Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 37

BY: SUN STAFF - 30.1 2018


Garbhodakasayi Visnu, Brahma and Laksmi

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.


The Birth of Lord Brahma

In today's segment, we consider a unique class of temples where Lord Brahma is worshipped – with Garbhodakasayi Visnu as the presiding deity, in reclining form on Sesanaga, and Brahma on a lotus, attached to his navel. There are undoubtedly many temples in India where such deities reside, or where murtis are found depicting this scene, and we can't begin to survey them all here. A few notable examples are found in Tamil Nadu, for example, at the Sri Kolavilli Ramar Temple in Thiruvelliyankudi.

The deity of Garbhodakasayi Visnu giving birth to Lord Brahma at Thiruvelliyankudi is a configuration typical of murtis and images depicting this pastime: The Lord is found in a reclining pose, often called Perumal or Srinivasa. Markandeya Rishi often appears near the Lord’s head, Bhumi Devi (Laksmi) at his feet, and Brahmadeva on his lotus flower, attached to Visnu's naval by the lotus stem. Garuda is often present as well.

A similar example is found in Padmanabhapuram, near Trivandrum, at the Anantapadmanabha- swamy temple. The presiding deity, Ananta-padma-nabha-swamy, refers to Garbhodakasayi Visnu (swamy) who lies on Sesa (ananta), and from whose navel (nabha) the lotus (padma) emerges upon which Lord Brahma appears. Another notable example is the Ranganatha Temple in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. The presiding deity there is a 10 foot long Garbhodakasayi Vishnu (Ranganathaswami) reclining on Ananta Sesa. Laksmi Devi is sitting on a lotus flower on his chest. Lord Brahma is sitting on the lotus of creation, rising from the Lord's navel. Sitting at the Lord's feet are Sridevi and Bhudevi. There is also a seated four-handed Laksmi Devi, who is called Ranga-nayaki-devi, the consort of Ranganatha-swami.


There are a many excellent sastric descriptions of the birth of Lord Brahma to consider. In the Brahma Samhita, which explains the Lord in His original Maha-Visnu form, the pastimes of Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and the birth and initiation of Lord Brahma are discussed. We also find descriptions of Brahma's birth in Srimad Bhagavatam, and in Srila Prabhupada's Krsna Book.

In Srila Prabhupada's purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.5 we find an excellent description of Garbhodakasayi Visnu and the manifestation of Lord Brahma and the demigods:

"The purusa, after creating innumerable universes in the mahat-tattva, entered in each of them as the second purusa, Garbhodakasayi Visnu. When He saw that within the universe there was only darkness and space, without a resting place, He filled half of the universe with water from His own perspiration and laid Himself down on the same water. This water is called Garbhodaka. Then from His navel the stem of the lotus flower sprouted, and on the flower petals the birth of Brahma, or the master engineer of the universal plan, took place. Brahma became the engineer of the universe, and the Lord Himself took charge of the maintenance of the universe as Visnu.

Brahma was generated from rajo-guna of prakrti, or the mode of passion in nature, and Visnu became the Lord of the mode of goodness. Visnu, being transcendental to all the modes, is always aloof from materialistic affection. This has already been explained. From Brahma there is Rudra (Siva), who is in charge of the mode of ignorance or darkness. He destroys the whole creation by the will of the Lord. Therefore all three, namely Brahma, Visnu and Siva, are incarnations of the Garbhodakasayi Visnu. From Brahma the other demigods like Daksa, Marici, Manu and many others become incarnated to generate living entities within the universe.

This Garbhodakasayi Visnu is glorified in the Vedas in the hymns of Garbha-stuti, which begin with the description of the Lord as having thousands of heads, etc. The Garbhodakasayi Visnu is the Lord of the universe, and although He appears to be lying within the universe, He is always transcendental. This also has already been explained. The Visnu who is the plenary portion of the Garbhodakasayi Visnu is the Supersoul of the universal life, and He is known as the maintainer of the universe or Ksirodakasayi Visnu. So the three features of the original purusa are thus understood. And all the incarnations within the universe are emanations from this Ksirodakasayi Visnu.

