Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Guest guest

Trimurti - (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva)

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Guest guest

Trimurti - (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva)


Trimurti - the three apparently contradictory aspects of existence: "creation,

conservation and dissolution, which are "one and the same thing as to the

origin, the significance and the term." ***

According to French art historian, Rene Grousset (1885-1952) who speaks of the

Trimurti statue at Elephanta Caves:

"Universal art has succeeded in few materialization of the Divine as powerful

and also as balanced. He believed that it is "the greatest representation of

the pantheistic god created by the hands of man." He concludes with poetic

enthusiasm: "Never have the overflowing sap of life, the pride of force

superior to everything, the secret intoxication of the inner god of things been

so serenely expressed."

(source: The India I Love - By Marie-Simone Renou p. 88-93).

In the words of Rene Grousset, " The three countenances of the one being are

here harmonized without a trace of effort. There are few material

representations of the divine principle at once as powerful and as well

balanced as this in the art of the whole world. Nay, more, here we have

undoubtedly the grandest representation of the pantheistic God ever made by the

hand of man...Indeed, never have the exuberant vigor of life, the tumult of

universal joy expressing itself in ordered harmony, the pride of a power

superior to any other, and the secret exaltation of the divinity immanent in

all things found such serenely expressed."

(source: The Civilization of the East – India - by Rene Grousset p.245-6).

The Hindu Trinity also called Trimurti (meaning three forms), is the

representation of the three manifestations of the Supreme Reality, as Brahma,

Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma symbolizes creation, Vishnu preservation and renewal,

and Shiva dissolution or destruction necessary for recreation. It must be

understood that the members of the Hindu Trinity are not three different and

independent gods, but three aspects of one Supreme Reality called Bramh by the

seers of the Upanishads.

1. Lord Brahma - the first member of the trinity though much less important than

the other two, namely Vishnu and Mahesha, 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 (Hirayna-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


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 (Kinja-ja). When Brahma creates the

world it remains in existence for one of his days, which means 2,160,000,000

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 is completed.

When this period ends he himself loses his existence, and he all gods and

sages, and the whole universe are dissolved into their constituent elements.

Today though Brahma's name is invoked in many religious services, his image is

worshipped in only a few temples. Brahma seems to have been thrown into shade

probably because in Hindu mind he has ceased to function actively after

creation of the world, though he will exert himself again while creating a new

universe when this present one will meet its end. Understandably, the legends

about this god are not so numerous or rich as those centered round the other

two of the trinity.

Brahma has four arms and he holds a lotus flower, his sceptre, his bow parivita,

a string of beads, a bowl containing the holy water and the Vedas. He has four

heads and is therefore called Chaturanana or Chaturmukha. His vehicle is the

swan or goose, the symbol of knowledge. He is therefore said to be riding on

the swan (hansa-vahana). He is the source of all knowledge and his consort,

Saraswati, is the goddess of knowledge.

2. Lord Vishnu is the central and major deity of the trinity. He is the

preserver and for all practical purposes he is deemed to be omnipotent,

omnipresent and omniscient. The name Vishnu comes from the root vish, which

means to spread in all directions, "to pervade." Hence, Vishnu is the Pervader.

Lord Vishnu symbolizes the aspect of the Supreme Reality (Bramh of the

Upanishads) that preserves and sustains the things and beings in the world. He

is symbolized by a human body with four arms. He is portrayed as carrying a

conch (shankha), a mace (gada), and discus (chakra). He is blue body and wears

yellow clothes. The worship of Lord Vishnu is very popular among Hindus,

especially among the followers of the Vaishanava tradition (Vaishnavism). He is

the second member of the Hindu Trimurti (trinity). He is also known by other

names , such as Vasudeva, Hari, Kesava, Purusottama and Narayana.

It is said that Vishnu is the god of Time, Space and Life. It is also said that

he is the god of Joy and that his footsteps are impregnated with infinite

sweetness and felicity."

The worshippers of Vishnu, known as Vaishnavas, recognize in him the Supreme

Being, out of whom emerge Brahma, the active creator, Vishnu himself the

preserver, and Shiva or Rudra, the destructor. Vishnu's preserving, restoring

and protecting powers have been manifest on earth in a variety of forms, called

Avataras, in which one or more portions of his divine attributes were embodied

in the shapes of a human being or an animal or a human-animal combined forms.

