For the two stories before this go to :
The Gods were busy creating the physical world. After making the plants and trees, a quarrel broke out between creator God Brahma and Sustainer God Vishnu. Each wanted to prove his supremacy over the other. Brahma claimed he was greater as he had created the whole world. Vishnu rubbished the claim. He felt the creation could not be useful without his sustenance of order. They argued for a long time still no conclusion could be reached. Both decided to go to Shiva to be the judge of which one among them had greater glory.
They had not even taken a step when a huge pillar of fire appeared between the two. They could not understand why had it appeared all of a sudden or where was it going? They were curious and decided to find its end. It was agreed that whosoever finds the either tip would be the greater among the two.
Brahma had to find the upper end and Vishnu the lower one. Brahma took the form of a Hansa (swan). He flapped his white wings and flew up to reach the top of the pillar. Vishnu took the form of a Varah (wild Boar) and went down to check the base.
The pillar was not any ordinary column of fire (Jyotirlinga). Vishnu went on scanning to the Pataal (Netherworld) and the column went on endlessly, he realized that it must be the endless Para Shiva which is beyond the limits and cannot be measured by knowledge. Since Vishnu was unable to find the base, he came up and admitted defeat.
It was indeed Shiva who had created the column to convey that almighty is much greater than either of them. The supreme power has no beginning or end. It is beyond imaginable form, colour and describable qualities.
Brahma came across a Ketaki flower on his journey upwards. He went up further far ahead but was unable to find the uppermost limits. So he decided to take the help of the Ketaki flower. (Ketaki is the aromatic Kewra plant used in perfumes and beverages).
Brahma thought he would take the Ketaki flower back to Vishnu as a witness that he had reached the top of the pillar of light. On reaching back Brahma said he found the Ketaki flower atop the Jyotirlinga and ketaki supported his claim.
At this moment the column of light burst open and Shiva emerged out of it. He admonished Brahma for his greed for glory and his desperation to get to it by unfair means. He cursed that Brahma would no longer be held sacred by the people. Ketaki was also cursed that she would never again be used in worship of Shiva. Ever since ketaki is debarred forever from pujas and worship of Lord Shiva.
Both Gods admitted their folly and asked for pardon. Shiva blessed them and declared that each living being would carry a flame like the fire column within him. This would be the soul that would neither have a form, nor be formless, a symbol of the endless supreme power.
This pillar of fire appeared as a cylindrical form but in reality it was formless. It came to be recognized as the symbol of Shiva called the Jyoti Linga. The statues of Shiva that show him bursting out of this pillar are known as Lingabodhava Shiva. These are among the most ancient statues of Shiva found in India.
It is said that Brahma traveled to south and near Kumbhakonam he made a temple of Shiva and prayed to him for eons in repentance. Shiva appeared and restored his power of creation again. He asked Brahma to then create fauna and plant the soul in them. The temple is known as the Brahmporeeshwara temple as here Brahma found his completion again.
Brahma might have lost his glory in India but he is still prayed to in other countries in some evolved forms. I would tell you about them in my next post.
P.S. Apart from conveying the importance of truth and integrity this story serves one more purpose. I was studying about economically useful plants of India. I found that Ketaki/Kewra or Screwpine grows in swamps and mangroves. It produces sweet smelling male and female flowers that attract snakes. It is quite possible that this story helped to symbolically prohibit this flower from being offered in temples. A snake creeping in attracted to the smell can cause stampedes or casualties.