by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222
This page describes the Story of Brahma included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).
The birth of Brahmā.
The birth of Brahmā is from the nave of Viṣṇu. It is mentioned in Devī Purāṇa, Skandha 1, about the birth of Brahmā as follows:—In the beginning Mahāviṣṇu lay on a banian leaf in the shape of a baby and began to think, "Who am I? Who created me? What for? What is my work? Where to work?" and so on. At that time an ethereal voice said:—"Sarvaṃ khalvidamevāhaṃ nānyadasti sanātanam".* Mahāviṣṇu was amazed at this ethereal voice. He did not know whose oracle it was. Still He lay meditating upon the words. Then Mahādevī, with four hands and weapons such as Śaṅkha (conch), Cakra (wheel), Gadā (club), Padma (lotus) and maids who are prosperities and having worn glorious clothes and ornaments, and accompanied by the Śaktis (powers) named Rati, Bhūti, Buddhi, Mati, Kīrti, Dhṛti, Smṛti, Śraddhā, Medhā, Svadhā, Svāhā, Kṣudhā, Nidrā, Dayā, Gatī, Tuṣṭi, Puṣṭi, Kṣamā, Lajjā, Jṛṃbhā and Tandrā, appeared before Mahāviṣṇu, who was struck with wonder. Mahādevī said, "Oh, Viṣṇu, what is there to wonder at? Every time the universe is subjected to creation, preservation and destruction, you are born thus due to the great power of the supreme spirit. It seems that you have forgotten those matters. Know that the supreme power is beyond qualities. We are all with qualities. Your main quality is Sattva. From your nave Brahmā will be born. His attribute is Rajoguṇa (activity, passion or motion). From the middle of the eyebrows of Brahmā, will be born Rudra, whose attribute will be Tāmasaguṇa (darkness). Brahmā, with the power of penance, will acquire the ability of creation and by his attribute of Rajoguṇa will create the world in the colour of blood. You will be the preserver of that world. The same world will be destroyed by Rudra at the end of the Kalpa (world age)".
Accordingly from the nave of Viṣṇu a lotus grew up and in that lotus flower Brahmā took his form. The same Brahmadeva did penance before Mahāviṣṇu and Jagadambā, who were pleased at his penance and gave him all the boons he wanted. After that Brahmā began the work of creation. He created with his mind the Saptarṣis, (seven sages) and then the Prajāpatis (the lords of emanation). From them all the movables and the immovables in the universe came into existence. (Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 7).
In manusmṛti, Chapter 1, the following stanza about the creation of Brahmā occurs.
"tadaṇḍamabhavad haimam sahasrāṃśusamaprabhaṃ / tasmin jajñe svayaṃ brahmā sarvalokapitāmahaḥ //"
That egg was as radiant as the Sun, with the colour of gold. Brahmā the great grandfather of everything in the world took birth by himself in it.
From the supreme power, an egg fell on the water which was the first creation. That egg became a germ of golden colour. Creating a life, which had done penance in its former births in such a way as to enable it to become Brahmā, in the golden germ of the egg, the supreme power entered the life that is to become Brahmā as its inner guide. That Brahmā is known as the Pitāmaha (Grandfather of the manes) or Paternal grandfather of all the worlds."
Vāmanapurāṇa Chapter 43 states as follows about the creation of Brahmā:—
Ages before the beginning, when all the worlds with everything they contained were submerged in the single ocean of the great flood, the germ of living things formed itself into a big egg. Brahmā who had been inside the egg went to a long sleep. The sleep continued for a thousand yugas (ages) when Brahmā woke up; as Sattva guṇa (purity) was the foremost attribute of him, he saw that the world was void. When the thought of creation occurred in his mind Rajoguṇa (activity or passion) became his foremost attribute. Rajas is the attribute that creates and Sattva, that which preserves. At the time of destruction Tamoguṇa (darkness) becomes the foremost attribute. That Bhagavān (Supreme Spirit) the Puruṣa (the Male creative Energy) pervades over everything, in all the living worlds. That Eternal Being is Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva.
Knowing that the world was lying in pure water, the Bhagavān (Supreme Being) cut the egg open. From it the Oṃkāra (the sacred syllable 'Om') emanated. The first sound of it was 'Bhūḥ', the second, sound, 'Bhuvaḥ' and the third sound 'Svaḥ'. So they came to be known as "Bhūrbhuvaḥ Svaḥ". Then the glorious radiance of the sun was born from it and Brahmā the grandfather of the worlds originated in the centre of the egg.
Instigation to compose Rāmāyaṇa.
A fowler of the forest tribe shot down one of a couple of snipes which were carrying on love-making, on the banks of the River Tamasā. Seeing this Vālmīki cursed the fowler. The curse came out of the mouth of Vālmīki in the form of a verse,** "mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhām tvamagamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ, yat krauñcamithunādekam, avadhīḥ kāmamohitam," which according to hearsay, is the first piece of poetry in the world. Brahmā who was attracted by the poetry came to the hermitage of Vālmīki and instigated him to compose the story of Rāma in verse. It is stated in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa, Sarga 2, that the Rāmāyaṇa was composed thus.
Rāvaṇa is given a boon.
It was Brahmā who made Rāvaṇa an ever-powerful hero. Penance was done by Rāvaṇa in the vicinity of the Himālayas and Brahmā appeared before him and granted him the boon that no living creature except man, would kill him. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa, Sarga 16).
The loss of a head.
