BRAHMA, brii'ma. according to its com monest usage, the name of the Supreme Being, or Creator of the Universe, in the Hindu religion and philosophy. The Sanskrit word hrahman itself has three distinct phases, which are im portant to note: (1) brOman, neuter and ac cented on the first syllable, with nominative singular brdhausi, signifies exaltation, force, espe cially the power of prayer, devotion, worship; and later. holiness, spirit, the all-pervading es sence of the universe; (2) brahman, masculine and accented on the riltima, with nominative singular brah ma, denotes a personification of the latter. the Supreme Creator of the Universe; (3) bridiniiin. also masculine and similarly ac cented. denotes a priest. a Brahman. The first two meanings alone are considered here; for the third see Mimi:nits:ism: CASTE.
In the Rigveda brahma, neuter, signifies only tire power of prayer: in the later development of the Brahmanas and Upanishads (q.v.) it denotes the essence of the universe from which all creat ed things :ire evolved, and into which they are reabsorbed. The personified god Brahmii, mas culine• is a deified form of this absolute spirit, rind to know him is the step toward the higher knowledge of the impersonal and supreme soul. Brahma as a divine being represents creative activity, and he shares respectively with the other two members of the Hindu Trinity, Vishnu and Siva, in producing, maintaining, and dissolv ing the world. Asa formal triad this union is
of later origin in the development of Hindu mythology. The attribute of creative activity is ascribed to various gods in the older Vedic period; but in the stage of the Brahmarms, the father-god, Prajnpati, or Brahma, appears as the individual creator. In Mann (q.v.), i. seq., Brahma is described as self-existent and as evolv ing the world from all egg—the doctrine of the cosmic egg—and his existence endures for an tcon that is practically eternal. The representations of Brahma in Hindu mythology often show him as born in a lotus sprung from the navel of Vishnu. Five heads were originally assigned to him, but one was destroyed by Siva. His color is red and he rides upon a swan. The goddess Sarasvati, or eloquence personified, is his con sort. In the practice of the Hindu r ligion to day Brahma plays almost no part. Vishnu and Siva have supplanted this too abstract god. But in the reform spiritual movement of the Brahmo Somaj (q.v.), God is worshiped under the form of the ideal and supreme Brahma, which com prises the three manifestations of Brahma, Vish nu, and Siva. Consult H. W. Griswold, Brah man (New York, 1901, Macmillan). See I NDIA ;