In different millennia there are different incarnations, and they are innumerable, although some of them are very prominent, such as Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Rama, Nrsimha, Vamana and many others. These incarnations are called lila incarnations. Then there are qualitative incarnations such as Brahma, Visnu, and Siva (or Rudra) who take charge of the different modes of material nature.

Lord Visnu is nondifferent from the Personality of Godhead. Lord Siva is in the marginal position between the Personality of Godhead and the living entities, or jivas. Brahma is always a jiva-tattva. The highest pious living being, or the greatest devotee of the Lord, is empowered with the potency of the Lord for creation, and he is called Brahma. His power is like the power of the sun reflected in valuable stones and jewels. When there is no such living being to take charge of the post of Brahma, the Lord Himself becomes a Brahma and takes charge of the post.

Lord Siva is not an ordinary living being. He is the plenary portion of the Lord, but because Lord Siva is in direct touch with material nature, he is not exactly in the same transcendental position as Lord Visnu. The difference is like that between milk and curd. Curd is nothing but milk, and yet it cannot be used in place of milk."

Visnu on Adhisesa
Teluga, South India, c. 1826

In Srila Prabhupada's purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 2.10.28 we find a more technical description of the process of Lord Brahma's birth: 

"The prana-vayu continues the life, and the apana-vayu stops the living force. Both the vibrations are generated from the abdominal hole, the navel. This navel is the joint from one body to the other. Lord Brahma was born of the abdominal hole of Garbhodakasayi Visnu as a separate body, and the same principle is followed even in the birth of any ordinary body. The body of the child develops from the body of the mother, and when the child is separated from the body of the mother, it is separated by cutting the navel joint. And that is the way the Supreme Lord manifested Himself as separated many. The living entities are therefore separated parts, and thus they have no independence."

In Srimad Bhagavatam 3.28.25 we read further:

"The yogi should then meditate on His moonlike navel in the center of His abdomen. From His navel, which is the foundation of the entire universe, sprang the lotus stem containing all the different planetary systems. The lotus is the residence of Brahma, the first created being. In the same way, the yogi should concentrate his mind on the Lord's nipples, which resemble a pair of most exquisite emeralds and which appear whitish because of the rays of the milk-white pearl necklaces adorning His chest."

The yogi is advised next to meditate upon the navel of the Lord, which is the foundation of all material creation. Just as a child is connected to his mother by the umbilical cord, so the first-born living creature, Brahma, by the supreme will of the Lord, is connected to the Lord by a lotus stem. In the previous verse it was stated that the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, who engages in massaging the legs, ankles and thighs of the Lord, is called the mother of Brahma, but actually Brahma is born from the abdomen of the Lord, not from the abdomen of his mother. These are inconceivable conceptions of the Lord, and one should not think materially, "How can the father give birth to a child?'"

In Chapter 14 of Krsna Book, we read about Lord Brahma admitting to Sri Krsna that he is puffed up, due to his powerful position:

"Lord Brahma then admitted that his birth was from the lotus flower which blossomed from the navel of Narayana after the dissolution of the three worlds, or three planetary systems, known as Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka. The universe is divided into three divisions, namely Svarga, Martya and Patala. These three planetary systems are merged into water at the time of dissolution. At that time Narayana, the plenary portion of Krsna, lies down on the water and gradually a lotus stem grows from His navel, and from that lotus flower, Brahma is born. It is naturally concluded that the mother of Brahma is Narayana. Because the Lord is the resting place of all the living entities after the dissolution of the universe, He is called Narayana. The word nara means the aggregate total of all living entities, and ayana means the resting place."

Finally, we would like to share with our readers the lyrics of a beautiful prayer entitled Sri Venkatesa-mahatmyam, the prayers to Srinivasa (Garbhodakasayi Vishnu). Translated from Tamil, the song describes the glorification offered by Laksmi Devi, Lord Brahma and Adishesa, who are enamored with the Lord's beautiful feet.

The great sage Suta narrated the story of Devasarma, a student of Vayudeva who was a great devotee of Lord Sri Visnu (Srinivasa). Following are excerpts of Devasarma's prayer in glorification of Sri Garbhodakasayi Vishnu.