Long ago Śiva plucked off a head of Brahmā. This story occurs in various purāṇas with slight changes. Two of them are given below:—
(1) In olden days, in the period of Satyayuga, Mahāviṣṇu did penance in Śvetadvīpa (the island Śveta) to obtain Eternal Bliss, being deeply engaged in the study of Brahmavidyā. Brahmā also went to another place and began to do penance for the suppression of passions. Both were doing severe penance. So they began to walk in order to take rest from the penance. On the way they met each other. One asked "who are you?" The other also asked the same question. The talk ended in a contest as to who was the greater of the two. Each claimed himself to be the supreme power of the world. Neither of them was prepared to recognize the claims of the other. In the midst of this contest, a phallus, extra-ordinarily bulky and fair appeared before them and an ethereal voice said from the sky: "You need not quarrel as to who is superior. He who reaches the extremity of this phallus is the superior person. So both of you proceed, one upwards and the other downwards and find out the end." Hearing this Viṣṇu went downwards to find out the bottom and Brahmā, upwards to the top. Viṣṇu travelled for a long time and finding no end thought the attempt futile and returned to the starting point with disappointment and sat down.
Brahmā travelled upwards for a long time and found no end. On the way he saw the petal of a paṇḍānus flower, coming down from the sky. Brahmā took it and joyfully returned and said haughtily to Viṣṇu: "See, I have taken this flower from the head of the Phallus. I have brought this to convince you. You have been defeated. So can you not admit that I am the superior?" Mahāviṣṇu did not believe the words of Brahmā. So he called the Paṇḍānus flower to him and questioned it. The Paṇḍānus flower took false oath and witnessed in favour of Brahmā, who had asked the flower beforehand to be on his side. Mahāviṣṇu did not believe this either and said, "Let Śiva be witness to this flower". Śiva at these words appeared before them and revealed the deceit played by Brahmā and the flower and then cursed the Paṇḍānus flower that thenceforward it should not have a place among the flowers of oblation to Śiva. Then Śiva got angry and plucked off a head of Brahmā. That is the skull Śiva uses for receiving alms. (Devī Bhāgavata, Śkandha 5.)
(2) In days of old all the worlds with everything in them were under water in a single ocean. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, air, fire, everything was destroyed. A day of utter darkness appeared. Grass, bush all were destroyed. Nothing could be seen and recognized. All existents and non-existents were destroyed. Bhagavān, (Supreme Being) was sleeping continuously for so many thousands of nights. At the end of the night Bhagavān assumed the attribute of Rajas (Activity) and got ready for the work of creation. He, the knower of all Vedas and Vedāṅgas appeared in the shape of a wonderful being with five faces. Another being with three eyes, matted hair, a trident in one hand, and a garland of beads in the other, and with darkness as its attribute took shape. That being was called Puruṣa (the male creative energy). Then the Mahātmā (the Supreme Spirit) created Ahaṃkāra (Egoism). It affected Brahmā and Śiva. Overcome by egoism, Śiva said to Brahmā:—"Who are you? Who created you?" Swelled with egoism Brahmā asked in reply:—"Who are you? Who are your parents? Let me hear it." This talk ended in a quarrel. The origin of Bhagavān (the Lord) was from this quarrel. Immediately after his birth the Lord took an unparralleled lute and playing it, went up to the sky. Śiva being defeated by Brahmā, bowed his head and coloured. While Parameśvara was standing angrily thus, the fifth face told him, "You, who are having three eyes and whose attribute is darkness! look here! I will tell you all. You, who wear air as garments, and ride on an ox, are the destroyer of the world." Hearing these words Śiva grew more and more angry, opened his third eye and looked steadily at Brahmā to burn him. Seeing the faces shining like the Sun Brahmā said, "When you beat on water, bubbles will appear. But do they have any prowess? Hearing this, Śiva plucked off the head of Brahmā with the tip of his finger nails. (Vāmana Purāṇa, Chapter 2).
Changing Vijayalakṣmī to Laṅkālakṣmī, by curse.
Vijayalakṣmī, one of the eight Lakṣmīs, was the treasurykeeper of Brahmā. Once she became careless in discharging her duties. Brahmā got angry and cursed her. "You go to Rāvaṇa and keep his tower". She humbly requested for absolution from the curse. Brahmā said, "At the time of the incarnation of Śrī Rāma, a monkeyhero named Hanumān will reach Laṅkā in search of Śrī Rāma’s wife, whom Rāvaṇa had kidnapped. You will obstruct him, and he will strike you down. On that day you will be absolved from the curse and you will return here instantly." Accordingly Vijayalakṣmī was born in Laṅkā under the name Laṅkālakṣmī. When Hanumān jumped to Laṅkā she prevented him, and he struck her down to the ground. (Kaṃpa Rāmāyaṇa, Sundara Kāṇḍa).
Brahmā cursing the daughters of Himavān.
Three daughters named Kuṭilā, Rāgiṇī and Pārvatī and a son named Sunābha were born to Himavān by his wife Menā. The three daughters went to the Himālayas for penance, to get Śiva as husband. They were not even six years old then. The devas saw them. The Ādityas and the Vasus took Kuṭilā who was doing penance, to the world of the gods. All the gods gathered together and asked Brahmā. "Oh Lord, be pleased to tell us if this girl will be able to bear a son who could kill Mahiṣāsura". Brahmā replied. "This poor girl will not be capable of bearing the radiance of Śiva. So let her go away." Kuṭilā got angry at Brahmā and said "Lord, I will try to become fit to bear the unbearable radiance of Śiva. Harken, I will do penance properly and please Viṣṇu and make Śiva bow his head. I take a vow to that effect." Brahmā became angry and told Kuṭilā, "You, wicked Kuṭilā, you did not succumb to my words. So by my curse you will be turned to water."
Kuṭilā having been cursed by Brahmā became water and began to flood the world of Brahmā. Seeing the flow of water, Brahmā made cause-ways on four sides with the Vedas of Ṛg, Yajus, Sāma and Atharva. Thus being tied up she stays in the world of Brahmā.
The Devas took Rāgiṇī also before Brahmā and put the same question. The reply of Brahmā was the same as before. She also got angry and said to Brahmā. "I will do great penance so as to enable to give birth to one in my family to be the killer of Mahiṣāsura." Brahmā cursed her also. "You are deliberately disobeying my words which even devas won't gainsay. So you will become the colours of the twilight." Thus she became the fast colours of the twilight, and her body was divided among the Pleiades. (Vāmana Purāṇa, Chapter 51).
