Brahma – the creator of the universe and the almighty maker of this Earth. There might be hardly any Hindu who doesn’t know who Brahma Dev is and what duty he performs in the grand scheme of our universe. The Puranas and Hindu epics like Ramayan and Mahabharata are full of Devas, humans, and even Asuras praying to Brahma to grant them a boon. They then use the powers given to them for their selfish purposes that sprouts a tale in itself. Whether it’s Raavan the infamous nemesis of Shree Ram, Mahishasur the demon lord to kill whom Mata Durga had to incarnate, or Jalandhar the rebellious son of Lord Shiva; every one of them received their powers from Lord Brahma.
Even after being so essential to Hindu epics and Hinduism in general, Brahma Deva is not worshipped. All across India and even abroad you can find temples dedicated to Hindu Gods like Lord Vishnu, Shiva, and even Ganesh. In fact, the largest Hindu temple in the world, Angkorwat temple complex is in Cambodia, not India. Not only major gods Shiva and Vishnu but even their incarnations like Shree Ram, Shree Krishana, and Bhairav have their own cult following and grand temples built in their name.
If Devtas like Indra, a minor deity like Khatu Shyam of Rajasthan, and a planet like Shani Dev can be worshipped, why can’t a major deity like Brahma have a temple in his name? Even Yamraj l, the lord of death has two temples in India. But there is not one temple of Lord Brahma in this vast global coverage of Hinduism. Why?
Lord Shiva’s Curse to Brahma
Like everything in Hinduism, it starts with a story. Once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, two of the most powerful Hindu deities got in a fight. Each of them considered himself to be the most powerful and almighty. They fought and fought but could not come to any conclusion. In the end they went to Lord Shiva a neutral party to solve their dilemma. Mahadeva gave the quarreling gods a solution. He said, “I will become a huge flaming pillar. Whoever can find the limits of this pillar will be considered the most powerful.”
So began the test. Shiva shapeshifted himself into a Shivalinga that seemed to extend to the limits of the universe. Brahma chose to go upwards to the zenith of the pillar and Vishnu flew down to find its roots. They flew and flew but as much as they moved towards the limit the Shivalinga seemed to extend further and further. Lord Vishnu realized there was no limit to the shivalinga and came back to the starting point to accept his defeat.
Meanwhile, Brahma happened upon a flower that had fallen from the top of the pillar. The great creator of the world decided to cheat and asked the flower to describe the top of the pillar to him. The flower told him and with the answer Brahma came back. He boastfully told Lord Shiva that he had found the zenith of his colossal figure and hence he should be proclaimed the most powerful. Lord Shiva became angry and said that he knew Brahma had cheated. He said, “This was a test of wisdom. I knew none of you would be able to find the limits of the pillar because there were none. Where Lord Vishnu accepted his limitations, you Brahma, cheated to be the best.”
Shiva then declared Vishnu the winner and for his insolence cursed Brahma. “I curse you Brahma to never be worshipped in Hinduism. The generations of humans coming after today will know about you but will never build a temple in your name. You will never be worshipped for you are not worthy of being worshipped.”
The Dichotomy of Hinduism
From that day on, began the dichotomy of Hinduism. Brahma Deva the creator of the universe and earth even after being so immensely important in Hinduism was never worshipped. But the question remains why. The story of Brahma’s curse is from the Puranas and as we know puranas are a story form explanation of the difficult concepts listed down in the Vedas. There is always a logical explanation behind the seemingly mysterious and mystical stories of the Puranas. In fact, the answer to this query can be found in the mystical words Shiva uttered, “You will not be worshipped because you’re not worshippable.”
Who is Worshipped in Hinduism?
So begins another question. What can or cannot be worshipped in Hinduism? The popular notion about Hinduism is that there we have 33 crore gods and that Hindus worship everything from a stone to a mountain. While the latter is true to some extent the first one couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, there is a stark distinction between Devtas and Bhagwan i.e., deities and gods. Hinduism has only a handful of gods who can be counted on the fingers. There are the Trideva – Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh and then there are Shakti forms – Kali Mata, Lakshmi Mata and many others.
On the other hand there are a plethora of devtas. These deities exist on a lower level than the gods. Where the gods are responsible for activities on a universal scale, the Devatas or Devas have highly specific jobs. For example, Indra is the king of devtas and is responsible for rain and monsoon. Varun Deva controls water in all its forms and Agni Deva has authority over the element of fire.
The most important difference between the deities and Gods is that Gods don’t die. Devtas although seemingly immortal are actual Chiranjeevi i.e., they are not Undying or Amar. Chiranjeevi essentially means that they will live till the end of time or what we call chirkaal in Hinduism. But when Mahadeva will come to destroy the universe and transform it into a new universe, the Devtas will perish and with the new universe be born again. However, Bhagwan will never die. They’re not reborn. They are the custodians of the knowledge of universe and hence take that knowledge from the old universe to the new one.
Why is Brahma Not Worshipped?
Furthermore, if you notice carefully the Hindu Devtas are very different from the deities of Egyptian or Greek civilization. Varun and Agni control the elements but they are not elementals. Elemental for those who don’t know is a concept prevalent in most of the western religions including Judaism, Islam, and Greek civilization. They are personifications of natural elements like fire, water, or air. This includes Thanatos the Greek personification of death, Ifrits or Djinns the Islamic personification of elemental power, and others. Devtas however are not personification of elements. They are the custodians of the elements. They can control the power of air and fire but they are not air or fire themselves.
This difference is why Brahma is not worshipped in Hinduism. In Hinduism we don’t worship natural forces we worship the beings controlling those forces. We don’t worship water we worship Varun deva; we don’t worship rain we worship Indra; we don’t worship milk we worship the cow.
Brahma in essence is not a Devta or controller of a natural force; he is a natural force himself. Brahma is a personification of the power or force that makes this universe. Brahma is another name for gravity or the force that combines and holds together the different particles of the universe to form galaxies, planets, stars and so on. And as I said Hindus don’t worship elements or forces. We worship their custodians.
Brahma in himself is not a custodian and hence not worshipped. The story of Brahma and Vishnu’s fight was just a way of communicating this difference. It’s simple. If Shiva the central character of Hinduism curses Brahma to not be worshipped, his words will be followed. And proof is in front of you. He’s still not worshipped. He is not ostracized but by way of the puranas he is kept in his place of categorization under elementals, so as not to disturb the Hindu pantheon and the order of the world.
If you ask me, it’s a pretty impressive way to convey the importance of Brahma and his place in the pantheon of gods at the same time. What do you think?