Creator God Brahma- the incestuous fifth head.

In Hinduism, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the supreme Gods. In the cycle of universe they serve the creator, manager and destroyer functions respectively. While there are numerous temples and shrines dedicated to the Vaishnav and Shaiv sects, very few shrines are dedicated to creator God Brahma. His chief temple is in Pushkar, Rajasthan. Despite being the orator of Vedic wisdom, why he is not worshipped? It is because of his three errors. First among the three is covered in this article.
It is said that at the beginning of the world, in this Kalpa (present cycle), Brahma arose out of Vishnu’s naval, seated on a lotus.
He created four Sanath kumaras, the quadruplets were born out of his thoughts but they chose to remain celibate. He then decided to create ten thought born sons, together known as Prajapatis. They were meant to procreate and begin the human race. Next the female form was required. Brahma explored and found that the creative power, the Goddess hidden within him too. He gave her the human female form. Once she was created she paid her obeisance to him by circumbulating around him.

Brahma is often seen as a four-faced, four or eight armed, at times older and bearded deity. He carries a lotus bud and a book in the upper hand; a water pot (Kamandala) in the lower hand and one hand is always there to bestow grace.

Brahma is often seen as a four-faced, older and bearded deity. Among several objects, he carries a lotus bud and a book; a water pot (Kamandala) and one hand to bestow grace.

The Goddess was as beautiful as the rising sun so he named her Usha (the dawn). Brahma was physically attracted to her. He was tempted to take her for himself and not his ten sons.
He had four heads that were his four senses capable of looking in all directions, as Ushawent around him his eyes followed her. He implored her to wed him. Usha politely declined his offer since she was born out of him. She was his daughter and it was inappropriate for them to wed.
Brahma was still persistent and followed her. Usha changed forms to dodge him. She became a doe; Brahma turned himself into a deer. She became a cow, he turned to a bull, she changed to a goose he became a gander, this way to dodge her creator, Goddess went on creating females of several species and Brahma made corresponding males. Thus the Goddess also came to be known as ‘Shatroopa’.
At last Goddess became dark complexioned to hide herself and came to be known as Sandhya (the dusk). She rose to the sky and Brahma grew a fifth head to keep his eyes on her. Sandhya then prayed to Shiva to save her.

Shiva took the fierce killer form of Kaal Bhairav and admonished Brahma for his misconduct. As a punishment he cut the fifth head.

kaal-bhairav holding Brahma’s fifth severed head

Shiva warned him that his four heads were actually four senses and he had full control over them. Since he could not control the fifth, the head of desire, he could not have it.
Brahma accepted his folly and asked for the Goddess’s forgiveness. She forgave him and granted that he would gain his consort in Saraswati soon.

The repentance of Shiva

Bhikshatan Shiva- a statue at Chennai museum.

Shiva had beheaded Brahma to save the Goddess; still he had committed a crime of cutting a Brahmin’s head. He had to observe punishment. He made a begging bowl out of the severed head, it is said the begging bowl and his plam became inseparable, probably a symbolic reminder of his sin. For twelve years he went to various places of pilgrimage to atone his sin. He would survive only on what he got as donation and eat nothing else. This form of Shiva is known as Bhikshatan Shiva.

Despite years of travel, he could not find his peace and acquittal. In the end he reached Varanasi, once he dipped in the Ganges, he felt his soul lightened. The swift current carried away the begging bowl (the kapala or the skull) with water. He understood his sin had also been washed away. He made Varanasi his next home and since then it is the seat of Kaal Bhairav. The bank of Ganges where he took his invigorating dip is known as the ‘Kapala mochan teertha’.

Significance of the story:
However powerful the Gods might be, Brahma had to suffer for his behaviour and Shiva had to observe atonement for his crime of beheading a scholar. Through this story, one understands the need for regulation of desire. It recognises the existence of misplaced temptation. The importance of reprimand to create fear among men. It’s a message for checking incest and sexual harassment of women both in close family and society in general.

Continued in: the-second-folly-of-brahma


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