In Hinduism, there are three supreme gods, Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh (Shiva). Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the protector, and Shiva is the destroyer.
But how were these gods born? Did the Supreme Lord (Brahman) make them?
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Basically by asking "How were Trimurthis born?" This question is asking "Who is the originator of whom?" Or "Who is the Ishwara?" Several answers are given here, but most of them are only from their perspective. Here I present all perspectives of all Trimurty.
Yajurveda Shatapatha Brahmana 126.96.36.199
- Verily, Prajâpati [Brahma] alone was here in the beginning. He desired, 'May I exist, may I reproduce myself!' He toiled, he practised austerity (or, became heated). From him, worn out and heated, the waters were created: from that heated Person the waters are born.
As it clearly says 'Brahma' alone was there. So, there is no question of being someone (Vishnu/ ShivaLinga) to produce him. He self existed as per his desire.
As he wished 'May I reproduce' he started creation. So, 2.6.1 of Taittariya Upanishad applies to Brahma:
2.6.1 He (the Self) wished, “Let me be many, let me be born. He undertook a deliberation. Having deliberated, he created all this that exists. That (Brahman), having created (that), entered into that very thing. And having entered there, It became the formed and the formless, the defined and the undefined.."
So, Brahma is himself the 'Brahman'. He is the self of all. So, everything we see and perceive is simply just him. So, Brahma is the Ishwara. He desires so he is also Intellectual cause of creation. He created water, foam, gods... etc. So, he is Material cause also. So, Krishna saying in Gita "No one knows my origin. I'm without beginning... etc.." simply applies to this eternal Self only. Thus Brahma alone created all. There was no one in beginning to create him. He self-existed.
Mahopanishad of Samaveda
I-1-4. Then we shall expound the Mahopanishad. They say Narayana was alone. There were not Brahma, Shiva, Waters, Fire and Soma, Heaven and Earth, Stars, Sun and Moon. He could not be happy. From the (desire of) the Paramatman, the Yajnastoma (hymn known as Avyakta) is said to have arisen.
As it clearly says Narayana alone was there. So he is the creator of all. Also in Taittariya Aranyaka of Yajurveda 10.13.
Narayana is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman. Narayana is the highest (Self). Narayana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the infinite Self. [Narayana is the most excellent meditator and meditation.] Whatsoever there is in this world known through perception (because of their proximity) or known through report (because of their distance), all that is pervaded by Narayana within and without.
As it says "whatsoever in world is simply Narayana"... so the stories describing creation by Brahma and Shiva are simply the creation by Narayana as everything is Narayana. Vaishnav Puranas mention this thing as:
Narayan alone was there ---- He appeared as sleeping in water--Lotus bud came from his Navel ---- It was sum total of fruitive activity of living entity --- Vishnu entered as supersoul in that lotus bud --- He impregnated it with material modes of nature--- Then Brahma was born there---- During the creation process he became angry--- Rudra emerged from the forehead of angry Brahma--- and so on the creation continued...
Srimad Bhagvatam 3.8, Srimad Bhagvatam 3.12
So, from above Lord Vishnu himself is the creator of Trimurty.
Svetasvatara Upanishad of Krishna YajurVeda (which is considered among the principle 12 Upanishads) declares this:
Rudra is truly one; for the knowers of Brahman do not admit the existence of a second, He alone rules all the worlds by His powers. He dwells as the inner Self of every living being. After having created all the worlds, He, their Protector, takes them back into Himself at the end of time. [Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.2]
As there is no second. So, stories denoting creation by Vishnu and Brahma are simply Rudra itself.
He, the omniscient Rudra, the creator of the gods and the bestower of their powers, the support of the universe, He who, in the beginning, gave birth to Hiranyagarbha −may He endow us with clear intellect! [Svetasvatar Upanishad 3.4]
Here is what Taittariya Aranyaka of Yajurveda in 10.23,24 declares in passage of Rudra:
Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Reality, has become an androgynous Person in the form of Umamaheshvara, dark blue and reddish brown in hue, absolutely chaste and possessing uncommon eyes. Salutations to Him alone who is the Soul of the universe or whose form is the universe. All this verily is Rudra. To Rudra who is such we offer our salutation. We salute again and again that Being, Rudra, who alone is the light and the Soul of creatures. The material universe the created beings and whatever there is manifoldly and profusely created in the past and in the present in the form of the world, all that is indeed this Rudra. Salutations be to Rudra who is such.
As he himself gave birth to Hiranyagarbha. So, there is no question of birth of Rudra from Brahmas forehead. It wasn't Shiva, they were just incarnations of Shiva. Shiva isn't among the Rudras who came from head of Brahma. Mahabharat states it several time. Here is one instance only:
The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCLXXXIV
"Daksha said, 'We have many Rudras armed with lances and bearing matted locks on their heads. They are eleven in number. I know them all, but I do not know who this Maheswara is.'
So, now it is clear that Shiva already existed before manifesting as Rudra from forehead of Brahma. So, Shiva is the creator of all as he is the Supreme Brahman. Also he manifests himself from forehead of Brahma, multiplies himself to 11 in number and helps in creation by Brahma by entering in 8 different forms. The summary of Shaiva Puranas (Shiva and Linga Purans) is as:
Parabrahman denoted by Linga of Shiva Shakti--- From right side Brahma came---From left side Vishnu came---- later Brahma boast to Vishnu to see creation in Beeja form by entering in his stomach--- Vishnu enters and sees a Universe in Beeja form--- Vishnu come out--- Vishnu tell Brahma to enter in his stomach and see--- Brahma enters from mouth--- Brahma gets shocked on seeing multiverses in stomach of Vishnu--- he wanted to come out--- Vishnu blocked all 9 exits of his body--- Brahma remained blocked there--- Brahma then comes out from Navel of Vishnu--- thus as he came from Navel of Vishnu he became son of Vishnu-- then debate started between Brahma and Vishnu-- latter in the creation process Rudra came from forehead of Brahma--- then sustained the creation. [Linga Purana 2.2]
Vyasa in Mahabharat states this process (ie. Vishnu coming from Linga as):
Kesava is that devoted worshipper of Rudra who has sprung from Rudra himself. Kesava always worship the Lord Shiva, regarding his Phallic emblem to be the origin of the universe. The Lord Kesava always worshippeth Siva in the Phallic emblem as the origin of all. [Drona Vadh Parva chapter 201]
Note that above portion of Mahabharata is Jaya section the original 8800 verses of Mahabharata ie. Direct narration by Sanjaya
So, from above Lord Shiva is creator of Trimurty.
Thus from one perspective we see one truth and from another persepective we see another truth.
Mahabharat says this:
The Supreme Spirit hath three condition. In the form of Brahma, he is the Creator, and in the form of Vishnu he is the Preserver, and in his form as Rudra, he is the Destroyer of the Universe. [Mahabharata Vana Parva Section CCLXX]
Harivamsa Parva of Mahabharat (2.125 section) says this:
Remember that Rudra (Shiva) has the soul of fire and ViShNu has the soul of soma (nectar, moon). All the world including the fixed and movable beings have the combined souls of fire and soma (Shiva and ViShNu). The supreme lord of Rudra (Shiva) is ViShNu and the supreme lord of ViShNu is Shiva (Rudra). The same lord is moving in the world always in two forms. ViShNu does not exist without ShaNkara (Shiva) and Shiva does not exist without Keshava (ViShNu). Hence, Rudra (Shiva) and Upendra (ViShNu) have attained oneness, since long before.
So, the truth is what is above mentioned. One doesn't need to boast that what he tells and thinks is the only truth by citing verses from his own perspective.
Vishnu has no beginning or end. As Vishnu's incarnation Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "Neither the hosts of gods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for, in every respect, I am the source of the gods and sages. He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginningless, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds – he only, undeluded among men, is freed from all sins."