Giving a boon to a tiger and golden colour to Pārvatī.
The first name of Pārvatī, the daughter of Himavān was Kālī. She was given this name (Kālī) because of her dark complexion. After the marriage Śiva and Pārvatī led a household life in the golden house built by Viśvakarmā. Once Śiva called Devī humorously, by the name Kālī. Pārvatī got angry and said to her husband. "A wound by an arrow will be cured. If you cut down a tree by an axe it will sprout again. A wound inflicted by hard words will never be cured. The arrows of words shoot out of the mouth. Those who are hit by them suffer pain day and night. Wise people should not shoot them at others. You have violated that principle. So my lord, I am going to do intensive penance. I will endeavour to create such a condition, that you may not call me by the name Kālī again." Saying thus, Pārvatī bowed before Parameśvara and bidding good-bye she went up into the air and reached the peak of Himālayas and thought of Jayā, Vijayā, Jayantī and Aparājitā. Instantly they arrived to see Kālī. They got permission and stayed with Pārvatī to attend on her.
While Pārvatī was engaged in doing penance, a tiger, with his weapons of tusks and claws came there from the jungles of the Himālayas. Umā (Pārvatī) was standing on one leg. The tiger began to think, "I shall do it when it is needed". Thinking thus it gazed at the face of Devī with staring eyes and consequently it lost one eye.
Pronouncing the word Brahmā Devī did penance for a hundred years. After that Brahmā, the Lord of the three worlds appeared before her and said to her: "I am much pleased. Your penance was flawless. Ask your boon." Kālī replied, "Oh, Lotus-born! First give this tiger a boon. It will please me." Then Brahmā gave the wonderful tiger leadership of the Gaṇas, devotion to Śiva, invincibility and righteousness. After giving the tiger this boon Brahmā told Pārvatī, "Now, Ambikā, ask your boon. Don't hesitate, I will grant the boon." Then Pārvatī asked the boon. "Brahmā, give me golden colour". Brahmā said "Let it be so", and disappeared. The dark complexion of Pārvatī disappeared. She got the colour of the filament of the lotus flower. From the discarded skin Kātyāyanī was born. Then Indra appeared and asked for her as a gift. Indra requested Pārvatī on behalf of heaven. "Let me have her. Let this Kauśikī be my sister. Because she was born from your Kośa, (outer skin) she is Kauśikī, I am also Kauśika." Devī gave the beautiful Kauśikī to Indra. Sahasrākṣa (Indra who has thousand eyes) took her to the Vindhya mountain; when they reached there Indra told her. "You stay on this mount, honoured and revered by gods. You will be known as Vindhyavāsinī (who stays on the Vindhya). He consecrated the goddess there. She was given a lion as her carrier (Vāhana) "You destroy the asuras?" saying so Indra returned to Heaven. (Vāmana Purāṇa, Chapter 54).
Brahmā became river.
Long ago in the period of Cākṣuṣa manvantara (the age of a Manu), Brahmā decided to perform a sacrifice on the Sahya Mountain and preparations were made for it. Brahmā came with Viṣṇu and Śiva. Bhṛgu and the other hermits took their seats. Mahāviṣṇu called Svarādevī, the wife of Brahmā. But she was very slow in coming. The hermit Bhṛgu said to Viṣṇu: "You yourself have gone to call Devī. But she is very slow. The auspicious moment is coming to an end. So how are we to commence the rituals?" "If Svarā does not appear before the end of the stipulated time we shall seat Gāyatrī in her place," said Viṣṇu. Śiva also agreed to it. So Bhṛgu seated Gāyatrī on the right side of Brahmā and the rituals were performed. By then Svarā reached the sacrificial hall. When she saw that Gāyatri was placed in her place and the rituals were performed she became angry, because of her quarrel with her co-wife. She called out: "Where the person to whom respect is due, is not given respect and where the person who ought not to be respected is given undue respect, there, scarcity, death and fear will be rampant. She dared to sit on the right in my place. So she will grow lean and become a river which will not be seen in the world. All of you will become rivers because you have placed a person lower than me in my position." Hearing the curse of Svarā, Gāyatrī rose up trembling, and cursed Svarā also to become a river. Before Svarā was changed to a river, Brahmā and the other gods rose up and requested for absolution from the curse. Svarā said, "Gods, it is because you have not given oblations to Gaṇapati in the beginning of the sacrifice, that this break, due to my anger, has been caused. My curse cannot be futile. So each of you change to a river by your portions and we, your wives, will also become rivers by our portions, and flow to the west."
Thus Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara became rivers with their portions. Brahmā became the fast-flowing Kukudmatī, Mahāviṣṇu changed to river Kṛṣṇā and Śiva, the river Veṇī. The devas also changed their portions to rivers and flowed from the Sahya mountain to the east and their wives changed to rivers by their portions and flowed to the west. Svarā and Gāyatrī flowed as two rivers to the west and then joined together as one river called Sāvitrī. Viṣṇu and Śiva who were consecrated at the sacrifice by Brahmā came to be called Bala and Atibala (Powerful and more powerful). This is the origin of the rivers in Kerala. (Padma Purāṇa, Chapter 113).
Brahmā is not worshipped.
Long ago Brahmā and Viṣṇu went to see Śiva near Himavān. They saw a shining phallus there in front of them. It was of immense size. One of them went downwards and the other upwards to find out the end of it. Both returned without reaching the top or the bottom and by penance they pleased Śiva who appeared before them and asked them what boon they desired. Brahmā asked Śiva to take birth as his son. Śiva did not like this and said that nobody would worship Brahmā because of his extravagant desire (namely, to have Śiva as his son). Viṣṇu requested that he should be made a servant at Śiva’s feet. So Viṣṇu incarnated as Śiva’s Śakti (power). That Śakti is Pārvatī. So Viṣṇu and Pārvatī are one and the same in a sense. (Kathāsaritsāgara, Kathāpīṭhalambakaṃ, Taraṅga 1).
