Brahma is sometimes identified with the Vedic god Prajapati, he is also known as Vedanatha (god of Vedas), Gyaneshwar (god of Knowledge), Chaturmukha (having Four Faces) Svayambhu (self born), Brahmanarayana (half Brahma and half Vishnu), etc, as well as linked to Kama and Hiranyagarbha (the cosmic egg). He is more prominently mentioned in the post-Vedic Hindu epics and the mythologies in the Puranas. In the epics, he is conflated with Purusha. Although, Brahma is part of the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva Trimurti, ancient Hindu scriptures mention multiple other trinities of gods or goddesses which do not include Brahma.
Several Puranas describe him as emerging from a lotus, connected to the navel of Lord Vishnu. Other Puranas suggest that he is born from Shiva or his aspects, or he is a supreme god in diverse versions of Hindu mythology. Brahma, along with other deities, is sometimes viewed as a form (saguna) of the otherwise formless (nirguna) Brahman, the ultimate metaphysical reality in Vedantic Hinduism. In an alternate version, some Puranas state him to be the father of Prajapatis.
According to some, Brahma does not enjoy popular worship in present-age Hinduism and has lesser importance than the other members of the Trimurti, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is revered in ancient texts, yet rarely worshiped as a primary deity in India. Very few temples dedicated to him exist in India; the most famous being the Brahma Temple, Pushkar in Rajasthan. Brahma temples are found outside India, such as at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok.
Origin and meaning
In Sanskrit grammar, the noun stem brahman forms two distinct nouns; one is a neuter noun bráhman, whose nominative singular form is brahma; this noun has a generalized and abstract meaning.
Contrasted to the neuter noun is the masculine noun brahmán, whose nominative singular form is Brahma. This singular form is used as the proper name of the deity, Brahma.
In the pantheistic Kutsayana Hymn, the Upanishad asserts that one’s Soul is Brahman, and this Ultimate Reality, Cosmic Universal or God is within each living being. It equates the Atman (Soul, Self) within to be Brahma and various alternate manifestations of Brahman, as follows, “Thou art Brahma, thou art Vishnu, thou art Rudra (Shiva), thou art Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Indra, thou art All.”
In the verse (5,2), Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are mapped into the theory of Guṇa, that is qualities, psyche and innate tendencies the text describes can be found in all living beings. This chapter of the Maitri Upanishad asserts that the universe emerged from darkness (Tamas), first as passion characterized by action qua action (Rajas), which then refined and differentiated into purity and goodness (Sattva). Of these three qualities, Rajas is then mapped to Brahma, as follows:
Now then, that part of him which belongs to Tamas, that, O students of sacred knowledge (Brahmacharins), is this Rudra.
That part of him which belongs to Rajas, that O students of sacred knowledge, is this Brahma.
That part of him which belongs to Sattva, that O students of sacred knowledge, is this Vishnu.
Verily, that One became threefold, became eightfold, elevenfold, twelvefold, into infinite fold.
This Being (neuter) entered all beings, he became the overlord of all beings.
That is the Atman (Soul, Self) within and without – yea, within and without!— Maitri Upanishad 5.2, 
While the Maitri Upanishad maps Brahma with one of the elements of Guṇa theory of Hinduism, the text does not depict him as one of the trifunctional elements of the Hindu Trimurti idea found in later Puranic literature.
Post-Vedic, Epics and Puranas
Brahma is a “secondary creator” as described in the Mahabharata and Puranas, and among the most studied and described. Born from a lotus emerging from the navel of Vishnu after emerging on order of Shiva, Brahma creates all the forms in the universe, but not the primordial universe itself. In contrast, the Shiva-focussed Puranas describe Brahma and Vishnu to have been created by Ardhanarishvara, that is half Shiva and half Parvati; or alternatively, Brahma was born from Rudra, or Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma creating each other cyclically in different aeons (kalpa).Thus in most Puranic texts, Brahma’s creative activity depends on the presence and power of a higher god.
The Puranas describe Brahma as the deity creating time. They correlate human time to Brahma’s time, such as a mahākalpa being a large cosmic period, correlating to one day and one night in Brahma’s existence.
The stories about Brahma in various Puranas are diverse and inconsistent. In Skanda Purana, for example, goddess Parvati is called the “mother of the universe”, and she is credited with creating Brahma, gods and the three worlds. She is the one, states Skanda Purana, who combined the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – into matter (Prakrti) to create the empirically observed world.
The Vedic discussion of Brahma as a Rajas-quality god expands in the Puranic and Tantric literature. However, these texts state that his wife Saraswati has Sattva (quality of balance, harmony, goodness, purity, holistic, constructive, creative, positive, peaceful, virtuous), thus complementing Brahma’s Rajas (quality of passion, activity, neither good nor bad and sometimes either, action qua action, individualizing, driven, dynamic).
Chapter 51 of Manasara-Silpasastra, an ancient design manual in Sanskrit for making Murti and temples, states that a Brahma statue should be golden in color. The text recommends that the statue have four faces and four arms, have jata-mukuta-mandita (matted hair of an ascetic), and wear a diadem (crown). Two of his hands should be in refuge granting and gift giving mudra, while he should be shown with kundika (water pot), akshamala (rosary), and a small and a large sruk-sruva (laddles used in yajna ceremonies). The text details the different proportions of the murti, describes the ornaments, and suggests that the idol wear chira (bark strip) as lower garment, and either be alone or be accompanied with goddesses Sarasvati on his right and Gayatri on his left.
Brahma’s wife is the goddess Saraswati. She is considered to be “the embodiment of his power, the instrument of creation and the energy that drives his actions”. In some texts Gayatri is considered as second wife of Lord Brahma.
In Dasam Granth, mentioned seven Brahma Avatars called Saptavatars.
- Valmiki Avatar
- Kashyapa Avatar
- Dattatreya Avatar
- Lakshman Avatar
- Vyasa Avatar
- Balarama Avatar
- Kalidasa Avatar
Brahma is also worshipped in temple complexes dedicated to the Trimurti: Uthamar Kovil, Ponmeri Shiva Temple, in Tirunavaya, the Thripaya Trimurti Temple and Mithrananthapuram Trimurti Temple. In Tamil Nadu, Brahma temples exist in the temple town of Kumbakonam, in Kodumudi and within the Brahmapureeswarar Temple in Tiruchirappalli.
There is a temple dedicated to Brahma in the temple town of Srikalahasti near Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. There are a Chaturmukha Brahma temple in Chebrolu, Andhra Pradesh, and a seven feet height of Chatrumukha (Four Faces) Brahma temple at Bangalore, Karnataka. In the coastal state of Goa, a shrine belonging to the fifth century, in the small and remote village of Carambolim, SattariTaluka in the northeast region of the state is found.
A famous icon of Brahma exists at Mangalwedha, 52 km from the Solapur district of Maharashtra and in Sopara near Mumbai. There is a 12th-century temple dedicated to him in Khedbrahma, Gujaratand also a Brahma Kuti Temple in Kanpur. Temples exist in Khokhan, Annamputhur and Hosur.
A statue of Brahma is present at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand and continues to be revered in modern times. The golden dome of the Government House of Thailand houses a statue of Phra Phrom (Thai representation of Brahma). An early 18th-century painting at Wat Yai Suwannaram in Phetchaburi city of Thailand depicts Brahma.
The name of the country Burma may be derived from Brahma. In medieval texts, it is referred to as Brahma-desa.
Brahma is known in Chinese as Simianshen (四面神, “Four-Faced God”) or Fantian (梵天), Tshangs pa in Tibetan and Bonten in Japanese.
Difference between Brahma, Brahman, Brahmin and Brahmanas
Brahma (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मा, brahmā) is distinct from Brahman. Brahma is a male deity, in the post-Vedic Puranic literature, who creates but neither preserves nor destroys anything. He is envisioned in some Hindu texts to have emerged from the metaphysical Brahman along with Vishnu (preserver), Shiva (destroyer), all other gods, goddesses, matter and other beings. In theistic schools of Hinduism where deity Brahma is described as part of its cosmology, he is a mortal like all gods and goddesses, and dissolves into the abstract immortal Brahman when the universe ends, then a new cosmic cycle (kalpa) restarts. The deity Brahma is mentioned in the Vedas and the Upanishads but is uncommon, while the abstract Brahman concept is predominant in these texts, particularly the Upanishads. In the Puranic and the Epics literature, deity Brahma appears more often, but inconsistently. Some texts suggest that god Vishnu created Brahma, others suggest god Shiva created Brahma, yet others suggest goddess Devi created Brahma, and these texts then go on to state that Brahma is a secondary creator of the world working respectively on their behalf. Further, the medieval era texts of these major theistic traditions of Hinduism assert that the saguna (representation with face and attributes) Brahma is Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi respectively, and that the Atman (soul, self) within every living being is the same or part of this ultimate, eternal Brahman.
