The Supreme Being or God of the Hindu religion is the personal form of the Ultimate Reality. It is considered to have many characteristics, individual deities each representing a particular aspect of the Supreme Being. Each Hindu deity shares an existence with the Supreme Being and therefore Hindu worship is considered a monotheistic polytheism and not simple polytheism. Hindus believe there is only one Supreme Being and He is the God of all religions and that the cosmic activity of the Supreme Being involves creation, preservation, and dissolution and recreation. These three tasks are associated with the three deities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. They are called Sat-Tat-Aum, the Being, the Word, or the Holy Spirit. Lord Brahma brings creation and represents the creative principle of the Supreme Being. Lord Vishnu maintains the universe and represents the eternal principle of preservation. Lord Shiva represents the principle of dissolution and recreation. Together, these three deities represent the trimutri (Hindu trinity). Brahma,Vishnu, and Shiva represent the same power (the Supreme Being), but in three different aspects-the Divine in its threefold nature and function. Each aspect of the trinity contains and includes the others. As such, the Supreme Being is called Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva when performing the tasks of creation, preservation, and dissolution/recreation.
Hindus call Lord Brahma the Creator of the universe as He symbolizes creation. His divine consort is Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and knowledge, who provides Lord Brahma with knowledge necessary for the process of creation. As creation is the work of the mind and the intellect, Lord Brahma symbolizes the Universal Mind and the individual's own mind and intellect. Since most are born with a gift for intellect, not many feel the need to worship Brahma. Instead, Brahma is worshipped by seekers of knowledge, such as students, teachers, scholars, and scientists. Brahma is usually represented as a bearded, four-faced, fourarmed deity. In popular images, He carries a rosary in the upper right hand, a book in the upper left hand, a kamandalu (water pot) in the lower left hand, and bestows grace with His lower right hand. The four faces represent the sacred knowledge of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva) symbolizing that Brahma is the source of all knowledge necessary for the creation of the universe.
The four arms represent the four directions and thus represent the omnipresence and omnipotence of Lord Brahma. The four hands represent the four aspects of human personality, including the mind (back right hand), the intellect (back left hand), the ego (front right hand), and the empirical self or conditioned consciousness (front left hand). The rosary symbolizes time and the cycle through which the world moves from creation to sustenance, from sustenance to dissolution, and from dissolution to new creation. The rosary also represents the materials used in creation. The rosary's position in the back right hand suggests these materials are used in an intelligent way in creation. A book in the back hand represents that accurate information is important for any kind of creative work. A water pot (kamandalu) in the front left hand symbolizes the energy Lord Brahma uses to create the universe. The front right hand, symbolizing the ego, is shown in a pose bestowing grace, meaning that the Lord Brahma bestows grace and protects all true devotees.
In terms of the colors used to represent Lord Brahma, the golden face of Brahma indicates that the Lord is active when involved in the process of creation. The white beard represents wisdom, and the long beard represents the idea that creation is a process that goes on for eternity. The crown on the head of the Lord represents that Brahma has supreme power and authority over the process of creation. Brahma wears white clothes, representing the dual nature of creation (e.g., purity and impurity, happiness and unhappiness, vice and virtue, knowledge and ignorance). The lotus upon which Brahma stands or sits represents that Brahma symbolizes the creative power of the Supreme Reality. The swan upon which Brahma transports himself is a symbol of the power of discrimination and therefore represents the idea that although creation is pluralistic, there is only one Supreme Reality.
Lord Vishnu represents the part of the Supreme Reality that preserves and sustains the universe. His consort is Lakshmi, the Goddess of love, beauty, and delight. Vishnu is generally symbolized by a human body with four arms and in His hands He carries a conch (shankha), a mace (gada), and a discus (chakra). He also is commonly presented wearing a crown, two earrings, a garland (mala) of flowers, and a gem around His neck. He has a blue body and wears yellow clothes. Vishnu stands on a 1,000-headed snake (named Shesha Nag).
The four arms represent Vishnu's omnipresence and omnipotence, and the two arms in the front represent His activity in the physical world. The two arms in the back represent His activity in the spiritual world. The right side of the body represents the creative activities of the mind, and the left symbolizes the activities of the heart. The conch indicates that the Lord communicates with His devotees with love and understanding; the chakra in His upper right hand represents the idea that Vishnu protects His devotees from evil; and the mace signifies that Vishnu protects the world by the energy within Him. His front right hand is depicted bestowing grace on His devotees.
The snake denotes the mind and the thousand heads of the snake signify innumerable desires and passions of an individual. Just as a snake destroys its victim by its venom, an uncontrolled mind destroys the world by the venom of its possessiveness. The Lord has controlled all desires, and this is symbolized by showing Him seated on the two coils of the snake. When a sincere devotee of the Lord controls his desires, the Lord fulfills the devotee's genuine desires and helps him on his path. The blue sky represents that He pervades the entire universe and His blue body that He has infinite attributes. The yellow clothes Vishnu wears represent that He is on earth to uphold righteousness and destroy evil. The garland around His neck is a symbol of the devotee's adoration; the gem on His neck a symbol that Vishnu fulfills the desires and needs of His devotees; and, the crown a symbol of His supreme power and authority. The earrings represent the dual nature of creation (e.g., knowledge and ignorance, happiness and unhappiness, and pleasure and pain).