The abode of Brahmā.
It is said in Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 8, that the abode of Brahmā is on the top of Mount Mahāmeru. There are nine towns there. Manovatī which is in the centre, is the town of Brahmā. Due east of Manovatī stands Amarāvatī, the town of Indra. On the south-east corner there is Rajovatī which is owned by Agni (fire-god). Due south of Brahmapurī there is the town of Saṃyamanī which is the town of Yama (God of death) On the south west corner there is the town of Nirṛti. It is named Kṛṣṇāñjanā. On the west there is the town called Śraddhāvatī. It is the abode of God Varuṇa. On the north-west corner there is the town called Gandhavatī which is the abode of Bhagavān Vāyu (Wind-God). Due north to Brahmapurī stands the town of Kubera (God of wealth). It is known by the name Mahodaya. On the north east corner there is the city of Śiva. It is known as Yaśovatī.
The sons of Brahmā.
Brahmā is the creator of all the living things in the world. Still mention is made in the Purāṇas about countless divine persons who were born from the mind and body of Brahmā, directly and indirectly. They are given below in groups.
(3) Rudra. Mention is made in Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 20, that Brahmā had a roaring son who was named Rudra.
(4) Svāyaṃbhuva Manu. It occurs in Bhāgavata Skandha 11, that Manu Svāyaṃbhuva was the son of Brahmā.
(7) Bhṛgu. It is mentioned in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 5, Stanza 8, that the hermit Bhṛgu was the son of Brahmā.
(8) Jāṃbavān. It is seen in Kaṃpa Rāmāyaṇa that Jāṃbavān was born from the sweat of Brahmā.
(10) In Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva there is a passage given as the words of Vasiṣṭha spoken to Bhṛgu, about the birth of many of the sons of Brahmā. "May I tell you a story I have heard long ago about the revelation of Brahmā of himself?
Lord Rudra took the form of Varuṇa and performed a sacrifice. Many hermits, all the devas, Agni and others, Vaṣaṭk ra (Exclamation in sacrifice) which took body, and all yajñāṅgas came to the sacrificial hall. All the expedients, all the glories which are thousands in number took shape and came to the sacrifice. Ṛgveda arrayed in garments of heroism came there. All the omens, all the voices, all the emotions, all the etymologies of pronouncing Veda Sūktas, all the svarabhaktikas, Oṃkāra (the syllable Oṃ) the eye of all the Vedic metres and their theories, all restraints and donations, all Vedas, Upaniṣads, accomplishments, Sāvitrī, the past, the near future and distant future, all these came there. The Lord Śiva held everyone of them. He offered his spirit by his spirit. The sacrifice took many forms and shed radiances. Paramaśiva is heaven, is the sky, is the earth, is the ether and the husband of the Earth, is the lord of all accomplishments, is noble and the lord of radiance. This Lord is lauded by the names Brahmā, Śiva, Rudra, Varuṇa, Agni, and Prabhāvatī. Śiva is the King of all the worlds. Penances, sacrifices, vows emblazed by fast, all the directions and gods of directions, Indras, celestial maids, mothers of the worlds, all these assumed forms and came to the sacrifice in multitudes. Everybody who witnessed the sacrifice of Parameśvara, who was in the form of Varuṇa, was greatly pleased. Seeing the pleased celestial maids standing in rows passion arose in Brahmā. He had seminal discharge. Āditya (the Sun) took the earth on which the semen fell and threw it into the sacrificial fire, which blazed furiously. Brahmā who became the offerer of oblation had discharge again. He got it in the sacrificial ladle and with recitation of spells offered it in the sacrificial fire as if it was ghee. The powerful semen contained the three attributes of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. From the attribute of Rajas arose the living world which had activity as its purpose. Radiance is the quality of Sattva which entered the living and nonliving world. It gives light to everything. It also gives the power of discrimination. From the semen offered in the fire, three sons with body and the attributes of demi-gods came out. The male who had originated from the flame called 'Bharjana' became Aṅgiras. The male who originated from the burning coals became Kavi. Over and above these three radiances, other radiances also originated from the sacrificial fire. From the Marīcis (rays) of the fire Marīci the father of Kaśyapa was born. From the Kuśa-grass spread on the floor of the hall of sacrifice, the Bālakhilyas were born. Atri also was born from the Kuśa-grass. The noble hermits called Vaikhānasas, who have grown powerful by penance and became the seat of all good qualities, were born from the sacrificial ashes. From the stream of fire which are the eyes of the sacrificial fire the handsome Aśvins were born. The rest of the Prajāpatis were born from the ears of the fire. From the pores of the skin of fire were born the hermits, from the sweat the 'chandas' (metre of Vedas) and from might, the mind. For this reason the Vedic scholars and knowers of the Śruti and those who see the superiority of Vedas, say that fire is a combination of all the gods. The trees that feed the fire are called Māsas (months), the sap of the tree is called Pakṣa (half of the month i.e. full moon to new moon and new moon to full moon), the pith of the tree is called night and day and the flames are called Muhūrtas (auspicious moments). Rudras were born from the blood of fire and the golden coloured gods, the Maitras, also were born from the blood of fire. From the smoke of the fire, the Vasus, from the flame of the fire Rudras and the Ādityas of the extreme radiance were born. The planets and stars which stand in their places in the sky are the charcoal of the fire. Brahmā declared that fire was Brahmā the supreme spirit, eternal and the giver of all wishes. The sinless Mahādeva, who was in the form of Varuṇa said, "This sacrificial fire is mine, and I am the sacrificer. So the children born as the first fruit of this sacrifice are mine. So Bhṛgu, Aṅgiras and Kavi are my sons, no doubt. Let everybody who moves along the sky know that these three are my sons, the fruit of my sacrifice." Agni said, "These are born from my organs. They had been depending on me for their sustenance. So they are my sons." Brahmā the teacher of all the worlds and the grandfather of all living beings said, "They are my sons. I offered my sperm to the fire, and these sons were born therefrom, How can they be claimed by anybody else? Here, I am the utterer of the spell and the offerer of the sperm. I am the owner of the sperm. Am I not the owner of the fruit? There is no contest on the point that the birth of Bhṛgu and others is from the oblation of my sperm." The Gods who heard these arguments bowed their heads before Brahmā and greeting him said, "Lord Brahmā, It is not only us that are born from you, but the entire world of living and non-living is born from you. So let Agni and Deva in the shape of Varuṇa have their wishes."
