You guys, Brahma is super problematic, and I have only just realised this. It makes sort of twisted, ironic sense, considering he is the creator god, and if creation itself is so effed up from the very beginning, then it's no wonder that we're all doomed to die in pits of hellfire. (Sorry, different religion, but basically same-same-but-different.) Why have I reached this conclusion about the Grand Old Man of Hindu mythology? Let me count the ways:
1. Why he has many heads, or the first instance of mansplaining
The story of Brahma is a bit like the story of the very first domestic hamsters, which I read about online recently. The first hamsters were captured by this scientist — a mother and her litter. The mother started to eat her babies, so he killed her and then thought his experiment was sort of doomed, because the rest were just brothers and sisters, but it turns out that hamsters have no such compunctions, so most of our domestic hamsters today come from that Lannister pairing. Brahma = hamsters in this metaphor, except, he had no sisters, only a daughter he created out of thin air and then wanted to have sex with very badly. This daughter, known as Satarupa, tried to escape from him and his lustful gaze, but Brahma just grew another head instead of turning around so he could look at her from every direction. She even tried to jump over his head, but he just grew a fifth head on top of his skull and then proceeded to mansplain to her that if a person wanted to have babies with another person, it didn't matter if they were related so, in this case, the incest was totally okay.
2. Marital bliss, or call me Daddy
Saraswati and Brahma settled down for one hundred years of happy marriage, where the children of their marriage were gods, demons and humans (so we're really all hamsters). Brahma is a dead god, much like Vayu and Indra and Varuna, once revered, now forgotten. Unlike that lot though, the reason for Brahma falling out of fashion has been explained away by a curse. In some stories, it's Shiva who curses him for coveting his own kid, but there's also a version where he cheats on Saraswati after all that. There was a puja of some kind and Saraswati was late, and everyone was like, “OMG, how are we going to do the rituals without a wife?” And Brahma, instead of saying, “Hey guys, chill out for a second, she's going to be here, she's just a little late” asked for a whole new wife. So the gods went hunting and came back with a milkmaid — which, great, you couldn't wait five minutes for her to have a bath but you had all the time in the world to produce a milkmaid? Saraswati comes in just as the milkmaid is being given pride of place as Brahma's wife, and like anyone would be, gets super pissed with the whole situation, cursing Brahma to never be worshipped again. (She also cursed everyone who stood by or helped Brahma get a new wife, which is fitting punishment, but a story for another day.)
3. In which he fights with Shiva, or hubris is a bitch
Brahma totally started thinking he was all that, and showing off about it to the other gods as well. There are two parts to this story — in the first, Brahma and Vishnu are competing with each other about who the better god is, and whose followers get punished less, when the Vedas declared that actually it was Shiva who ruled everything. Brahma got very angry at this and said, “Um, that's not cool, have you seen Shiva? His hair is all matted and he's kinda gross” to which the Vedas replied, “That's just a form he's taken on, actually, he's more powerful than either of you”. To which Brahma got very patronising and told Shiva he'd forgive him if he (Shiva) touched Brahma's feet and acknowledged him as his creator. Shiva, obviously was not taking this lying down, and cut off Brahma's fifth head, from on top of his skull, as punishment.
In the second telling of this story, Shiva created everything, including Brahma, and told Brahma to go ahead and create everything. Brahma began to worship Shiva and when Shiva asked him to ask for anything, he said, “I'd like you to be my son, instead of the other way round” to which Shiva agreed, but with a few legal loopholes. Brahma soon forgot all about this little deal and put on unbearable airs, refusing to bow to Shiva any more, and so Shiva neatly sliced off his top head with just his fingernail.
4. We'd all live forever if it wasn't for Brahma
It's true. He's the guy who created Death, who was so unhappy with her job description, she wept and begged, and stood in water for thousands of years and top of one toe on top of a mountain for millions, but he would not budge. Brahma: getting other people to do his dirty work since time began.
And there we have it. All of humanity was created by this, the most flawed of all the gods, which explains so much.
Read more from the 'Mythology for the Millennial' series here.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of several books, including The One Who Swam with the Fishes: Girls of the Mahabharata. She tweets @reddymadhavan
Updated Date: Dec 06, 2018 09:50 AM