Brahma was born from a lotus flower that emerged from Vishnu's navel, as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam:
Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu was alone, lying on His bedstead, the great snake Ananta, and although He appeared to be in slumber in His own internal potency, free from the action of the external energy, His eyes were not completely closed.... The Lord lay down for a thousand cycles of four yugas in His internal potency, and by His external energy He appeared to be sleeping within the water.... The subtle subject matter of creation, on which the Lord’s attention was fixed, was agitated by the material mode of passion, and thus the subtle form of creation pierced through His abdomen. Piercing through, this sum total form of the fruitive activity of the living entities took the shape of the bud of a lotus flower generated from the Personality of Viṣṇu.... Into that universal lotus flower Lord Viṣṇu personally entered as the Supersoul, and when it was thus impregnated with all the modes of material nature, the personality of Vedic wisdom, whom we call the self-born, was generated. Brahmā [was] born out of the lotus flower.
The Srimad Bhagavatam also describes how Shiva was born out of Brahma's anger:
There was much anger generated in the mind of Brahmā, which he tried to control and not express. Although he tried to curb his anger, it came out from between his eyebrows, and a child mixed blue and red was immediately generated. After his birth he began to cry: O destiny maker, teacher of the universe, kindly designate my name and place. The all-powerful Brahmā, who was born from the lotus flower, pacified the boy with gentle words, accepting his request, and said: Do not cry. I shall certainly do as you desire. Thereafter Brahmā said: O chief of the demigods, you shall be called by the name Rudra by all people because you have so anxiously cried. My dear boy, I have already selected the following places for your residence: the heart, the senses, the air of life, the sky, the air, the fire, the water, the earth, the sun, the moon and austerity.... My dear boy Rudra, you have eleven other names: Manyu, Manu, Mahinasa, Mahān, Śiva, Ṛtadhvaja, Ugraretā, Bhava, Kāla, Vāmadeva and Dhṛtavrata.
This story is presented in longer form in the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda:
[Brahma] said to him, 'My boy, why criest thou, when thou art born out of labour and trouble?' He said, 'Nay, but I am not freed from (guarded against) evil; I have no name given me: give me a name!' Hence one should give a name to the boy that is born, for thereby one frees him from evil;--even a second, even a third (name), for thereby one frees him from evil time after time.
He said to him, 'Thou art Rudra' And because he gave him that name, Agni became suchlike (or, that form), for Rudra is Agni: because he cried (rud) therefore he is Rudra. He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Sarva.' And because he gave the him that name, the waters became suchlike, for Sarva is the waters, inasmuch as from the water everything (sarva) here is produced. He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Pasupati.' And because he gave him that name, the plants became suchlike, for Pasupati is the plants: hence when cattle (pasu) get plants, then they play the master 3 (patîy). He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Ugra.' And because he gave him that name, Vâyu (the wind) became suchlike, for Ugra is Vâyu: hence when it blows strongly, they say 'Ugra is blowing.' He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Asani.' And because he gave him that name, the lightning became suchlike, for Asani is the lightning: hence they say of him whom the lightning strikes, 'Asani has smitten him.' He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Bhava.' And because he gave him that name, Parganya (the rain-god) became suchlike; for Bhava is Parganya, since everything here comes (bhavati) from the rain-cloud. He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'.
He said to him, 'Thou art Mahân Devah (the Great God).' And because he gave him that name, the moon became suchlike, for the moon is Pragâpati, and Pragâpati is the Great God. He said, 'Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!'
He said to him, 'Thou art Îsâna (the Ruler).' And because he gave him that name, the Sun became suchlike, for Îsâna is the Sun, since the Sun rules over this All. He said, 'So great indeed I am: give me no other name after that!'
It should be noted that even though Shiva is the son of Brahma and Brahma is the son of Vishnu, Shiva is still in some sense also a direct creation of Vishnu. As Krishna says in the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, "The ancestors of civilization, and entities such as Shiva, were created by Me. They do not know of this because they are illusioned by My cosmic material energies."
Chapter six and seven of RUDRASAMHITA Section of Shiva Purana describes how Trimurti were born.
Brahma said this to his son Narada.
- At the time of great dissolution when all mobile and immobile of the world are dissolved everything gets enveloped in darkness without the sun, planets and stars.
- There is no moon. The day and the night are not demarcated. There is no fire, no wind, no earth and no water. There is no unmanifest primordial being. The whole firmament is one complete void, devoid of all Tejas elements.
- There is no Dharma or Adharma, no sound ,no touch, smell and colour are manifest.There is no taste. The face of quarters is no demarcated.
- When there is a pitch darkness that cannot be pierced with needle and what is mentioned in Vedas " The Existent and that Brahman" is alone present.
- When the present visible world is not in existence, the Sat Brahman alone is present which Yogins observe perpetually in the inner Soul, the inner firmament.
- It is incomprehensible to the mind. It cannot at all be expressed by words. It has neither name nor color. It is neither thick nor thin.
- It is free from alternatives. It has no beginning nor end. It is free from illusion and its harassment.It has no second. It has no development. It is in the form of Pure knowledge.
- People have doubts giving it a name. That Being after, then after sometime, it is said, wished for a second.
- The Being, having no form of its own, wished to create, in the course of its own sport, an auspicious form its own endowed with all power, qualities and knowledge.
- A form of that goes everywhere, that has all forms, that sees all, that is the cause of all, that should be respected by all, that is the beginning of all, that bestows everything, and that sanctifies everything should be created (So it is wished) and hence created that form of ISVARA of pure nature. The Original Being without a second, with neither beginning nor end, that illuminates everything, that is the form of cit(Pure Knowledge), that which is termed as Supreme Brahman, the all-pervasive, and undecaying, vanished. The manifest of formless being is SADAASIVA. Scholars of ancient and succeeding ages have sung is ISVARA.
- ISVARA though alone ,then created the physical form Sakti form his body.This Shakti did not affect his body in any way.
- This Shakti is called by various names. Pradhaana, Prakriti, Maayaa, Gunavati, Paraa. The mother of Buddhitattva (The Cosmic Intelligence), Vikritivarjita (without modification).
- That Shakti is Ambika,Parkriti and goddess of all. She is the prime cause and mother of three deities.
- She has a brilliance which could hardly be conceived. She is the generating cause of all. She sprang up singly as Maaya. In her union she manifested into various forms.
- The Supreme Purusha is Shiva. He is called Shambu. He has no other lord over Him. He has five faces. He has ten arms. He holds the trident. He is as pure and white as camphor. His body is dusted entirely with ash.
- Shiva thought within Himself like this-" Another being shall be created by me. Let him create everything, protect it and in the end dissolve it. The supreme lord , Shiva , spread liquorice essence of nectar on His left side, on tenth limb, nectar which was the outcome of churning the ocean of His mind wherein thoughts were the waves, Satva Guna was the precious Gem, Rajas being coral and Tama being crocodile. Thereupon a person came into being who was most charming one in the three worlds, who was calm with sattva guna prominent, and appeared to be ocean of immeasurable majesty.
- Siva said to him-" You will be famous as VISHNU by name as you all pervasive. You will have many other names conferring happiness on devotees. Perform penance highly conducive to achievement of matter in hand. Be firm on it". Saying so lord bestowed Vedas on him through nostrils.
- Siva vanished accompanied by Shakti and his attendants. Vishnu began his great penance.
- When Vishnu became enlightened by penance, from the body of Vishnu various water currents of various sorts began to flow as a result of Shiva's Maya.
- Supreme Brahman in the form of divine waters pervaded the entire Void. Vishnu went to the sleep amidst of waters. He was in blissful state of delusion for a long time.
- In the mean time Principles (Mahat,Ahamakara,the five elements,senses of Knowledge) too were evolved out of great Soul. All these Principles emanating from Prakriti are insentient, but not the Purusha. Vishnu, the Purusha, accepted all these and began his sleep in the Brahman.
- When Lord Narayana (as he slept on water) continued to sleep, an excellent lotus of huge size came out of his navel as desired by Siva. Shiva, the great lord with Shakti as his half created me from his right limb.
- O sage, thus deluded me with His illusion immediately, Siva in the course of His Sport produced me through the umbilical cord of Vishnu
Then as we all know, Vishnu and Brahma fought due to the Mayaa of Shiva. Then Shiva appeared to them in the form of a bright light (column of fire). Vishnu, as a boar (swetavaraha) went down, and Brahma, as a swan, went up and both of them couldn't find the beginning or the end.