Brahmā and the giantess Karkkaṭī.
In days of old, a ferocious giantess named Karkkaṭī lived on the northern side of the Himālayas. Because of the hugeness of her body and the scarcity of food she became famished. She began to do penance for the alleviation of her hunger and thirst. She stood on one leg in the Himālaya Mountain, fixing her eyes on the sun in the day and on the Moon in the night, and the severe penance continued for a thousand years. Then Brahmā appeared before her and told her that she could ask for any boon. She said "I wish to become a Sūcī (Needle) as hard as iron, having the form of disease. This is the boon I pray for, Brahmā". Brahmā blessed her and said, "Let it be so, my daughter, you shall be a sūcikā (needle) with the prefix 'V' that is Viśūcikā (Spasmodic cholera) You can eat those who eat stale food, those who are wicked, those who sit in places where they ought not to sit and those who are hard-hearted. Enter into their bodies and affect their hearts, spleens and life-breaths. Thus carry out the work of destruction? You can affect both the good and the bad. But good people should not be killed. So to save them from death, you can use this mantra (spell).
"oṃ, hrāṃ, hrīṃ, śrīṃ, śāṃ, viṣṇuśaktaye, namaḥ; bhagavati viṣṇuśakti ehi, enāṃ hara hara: dehe hana hana? paca paca! matha matha: utsādaya utsādaya: dūre kuru kuru svāhā—viṣūcike! tvaṃ himavantaṃ gaccha? jīvasaraḥ candramaṇḍalaṃ gatāsi svāhā."
Saying these words Brahmā disappeared. Karkkaṭī made her body smaller and smaller and finally assumed the shape of a needle. After that she began her work by entering the body of those who had lost their energy because of illness, in the form of a needle of gout and caused Cholera, and the body of those who were lean and worn and weary, in the form of internal cholera. Thus assuming two bodies and killing countless people she travelled for a long time in the earth and the sky, until she herself felt aversion to her work. When she remembered her original form she loathed the needleform. Karkkaṭī again went to the vicinity of the Himālayas and began to do penance, which lasted for another thousand years. Thus she became pure and by the power of thinking, she acquired spiritual knowledge. Then she wanted to be saved from the mirage of birth and death, to attain which, she did penance for yet another thousand years at the end of which, the highly pleased Brahmā appeared before her and said, "daughter Karkkaṭī, all the darkness is erased from your heart and you have attained deliverance from delusion. Now I will bless you according to your wish. Receive your original body and walk about in the worlds eating the ignorant, bad beginners, the imprudent, those who sit in bad places and dwell in bad places."
She became a giantess again, but as she had attained purity of soul, she engaged herself in deep meditation which was free from doubt. The meditation lasted for a long time. Finally her mind waved. Then she remembered about worldly things and felt hunger. She remembered, "Brahmā has ordained the wicked as my food. So I shall seek them." Thinking thus she went to a jungle in the vicinity of the Himālayas. That was the dwelling place of foresters. In that dark night the King and the minister of the foresters approached the place where Karkkaṭī sat. Karkkaṭī seeing them thought, "let me know first if they are good or bad." So she decided to ask them some questions.
She asked them in a voice like thunder. "Who are you? Are you enlightened sages or ignorant fools? say quickly." The king of the foresters hearing this replied in a cynical way. "You insignificant ghost? What is your form? Where do you sit? Let us see your powerless body. Who is there to fear at your sound which is like the humming of a she-beetle?"
Hearing this reply Karkkaṭī showed her tusks and laughed loud, to spread light, and to terrify them. They heard the loud roaring sound of her laugh and saw her huge form in the light. But those mighty heroes were not at all shaken by the sound they heard or the sight they witnessed. The Minister looked at her and said, "Hei, Giantess? These delusions of yours will have no effect on us. Even if a number of mosquitoes like you come before us, they will be only dry leaves before wind. You are acting like this merely for food. So what is your need? Tell us, we will satisfy you".
Hearing the words of the minister Karkkaṭī knew that her might was useless before such valiant men. She thought them to be sages. So she said "Hey mighty heroes. Who are you? Tell me the truth". The minister said: "This the King of foresters and I am his minister. We came for a night-walk to find out and punish wicked people like you."
The giantess appreciated them and said: "I am about to put some questions to you. If you give me suitable answers you will be saved." The King agreed. The questions put by her are given below in the order they were asked:—
1) Inside what atom which is unit and multiple at the same time, do the lakhs of universes originate and vanish as bubbles in a sea?
2) What does shine as ether and non-ether?
3) What is it that is something and nothing?
4) What is it that is going and not going at the same time?
5) What is it that has taken form from voidness?
6) What is it that is moving and at the same time stationary as a rock?
7) Who draws pictures in clear sky?
8) In what seed do the worlds exist as a big tree in its seed?
9) From what substance can the living and non-living things in the worlds, not be separated as the foam and waves cannot be separated from the ocean?
10) What substance is dualism not separate from (others) as fluidity from water?
The reply given by the minister to each question is given below in the order of the questions.
