The Full Wiki

Trimurti: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Trimurti of the three Hindu Gods: Brahmā, Vishnu, and Shiva (left to right).
The Hindu Trinity
Devanagari त्रिमूर्ति
Affiliation Deva
Consort Tridevi

Part of a series on


History · Deities

Beliefs and practices

Philosophy · Dharma
Artha · Kama · Moksha
Karma · Samsara
Yoga · Bhakti · Maya
Puja · Temple

Vedas · Upanishads
Ramayana · Mahabharata
Bhagavad Gita · Puranas
Dharmaśāstra · others

Related topics

Hinduism by country
Gurus and saints
Reforms · Criticism
Calendar · Hindu law
Ayurveda · Jyotisha
Festivals · Glossary Persecution

The Trimurti (English: ‘three forms’; Sanskrit: त्रिमूर्ति trimūrti) is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction of the one supreme God are personified by aspects of Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer,"[1][2] These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" [3] or the "Great Trinity,"[4], often addressed as "Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshvar." Freda Matchett characterizes the Trimurti system as one of "several frameworks into which various divine figures can be fitted at different levels."[5]

One type of depiction for the Trimurti shows three heads on one neck, and often even three faces on one head, each looking in a different direction.[6]


Evolution of the concept

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva seated on lotuses with their consorts: Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Paravati respectively. ca 1770.

The Puranic period (c. CE 300-1200) saw the rise of post-Vedic religion and the evolution of what R. C. Majumdar calls "synthetic Hinduism."[7] 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.[8] One of the important traits of this period is a spirit of harmony between orthodox and sectarian forms.[9] 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 Brahman or Absolute.[10]

Maurice Winternitz notes that there are very few places in Indian literature where the Trimurti is mentioned.[11] The identification of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma as one being is strongly emphasized in the Kūrma Purana, where in 1.6 Brahman is worshipped as Trimurti; 1.9 especially inculcates the unity of the three gods, and 1.26 relates to the same theme.[12]

Historian A. L. Basham explains the background of the trimurti as follows, noting Western interest in the idea of trinity:

Early western students of Hinduism were impressed by the parallel between the Hindu trinity and that of Christianity. In fact the parallel is not very close, and the Hindu trinity, unlike the Holy Trinity of Christianity, never really "caught on". All Hindu trinitarianism tended to favor one god of the three; thus, from the context it is clear that Kālidāsa's hymn to the Trimūrti is really addressed to Brahmā, here looked on as the high god. The Trimūrti was in fact an artificial growth, and had little real influence.[13]

The concept of trimurthi is also present in the Maitri Upanishad, where the three gods are explained as three of his supreme forms[14]

Views within Hinduism



Vaishnavism generally does not accept 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 Dvaita scholar interprets the 18 puranas differently. He interprets that the Vaishnavite puranas as satvic and Shaivite puranas as tamasic and that only satvic puranas are considered to be authoritative.[15]

Trimurti, Painting from Andhra Pradesh

However, other Vaishnavite followers, such as Swaminarayan, founder of the Hindu Swaminarayan sects (including BAPS), differ and hold that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the same God.[16] ; see also, verses 47, and 84 of Shikshapatri [17];[18]


Saivites hold a view similar to that of the Vaishnavites, except of course with Shiva predominating. Shiva performs four acts of creation, sustenance, reduction and blessing. Of these the latter three are nothing but the forms of the Supreme Shiva called Parasiva. Saivites believe that Lord Shiva is the Supreme, who assumes various critical roles and assumes appropriate names and forms, and also stands transcending all these. [19]


An art depiction of the Trimurti in Hoysaleswara temple

Smartism is a denomination of Hinduism that places emphasis on a group of five deities rather than just a single deity.[20] 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, Vishnu, Shiva, Devī, and Sūrya.[21][22] This system was instituted by Śankarācārya primarily to unite the principal deities of the five major sects on an equal status.[23] 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.

See also


Part of a series on
Hindu mythology

Hindu Swastika

Vedas · Puranas

Vedic mythology

Rigveda · Samaveda · Yajurveda · Atharvaveda

Ramayana · Mahabharata

Hiranyagarbha · Swarga · Prthivi

Trimurti · Brahma · Vishnu · Shiva · Saraswati · Lakshmi · Parvati · Ganesha · Murugan

People of the Epics

Sapta Rishis · Bhrigu · Angira · Atri · Gautama · Kashyapa · Vashishta · Agastya · Pitrs · Bharata · Krishna · Kauravas · Pandavas · Rama · Sita · Lakshman · Hanuman

  1. ^ For quotation defining the trimurti see Matchett, Freda.***Juli Lageson was hurrrr (: *** "The Purāṇas", in: Flood (2003), p. 139.
  2. ^ For the Trimurti system having Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva as the transformer or destroyer see: Zimmer (1972) p. 124.
  3. ^ For definition of trimurti as "the unified form" of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva and use of the phrase "the Hindu triad" see: Apte, p. 485.
  4. ^ For the term "Great Trinity" in relation to the Trimurti see: Jansen, p. 83.
  5. ^ Matchett, Freda. "The Purāṇas", in Flood (2003), p. 139.
  6. ^ Jansen, p. 83; picture p. 84.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ For quotation see: see: Majumdar, R. C. "Evolution of Religio-Philosophic Culture in India", in: Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956), volume 4, p. 49.
  11. ^ Winternitz, volume 1, p. 452, note 1.
  12. ^ For references to Kūrma Purana see: Winternitz, volume 1, p. 573, note 2.
  13. ^ Basham, pp. 310-311.
  14. ^ "Brahma, Rudra and 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]
  15. ^ See section on "The argument between Sri Vijayîndra Tîrtha and Lingaraja,"
  16. ^ According to this site,], verses 47, 84, of their scripture, Shikshapatri, [1] states, "And the oneness of Narayana and Shiva should be understood, as the Vedas have described both to be brahmaroopa, or form of Brahman, i.e., Saguna Brahman, indicating that Vishnu and Shiva are different forms of the one and same God.
  17. ^ Swaminarayan Satsang - Scriptures
  18. ^ Swaminarayan Satsang - Scriptures
  19. ^ How can the god of destruction be the Supreme ?
  20. ^ Flood (1996), p. 17.
  21. ^ Dating for the pañcāyatana pūjā and its connection with Smārta Brahmins is from Courtright, p. 163.
  22. ^ For worship of the five forms as central to Smarta practice see: Flood (1996), p. 113.
  23. ^ Grimes, p. 162.


  • 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. ISBN ISBN 0-19-505742-2.  
  • 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.  
  • Grimes, John A. (1995). Ganapati: Song of the Self. SUNY Series in Religious Studies. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-2440-5.  
  • Jansen, Eva Rudy (2003). The Book of Hindu Imagery. Havelte, Holland: Binkey Kok Publications BV. ISBN 90-74597-07-6.   Eighth printing; First published 1993.
  • Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli (Editorial Chairman) (1956). The Cultural Heritage of India. Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.   Second edition, four volumes, revised and enlarged, 1956 (volume IV).
  • Winternitz, Maurice (1972). History of Indian Literature. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation.   Second revised reprint edition. Two volumes. First published 1927 by the University of Calcutta.
  • Zimmer, Heinrich (1972). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01778-6.  


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address