The most accepted theory of the common man today is that Brahma sitting on a lotus — with a long stem that is rooted in the naval of Narayan appears at the time when the desire of Narayan to create again is awakened — after the great deluge of Maha praley— when only ‘He’ remains reclining on the coiled up ‘Adishesh’. The great original serpent serenely floating in the vast ocean of the universe in complete harmony with ‘Himself’ as all else has been withdrawn into ‘Him’ and there is no action.
The cycle must begin again and the creative power of ‘Narayan’ comes in the form of ‘Brahma’ to bring life and action in the three worlds.
Brahma is asked to create the universe again with special attention to our world. Brahma is shown as having four heads. He was even attributed with five in the earlier times. One story is that he had only one head when he came out of the naval of Narayan. To create he needed a female form also.
So he created a woman named ‘Satyaroopa’ from his own body. She had hundred forms and hundred expressions. She was very beautiful and Brahma fell in love with his own creation and could not take his eyes off her. She felt bewildered and shy and tried to get away from his gaze.
So he created three more heads to be able to see her wherever she went. Satyaroopa rose up into the sky and Brahma created one more on top of his head but this was burnt off by Shiva’s third eye when Brahma once talked disparagingly of Shiva.
The other story is that when Brahma found himself alone on the lotus, he looked all around and discovered that he had four heads pointing in the four directions. He saw nothing but a large expanse of water all around him and the noise he heard was of the waves and it seemed to him that they said “tap! tap. Perform tap and you will find what you seek.” He meditated for a hundred years and was absorbed in this tap.
All of a sudden he saw the form of ‘Narayan’ resting on the milk white serpent Adishesh and at once knew that he was the ‘Purush’ (the absolute) and also knew what was expected of him as wisdom descended on him. He worshipped his other self in the form of ‘Narayan’ with words of praise that came out of him without having being taught. Narayan said, “I have set you the task of creating the world and all beings”. Brahma said “so be it” and got off the lotus.
Out of his mind were born the four rishis — Sanaka, Sanada, Sanatana and Sanat Kumar and he commanded them to take up the work of creation but the four refused — they only wanted salvation and none of the problems of the world. Brahma got very angry with them but could do nothing about it.
He held his anger — still it came out of his forehead as a reddish blue crying baby and this was not quite the type of people Brahma wanted to create — still on the child’s pleading he was given the name ‘Rudra’ and told him to dwell in the hearts — in the senses — in the sky, air, fire, water, earth, in the sun and the moon wherever anger sometimes takes over control. “You are at liberty to produce beings in your own image,” Brahma told Rudra. He later on became identified with Lord Shiva.
Brahma then created ten sons from his own body. These were — Atri — Angiras — Pulustya — Kratu — Bhrigu — Daksha — Marichi — Vasistha — Narad-Dharm and Adhram were also born of Brahma. His shadow became Kardam. His body and mind created the entire world. And out of his four faces were born the four Vedas.
Brahma then divided his body into two — one male and one female. The male was Swayambhoo (self-created — therefore, it was Brahma himself). Manu and the female ‘Sataroopa’, also known as Saraswati or Savitri, known also as Vach or Vaac (speech). And to these two were born three daughters and two sons. The daughters were Akruti, Prasuti and Devahuti. The sons were Puyavarte and Utanapada.
Akruti was married to a rishi named Ruchi, Devhuti to Kardan, Prasuti to Daksh; and the children of these descendants populated our world.
These legends are about the same as the Christian belief of Eve being created from the left side of Adam. The theory seems to have been carried by the Aryans to all parts of the world, so the story of creation in all major religions seems to come from the same source and belief.
Swayambhoo Manu asked his father where they were to live since the earth was submerged in the waters. Brahma went to seek the help of Narayan and then it was that Narayan took the form of a ‘varah’ (the boar) as his third ‘avtar’ — went down to the bottom of the ocean and on his two tasks brought mother earth out of the depths.