1) Hey, Giantess: All the questions you have put before us encased in figurative words discernible only to the Vedic sages, are concerned with the supreme Being. The atom is the supreme Spirit which is beyond all knowledge of the mind and the senses. As it is without organs of action it is as unmanifested as the sky. And inside that supreme atom which could be felt only by the mind, crores and crores of bubbles of universes originate and vanish due to frailty.
2) The impersonal Supreme Being, having no substance, pervades everything. This Supreme Being, Brahman, is pure knowledge (Jñānasvarūpa). It is the sky and the non-sky.
3) As it is indescribable the Impersonal Supreme Spirit is nothing, but as it is a reality it is something.
4) As it pervades everything accessible, the Impersonal Supreme Spirit has the quality of motion. But as it has no emotions and as there exists no space beyond, it is motionless.
5) As it is inaccessible to others the Supreme Spirit is having no existence, but as it is the essence of everything that is good, it has existence.
6) The Supreme Spirit is the radiance of motion or activity and as there is nothing else to be found out, that is, as it doesn't know anything else it is as rigid as a rock.
7) In the clear sky the Supreme Spirit draws the pictures of the universe.
8) Exists in the Supreme Atom.
9) As the entire visible world cannot be separated from the Supreme Spirit nothing is other than the Impersonal Supreme Spirit.
10) The differentiations of the various worlds are mere appearances of the Supreme Spirit and so dualism is of the same figure.
The King drew Karkkaṭī nearer to the Impersonal Supreme Spirit. He advised her not to commit slaughter. She accepted the advice. The King asked her to come to his palace assuming the form of a beautiful woman. She asked, what could he offer to a giantess as food. The King said: "You good woman, we shall find out a way for that. You change yourself to a beautiful woman wearing golden ornaments and stay in my palace for a while. I shall arrange to gather sinners, robbers and such other wicked people who are to be given capital punishment, in thousands from various places, and shall give them to you. You can take your original form and take them all to the peaks of the Himalaya and feed on them.
Gluttonous people like to eat in solitude. After having eaten sumptuously, take some sleep, and a little rest in meditation. When you wake up you come again and take away people destined to be killed. The slaughter done for the sake of righteousness is not a sin. It is said to be equal to mercy. When your desire for meditation is over you must come to me. If an attachment of love is formed even with bad persons it is difficult to break the love."
Karkkaṭī obeyed the King. They all reached the palace. Within six days three thousand wicked persons, who were sentenced to death, were brought before the King, from his own country and the various dependent countries, and were given to Karkkaṭī. In the night she took her original form, gathered all the wicked people, who deserved killing and bidding good bye to the King, went to the Peaks of the Himālayas. (Jñānavāsiṣṭha).
Brahmā and Haindavas.
At the end of the day of Brahmā there was the great flood, and destroying all the heavens, Brahmā went to sleep. He woke up next morning and after the usual morning ablutions, prepared for creation. He looked around at the sky, and saw some heavens still engaged in usual activities. He was amazed at this unusual occurrence. Ten Brahmās and the countless devas (gods) under them were doing their routine work. Brahmā stared at the worlds for a long time thinking "How is it". Then he by his divine power caused one of the suns, working in a heaven, to come to him, and asked him. "Who are you, shining one? How have these worlds come into existence?"
The Sun said with humility. "Your sons Marīci and others erected a beautiful shed called Suvarṇataṭam, in a corner of Jaṃbudvīpa in the valley below Kailāsa. A Brāhmaṇa named Indu arose from that hall. The Brahmāṇa who was a Vedic scholar, righteous and peaceful, led the life of a house-holder with his wife for a long time. But they were childless. So they went to Kailāsa and did penance to get children. They entered a natural arbour which was quite silent and began severe penance. Śiva appeared and said that they would get children.
In course of time, ten sons were born to them. After a long time, when the sons had reached manhood the old parents died. The sons felt very sorry. They regarded life as short and full of woe and misery. So they went for penance, as they had no relatives left to care for them. They abstained from all the pleasures of the world and reached Kailāsa. They began to meditate upon the shortness of life. "What is there which is noble in this world? Is there anything except woe and misery? How simple is the desire of man for greatness? One thinks himself prosperous if he becomes a house-holder. The head of the village is more prosperous than a householder. The King of a dependent state is more powerful than the head of a village. An independent king is far more prosperous than a dependent King. When we think of the state of an emperor how simple is an independent king! When compared with Indra, the Lord of the three worlds what is an emperor after all? But there is nothing glorious in the state of Indra also as it ends in a Brahmamuhūrtta (a period in the life of Brahmā). So what is there substantial and eternal? "Brahmā alone is eternal and indestructible." said the eldest brother. "Concentrate your mind and say to yourself, 'I am the supreme Being Brahmā seated on a lotus', and meditate upon it and pray for it and knowledge of Brahmā will be conferred upon you." They understood this and thus the ten brothers became Brahmās. There are ten heavens of them. They are ten worlds in the sky of mind. I am the sun who creates day and night in one of them," saying thus the Sun went away. Brahmā commenced his activity. (Jñānavāsiṣṭha).
The age of Brahmā.
Forty-three crores twenty lacs of human years is one four-yuga period called 'Devacaturyuga' (a period of four yugas of the devas or gods). One thousand deva caturyugas will make one Mahāyuga (great yuga) A Mahāyuga is a day time of Brahmā. During the period of one Mahāyuga, that is, during one day of Brahmā, fourteen Manus, one after another, help Brahmā in doing the work of creation. This is the time of the seventh Manu in the present day time (Kalpa) of the present Brahmā. The period of six Manus are over in the present day time of the present Brahmā. Vaivasvata is the present Manu. Brahmā wakes up in the morning—the beginning of a Kalpa. Those which underwent destruction in the night, are created again in the morning. As Brahmā wakes up daily in the morning, what are the things created before, which do not undergo destruction? At that time there will remain, without destruction, six or twentyfour tattvas (principles) which are natural creations. These twenty-four principles are not the creation of Brahmā. He who is beyond names, He who created Brahmā in the lotus flower, created them. Brahmā who was originated in the lotus which grew from the nave of Nārāyaṇa performs the work of creation guided by these twentyfour principles. The work of creation performed by Brahmā is called Pratisarga (substitute creation). Everything Brahmā created in the day time will be destroyed in the evening. After a day time is over there is the night time and sleep for Brahmā. The life of Brahmā is hundred years, that is thirty-six thousand Brahmā days and and Brahmā nights. At the expiry of this period the life of Brahmā will come to an end, and will dissolve in Nārāyaṇa. Thus crores and crores of Brahmās have appeared and passed away and in future also crores will appear and pass away. (Bhāgavata).
