Among the Trinity of the cosmos, Lord Vishnu represents the sattva quality that is the cohesive and centripetal tendency. This centripetal force infusing more concentration and tending everything towards light and towards truth holds the universe together. Vishnu as his manifestation of the boar supports the earth and thus plunges to the nadir.
The Gopala-uttara-tapini Upanishad lays down the main features of Vishnu – Vishnu speaks, “My feet have lines forming a celestial standard, a royal parasol. On my chest are the lock of hair, Shri-vatsa (Beloved-of-fortune) and the shining jewel Kaustabha (Treasure-of-the-ocean). In my four hands are a conch, a discuss, a mace, and a bow or a lotus. My arms are adorned with armlets. I wear a garland, a shining diadem, and earrings shaped like sea monsters”. The four arms of Vishnu depict the fulfillment of manifestations in all the realms of existence, the four phases integral to every form of development of life. His lower right hand represents the revolving or creative tendency and holding a conch is symbolic of the five elements.
His right hand represents the cohesive tendency. He holds a discuss shining with the radiance of sun, symbolises the mind. His upper left hand connotes the tendency towards dispersion and liberation. The bow in his hand alludes the casual power of illusion from which the universe has taken shape. Sometimes in the same hand (upper left) instead of a bow, he holds a lotus to symbolise the moving universe. The lower left hand represents the idea of individual existence. The mace in the hand reckons âdya vidyâ that is primeval-knowledge.
Dharmaraja, the god of death, is the sovereign of the infernal world. He is the embodiment of dharma remaining amenable to pity. He is the pretaraja, king of ghosts. Mahabharata says, ‘He who controls all beings without distinction is Yama, the builder!’ Yama depicts danda, punishment – the eternal law forming the edifice upon which the universe remains, for ‘the whole world rests on the law,’ says the Mahabharata. He is the judge, restrainer and punisher of the dead. As the ruler of the southern direction, Yama is called Dakshinapati, Lord of the South. Dharmaraja edicts a code of ethics – Dharma Shastra. He resides in the South at the end of the earth under the earth in darkness. His city has four gates. The judgement hall is the Kâlâci, the hall-of-destiny. Yama sits there, upon the Vicâra-bhû, the throne-of-deliberation. Samyamini is the city-of-bondage where Chitragupta is his scribe.
Yama has a fearful and a grim appearance. He has dark green complexion and is dressed in blood red garments. He holds a noose and a staff among other things. He often rides a black buffalo and at times he himself becomes one. When he is reckoned with kala (time), he is shown as an old man with a sword and a shield. To the virtuous, he however appears as Vishnu. To the sinner, his limbs appear three hundred leagues long. Yama’s charioteer is roga (sickness) and he owns two four-eyed dogs who are his messangers. His twin sister Yami appeared on the earth as the river Yamuna. Yama married ten of the daughters of Daksha. Interestingly Iran too has Yima considered to be their first man and first king.
Lord Brahma exemplifies brinhati vardhayari prajah iti that is one who increases the beings. So he is the srishta. Mundaka Upanishad variously calls him as – Hiranyagarbha (golden embryo) and Prajapati (lord of progeny). Brahma is the source of all knowledge and his consort is Saraswati. Being the creating principle Brahma is not usually worshipped. Maitri Samhita conjectures Brahma to bear four faces sitting on a lotus. His four arms hold the four Vedas. His vehicle is the goose, symbol of knowledge.
In Hindu cosmology, the cosmos passes through a measure of time called kalpa or ‘day of Brahma’ equivalent to 4,320 million years. A night is also of equal length, and 360 days and nights of this duration form one year of Brahma’s life.
(The author is a freelance writer with varied interests reachable at [email protected].)