He is bleu-skinned and in all images and relief he is seen in rich ornaments

and regal garments. His wife is Lakshmi or Sri, the goddess of wealth and

fortune. His place of abode is Vaikuntha (heaven) and his vehicle is Garuda, a

giant-sized eagle .

Vishnu is the infinite ocean from which the world emerges. The blue body of the

Lord signifies that He has infinite (as the universe) attributes. The Lord is

shown standing or lying down on a thousand-headed snake (named Shesha or Ananta

Nag - timeless or ageless snake). The snake stands with its hoods open over the

head of the Lord.

The following ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are described in Hindu mythology

and are popular. These incarnations reveal the help rendered by God during

various stages of human evolution. The first two incarnations are in the animal

form, the third one is half-human and half-animal, and the fourth and the

subsequent ones are all in human form. These incarnations relate to human

evolution, from aquatic life to human life, and are consistent with modern

theory of evolution. 1. Matsya (fish) - saves Sage Manu from floods and

recovers the Vedas from demons. The only (ancient) temple for

Matsya Vishnu's incarnation at the time of the "great flood" is only found at

Shankhodhara in Bet Dwaraka. 2. Kurma (tortoise) - sustains the earth on his

back. 3. Varaha (boar) - brings the earth back from the bottom of the ocean

where it was dragged down by a demon, known as Hiranyaksha; Varaha kills the

demon. 4. Narasimha (man-lion) - kills the demon King Hiranyakashipu, who was

planning to kill his own son, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. 5. Vamana (dwarf) -

the first human incarnation of the Lord, kills the demon King Mahabhali, who

had deprived the gods of their possessions. 6. Parasurama (the warrior with an

axe) - saves Brahmins from the tyranny of the arrogant Khastriya. 7. Rama -

kills Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. 8. Sri Krishna - the most popular

incarnation; Krishna's contributions throughout his life include the teachings

of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. 9. Buddha - Hindus consider Buddha as an

incarnation of Lord Vishnu and accept his teachings, but do not directly

worship him. 10.Kalkin - (a man on a white horse) - this incarnation is yet to

come and will mark the end of all evil in the world.

(For more on Vishnu avatars refer to The Hindu Mind - By Bansi Pandit p. 167 and

A Survey of Hinduism - by Klaus K Klostermaier p. 146 and 241and Hinduism - By

Linda Johnsen p. 184-193).

3. Lord Shiva - The Grace and the Terror of God

Lord Shiva represents the complete cyclic process of generation, destruction,

and regeneration. The all embracing nature of Lord Shiva is reflected in his

1008 names. Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Reality (Bramh of

the Upanishads) which continuously recreates, in the cyclic process of

creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation. He annihilates evil, grants

boons, bestows grace, destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in His devotees. He

is also called Rudra. In Yajur-Veda, Rudra is also called "Mahadeva."

One of the three great gods of Hinduism, Siva is a living god. The most sacred

and most ancient book of India, the Rg Veda, evokes his presence in its hymns;

Vedic myths, rituals, and even astronomy itself testify to his existence from

the dawn of time. From the dawn of creation, the Great Yogi, the sum of all

opposites, has been the guardian of the absolute. He is the totality of

existence - male and female, light and dark, creation and destruction.

Shiva is shown in various ways. Shiva another well-known name is Yogiraja, i.e.

the Lord of Yoga.

He is seated on a skin of a tiger, a number of cobras all around his neck, his

long matted hair into a mop atop of his head, the crescent that he wears on the

mop of his hair, the sacred river Ganga falling from his head and flowing by his

side who was brought down from heavens by Bhagiratha, the trident (trishula),

the symbol of his power, the sacred bull (Nandi), and the mendicant's bowl.

Besides, these symbols another very important physical characteristic of Shiva

is his vertical third eye. In Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic, the legend of

how Shiva got the third eye is given this way. One day his beautiful consort

Parvati (daughter of the King of Himalayas), stealthily went behind Shiva and

playfully placed her hands over his eyes. Suddenly darkness engulfed the whole

world and all

beings trembled in great fear as the lord of the universe had closed his eyes.

Suddenly a massive tongue of flame leapt from the forehead of Shiva; a third

eye appeared there and this gave light to the world. Another popular image of

Shiva has no human form but is represented by Linga - The Linga of Light

The myth is one of the most popular of the entire Puranic corpus and is told

many times in various settings. It recounts the first appearance of Shiva linga

which pierced the three worlds as a brilliant shaft of light and was witnessed

by Brahma and Vishnu long ago.