The creations and substitute creations of Brahmā.
The creations performed by Brahmā are of two kinds. The first is Sarga or creation and the second is Pratisarga or substitute creation. In the first Kalpa when a Brahmā is born from the lotus, certain creations are made and the things thus originated do not undergo destruction in the evening or at the end of the Kalpa. They are the sarga or creation. On that day and every day of the life of Brahmā they help Brahmā in the work of creation. In a sense they could be called Prajāpatis (the lords of emanation). But as most of them have not left sons, and for other reasons also, they are not well known by that name. Only the persons mentioned here have as long a life as that of Brahmā. The Sanakas, Karddama, Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhṛgu, Vasiṣṭha, Dakṣa, Nārada, Dharma, Adharma, Nirṛti, Sarasvatī, Kāma, Atharva, the Manes, Agni, Sthāṇu, and Svāyaṃbhuva: these do not end at the end of a Brahmā’s day (or Kalpa) and will be dissolved only when Brahmā is dissolved. A Brahmā creates in his first morning not only persons from Sanaka to Svāyaṃbhuva, but also creations which have a history only up to the end of that day, such as the lokas (worlds) of Bhūloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka, and minerals, plants, animals, humanity etc. Sarga or creation is called Prākṛta Sṛṣṭi (natural creation). Pratisarga or substitute creation is called Aprākṛta Sṛṣṭi or unnatural creation. At the end of the Kalpa, Saṃvarttakāgni (Fire which destroys the universe) and Saṃvarttaka varṣā (Rain which destroys the universe) will occur and all the unnatural creations will be destroyed. In all the morning, following the first morning of a Brahmā substitute creation takes place, and they are destroyed at the end of each Kalpa by Saṃvarttakāgni and Saṃvarttakavarṣā. (Bhāgavata).
(2) From the passion of lust of Brahmā, a daughter named Sarasvatī was born and Brahmā married her. (See Sarasvatī).
(3) It is seen in Bhāgavata, Skandha 11, that the caste system came out from the mouth of Brahmā.
(5) When the life time of Śrī Rāma was about to come to an end, Brahmā sent Kāla (time—the God of death) in disguise to the presence of Śrī Rāma. (See Rāma).
(7) Once Brahmā performed sacrifice on the head of Gayāsura (a giant). (See Gayatīrtha).
(9) It was Brahmā who gave the name poetry to the work of Vyāsa and employed Gaṇapati as the scribe of Vyāsa. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 1, Stanza 61).
(10) At the sacrifice of Varuṇa, Brahmā begot Bhṛgu the hermit from the sacrificial fire. (Mahābhārata Chapter 5, Stanza 8).
(11) Dakṣa was born from the right thumb of Brahmā and from his left thumb was born the wife of Dakṣa. (Mahābhārata Ādi parva, Chapter 66, Stanza 10).
(12) Dharmadeva incarnated from the right breast of Brahmā. (Mahābhārata Ādi parva, Chapter 66, Stanza 3).
(13) The hermit Bhṛgu broke open the heart of Brahmā and incarnated from there. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 66, stanza 41).
(14) Śukra turns all the worlds round at the instruction of Brahmā. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 66, Stanza 42).
(16) Viśvakarmā created Tilottamā according to the instruction of Brahmā. Brahmā gave her a boon. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 211, Stanza 23).
(17) When Agni suffered from indigestion, Brahmā instructed that the forest Khāṇḍava should be burnt to cure him. (See Agni).
(18) Brahmā made the bow called Gāṇḍīva. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 224, Stanza 19).
(20) Brahmā has a divine council. A complete description is given of this council in Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parva, Chapter 11.
(22) Brahmā wears a divine conch for the sake of Indra. (Mahābhārata Sabhā Parva, Chapter 53, Stanza 14).
(24) Once Brahmā performed a sacrifice in Prayāga (Allahabad). (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 87, Stanza 17).
(26) It was according to the instruction of Brahmā that the devas went to Dadhīca and requested for his bone. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 100, Stanza 8).
(27) Brahmā once performed a sacrifice called 'Iṣṭikṛta' at Kurukṣetra. This sacrifice took one thousand years for its completion. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 120, Stanza 1).
(28) The devas (gods) got angry because Brahmā lifted the earth taking the shape of a hog. But Brahmā pacified them. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 142, Stanza 45).
(29) Once Brahmā created a city, called Hiraṇyapura, for the asuras (demons) named the Kālakeyas and told them that it would be destroyed by human hands. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 173, Stanza 11).
(30) Brahmā was born from the lotus in the nave of Viṣṇu. (Mahābhārata Vana parva, Chapter 203, Stanza 10).
(31) Brahmā granted a boon to a King named Dhundhu. (See Dhundhu).
(32) Brahmā was the father of Pulastya and the grandfather of Rāvaṇa. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 274, Stanza 11).
(33) Once Brahmā instructed the devas to take birth as monkeys. (Mahābhārata Vana parva, Chapter 376, Stanza 6).
(34) Once Brahmā got angry thinking how to destroy the living creatures which were increasing prolifically. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 52, Stanza 46).
(35) Death came into being from the body of Brahmā. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 53, Stanza 17).
(36) Death was given the boon of destruction of the living beings. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 53, stanza 21).
