Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple: Trimurti – Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu

Sculptural reliefs depicting Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu on the outer wall of the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu in Karnataka, India

Trimurti – Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu

Trimurti – Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu
The sculptural relief shown in the image is on the exterior wall of the Hoysaleswara Temple and is one of the rare depictions in which all the three Gods of the Hindu Trinity are shown side-by-side. Shiva, the destroyer, is at the center, flanked by Vishnu, the preserver, to his left, and Brahma, the creator, is to his right. According to Hindu mythology, the combination of these three Gods bring balance and stability to the universe.

As you can see, the Trimurti are wearing elegant dresses and stylish jewelry, including necklaces, anklets, armbands and udiyana (waistband). They are also wearing the yajnopavita, a looped thread sacred to Hindus worn across the chest from the left shoulder to the waist. There are two beautifully carved female figures – presumably their consorts – on either side of each God.

This is an unusual depiction of Shiva. His incarnations carry a variety of objects that include trishula (trident), shula (sharp knife), kapala danda (staff with a skullcup), ghanta (bell), and damaru (drum-like musical instrument). Often, he is shown with a serpent (nāga) around his neck.

In this depiction, Shiva has four arms and two of which are partly broken. One of his left hands carry a japamāla (prayer beads), and one of his right hands carry a damaru, a drum-like instrument.

As you can see from the image, Brahma has three heads (the assumption is that the fourth head [facing east] is not visible), and four arms, two on each side.

He is carrying a spoon (used for pouring ghee into the yagna pyre) and japamāla (prayer beads) with his two right hands, One of his left hands is missing and likely carried a kamandala (water jug). The other left hand carries a book (Vedas).

Although Brahma is the creator in Hindu mythology, he is not worshiped as widely as Vishnu or Shiva. There are very few temples dedicated to Brahma in the world. The Brahma Temple in Prambanan (in Yogyakarta, Indonesia) is one of the few temples dedicated to Brahma. The other well-known Brahma Temple is in Pushkar, Rajasthan, India.

Vishnu, the preserver, is typically depicted as a man with four arms, each holding one of the following four objects:

  1. Shanka : It is a conch shell named Panchajanya that emerged as a by-product during the Samudra Manthana. It was responsible for the creation of the panchabhootas (five elements), which are: water, fire, earth, and sky. When blown, it produces a giant primeval sound.
  2. Chakra: It is a disc-like weapon with serrated edges named Sudarshana (which means a good view). When fired, it spins and moves with a rapid force to destroy evil and then returns to Vishnu.
  3. Gadaa: It is a mace named Kaumodaki and represents strength
  4. Padma: It is a sacred lotus flower that represents beauty, purity, and evolution

The order in which Vishnu holds his objects vary. With four hands, there are a total of 24 combinations, and sometimes a combination indicates a particular form of Vishnu.

Vishnu has ten standard avatars. For a list and explanation of them, check the Dashavatara (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) mural painted on the ceiling of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.

Related Pages
Hoysala Temples
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple
Bracket Figures, Navaranga, Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole
Vijayanagara Temples
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Khmer Temples in Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Banteay Srei, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Bayon
Monuments in Indonesia
Prambanan Temples, Prambanan Bas-Reliefs

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