The Trimūrti (/trɪˈmʊərti/; Sanskrit:
त्रिमूर्तिः trimūrti, "three forms") is the
trinity of supreme divinity in Hinduism in which the
cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are
personified as a triad of deities, typically
Brahma the creator,
Vishnu the preserver, and
Shiva the destroyer, though individual
denominations may vary from that particular line-up. When all three
deities of the
Trimurti incarnate into a single avatar, the avatar is
known as Dattatreya.
3 Views within Hinduism
4 See also
7 External links
Trimurti with Tridevi
An art depiction of the
Trimurti at the Hoysaleswara temple in
Trimurti, painting from Andhra Pradesh
The Puranic period saw the rise of post-Vedic religion and the
evolution of what
R. C. Majumdar calls "synthetic Hinduism."
This period had no homogeneity, and included orthodox Brahmanism in
the form of remnants of older Vedic faith traditions, along with
different sectarian religions, notably Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and
Shaktism that were within the orthodox fold yet still formed distinct
entities. One of the important traits of this period is a spirit
of harmony between orthodox and sectarian forms. Regarding this
spirit of reconciliation,
R. C. Majumdar says that:
Its most notable expression is to be found in the theological
conception of the Trimūrti, i.e., the manifestation of the supreme
God in three forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva... But the attempt
cannot be regarded as a great success, for Brahmā never gained an
ascendancy comparable to that of Śiva or Viṣṇu, and the different
sects often conceived the Trimūrti as really the three manifestations
of their own sectarian god, whom they regarded as
The identification of Brahma,
Shiva as one being is
strongly emphasized in the Kūrma Purāṇa, where in 1.6
worshipped as Trimurti; 1.9 especially inculcates the unity of the
three gods, and 1.26 relates to the same theme. Historian A. L.
Basham explains the background of the
Trimurti as follows, noting
Western interest in the idea of trinity:
There must be some doubt as to whether the
Hindu tradition has ever
Brahma as the Supreme
Deity in the way that Visnu and Siva
have been conceived of and worshiped.
The concept of
Trimurti is also present in the Maitri Upanishad, where
the three gods are explained as three of his supreme forms.
Temples dedicated to various permutations of the
Trimurti can be seen
as early as the 8th century C.E., and there are even temples today in
Trimurti are actively worshiped.
Views within Hinduism
The Saura sect that worships
Surya as the supreme person of the
godhead and saguna brahman doesn't accept the
Trimurti as they believe
Surya is God. Earlier forms of the
Trimurti sometimes included Surya
instead of Brahma, or as a fourth above the Trimurti, of whom the
other three are manifestations;
Brahma in the morning, Vishnu
in the afternoon and
Shiva in the evening.
Surya was also a member of
the original Vedic Trimurti, which included
Agni and Vayu. Some Sauras
Shiva as manifestations of Surya, others
Trimurti as a manifestation of Surya, and others
Trimurti Sadashiva sculpture on Gharapuri Island
Shaivites hold that, according to
Shiva performs five
actions - creation, preservation, dissolution, concealing grace, and
revealing grace. Respectively, these first three actions are
Sadyojata (akin to Brahma),
Vamadeva (akin to
Vishnu) and Aghora (akin to Rudra). Thus, Brahma,
not deities different from Shiva, but rather are forms of Shiva. As
Shiva creates. As Vishnu/Vamadeva,
As Rudra/Aghora, he dissolves. This stands in contrast to the idea
Shiva is the "God of destruction." To Shaivites,
Shiva is God and
performs all actions, of which destruction is only but one. Ergo, the
Trimurti is a form of
Shiva Himself for Shaivas.
Shiva is the Supreme, who assumes various critical roles and
assumes appropriate names and forms, and also stands transcending all
these. A prominent visual example of a Shaivite version of the
Trimurti is the
Trimurti Sadashiva sculpture in the
Elephanta Caves on
The Female-Centric Shaktidharma denomination assigns the eminent roles
of the three forms (Trimurti) of Supreme Divinity not to masculine
gods but instead to feminine goddesses: Mahasarasvati (Creator),
Mahalaxmi (Preserver), and
Mahakali (Destroyer). This feminine version
Trimurti is called
Tridevi ("three goddesses"). The masculine
gods (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) are then relegated as auxiliary agents of
the supreme feminine Tridevi.
Smartism is a denomination of
Hinduism that places emphasis on a group
of five deities rather than just a single deity. The "worship of
the five forms" (pañcāyatana pūjā) system, which was popularized
by the ninth-century philosopher Śankarācārya among orthodox
Brahmins of the Smārta tradition, invokes the five deities Ganesha,
Devi and Surya. Śankarācārya later added
Kartikeya to these five, making six total. This reformed system was
promoted by Śankarācārya primarily to unite the principal deities
of the six major sects on an equal status. The monistic philosophy
preached by Śankarācārya made it possible to choose one of these as
a preferred principal deity and at the same time worship the other
four deities as different forms of the same all-pervading Brahman.
