This is question about pictorial representation of various gods, especially their facial hair.

Brahma has a full beard & moustache. But Vishnu (including RAma, Krishna incarnations) and Shankara are picturized clean shaven. Was there any puranic reference to their appearance or may be classical painters like Ravi Varma imagined in a certain way and it caught on?
In case of Ganesha or Hanuman, who are also without facial hair, the ancient descriptions are so vivid that deity's swaroopa visualization has never been a problem to us.

  • 2
    Well frankly speaking you don't need God's appearance or form to worship.:) As Sri Krishn said that he has no form but he takes incarnation when ever necessary. Aug 24, 2017 at 9:29
  • 2
    I also got this doubt and asked this question - Related Why is Brahma depicted as old in pictures?. Actually, Brahma is not an old and doesn't have white beard and moustache. It is only artistic license. He is normal and young like any other deities. Aug 24, 2017 at 9:43
  • Beard, moustache and clean shave is mostly artistic licence. Skanda Purana says Shiva had beard after Sati's death..
    – The Destroyer
    Aug 24, 2017 at 15:23
  • This is just hearsay from elders - Brahma is affectionately known as pitamaha (or grandfather) - since he created everyone, he is the oldest of us all, so he is depicted with a beard. Vishnu is nitya-yuva (always young), even though he created Brahma, so he is depicted clean-shaven. Shiva is already depicted with Jata (mattlocks of hair), so why add beard also ? We can imagine Gods as we want, it is upto individual devotion (Bhakti)
    – ram
    Aug 24, 2017 at 23:24
  • Liked this one about man made gods,, well, almost.
    – Narasimham
    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


The appearance of various deities is divined by RSi's and described in dhyAna zlOkAs of various mantrAs/stOtrAs and vedic verses.

For e.g., viSNu is described as "zAntAkAram bhujaga zayanam, padmanAbham gagana sadRzam" and "mEgha zyAmam, pIta kauzEya vAsam, zrIvatsAnkam, punDarIkAkSam" etc., You will find these descriptions in the beginning of viSNu sahasranAma stOtram.

Similarly, ziva in his dakSiNAmurti form is described as " mauna vyAkhyA prakaTita parabramha tatvam, yuvAnam, karakalita cinmudram, mudita vadanam " etc.

Also the vedic mantra "trayambakam yajAmahe" describes the appearance of Lord Shiva.

There are many purANAs also that describe the appearance of the divine. For e.g., the form of nArAyaNa that appeared to dhRva is described in detail in the bhagavata purana.

The hymn to mahAlakSmi composed by Indra, viz, "namastEstu mahAmAye" describes the goddess in detail.

In general, rishis' and devatas' compositions expound and extol the rupa ( form), guna (attributes) and lIla (divine sport) of the deities and are a result of their visualisation which in turn in the result of their penance.

  • 3
    why zlOKAs instead of shlOKAs?
    – ram
    Aug 24, 2017 at 23:23
  • 1
    Yes, why halfway? why not mahAlakzmI instead of mahalakSmi when Siva is ziva? Likewise rupa rather than rUpa, guNa rather than guna, and bhAgavata purANa rather than bhagavata purana? And what should be used when a noun is plural? It is purANA: or a plural of purANa, but purANAs is confusing as we are using half od the sanskrit plural with the english plural. And we have only one 'o' in Sanskrit. Aug 24, 2017 at 23:57
  • That said, it is definitely a good attempt. Aug 25, 2017 at 0:00
  • @ram HK scheme transliterates to z (as in zankara), s (as in samskritam) and S (as in Sanmukha) all three different.
    – user1195
    Aug 25, 2017 at 2:25
  • @user1952500 You are right - I need to be thorough. Regarding plurals etc., it is better not to use perfect sanskrit grammar as it will likely be lost on most readers. And it is mahAlakSmi not lakzmi
    – user1195
    Aug 25, 2017 at 2:26

First, the Gopala-Purva-Taaapani Sruti(1/2) says, Sri Krishna is ever-young

Gopavesham avraabham TARUNAM kalpadrumasritam.

Brihat-Bhagavataamritam(2/5/122) says

vayas cha tachchaishavashovayashritam sadaa tathaa jauvanaleelayadritam/ manojna-kaishora-dasha-avalamvitam pratikshanam nutanam nutanam gunair.

In the commentary of the above sloka, Srila Sanatana Goswami writes:

Sri Krishna is ever-young(chira-kishora), ever-beautiful and always without mustache and beard.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam(3/28/17), Sri Kapila says to His mother Devi Devahuti that 'Graceful God is always ever-young'. (Reference: Mahaprabhu Sri Gauranga, Radhagovinda Nath, Sadhana Prakashani, page 146-147).

So Vishnu and His incarnations are always depicted without beard and mustache (probably the only exception is the image at Sri Parthasarathy temple Chennai.)

Other forms of Gods and Goddesses are also mostly depicted as young as that is mentioned in their dhyanamantras. For example, the dhyana-mantra of Devi Durga in Kalika-Purana and Brihat Nandikeswara-Purana and quoted in the Puja-Paddhati book mention Her as 'Nava-yauvana-sampanna'. The complexion, number of arms, the astras etc are almost always explicitly mentioned in the dhyana-mantras.

Devi Dhumavati of the Dasa-Mahavidyas is depiceted as aged as per Her dhyana-mantra. (Reference: Sastramulak Bharatiya Shaktisadhana, Upendrakumar Das,Vol 1, chapter 11. The appendix gives dhyanamantras of Devis).

Brahma is shown with beard in many images probably because He is generally referred to as Grand-father (Pitamaha).

Regarding Hanumanji, I did see different types of images, with and without beard and the mantras composed by Tulsidasji do not mention it clearly so far as I know.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .