than the other two, namely Vishnu and Mahesh, is manifested as the active creator of this universe. The name Brahma is not found in the Vedas and the Brahmanas, where the active creator is merely known as Golden-Embryo (HIRANYA-GARBHA) or the Lord of Progeny (PRAJA-PATI). The Mahabharata considers him as born from the embryo, which took shape in Vishnu’s mind when he began to think of creation.
After the destruction of one universe Vishnu falls asleep, floating on the causal waters. When another Universe is to be created, Brahma appears on a lotus, which springs from the navel of Vishnu. Hence Brahma is also called Navel-born (NABHI-JA) or the Lotus-born (KANJA-JA).
When Brahma has created the world it remains in existence for one of his days, which comes to a period of 4,320,000,000 years in terms of Hindu calendar. When Brahma goes to sleep after the end of his day, the world and all that is therein is consumed by fire. When he awakes he again restores the whole creation. This goes on till the hundred years of Brahma’s life are completed. When this period ends he himself loses his existence, and he and all the gods and sages, and the whole universe are dissolved into their constituent elements.
Brahma is shown as having four heads though originally he had five. The acquiring of five heads and the subsequent loss of one head makes an interesting legend. According to myths, he originally possessed only one head. After cutting a part of his own body Brahma created a woman named SATRUPA (a face with hundred beauties). She is also called VAC or SARASWATI, SAVITRI – the solar hymn, GAYATRI – the triple hymn and SANDHYA (twilight). As soon as Brahma saw his female creation, he fell in love with her and could not remove his gaze from her extraordinary beauty. Naturally Satrupa felt shy and tried to evade his eyes by moving away on all sides. To follow her wherever she moved, Brahma created more heads-one on the left, second on the right and the third at the back of the original first. Satrupa then rose towards the sky to escape his eyes and Brahma created the fifth head on top of all the four. This way he came to have five heads.
It is mentioned in the scriptures that the fifth head was chopped off by Shiva. He spoke most disrespectfully about Shiva, who in anger opened his third eye and the fire burned off his fifth head. Brahma has four arms and in his hands he holds a lotus flower, his scepter, spoon, a string of beads, a bowl containing the holy water and the Vedas. He is therefore also called as CHATURANANA or CHATURMUKHA (four- faced) and ASHTA-KARNA (eight-eared). He is usually shown as a bearded man in the full maturity of age. According to Shiva Purana, from the incestual union of Brahma and Satrupa was born SUAYAMBHUVA MANU, the progenitor of man,and from him in turn all creatures.
Brahma’s vehicle is the swan or goose, the symbol of knowledge. He is therefore said to be riding on the swan (HANS-VAHANA). He is the source of all knowledge and his consort, Saraswati, is the goddess of knowledge. Brahma was the father of DAKSHA, who is said to have sprung from his thumb and Brahma personally was present at the sacrificial ceremony of that King, which was badly disturbed by Rudra. The four KUMARAS, the chief of whom was called SANAT KUMAR, were also the sons of Brahma, who were born later. He is also the creator of the beautiful AHALYA, whom he gave as wife to sage GAUTAMA. She is the same Ahalya, who was cursed by her husband to become a rock piece, because Indra, the King of heavenly spirits, seduced her. She was brought to her natural human form when Lord Rama touched the rock by his feet. After this she was reconciled to her husband.
Today though Brahma’s name is invoked in many religious services, his image is worshipped nowhere except at Pushkara, near Ajmer. Brahma seems to have been thrown into shade probably because in Hindu mind he has ceased to function actively after creating the world, though he will exert himself again while creating a new universe when this present one will meet its end. In fact Vishnu and Shiva, who appeal much more to popular imagination, have now arrogated his dynamic powers of creation. Understandably, the legends about this god are not so numerous and so rich as those centered round the other two of the triad.
One very plausible reason of Brahma’s rather unpopularity among the devotees is his being rather callous in granting boons to the demons unguardedly. It is more than a coincidence that all the deadly demons, right from Hiranyakashipu to Ravana received their boons from Brahma, which made them singularly notorious in damaging the noble virtues of the world. Then it became necessary for Lord Vishnu to appear in his various incarnations to kill these demons. That is why the cult of Brahma’s worship declined. The Hindu, later on, began to deem Brahma the sole god of worship for the demons. Hence in the entire India, there are uncountable temples to worship Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva while their third companion in the Triumvirate, Lord Brahma has only one temple, which is at the Pushkar Lake in Ajmer