The Vedas, however, testify one by one that neither Brahma nor Vishnu, but Shiva

is supreme. As the two stand in disbelief, a huge column of fire splits the

earth between them and blazes up through the sky to pierce the highest heavens.

Astounded, Brahma and Vishnu decide to determine the source and extent of this

brilliant pillar of light. Vishnu becomes a boar and burrows deep into the

netherworlds. Brahma mounts his goose and flies as far up as the heavens reach.

But even after thousands of years they cannot find the bottom or the top of the

shaft of light. When they have returned to their starting place, Shiva emerges

from the light in his “partial” bodily form.

The linga of light is thus the image of the supremacy of Shiva. It is as what

Mircea Eliade has called the axis mundi or the pillar at the center of the

world, originating deep in the netherworlds, cracking the surface of the earth,

and splitting the roof of the sky. In this linga Shiva is not one god among

others, but the unfathomable One. This light is the mysterium tremendum which

finally cannot be described or comprehended by any or all faces and attributes.


The linga of light was the first linga. After that, Shiva vowed that this

unfathomable linga would become small so that people might have it as an emblem

for their worship. Wherever, the linga is, there is a tirtha, because the linga

by nature is a “crossing place” where the worlds are knit together by the shaft

of Shiva. Other deities have murits, images, but only Shiva has the

world-spanning form of a linga.”

The word linga means an emblem, symbol or a mark and the worship of this shaft

alarmed and horrified many early Western visitors to India. In Varanasi, at the

famed Kedarnath temple there is a Sivalingam in the main sanctum, which is a low

flat rock with speckled light granite on one side, a line of white granite going

across the rock and on the other side dark speckled granite. The Puranic story

is that this lingam represents a plate of rice and lentils. The linga is

certainly a bisexual symbol but not a phallic symbol alone. The shaft of the

linga of Shiva is set in a circular base, called a "seat." It is the seat of

that divine energy (shaki) personified as Shiva's

female half and often called by the proper name Shakti.

Many ancient civilizations recognized the wonder of this concept- including the

Chinese, who represent it somewhat more abstractly in the symbol of Yin and

Yang. Thus it depicts the generative symbol or the fountain-source of light,

this Linga represents the Lord of the Universe. The phallus aspect has been

overdone by western scholars though Linga actually means a 'sign', 'mark' or


(source: Banaras: City of Light - By Diana L. Eck p 107-109).

The Sanskrit-English Dictionary edited by P. K. Gode and C. G. Karve is widely

regarded as an authoritative work and it gives a wide range of meanings for

lingam:"The primary meaning given is: “A mark, sign, token, an emblem, a badge,

symbol, distinguishing mark, characteristic.”

EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">Shiva-lingam is a sign by which Shiva is

symbolized. Note that besides the popular Shiva-lingam of the column or round

egg-shaped sign, the Natraja is also the lingam of the dancing Shiva,

symbolizing the universe’s creation, sustenance and dissolution. The trishul

(“weapon” that pierces the veil of ignorance) is his lingam in the context of

yoga, as he is also considered the supreme yogi. The Maitrayaniya-Upanishad

mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">(6.10) applies the term

lingam to the entire “creation extending from the first principle (mahat)to the

particulars (vishesha). It contrasts this with the linga that is “without

foundation”, i.e. the unthinkable Reality itself.In the Mahabharata (12.195.15)

the linga is the vehicle, or body, of the transmigrating psyche. The term linga

can also denote the phallus or, by extension, the cosmic principle of


mso-bidi-font-size: 9.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Times New Roman;

mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language:

AR-SA">(source: The Meaning of Lingam - By Rajeev Malhotra).

God, to us is not the creator who lives apart from the Universe but has

manifested Himself as the Universe and pervades everything within. Thus, He is

the indweller in all beings, material and energy. He has no form but at the

same time, all forms are His. Linga Purana states, 'The foremost Linga which is

devoid of smell, color, taste, hearing, touch, etc, is spoken of as prakriti


Linga means a "mark" in Sanskrit. It is a symbol that points to an inference.