On the way he had to battle with an ‘asur’ named Hirnayaksha for a long time and then made dents in the ocean with his paws and placed the earth on top of the waters and handed the reins of administration to Vishnu — the ‘Preserver’ — after which Brahma had nothing much to do with the governing of his Creation, but Brahma is always there and is ever ready to grant ‘boons” easily to those who pray to him with sincerity and sincere meditating, be it a human being, devta or demon.
He often has to run to Vishnu for help because he has granted the boon to an evil person who creates problems for the devtas and the people of the earth by the strength of that very boon. Brahma himself cannot interfere with the administration of the three worlds as Vishnu has taken complete charge; and all problems fall into his jurisdiction.
Brahma has four hands and carries a kamandal in one hand, a rosary in the second and the four Vedas in the third, while the fourth is held in the form of a Mudra, known as ‘abhay’ or it can also hold a bow or a spectre or even a ladle. His vahan (vehicle) is a ‘goose’.
According to the Hindu mythology, time is counted by his day and night which is 4.320 million man years forming one day and the same of the night, there are 360 days and 360 nights which is one year of Brahma — hundred such years form a cycle, then maha praley takes place when even Brahma is absorbed by Narayan along with the entire universe. Now we are in the 51st year of Brahma.
Brahma is not worshipped anywhere else except at one temple dedicated to him (in the whole of India). This is in Pushkar in Rajasthan. The story attached to this predicament of his is due to his not paying attention to his wife Saraswati. It goes like this:
Once Brahma was performing a big yagna at Pushkar (now in Rajasthan) and was waiting for his wife to come and sit by his side, since no yagna can be performed without the consort. Brahma was very agitated because Saraswati like all women took time in dressing up and got very late.
The mahurat was passing away swiftly, so Brahma called Gayatri (the highest of the Vedic mantra), embodied as a beautiful woman, to come and be his wife and married her according to the Vedic rites there and then. She sat down on his left.
As the yagya began, Saraswati arrived and was so incensed that she cursed Brahma right there saying that “from now on no one will worship you in the three worlds except at ‘Pushkar’ and you will lose your glitter as a God in the eyes of the men and devtas, although you may be the first amongst the ‘Holy Trinity’!!” Brahma tried to placate her but she could not and would not modify the curse.
So it has come about that Brahma is only worshipped at Pushkar and has the only temple dedicated to him built there and nowhere else in the whole country. There are no hymns or slokas in his praise. Slowly he lost his importance also and Vishnu and Shiva gained all the acclaim.
Maybe, humanity didn’t quite approve of being created in the first place in such a world as this and eventually decided to ignore the one who has landed them in such a plight and chose to pray to the ‘Preserver’ and the ‘Destroyer’ to lighten their burden on this earth.
The Preserver Vishnu became very important and became synonymous with the ‘Almighty Bhagwan’ in the minds of the Hindus, although the three aspects are absolutely on par with each other.
One thing is that Brahma creates and never destroys. He is also very liberal with granting boons and is easily pleased when prayed to without any thought as to who is praying and asking him for a boon! He later may regret having done so because the ‘asurs’ became powerful when granted their boons and then he has to run to Vishnu for help, because of his reckless generosity there is chaos and disruption in the world.
Shiva also shows this generosity and it is very often because of these doings that Vishnu has to take an ‘avtar’ to save the three worlds. Hiranakashyap — Hiranakashap and Ravan developed their demonic powers on the strength of the boons received by them from Brahma or Shiva and eventually they fled to seek the help of Vishnu to save the world from the disastrous boons which they had given without thinking as to who these people were! For Hirangaksha — Vishnu took the Vara avtar. For Hirnakashyap — Vishnu took Narsingh avtar. For Ravan — Vishnu took Ram avtar.
Brahma should not be mixed up with Brahman. The latter is another name for the ‘Unmanifest Almighty’ but Brahma is the name given to the 1st aspects of that Unmanifest when it manifests itself to create life.
Brahma went into the stem of the lotus that had come out of the naval of ‘Vishnu’ to discover from where He had come, but could not find an end to the stem, returned without the knowledge of His real origin. When Brahma could not find out how can we humans do so!