"Brahma generated the gods, Brahma (generated) this entire world. Within
him are all these worlds. Within him is this entire universe. It is
Brahma who is the greatest of beings. Who can vie with him? In Brahma,
the thirty-three gods; in Brahma, Indra and Prajāpati; in Brahma all
things are contained as in a ship."
In perfect harmony with this teaching of the "Vishnu Purāna" is the
common belief of the Hindus. No phrase is more commonly used by them
when speaking of the divine being than this: "God (Brahma) is one
without a second." The word used by them for God as distinguished from
his manifestations, is Brahma; and when charged with Polytheism, and of
violating the primary law respecting the unity of God, they reply that
Brahmā, Vishnu, Siva, etc., are only manifestations of the supreme
This Brahmā, though satisfactory to the priests, was not so to the
common people. In process of time local gods absorbed his worship.
Vishnu is called the second person of the Hindu Trimurti, or Triad: but
though called second, it must not be supposed that he is regarded as in
any way inferior to Brahmā. In some books Brahmā is said to be the first
cause of all things, in others it is as strongly asserted that Vishnu
has this honour; while in others it is claimed for Siva. As Brahmā's
special work is creation, that of Vishnu is preservation. In the
following passage from the "Padma Purāna," it is taught that Vishnu is
the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma, and also that his
special work is to preserve:—"In the beginning of creation, the great
Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold; Creator,
Preserver, Destroyer. In order to create this world, the Supreme Spirit
produced from the right side of his body himself as Brahmā; then, in
order to preserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu; and
in order to destroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body
the eternal Siva. Some worship Brahmā, others Vishnu, others Siva; but
Vishnu, one yet threefold, creates, preserves, and destroys: therefore
let the pious make no difference between the three."
Siva is the third person of the Hindu Triad. As Brahmā was Creator,
Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the system, as all things are
subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary; and destruction is regarded
as the peculiar work of Siva. This seems scarcely in harmony with the
form by which he is usually represented. It must be remembered, however,
that, according to the teaching of Hinduism, death is not death in the
sense of passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form
of life. He who destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases
of existence—the Destroyer is really a re-Creator; hence the name Siva,
the Bright or Happy One, is given to him, which would not have been the
case had he been regarded as the destroyer in the ordinary meaning of
Siva adopted the garb, and lived the life of an ascetic. Though
generally worshipped under the form of the linga, he "is represented in
human form, living in the Himālayas along with Pārvati, sometimes in the
act of trampling on or destroying demons, wearing round his black neck a
serpent, and a necklace of skulls, and furnished with a whole apparatus
of external emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident,
tiger's skin, elephant's skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes,
one being in his forehead, in allusion either to the three Vedas, or
time past, present and future. He has a crescent on his forehead, the
moon having been given to him as his share of the products of the
churning of the ocean. Again, Mahādeva, or the great deity Siva, is
sometimes connected with humanity in another personification very
different from that just noted, viz. that of an austere ascetic, with
matted hair, living in a forest and teaching men by his own example,
first, the power to be obtained by penance (tapas), mortification of the
body and suppression of the passions; and, secondly, the great virtue
of abstract meditation, as leading to the loftiest spiritual knowledge,
and ultimately to union, or actual identification with the great spirit
of the universe."
Each god is represented as having special fondness for some bird or
animal, on which he is supposed to travel, and which therefore is called
his Vāhan or vehicle. The bull is Siva's; and the image of his
favourite bull, Nandi, is seen in front of many of the shrines sacred to
Mahādeva. Owing probably to this circumstance, a curious custom
prevails, similar in many respects to the setting loose of the scapegoat
by the Israelites. At the death of a worshipper of Siva, if his friends
are pious and can afford it, they set a bullock loose, and allow it to
wander at will. By the Hindus generally it is considered a meritorious
act to feed these sacred bulls, and a sin to injure them. In country
places many of them are seen, and they become a great nuisance to the
cultivators into whose fields they wander; for though they do much
damage, as they have no owner, no compensation can be obtained. If a man
were specially devout, or his friends eminently pious, as many as seven
bulls are set loose at his decease.
Rudra, according to the Rāmāyana, married Umā, the daughter of Daksha,
who reappears in various stages of the life of Siva as Pārvati, Durgā,
Kāli, etc. Fearing that the children of such parents would be dangerous
to live with, the gods entreated Siva and Umā to live a life of
chastity: to this they consented. The request, however, came too late to
prevent the birth of Kartikeya. Umā declared that the wives of the
other gods should also be childless. Rudra took a prominent position at
the churning of the ocean; he drank the poison, as nectar, that was
produced before the amrita, which caused his neck to become
dark-coloured—hence one of his names is Nilkanta, "the blue-necked.
Siva is said to have a thousand names; in addition to those already mentioned the following are most common:—
Maheswara, "The great god."
Ishwar, "The glorious."
Chandrashekara, "He who wears a half-moon on his forehead."
Bhuteswara, "Lord of Bhuts, or goblins."
Mritunjaya, "He who conquers death."
Sri Kanta, "He whose neck is beautiful."
Smarahāra, "The destroyer of Smara or Kāmdeva."
Gangadhara, "He who holds Gangā (the Ganges) in his hair."
Sthānu, "The everlasting."
Girisha, "The lord of the hills."
Digambara, "He who is clothed with space (naked)."
Bhagavat, "The lord."
Isāna, "The ruler."
Mahakāla, "The great time."
Tryambaka, "The three-eyed.""