Brahman (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मन्, brahman) is a metaphysical concept of Hinduism referring to the ultimate reality. According to Doniger, the Brahman in the Hindu thought is the uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, the cause, the foundation, the source and the goal of all existence. Brahmin (Sanskrit: ब्राह्मण, Brahmin) is a varna in Hinduism specializing in theory as priests, preservers and transmitters of sacred literature across generations. The Brahmanas, or Brahmana Granthas, (Sanskrit: ब्राह्मणग्रंथ, brāhmaṇa) are one of the four ancient layers of texts within the Vedas. They are primarily a digest incorporating stories, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases philosophy. They are embedded within each of the four Vedas, and form a part of the Hindu śruti literature.
- Charles Russell Coulter; Patricia Turner (2013). Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. Routledge. p. 240. ISBN978-1-135-96397-2., Quote: “Brahma, a creator god, received the basics of his mythological history from Purusha. During the Brahmanic period, the Hindu Trimurti was represented by Brahma with his attribute of creation, Shiva with his attribute of destruction and Vishnu with his attribute of preservation.”
- Alf Hiltebeitel (1999), Rethinking India’s Oral and Classical Epics, University of Chicago Press, ISBN978-0226340517, page 292
- Bruce Sullivan (1999), Seer of the Fifth Veda: Kr̥ṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa in the Mahābhārata, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120816763, pages 85-86
- Barbara Holdrege (2012), Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textuality of Scripture, State University of New York Press, ISBN978-1438406954, pages 88-89
- Charles Coulter and Patricia Turner (2000), Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, Routledge, ISBN978-0786403172, page 258, Quote: “When Brahma is acknowledged as the supreme god, it was said that Kama sprang from his heart.”
- David Leeming (2009), Creation Myths of the World, 2nd Edition, ISBN978-1598841749, page 146;
David Leeming (2005), The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, Oxford University Press, ISBN978-0195156690, page 54, Quote: “Especially in the Vedanta Hindu Philosophy, Brahman is the Absolute. In the Upanishads, Brahman becomes the eternal first cause, present everywhere and nowhere, always and never. Brahman can be incarnated in Brahma, in Vishnu, in Shiva. To put it another way, everything that is, owes its existence to Brahman. In this sense, Hinduism is ultimately monotheistic or monistic, all gods being aspects of Brahman”; Also see pages 183-184, Quote: “Prajapati, himself the source of creator god Brahma – in a sense, a personification of Brahman (…) Moksha, the connection between the transcendental absolute Brahman and the inner absolute Atman.”
- David White (2006), Kiss of the Yogini, University of Chicago Press, ISBN978-0226894843, pages 4, 29
- Jan Gonda (1969), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Bd 63/64, H 1/2, pages 212-226
- Jan Gonda (1969), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Bd 63/64, H 1/2, pages 218-219
- Stella Kramrisch (1994), The Presence of Siva, Princeton University Press, ISBN978-0691019307, pages 205-206
- Dalal, Roshen (18 April 2014). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin UK. ISBN9788184753967.
- Brian Morris (2005), Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction, Cambridge University Press, ISBN978-0521852418, page 123
- SS Charkravarti (2001), Hinduism, a Way of Life, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120808997, page 15
- Ellen London (2008), Thailand Condensed: 2,000 Years of History & Culture, Marshall Cavendish, ISBN978-9812615206, page 74
- Bruce Sullivan (1999), Seer of the Fifth Veda, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120816763, pages 82-83
- James Lochtefeld, Brahman, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN978-0823931798, page 122
- James Lochtefeld, Brahma, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN978-0823931798, page 119
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79.
- Hume, Robert Ernest (1921), The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pp. 422–424
- Maitri Upanishad – Sanskrit Text with English Translation[permanent dead link]EB Cowell (Translator), Cambridge University, Bibliotheca Indica, page 255-256
- Max Muller, The Upanishads, Part 2, Maitrayana-Brahmana Upanishad, Oxford University Press, pages 303-304
- Jan Gonda (1968), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Vol. 63, pages 215-219
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120814684, pages 344-346
- GM Bailey (1979), Trifunctional Elements in the thiology of the Hindu Trimūrti, Numen, Vol. 26, Fasc. 2, pages 152-163
- Bryant, ed. by Edwin F. (2007). Krishna : a sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 18. ISBN978-0-19-514891-6.
- Tracy Pintchman (1994), The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition, State University of New York Press, ISBN978-0791421123, pages 122-138
- Jan Gonda (1969), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Bd 63/64, H 1/2, pages 213-214
- Bryant, ed. by Edwin F. (2007). Krishna : a sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN978-0-19-514891-6.
- Sutton, Nicholas (2000). Religious doctrines in the Mahābhārata (1st ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 182. ISBN81-208-1700-1.