Vishnu with Lakshmi, on the serpent Ananta Shesha, as
from a lotus risen from Vishnu's navel.
Despite the fact that the
Purana describes that Vishnu
Brahma in order to create and as
Rudra (Shiva) in order
Vaishnavism generally does not acknowledge the
Trimurti concept. For example, the
Dvaita school holds
Vishnu alone to
be the supreme God, with
Shiva subordinate, and interprets the Puranas
differently. For example, Vijayindra Tîrtha, a
interprets the 18 puranas differently. He interprets the Vaishnavite
puranas as satvic and Shaivite puranas as tamasic and that only satvic
puranas are considered to be authoritative.
Unlike most other Vaishnavite schools such as those of Ramanuja,
Madhva and Chaitanya, Swaminarayan, guru of the
sects (including BAPS), did not differentiate between
Swaminarayan notably differs from practically all Vaishnavite
schools in holding that
Shiva are different aspects of the
same God. (see also verses 47 and 84 of Shikshapatri, a key
scripture to all followers of the
Swaminarayan followed a
Smarta approach (see more detail on
Smarta view below) by instructing his followers to venerate all
five deities of the
Panchayatana puja with equal reverence.
^ "Trimurti". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
^ Grimes, John A. (1995). Ganapati: Song of the Self. SUNY Series in
Religious Studies. Albany: State University of New York Press.
^ Jansen, Eva Rudy (2003). The Book of
Hindu Imagery. Havelte,
Holland: Binkey Kok Publications BV. ISBN 90-74597-07-6.
^ Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli (Editorial Chairman) (1956). The Cultural
Heritage of India. Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of
^ Winternitz, Maurice (1972). History of Indian Literature. New Delhi:
Oriental Books Reprint Corporation.
^ For quotation defining the trimurti see Matchett, Freda. "The
Purāṇas", in: Flood (2003), p. 139.
^ For the
Trimurti system having
Brahma as the creator,
Vishnu as the
maintainer or preserver, and
Shiva as the destroyer. see Zimmer (1972)
^ Mhatre, Sandeep. "Datta Sampradaay and Their Vital Role". Swami
Samarth temple. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
^ For dating of Puranic period as c. CE 300-1200 and quotation, see:
Majumdar, R. C. "Evolution of Religio-Philosophic Culture in India",
in: Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956), volume 4, p. 47.
^ For characterization as non-homogeneous and including multiple
traditions, see: Majumdar, R. C. "Evolution of Religio-Philosophic
Culture in India", in: Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956), volume 4, p. 49.
^ For harmony between orthodox and sectarian groups, see: Majumdar, R.
C. "Evolution of Religio-Philosophic Culture in India", in:
Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956), volume 4, p. 49.
^ For quotation see: see: Majumdar, R. C. "Evolution of
Religio-Philosophic Culture in India", in: Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956),
volume 4, p. 49.
^ For references to Kūrma
Purana see: Winternitz, volume 1, p. 573,
^ Sutton, Nicholas (2000). Religious doctrines in the Mahābhārata
(1st ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 182.
Vishnu are called the supreme forms of him. His
portion of darkness is !Rudra. His portion of passion is Brahma.
His portion of purity is Visnu" Maitri Upanisad [5.2]
^ How can the god of destruction be the Supreme ?
^ Flood (1996), p. 17.
^ Dating for the pañcāyatana pūjā and its connection with Smārta
Brahmins is from Courtright, p. 163.
^ For worship of the five forms as central to
Smarta practice see:
Flood (1996), p. 113.
^ Grimes, p. 162.
^ Flood, Gavin, An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University
Press, p. 111, ISBN 0-521-43878-0
^ Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti (2000). A history of the
Dvaita school of
Vedānta and its literature: from the earliest beginnings to our own
times. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 412.
ISBN 81-208-1575-0. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
^ According to this site,
47, 84, of their scripture, Shikshapatri, a key scripture to all
followers of the
Swaminarayan faith.  states, "And the oneness of
Shiva should be understood, as the
Vedas have described
both to be brahmaroopa, or form of Brahman, i.e., Saguna Brahman,
Shiva are different forms of the one and
Swaminarayan Satsang - Scriptures Archived 16 July 2011 at the
Swaminarayan Satsang - Scriptures
^ An Introduction to
Swaminarayan Hinduism, by Raymond Brady Williams
Basham, A. L. (1954). The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the
Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent Before The Coming of the Muslims.
New York: Grove Press, Inc.,.
Courtright, Paul B. (1985). Gaṇeśa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of
Beginnings. New York: Oxford University Press.
Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
Flood, Gavin (Editor) (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism.
Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISBN 1-4051-3251-5. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Zimmer, Heinrich (1972). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and
Civilization. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
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