When they were perplexed, they heard sound "OM OM". Vishnu was able to understand the divine sound OM and meditated on divine soul with this divine sound to find the origin of the Linga.
- Then there came a sage who told him the essence of the truth. Vishnu realized that that sage himself was great lord and the Supreme Brahman embodied in Shabda Brahman (i.e, the mystic syllable OM). That Brahman is Rudra free from worries.
- The Lord Shiva then showed them syllable form and Suguna form.
Chapter 15 of same section describes Manifestation of Rudra.
When Shiva Vanished, they withdrew their forms of swan and boar. At the bidding of Shiva, Vishnu entered the cosmic egg and it became sentient. From that egg Lokas were created. Brahma created various components of this Universe.( Read linked chapter for more details). When Brahma created Sanat Kumaras, they were not inclined to carry out creation. Brahma got infuriated on Kumaras.
Brahma continued the story to his son Narada,
- When i became nearly unconscious on account of excess fury and agitation, drops of tears fell from my eyes.
- I was instructed by Vishnu to perform the penance of Shiva.Accordingly i performed a severe penance.
- While i was performing penance for creation, the merciful Lord Shiva of Trinity, came out of spot called AVIMUKHA between eyebrows and the nose. He manifested himself as Half woman and Half man in full potency.
- On seeing the unborn Lord Shiva, a mass of refulgence, the consort of Uma, the omniscient,the creator of everything,famous as Nilalohita, straight in front of me I saluted him with great devotion and was highly delighted. I told the lord," Please create various subjects".
- On hearing my words, Lord of the Lords, Rudra, created many ganas identical with Himself.
You might see this answer for some clarification as well.
Narayana,or Garbhodakasayi Visnu was floating on the water at the bottom of the universe. A lotus flower came out of his navel, and Brahma was born. Brahma was then in charge in recreating all the other beings in the universe. First he created the four Kumaras. He also created Shiva from his forehead. Srimad Bhagavatam (3.10.28-29) also states:
The creation of the demigods is of eight varieties: (1) the demigods, (2) the forefathers, (3) the asuras, or demons, (4) the Gandharvas and Apsarās, or angels, (5) the Yakṣas and Rākṣasas, (6) the Siddhas, Cāraṇas and Vidyādharas, (7) the Bhūtas, Pretas and Piśācas, and (8) the superhuman beings, celestial singers, etc. All are created by Brahmā, the creator of the universe.
You can read the full account in Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3, Chapters 8-12
Notwithstanding what is written in the Puranas, Mahabharata says that all three are eternal Brahman as can be seen in the following passage:
The Supreme Spirit hath three condition. In the form of Brahma, he is the Creator, and in the form of Vishnu he is the Preserver, and in his form as Rudra, he is the Destroyer of the Universe.
Mahabharata Vana Parva Section CCLXX
The Trimurti refers to Saguna Brahman. When the Saguna Brahman is in His mode of creation, He is called Brahma. When He is in His mode as sustainer of the creation, He is called Vishnu. When He is in His mode of destruction, He is called Shiva.
Swami Prabhavananda writes in The Spiritual Heritage of India, p 136:
Altogether there are eighteen Puranas, six devoted to Visnu, six to Brahma, and six to Siva. All of them are written in verse, and all are usually attributed to Vyasa, the reputed author of the Mahabharata and editor of the Vedas. Their date may safely be assigned to the somewhat uncertain Epic Period.
At this time the Vedic gods, such as Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Skanda, were transformed into the three divinities Brahma, Visnu, and Siva; and these in turn were conceived as but manifestations of the one Primeval Spirit, the Lord adored by all, the one undecaying Brahman. Brahma, Visnu, and Siva...are known as the Trimurti, or Trinity, of the Hindus. In the words of the Visnu Purana: 'The Lord God, though one without a second, assumes the three forms respectively of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva for creation, preservation, and dissolution of the world.' And in the Padma Purana we read: 'Brahma, Visnu, and Siva, though three is form, are one entity. No difference between the three exists except with respect to attributes.' Moreover, the votaries of this Trimurti make no distinction between them, as they identify with one another. Visnu, for example, is described as Siva's arrow, and Siva as Krsna's flute. Krsna, again, is regarded as an incarnation of Visnu.
The 3 elements of Brahman as the creative, sustainer, and destroyer of the universe can be seen in Sankara's commentary on verse III. 14. 1. of the Chandogya Upanishad where Brahman is described with the word 'Tajjalin' which describes the three states or aspects.
According to many of the Puranas, it is clearly mentioned that Lord Vishnu is "sanadhana:", i.e no beginning and no end. From his belly button, lord Brahma was born. He started creating things.
By the way he created four sages (I forgot their names) and asked them to help in his creation work. They refused it and they went to "thapa:". Brahma got angry. His anger was "Rudra" or Shiva. After the end of the millions and millions of "chaturyugas" (Krutha, Thretha, Dwabara, Kali) a day will get over for Brahma. The three worlds will die (Bhoo:, Bhuva:, Suva:). A day for brahma is a "kalpa". After some years for Brahma, Brahma will go back to the belly button of Vishnu after the whole 14 worlds die. Then again after a nap, Lord Vishnu germinates Brahma.
Sarvollāsatantram alone provides five stories or call them 'Uttpati Prakaran' (the discription of the case called creation) of which 4 are abstract. The last one being the most abstract. The last one is the one I would be writting about, it's a entire small chapter- the 5th Ullhasa.
From the Nivaran Tantram as stated in the Sarvollāsatantram fifth Ullhasa of Shri Sarvānandanātha:
'She' who is the formless Jōtī-rupā, who is saluted as Jaganamayī and līlāmāyī of Satya-lōkā has covered herself in the Māyā and stays there as if a seed. (1)
She is without any hands or legs, she is equivalent to Candra and SūryāAgni. (2.1)
By abandoning the cover of Māyā, she splits into two forms. Due to which, For the first time one could perceive the universe as Śiva and śaktī. First, a boy named Brahmā was born. (2.2,3)
Śrī kālikā said, O Mahāvīrā you must Marry! Brahmā said, there is no one other than you, Mother! Please provide me with a beautiful śaktī. After listening to this, She produced a beautiful Mōhinī out of her body and gave to Brahmā. (4,5)
Devi said, O Mahāvīrā this beautiful Mōhinī is Mahāvidyā named Sāvitrī. With help of her you expand the Vedas. You will be known and will be praised as 'creator' on Earth! (6,7.1)
Then a child named Viṣṇū who was of Satvaguṇa was born. Devi said: O Mahāvīrā, make your effort to get married. (7.2,8.1)
Viṣṇū says: O mother, just by your sight one becomes desire less. How can I get married? Please provide me with a Mōhinī. Śrī kālikā then creates a śaktī which is the Śrīvidyā a form of Mahāvidyā. Mahāviṣṇu living along with her protects and maintains the world. (8.2,9,10)
Finally, Mahāyōgī Sadāśiva was born as third son. Devi says: O Yōgīśvara, listen to me. There is no man other than you, and no Kāminī other than me. O Śiva, you are like Happiness, You must Marry me. (11,12)
Sadāśiva says: O Mother, what you said is absolutely true. There is no Mōhinī other than You, and no man other than me. However, I cannot marry you in this body. If you are happy on me, please take a different body. (13, 14)
Listening to this, Mahākālī provided him with a Bhuvana sundarī. Since then, Mahāyōgī Sadāśiva and Mahākālī Bhuvana sundarī took the responsibility to destroy this entire world. Since that time, the Eight Murtis of śaktī's and Śiva became famous. (15,16)
O devi, this way the Mahāvidyā kālikā emerged. I told you about the worlds mecanism. The Tattva from which this vidyā is created is highly secret. Protect it with care.
Not putting the verses, if someone is interested please comment.