(37) Once Brahmā took the devas (gods) to the presence of Śiva because they had fled away fearing Vṛttrāsura. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva Chapter 94, Stanza 53).
(40) Brahmā granted a boon to Cārvāka. (See Cārvāka).
(41) Brahmā gave Rudra a sword, (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 166, Stanza 45).
(42) Brahmā pacified Śiva who got angry, at the sacrifice of Dakṣa. (Mahābhārata Śānti parva, Chapter 283, Stanza 45).
(43) Once Brahmā took the form of a swan and exhorted the Sādhyagaṇas. (Mahābhārata Śānti parva, Chapter 229).
(44) Once there arose a fight between Mahāviṣṇu and Śiva and Brahmā pacified both of them. (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 342, Stanza 124).
(45) Once Brahmā went to the mount Vaijayanta and talked to Śiva about the glory of Mahāviṣṇu. (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 350 Dākṣiṇātya Pāṭha).
(46) Once Brahmā talked about the nobility of Brāhmaṇas. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 35, Dākṣiṇātya Pāṭha).
(47) Brahmā gave the devas (gods) the earth as a gift for performing sacrifice. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 66).
(48) Once Brahmā made a speech to Indra about the importance of giving cow as gift. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 74, Stanza 2).
(49) Brahmā granted a boon to Surabhi. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 83, Stanza 36).
(50) Brahmā originated the Prajāpatis by offering his sperm into the sacrificial fire at the sacrifice of Varuṇa. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 85, Stanza 99).
(52) In almost all the Purāṇas Brahmā is called 'Caturmukha' (having four faces) and to substantiate this the following story is given in the Matsyapurāṇa. Brahmā created Śatarūpā with half the portion of his body, and accepted that bright and beautiful woman as his wife. He could not bear his beautiful wife to be away from his sight even for a moment. So much had he become attached to her.
One day Śatarūpā was walking round Brahmā. The daughters born from his mind also were seated close by. So he could not turn round and round and look at his wife as she was moving. To solve this problem, in place of one face, there arose four faces.
Once Śatarūpā was walking in the air. To see her at that time there arose a fifth head on the top of his matted hair. It is this face that was plucked off by Śiva.
(53) Various stories occur in the purāṇas regarding how Śiva plucked off the fifth head of Brahmā. They are given below.
(1) Once Brahmā praised Śiva and pleased him and asked him to become his son. Śiva did not like it. He got angry and cursed, "I shall become your son. But I will pluck off your fifth head."
(2) In the beginning Brahmā created the incarnation of Śiva, called Nīlalohita also, along with the creation of worlds and everything in it. In later creations Brahmā did not think of Nīlalohita. Seeing Brahmā carrying on the work of creation forgetting him, Nīlalohita got angry and cursed Brahmā, "Your fifth head will shortly be destroyed."
(3) After Brahmā became five-faced the brightness of the devas began to decrease day by day. Seeing this the conceited Brahmā said to Śiva: "I am the first who got existence in this world. So by all means I am the eldest." Hearing this Śiva got angry and plucked off the fifth head of Brahmā and threw it away. (Matsyapurāṇa, 183, 84-86).
When the fifth head was gone, the rest of the heads were benumbed. The sweat which flowed from them was thrown into the earth by Brahmā. Out of it came out a horrible monster, which began to chase Śiva, who caught hold of it and gave it to Viṣṇu. (Skanda, 5, 13, 4).
(4) In the Śiva-Rudra collections a story occurs about the quarrel between Śiva and Brahmā.
Once Brahmā fell in love with Satī the wife of Śiva; coming to know of this Śiva tried to kill Brahmā. Mahāviṣṇu tried to pacify Śiva, but it was of no avail. Śiva took away the fifth head of Brahmā and made him ugly, and consequently Brahmā became invincible in the world.
(5) Once Śiva showed his daughter Sandhyā to Brahmā who grew lustful instantly; Śiva insulted Brahmā by showing this ill-owned passion of his to his sons (Brahmā’s sons). As a revenge Brahmā created Satī and insulted Śiva through Dakṣa. (Skanda, 2, 2, 26).
Various names of Brahmā and their meanings:
In Amarakośa, the following names are given to Brahmā.
"brahmātmabhūḥ surajyeṣṭhaḥ parameṣṭhī pitāmahaḥ / hiraṇyagarbho lokeśaḥ svayaṃbhūścaturānanaḥ // dhātābjayonir druhiṇo virañciḥ kamalāsanaḥ / sraṣṭā prajāpatir vedhā vidhātā viśvasṛṭvidhiḥ // nābhijanmāṇḍajaḥ pūrvo nidhanaḥ kamalodbhavaḥ / sadānando rajomūrtiḥ sattyako haṃsavāhanaḥ //"
Brahmā—he who increases.
Ātmabhū—born of his own accord or born of the Supreme Spirit.
Surajyeṣṭha—he who came into being before all the suras (gods).
Parameṣṭhin—he who dwells in the world of truth or Parama.
Pitāmaha—grandfather of the manes such as Aryamā and others.
Hiraṇyagarbha—having the golden egg (mundane egg) in womb.
Lokeśa—the god of the worlds.
Svayaṃbhū—who is born of himself.
Caturānana—who has four faces.
Dhātā—who holds or bears everything.
Druhiṇa—who hurts asuras.
Virañci—he who creates.
Kamalāsana—who sits on lotus.
Sṛṣṭā—he who creates.
Vedhā—he who creates.
Vidhātā—he who does.
Viśvasṛt—who creates the world.
Vidhi—he who does or decides or judges.
Nābhijanmā—born from the nave of Viṣṇu.
Aṇḍaja—born from the egg.
Haṃsavāhana—who has swan as his conveyance.
*) Idaṃ sarvaṃ khalu aham eva, Sanātanam anyad nāsti. All these are myself. Except me there is nothing eternal.
**) You forester, your life will not continue for many years since you have killed one of the couple of snipes.