Garbhodakasayi Vishnu
Lithography, Ravi Varma Studioes

Sri Venkatesa-mahatmyam

O Lord! You are the one who has a lotus in your naval the birth place of Brahma. You are the Lord of Goddess Laksmi. You are prayed by Braham, Rudra, Devemdra and toher Deities. You are the person who has the garland of lotus flowers hanging from you, neck to feet. You are the lotus eyed person. You have four hands: SamKam, cakra, lotus in three of your hands and the fourth hand is always ready to bless the devotees (abayahasta).

The popular saying is: "Goddess Laksmi, being the servant of the Lord, was in the form of water and from the Lord's naval, a beautiful golden lotus blossomed from which Brahma was born." (1.45)

O Lord, the prompter for my good and austere deeds, indeed it is very difficult and at the same time amazing to describe the grace and grandeur of your feet. However, I am prompted by you and hence, I will try to translate my thoughts into appropriate descriptive words. (2.1)

O Lord! Even thought the extremely beautiful Goddess Laksmi is residing at Your heart, She amorously and admiringly looks at Your feet, which are much more graceful and handsome than Her beauty. (2.2)

Thus, extremely amazed, Goddess Laksmi felt, "It is impossible to see the beauty of Your handsome feet with my two eyes. I will multiply myself into three different forms simultaneously and have a better look at your handsome feet (with my six eyes, of course)." (2.3)

With great enthusiasm, Goddess Laksmi took three forms simultaneously to have six eyes: 1) as Srirupa on the left side; 2) as Bhudevi on the right side; 3) as Durga up front. (2.4)

Sri Laksmi Devi, disenchanted with other things, She starts staring at the beauty of Your feet all the time. In spite of her constantly staring at the beauty of Your graceful feet, she is not fully satisfied. She untiringly keeps on staring at the beauty of Your graceful feet, being completely immersed in the ocean of blissful happiness. (2.5)

The most handsome Srinivasa (one who prompts the Goddess Laksmi and one who is the residence for Her)! Even though the four-faced deity Brahma is sitting at the most important place, the naval of Your body, He is extremely excited to see the beauty of Your Graceful feet with the utmost keenness and concentration. (2.6)

Even though the four-faced deity Brahma is enjoying the sight of Your Gracious and handsome feet with His eight eyes, He is still not satisfied. He felt, "I cannot fully enjoy the sight of Your handsome and Graceful feet with these eight eyes and hence, I should appear in several forms simultaneously to enjoy the blessed sight." (2.7)

The four-faced deity Brahma multiplies himself to appear in different forms at the same time to enjoy the sight of Your Gracious and handsome feet through thousands of eyes: 1) as Kaustuba Mani (a celebrated gem which appeared at the time of churning the milky ocean for obtaining immortal nectar) around Your neck; 2) as at your naval; 3) in Svetadvipa, Anamtaram, and Vaikuntham (the three abodes of Sri Visnu); 4) in Satyaloka, etc. (i.e., in Saptadvipa, the seven islands whose description is covered in Mahabhagavatam in detail); 5) in Meru Mountain, and all other places, etc. (2.8)

The deity Brahma is not fully satisfied even after constantly looking day and night at Your Graceful and handsome feet with thousands of his eyes, because the sight is so overwhelmingly blissful and enjoying it cannot even be obtained by drinking the so-called immortal nectar. (2.9)

The deity Adisesha serves as the resting bed, comfortable seat, umbrella for a nice shade, the comfortable shoes as well as other comforting utilities for You. He, being very near to You, is always worshipping Your feet and enjoying the blessed sight of Your Graceful and handsome feet with His thousand eyes. Still He thinks, "My Lord Srinivasa's feet are amazingly awesome, Graceful, extremely handsome and superb to look at. The sight is unique and is unbelievably incomprehensible as well as a supremely sanctifying one, with all the special virtues enumerated in several Puranas and Sastras. It is inexplicably surcharged with sublime divinity and hence, should be regarded with great reverence and devotion. Even the most universally mind-capturing handsome Srinivasa is also disturbed by His own awesome beauty." (2.10-12)