When one sees a big flood in a river, one infers that there had been heavy rain

earlier. When one sees smoke, one infers that there is fire. This vast Universe

of countless forms is a Linga of the omnipotent Lord. When a Hindu looks at the

Linga, his mind is at once elevated and he thinks of the Lord, especially Lord

Siva. A Hindu knows that Lord Siva is formless. Lord Siva has no form of his

own; and yet, all forms are His forms. Lord Siva pervades all forms. Every form

is the form or Linga of Lord Siva. The Linga is only the outward symbol of the

formless being, Lord Siva— Lord Siva incarnate, who is the indivisible,

all-pervading, eternal, auspicious, ever-pure, immortal essence of this vast

universe, who is the undying soul seated in the chambers of one's heart, who is

one's Indweller, innermost Self or Atman and who is identical with the Supreme


(source: Sivalinga, the Formless Form - Hinduismtoday.com 2001).

Another image of Ardhanarishwara, represents Lord Shiva as the union of

substance and energy, the life principle and Shakti. Shiva, as Destroyer, needs

plenty of power and energy. This is what Parvati, or Durga or Shakti as she is

called, provides. It is only the Hindu tradition, which provides, even at the

conceptual level, this picture of the male and female principles working

together, hand in hand, as equal partners in the universe.

mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language:

AR-SA"> This concept is carried further to its logical climax in the form of

Ardhanarishwara, formed by the fusion of Shiva and Shakti in one body, each

occupying one half of the body, denoting that one is incomplete without the


Shivaratri, i.e. Shiva's Night is the famous festival in honor of Lord Shiva. It

is held on the 14th night of the dark half moon in the month of Magha (Jan-Feb).



Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

The most celebrated Shiva motif is that of the Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance.

The Cosmos is His theatre, there are many different steps in His repertory, He

Himself is actor and audience. This is the pose in which Shiva Nataraja has

been immortalized in countless beautiful sculptures, especially in South India,

each detail of this image is invested with meaning. This image symbolizes the

divine activities of God. " Creation arises from the drum, (sound) protection

proceeds from the hand of hope, from fire proceeds destruction, from the foot

that is planted upon muyalahan (dwarf) proceeds the destruction of evil, the

foot held aloft gives deliverance." His serene smile shows his uninvolved

transcendence, the three eyes are interpreted as sun, moon, and fire, or as the

three powers of Shiva: will, knowledge, and action. The garland of skulls around

his neck identifies him as time, and the death of all beings. Chidambaram is

where Shiva is said to dance his cosmic drama.

"Grandest of all such representations symbolizing a synthesis of science, art

and religion is the image of Nataraja as the Cosmic Dancer. The central idea of

the dance is creation, preservation, destruction, giving rest and release.

Rene Grousset’s (1885-1952) French art historian, gives a fine interpretation of the image:

“Whether he be surrounded or not by the flaming aureole of the Tiruvasi

(Pabhamandala) – the circle of the world which he both fills and oversteps –

the King of the Dance is all rhythm and exaltation. The tambourine which he

sounds with one of his right hands draws all creatures into this rhythmic

motion and they dance in his company. The conventionalized locks of flying hair

and the blown scarfs tell of the speed of this universal movement, which

crystallizes matter and reduces it to powder in turn. One of his left hands

holds the fire which animates and devours the worlds in this cosmic whirl. One

of the God’s feet is crushing a Titan, for “this dance is danced upon the

bodies of the dead”, yet one of the right hands is making a gesture of

reassurance (abhayamudra), so true it is that, seen from the cosmic point of

view…the very cruelty of this universal determinism is kindly, as

the generative principle of the future. And, indeed, on more than one of our

bronzes the King of the Dance wears a broad smile. He smiles at death and at

life, at pain and at joy, alike, or rather,..his smile is death and life, both

joy and pain…From this lofty point of view, in fact, all things fall into their

place, finding their explanation and logical compulsion. Here art is the

faithful interpreter of a philosophical concept. The plastic beauty of the

rhythm is no more than the expression of an ideal rhythm. The very multiplicity

of arms, puzzling as it may seem at first sight, is subject in turn to an inward

law, each pair remaining a model of elegance in itself, so that the whole being

of the Nataraja thrills with a magnificent harmony in his terrible joy. And as

though to stress the point that the dance of the divine actor is indeed a

sport, (lila) – the sport of life and death, the sport of creation and

destruction, at once infinite and

purposeless – the first of the left hands hangs limply from the arm in the

careless gesture of the gajahasta (hand as the elephant’s trunk). And lastly,

as we look at the back view of the statue, are not the steadiness of these

shoulders which uphold world, and the majesty of this Jove-like torso, as it

were a symbol of the stability and immutability of substance, while the

gyration of the legs in its dizzy speed would seem to symbolize the vortex of


(source: The Civilization of the East – India - by Rene Grousset p. 252 - 53).

"Be it in the Vedas, the Upanishads or the Puranas, the Lord Shiva is always

referred to with great reverence as well as under different names. The

conception of Shiva is not simply that of a godhead whose powers have become

concentrated in a single figure dominating a certain period of Indian history.

Shiva is identified with the Eternal and All powerful; he is the Primal Soul

and the great Soul from which unaccounted other souls have sprung. Shiva is

beauty, Shiva is all, he is everywhere. There is no life, no motion and no

rhythm without Siva, for he is the Cosmos itself."

(source: La Danse Hindoue - by Usha Chatterji Translated from the English By

Manah Garreau-Dombasle).

Nataraja, the King of the Dance: The clearest image of cosmic activity of God

which any art or religion can boast of. This conception itself is a synthesis

of science, religion and art.


An entire cosmology, theology and way of salvation are embodied in this single

form. To really see the meanings of Nataraja is to see into the inner workings

of our own existence. Though all sacred art in India is deeply symbolic, the

one figure of Nataraja can lay the workings of our life before us.

(source: Travel through Sacred India - By Roger Housden p. 110).

The Form of Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, "a symbol of superhuman lyricism by

which....medieval India has expressed its heroic adhesion...to Joy, Pain and

Universal Force."

To summarize the whole interpretation of Shiva's dance: The Essential

Significance of Siva's Dance is threefold: First, it is the image of his

Rhythmic Play as the Source of all Movement within the Cosmos, which is

Represented by the arch; Secondly, the Purpose of his Dance is to Release the

Countless souls of men from the Snare of Illusion; Thirdly, the Place of Dance,

Chidambaran, the Center of the Universe, is within the Heart.

The cosmic activity is the central motif of the dance.

Ananda K Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) the late curator of Indian art at the Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, was unexcelled in his knowledge of the art of the Orient,

and unmatched in his understanding of Indian culture, language, religion and

philosophy. Praising this grand achievement of art, he writes:

"This conception itself is a synthesis of science, religion and art. In the

night of Brahma, Nature is inert, and cannot dance till Shiva wills it. He

rises from His rapture, and dancing sends through inert matter pushing waves of

awakening sound, and lo! matter also dances appearing as a glory round about

Him. This is poetry; but nonetheless, science. Whatever the origins of Siva's

dance, it became in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any

art or religion can boast of.

“How amazing the range of thought and sympathy of those rishi-artists who

conceived such a type as this, affording an image of reality, a key to the

complex tissue of life, a theory of nature, note merely satisfactory to a

single clique or race, not acceptable to the thinkers of a country only, but

Universal in its appeal to the philosopher, the lover and the artist of all

ages and all countries…”

“Every part of such an image as this is directly expressive not of any

superstition or dogma, but of evident facts. No artist of today, however great,

could more exactly or more wisely create an image of that Energy which science

must postulate behind all phenomena. “It is not strange that the figure of

Nataraja has commanded the adoration of so many generations past; familiar with

all skepticisms, expert in tracing all beliefs to primitive superstitions,

explorers of the infinitely great and infinitely small, we are worshippers of

Nataraja still.”

(source: The Dance of Shiva - By Dr. Ananda K Coomaraswamy p. 57-66).

The late astrophysicist, Carl Sagan (1934-1996) in his book, Cosmos, asserts

that the Dance of Nataraja (Tandava) signifies the cycle of evolution and

destruction of the cosmic universe (Big Bang Theory). "It is the clearest image

of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of." Modern physics

has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in

the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but

also the very essence of inorganic matter. For modern physicists, then, Shiva's

dance is the dance of subatomic matter. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artist

created visual

images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. Today, physicist have

used the most advanced technology to portray the pattern of the cosmic dance.

Thus, the metaphor of the cosmic dance unifies, ancient religious art and

modern physics.

He further says: " The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of

the creation of the universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif

known as the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The god, called in this manifestation

Nataraja, the Dance King. In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the

sound of creation. In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that

the universe, now newly created, with billions of years from now will be utterly

destroyed." (source: Cosmos - By Carl Sagan p. 213-214).

Fritjof Capra (1939 - ) Austrian-born famous theoretical high-energy physicist and ecologist wrote:

"Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle not only

performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of

creation and destruction. The dance of Shiva is the dancing universe, the

ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that

melt into one another’’.For the modern physicists, then Shiva’s dance is the

dance of

subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and

destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all

natural phenomenon. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images

of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our times, physicists

have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic




Click to join

for Good Click here to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...