- Asian Mythologies by Yves Bonnefoy & Wendy Doniger. Page 46
- Frazier, Jessica (2011). The Continuum companion to Hindu studies. London: Continuum. p. 72. ISBN978-0-8264-9966-0.
- Richard Anderson (1967), Hindu Myths in Mallarmé: Un Coup de Dés, Comparative Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1, pages 28-35
- Richard Anderson (1967), Hindu Myths in Mallarmé: Un Coup de Dés, Comparative Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1, page 31-33
- Nicholas Gier (1997), The Yogi and the Goddess, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, pages 279-280
- H Woodward (1989), The Lakṣmaṇa Temple, Khajuraho and Its Meanings, Ars Orientalis, Vol. 19, pages 30-34
- Alban Widgery (1930), The principles of Hindu Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2, pages 234-237
- Joseph Alter (2004), Yoga in modern India, Princeton University Press, page 55
- Kenneth Morgan (1996), The Religion of the Hindus, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120803879, page 74
- Roshen Dalal (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books. pp. 66–67. ISBN978-0-14-341517-6.
- Thomas E. Donaldson (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa. Abhinav. p. 99. ISBN978-81-7017-406-6.
- Philip Wilkinson and Neil Philip (2009), Mythology, Penguin, ISBN978-0756642211, page 156
- PK Acharya, A summary of the Mānsāra, a treatise on architecture and cognate subjects, PhD Thesis awarded by Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, published by BRILL, OCLC898773783, page 50
- Elizabeth Dowling and W George Scarlett (2005), Encyclopedia of Religious and Spiritual Development, SAGE Publications, ISBN978-0761928836 page 204
- David Kinsley (1988), Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions, University of California Press, ISBN0-520063392, pages 55-64
- Trudy Ring et al (1996), International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania, Routledge, ISBN978-1884964046, page 692
- Chami Jotisalikorn et al (2002), Classic Thai: Design, Interiors, Architecture., Tuttle, ISBN978-9625938493, pages 164-165
- Arthur P. Phayre (2013), History of Burma, Routledge, ISBN978-0415865920, pages 2-5
- Gustaaf Houtman (1999), Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, ISBN978-4872977486, page 352
- Robert E. Buswell Jr.; Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. pp. 141–142. ISBN978-1-4008-4805-8.
- Wendy Denier (1999). Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 140. ISBN978-0-87779-044-0.
- Helen K. Bond; Seth D. Kunin; Francesca Murphy (2003). Religious Studies and Theology: An Introduction. New York University Press. p. 231. ISBN978-0-8147-9914-7.
- R. M. Matthijs Cornelissen (2011). Foundations of Indian Psychology Volume 2: Practical Applications. Pearson. p. 40. ISBN978-81-317-3085-0.
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (2002). Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. p. 330. ISBN978-1-898723-93-6.
- Julius Lipner (1994). Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge. pp. 43–44. ISBN978-0-415-05181-1.
- Edward Craig (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Brahman to Derrida. Routledge. pp. 1–4. ISBN978-0-415-18707-7.
- S. M. Srinivasa Chari (1994). Vaiṣṇavism: Its Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Discipline. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 147. ISBN978-81-208-1098-3.
- Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty (1981). Siva: The Erotic Ascetic. Oxford University Press. p. 125. ISBN978-0-19-972793-3.
- David Kinsley (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. p. 137. ISBN978-0-520-90883-3.
- Stella Kramrisch (1992). The Presence of Siva. Princeton University Press. pp. 205–206. ISBN0-691-01930-4.
- Arvind Sharma (2000). Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN978-0-19-564441-8.
- Mark Juergensmeyer; Wade Clark Roof (2011). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE Publications. p. 1335. ISBN978-1-4522-6656-5.
- Stella Kramrisch (1992). The Presence of Siva. Princeton University Press. p. 171. ISBN0-691-01930-4.
- David Kinsley (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. p. 136. ISBN978-0-520-90883-3.
- William K. Mahony (1998). The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. State University of New York Press. pp. 13–14, 187. ISBN978-0-7914-3579-3.
- Monier Williams (1899), brahmin, Monier William’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press
- Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster’s encyclopedia of world religions. Springfield, MA, USA: Merriam-Webster. p. 186. ISBN978-0-87779-044-0.
- James Lochtefeld (2002), Brahmin, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN978-0823931798, page 125
- H. W. Bodewitz (1990). The Jyotiṣṭoma Ritual: Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa. BRILL Academic. ISBN90-04-09120-3.
- Brahmana Encyclopædia Britannica (2013)
- Klaus Klostermaier (1994), A Survey of Hinduism, Second Edition, State University of New York Press, ISBN978-0791421093, pages 67-69
- “Brahmana”. Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia