|India Table of Contents
It is often said that the Hindu pantheon has three gods at its head: Brahma, the creator of the universe; Vishnu, the preserver of life; and Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance. Brahma is a representation of the impersonal brahman in a human form, usually with four faces facing the cardinal directions and four arms (see Karma and Liberation, this ch.). In reality, Brahma receives little devotion from worshipers, who may mention him in passing while giving their attention to the other main gods. There are few temples in India dedicated to him; instead, his image may stand in niches on the walls of temples built for other deities. Religious stories usually place Brahma as an intermediate authority who cannot handle a problem and passes it on to either Vishnu or Shiva. The concept of the trinity (trimurti ), expressed in beautiful art works or invoked even by believers, is in practice a philosophical construct that unites all deistic traditions within Hinduism into one overarching symbol.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress