From Academic Kids

In Hinduism, the Trimurti (also called the Hindu trinity) are three aspects of God in His forms as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This Trimurti concept is a tenet strongly held in Smartism.

The trimurti itself is conceived of as a deity and artistically represented as a three-faced human figure. Brahma is no longer as relevant as he once was, some would say the all-in-one Devi or Shakti, the Divine Mother or God's Power personified has replaced him.

According to the Trimurti belief, these aspects of God are simply different aspects and are one and the same God. In this manner, such beliefs are similar to some interpretations of the Trinity in Christianity, such as Sabellianism.

Swami Sivananda, in his book, All about Hinduism, noted that "Brahma represents the creative aspect; Vishnu, the preservative aspect; and Siva, the destructive aspect of Paramatman. These functions are akin to wearing different garbs on different occasions. For example, when you do the function of a judge, you put on one kind of dress. At home you wear another kind of dress. When you do worship in the temple, you wear another kind of dress. You exhibit different kinds of temperament on different occasions. Even so, the Lord does the function of creation when He is associated with Rajas, and He is called Brahma. He preserves the world when He is associated with Sattva Guna, and He is called Vishnu. He destroys the world when He is associated with Tamas Guna, and He is called Siva or Rudra."


Change of the Hindu Trinity

The definite settlement of the caste system and the Brahmanical supremacy must probably be assigned to somewhere about the close of the Brahmapa period. Division in their own ranks was hardly favorable to the aspirations of the priests at such a time; and the want of a distinct formula of belief adapted to the general drift of theological speculation, to which they could all rally, was probably felt the more acutely, the more determined a resistance the military class was likely to oppose to their claims. Side by side with the conception of the Brahman, the universal spiritual principle, with which speculative thought had already become deeply imbued, the notion of a Supreme Personal Being, the author of the material creation, had come to be considered by many as a necessary complement of the pantheistic doctrine. But, owing perhaps to his polytheistic associations and the attributive nature of his name, the person of Prajapati seems to have been thought but insufficiently adapted to represent this abstract idea. The expedient resorted to for solving the difficulty was as ingenious as it was characteristic of the Brahmanical aspirations. In the same way as the abstract denomination of sacerdotalism, the neuter brahman, had come to express the divine essence, so the old designation of the individual priest, the masculine term brahma, was raised to denote the supreme personal deity which was to take the place and attributes of the Prajapati of the Brahmanas and Upanishads.

However the new dogma may have answered the purposes of speculative minds, it was not one in which the people generally were likely to have been much concerned; an abstract, colorless deity like Brahman could awake no sympathies in the hearts of those accustomed to worship gods of flesh and blood. Indeed, ever since the symbolical worship of nature had undergone a process of disintegration under the influence of metaphysical speculation, the real belief of the great body of the people had probably become more and more distinct from that of the priesthood. In different localities the principal share of their affection may have been bestowed on one or another of the old gods who was thereby raised to the dignity of chief deity; or new forms and objects of belief may have sprung up with the intellectual growth of the people.

In some cases even the worship of the indigenous population could hardly have remained without exercising some influence in modifying the belief of the Aryan race. In this way a number of local deities would grow up, more or less distinct in name and characteristics from the gods of the Vedic pantheon. There is, indeed, sufficient evidence to show that, at a time when, after centuries of theological speculations, some little insight into the life and thought of the people is afforded by the literature handed down to us, such a diversity of worship did exist. Under these circumstances the policy which seems to have suggested itself to the priesthood, anxious to retain a firm hold in the minds of the people, was to recognize and incorporate into their system some of the most prominent objects of popular devotion, and thereby to establish a kind of creed for the whole community - subject to the Brahmanical law.

At the time of the original composition of the great epics two such deities, Shiva or Mahadeva ( the great god ) and Vishnu, seem to have been already admitted into the Brahmanical system, where they have ever since retained their place; and from the manner in which they are represented in those works, it would, indeed, appear that both, and especially the former, enjoyed an extensive worship. As several synonyms are attributed to each of them, it is not improbable that in some of these we have to recognize special names under which the people in different localities worshipped these gods, or deities of a similar nature which, by the agency of popular poetry, or in some other way, came to be combined with them. The places assigned to them in the pantheistic system were coordinate with that of Brahma; the three deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, were to represent a triple impersonation of the divinity, as manifesting itself respectively in the creation, preservation and destruction of the universe.

It is worthy of note that when the Vedic triad of Agni, Indra-Vayu and Surya was still recognized, attempts are made to identify this god of many names with Agni; and that in one passage in the Mahabrata it is stated that the Brahmins said that Agni was Siva.

Although such attempts at an identification of the two gods remained isolated, they would at least seem to point to the fact that, in adapting their speculations to the actual state of popular worship, the Brahmans kept the older triad distinctly in view, and by means of it endeavoured to bring their new structure into harmony with the ancient Vedic belief.

As regards Vishnu, this god occupies already a place in the Vedic mythology, though by no means one of such prominence as would entitle him to that degree of exaltation implied in his character as one of the three hypostases of the divinity. This belief is not universally held as there are many Vedic verses that utter the oppositive view, i.e., Vishnu's supremacy as a personal supreme God. Moreover, although in his general nature, as a benevolent, genial being, the Vedic god corresponds on the whole to the later Vishnu, the preserver of the world, the latter exhibits many important features for which we look in vain in his prototype, and which most likely resulted from sectarian worship or from an amalgamation with local deities. In one or two of them, such as his names Vasudeva and Vaikuntha, an attempt may again be traced to identify Vishnu with Indra, who, as we have seen, was one of the Vedic triad of gods. The characteristic feature of the elder Vishnu is his measuring the world with his three strides, which are explained as denoting either the three stations of the sun at the time of rising, culminating and setting, or the triple manifestation of the luminous element, as the fire on earth, the lightning in the atmosphere and the sun in the heavens. This three strides corresponds with the events that took place when Vishnu incarnated as Vamana.

The male nature of the triad was supposed to require to be supplemented by each of the three gods being associated with a female energy (Shakti). Thus Sarasvati, the goddess of speech and learning, came to be regarded as the Shakti, or consort of Brahma; Sri or Lakshmi, beauty, fortune, as that of Vishnu; and Uma or Parvati, the daughter of Himavat, the god of the Himalaya mountain, as that of Siva. On the other hand, it is not improbable that Parvati, who has a variety of other names, such as Kali ( the black one ), Durga ( the inaccssible, terrible one ), Mahadevi ( the great goddess ) enjoyed already a somewhat extensive worship of her own, and that there may thus have been good reason for assigning to her a prominent place in the Brahmanical system.

A compromise was thus effected between the esoteric doctrine of the metaphysical and some of the most prevalent forms of popular worship, resulting in what was henceforth to constitute the orthodox system of belief of the Brahmanical community. Yet the Vedic pantheon could not be altogether discarded, forming part and parcel, as it did, of that sacred revelation (shruti), which was looked upon as the divine source of all religious and social law, and being, moreover, the foundation of the sacrificial ceremonial on which the priestly authority so largely depended.

The existence of the old gods is, therefore, likewise recognized, but recognized in a very different way from that of the triple divinity. For while the triad represents the immediate manifestation of the eternal, infinite soul while it constitutes, in fact, the Brahman itself in its active relation to mundane and seemingly material occurrences, the old traditional gods are of this world, are individual spirits or portions of the Brahma-like men and other creatures, only higher in degree.

To them an intermediate sphere, the heaven of Indra (the svarloka or svarga), is assigned to which man may raise himself by fulfilling the holy ordinances; but they are subject to the same laws of being; they, like men, are liable to be born again in some lower state, and, therefore, like them, yearn for emancipation from the necessity of future individual existence. It is a sacred duty of man to worship these superior beings by invocations and sacrificial observances, as it is to honor the pitris (the fathers), the spirits of the departed ancestors.

See also

External links

Trimurti religious concept

Other uses

Trimurti can also refer to the trinity of Carnatic music, that is, Tyagaraja, Muttusvami Dikshitar and Syama Sastry.

Topics in Hinduism
Shruti (primary Scriptures): Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa (Ramayana & Mahabharata) | Agamas
Smriti (other texts): Tantras | Sutras | Puranas | Brahma Sutras | Hatha Yoga Pradipika | Smritis | Tirukural | Yoga Sutra
Concepts: Avatar | Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Ishta-Deva | Murti | Reincarnation | Samsara | Trimurti | Turiya
Schools & Systems: Schools of Hinduism | Early Hinduism | Samkhya | Nyaya | Vaisheshika | Yoga | Mimamsa | Vedanta | Tantra | Bhakti
Traditional Practices: Jyotish | Ayurveda
Rituals: Aarti | Bhajans | Darshan | Diksha | Mantras | Puja | Satsang | Stotras | Yajna
Gurus and Saints: Shankara | Ramanuja | Madhvacharya | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Sree Narayana Guru | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda | Chinmayananda | Sivaya Subramuniyaswami | Swaminarayan | A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Denominations: List of Hindu denominations
Vaishnavism | Saivism | Shaktism | Smartism | Agama Hindu Dharma | Contemporary Hindu movements | Survey of Hindu organisations

de:Trimurti fr:Trimūrti it:Trimurti nl:Trimurti pl:Trimurti pt:Trimurti sv:Trimurti


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