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“ Spirit of spirits, who through every part
Sir William Jones.
Brahm, the supreme being, created the world; but it has not been agreed upon by the Hindu mythologists, in what manner that important event took place. Some imagine that he first formed the goddess Bhavani, or nature; who brought forth three sons, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, whom, having converted herself into three females, she married. The first (or Brahma) was called the creator; the second (Vishnu) the preserver; the third (Siva) the destroyer. To these the future arrangement and government of the world were entrusted.
Others believe, that the elements of the world were enclosed in an immense shell, called the mundane egg, which burst into fourteen equal parts, and formed the seven superior and seven inferior worlds. God then appeared on the mountain Meru, and assigned the duties of continuing the creation to Brahma; of preserving it to Vishnu; and of again annihilating it to Siva.
Others again assert, that as Vishnu (the preserving spirit of God) was sleeping on the serpent Ananta, or eternity, on the face of the waters, after the annihilation of a former world, a lotus sprung from his navel, from which issued Brahma ; who produced the elements, formed the present world, and gave birth to the god Rudra (or Siva) the destroyer. He then produced the human race. From his head he formed the Brahmans or priests; from his arms, the Khetries or warriors; from his thighs, the Vaisyas or merchants; and from his feet, the Sudras or husbandmen.
It will thus be seen, that under either of these systems, on which the creation of the world has been fabled to have been founded, the three great operations of nature, to produce, to preserve, and to destroy, have been
J Netheraly Lithog. 54 Leicester Sq.
From Models, Drawings &c.
assigned to this extraordinary Hindu triad or trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. But as to destroy is, according to her regular order, to reproduce under another form, Siva, the destroyer, is also seen as the god of reproduction or creation; and the creating power of Brahma is supposed to be dormant, till it shall be again required to be exerted in the formation of a future world, on the total annihilation of the present one, which is expected in the kalki avatar, or tenth incarnation of Vishnu. For this reason Brahma is not now much regarded ; his temples have been overturned, and the worship of him suppressed by the followers of Vishnu and Siva.
I shall now proceed to describe the deities of the Hindu Mythology under their separate heads, commencing with Brahma, of whom, for the reason just mentioned, a very succinct account will be sufficient.
This deity, the least important, at the present day, of the Hindu Triad, is termed the creator, or the grandfather of gods and men. Under this denomination he has been imagined to correspond with the Saturn of the Greeks and Latins.
Brahma is usually represented as a red or golden-coloured figure, with four heads. He is said (by the Saivas) to have once possessed five; but, as he would not acknowledge the superiority of Siva, as Vishnu had done, that deity cut off one of them. He has also four arms, in one of which he holds a spoon, in another a string of beads, in the third a water-jug (articles used in worship), and in the fourth the Veda, or sacred writings of the Hindus. (See fig. 1 and 2, plate 3.) He is frequently attended by his vahan or vehicle, the hanasa or goose, or (as some allege) a swan.
The temples of this deity in Hindustan have been overturned by the followers of Vishnu and Siva ; and he is now but little regarded, and very seldom, if at all, worshipped, except in the worship of other deities. Like the other gods, he has many names.
Brahma had few avatars or incarnations on earth : Daksha (see fig. 3,
plate 3,) is the principal of them; Viswakarma, Nareda (see fig. 5 and 6 in the same plate), and Brigu, are his sons. The Brahmadicas, Menus, and Rishis, are also called the descendants of Brahma. His heaven is described as excelling all others in magnificence, and containing the united glories of all the heavens of the other deities.
Daksha was an avatar or appearance of Brahma upon earth in a human shape. He was the father of Suti, the consort of Siva; whose son, Vira Badra (produced from the jatta or locks of Siva), cut off his head for treating his father with indignity, and causing the death of Suti. (See Parvati.) On the intercession of the gods, Daksha was restored to life; but his head having during the battle fallen into the fire, and been burnt, it was replaced by that of a he-goat, in which form he is seen. (See fig. 3, plate 3.)
The architect of the universe, and the fabricator of arms to the gods, is the son of Brahma, and the Vulcan of the Hindus. He is also called the Sootar, or carpenter, and presides over the arts, manufactures, &c. In paintings, he is represented as a white man with three eyes, holding a club in his right hand. Some of the most grand and beautiful of the cavern temples at Ellora, Nasak, &c. bear the name of this god. One, at the firstmentioned place, is hewn one hundred and thirty feet in depth, out of the solid rock, presenting the appearance of a magnificent vaulted chapel, supported by ranges of octangular columns, and adorned by sculptures of beautiful and perfect workmanship. In the sculptured representations of this deity he is shewn in a sitting posture, with his legs perpendicular, and holding with the fingers of one hand the fore-finger of the other. (See fig. 5, plate 3, wherein he appears, with the exception of the arch and attendants, as he is seen in his temple at Ellora.)