Well, except the big one in the city of Pushkar, which we’ll get to shortly.

“Shrine, shrine, everywhere a shrine.” A small Shiva shrine in Jaipur, 2010.

Hinduism has a huge, colorful pantheon of gods and goddesses–some say 330 million!  The three main players, if you’ll excuse my casualness, are Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu.   There are temples to Shiva, Vishnu, and seemingly countless other deities all over India, from grand, ornate temple to small, simple curbside altars–sometimes just a candle and a picture.  However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Brahma temple in the mix.  There are a few reasons for this that I’ve run across.

Rather than paraphrase, here’s the story as found on nuhindusociety.org:

According to Puranas, once the other two of the triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over each other’s prowess. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a flaming Linga in between Brahma and Vishnu and challenged both of them by asking them to measure the gigantic Lingam (symbol of Lord Shiva).

Awestruck by its magnitude, Brahma and Vishnu decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and went upwards while Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha–a boar–and went into the earth towards nether land. Both searched for thousands of miles but neither could find the end.

On his journey upward, Brahma came across Ketaki flower. Exhausted and bewildered with his search to find the uppermost limit of fiery column, Brahma made Ketaki assent to lie that he had seen the top of the column where the flower had previously resided. Accompanied by his accomplice, Brahma confronted Vishnu and asserted that he had indeed discovered the origin of the cosmic column.

At this point, the central part of the pillar split open and Shiva revealed himself in his full glory. Overawed, both Brahma and Vishnu bowed before him accepted lord Shiva’s supremacy. Lord Shiva also explained to Brahma and Vishnu that both of them were born out of him and that the three were then separated out into three different aspects of divinity.

However, Lord Shiva was angry with Brahma for making a false claim. The Lord cursed Brahma that no one would ever pray to him. (This legend explains why there is hardly any Brahma temple of significance in India.) Lord Shiva also punished the Ketaki flower for testifying falsely and banned her from being used as an offering for any worship.

Liar liar pants on fire, huh?  That’s one moralistic tale which might allude to the lack of Brahma temples.  Here’s another rationale, from rivr.sulekha.com::

Brahma temples are rare. Why is Lord Brahma not ritualistically worshiped like the Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu across the peninsular India? Sanskrit literature is full of metaphoric stories including the one where Shiva is supposed to have cursed Brahma that he shall not be worshiped on Earth.  Metaphorical stories are a peculiarity of the Sanskrit literature. The job of these stories is to motivate members of the society to do a certain thing or to deter them from doing certain other thing.

The true philosophical reason why Brahma is not worshiped like the other deities is as under: Worship involves faith and faith to certain degree means accepting supremacy of someone without questioning. Brahma, on the other hand, represents true knowledge. …Knowledge and faith are philosophically antithetical concepts. …. Ichnographically,  Brahma  is shown sitting on a blue lotus flower (Pushkara in Sanskrit). Anyone who is familiar with lotus will know that they bloom through a complicated network of root system submerged in the soft mud. This muddy foundation of the Lotus  flower is an artists pictogram of  intellectual ferment.

Ritualistic  worship of Brahma who is an embodiment of the true knowledge, would have been a philosophical contradiction….

What unsettled my intellectual sensibilities is that the media coverage claimed that offering Pooja at the Pushkara temple of Brahma washes all the sins and leads to wish fulfillment. A gross trivialisation of a thought. Acquisition of true knowledge neither washes the sins nor does it fulfill wishes because acquisition of such a true knowledge makes both these aspects irrelevant.

As Brahma represents knowledge, and knowledge and faith seem to dominate opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum, having Brahma temples would be an oxymoron of sorts.

image courtesy of indiatraveldiary.com

That said, there is one primary Brahma temple in Pushkar, a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.  The temple’s current structure is believed to be about 700 years old, although the temple site and previous structures have been there for 2000 years.  BJ visited while in Pushkar in 1995, and we are leading a private tour to this area in early 2013.  We’re very excited to once again visit this rarity and treasure of a Brahma temple!




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