There is a flow to read Puranas.Note: Gunas are not for the book or for the Lord in it but to the people whom read. For example, If an individual knows nothing about Hinduism. They should read Puranas as introduction to Hinduism. First one has to read tamasic purana. Tamasic Purana introduces one to Supreme Lord Sadasiva, Lord Mahadev, Adi Sakthi, Maa Durga, Lord Krsna, Lord Narayana and etc. Supreme Lord of Tamasic Purana is Lord Sadasivaa. In some places Lord Sadasiva is mentioned as Lord Shiva. Some mention as Lord Mahadev. Proofs refer Rudrasamhita section 1: creation chapter 6 J.L.Shastri A.I.T.M, u guys will understand. Second up, reading rajas purana. This purunas mainly proclaims Supremacy of Mula Prikriti (Devi Buvaneswari) and Mula Purusha (Lord Krsna). After reading tamasic purana, one will be elavated from tamas guna to rajas guna. You will also understand why they are proclaimed to be supreme. Because it under the will of Lord Sadasiva and Lord Mahadev. Then, we move to Sattva purana where Lord Narayana and Lord Mahadev proclaimed to be Supreme. As the flow complete, one will be nirguna. After that only u can find Brahman. After 2 years of reading essence of purana and original puranas as well, I came to an conclusion that Lord Sadasiva Supreme.
Update: Trimurthi came to existenance (Universe) individually. Lord Brahma from Brahma loka is from Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, fourth manifestation of Lord Vishnu. Garbhodakasayi Vishnu ( Lord Vishnu in Trinity) is from Karanavavasayi Vishnu. Lord Rudra ( Veerabhadra) is from Lord Mahadev. Karanavavasayi Vishnu is from Lord Narayana. Lord Mahadev from Lord Sadasiva. Lord Narayana from Lord Krsna. Lord Krsna from Lord Sadasiva. Adi Sakthi (Durga) is from Adi sakthi (Buvaneswari). Adi Sakthi (Buvaneswari) from Adi Sakthi (consort of Sadasiva) in Sadasivadham. This is how entire Gods and Trimurthis came into existenance.
I see most Hindus focus on Puranas, which are really trying to describe an abstract thru poetic imagery. they confuse these imageries as personae and start fighting as to who came first and who is supreme. Puranas came later to convey the abstract to the laity, and failed convey the exact concepts as they themselves got entrapped into human forms and conflicts. We as Hindus should focus on Upanishats, which are veritable treasures.
I see in the above discussions, Chaturmukha Brahma is confused with the concept of PARABRAHMA. para brahma is Nirguna and has no forms but all pervading and is the sole energy. laity fight over Brahma, Vishnu and Mahaeshwara as if they are individual personae. This is the tragedy.
energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So, a discussion on who was born first is inane, in spite of what various Puranas proclaim. Today, various sects have written various Puranas, in order to proclaim their Concepts of GOD as being more strong. This reminds me of the fight between current political parties. Therefore to reduce the concept of ParaBrahma to human level will miss the core of Hinduism
I am coming into this quite late (6 years late in fact :-)).
But I find this question a bit too materialistic. Deities are not physical entities governed by the filial relationships of the material naturalistic world. The question makes the deities literal fact.
And then I see some answers also written in the style of biased, sectarian, simplistic favoritism.
I think of all answers, Tejaswee has made the best attempt to give a spiritually mature all-rounded answer.
I would like to add a couple more references to bolster the viewpoint of Vedic metaphysics, as the Vedas are the ultimate authority in any question in Hinduism.
Rig Veda 10.72.4:
अदितेर्दक्षो अजायत दक्षाद्वदितिः परि
From Aditi was born Daksha, and from Daksha was born Aditi
There are many more such statements in Vedas that demonstrate the metaphysical non-difference between deities. This is the Vedic vision that is the basis of Hinduism from ancient times down to today.
And this is what Yāskācārya says in the Niruktam (7.4):
माहाभाग्याद् देवताया एक आत्मा बहुधा स्तूयते । एकस्यात्मनोऽन्ये देवाः प्रत्यङ्गानि भवन्ति । ... इतरेतरजन्मानो भवन्ति । इतरेतरप्रकृतयः । कर्मजन्मानः । आत्मजन्मानः । ... आत्मा सर्वं देवस्य ।
Due to the majesty of the deity, one Atman is praised in many ways. Of the one Atman, the many deities are limbs... They are born from one another. They have each other's nature. They are born because of their specific function. They are born from the Atman. The Atman is the all-in-all of the deity.
As Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra are Vedic deities, all of the above philosophy applies to them as well.