Brahma is one of the three major gods of the Hindu religion, together with Shiva and Vishnu. Worship of Brahma began in the Vedic Age of Indian history and its importance was gradually outweighed by the worship of Shiva and Vishnu over time.
Brahma the god should be distinguished from Brahman the embodiment of the universal spirit—the two words derive from a common source, but have been attached to separate concepts subsequently. Temples dedicated to either Shiva or Vishnu must contain a representation of Brahma, but temples specifically dedicated to him are rare, with only two still active in modern India. He is often remembered in rites for other deities.
Brahma is the creator god of the Hindu Trimurti (a triune of gods). He is commonly identified with the Vedic deity Prajapati, and the two share similar features. Brahma is most commonly represented with four faces and arms. Each face speaks one of the four Vedas, which are the most sacred of the Indian scriptures and is further redolent of the four ages of the world and the four classes in Indian society.
His consort Saraswati, a female deity associated with learning, frequently accompanies him. His mount is a swan, which represents a spirit of discrimination and of justice. Brahma is also considered the lord of sacrifices and, by reference to the Puranas, to have been self-creating; without parents.
The Vedic deity Prajapati had become identified as the lord of creation and all of the creatures within it, through the performance of ascetic rites and feats known as tapas. The worship of Brahma eventually saw that god supersede the role of Prajapati, who became identified with a series of 10 children born from the mind of Brahma.
Brahma is represented in the great Sanskrit epics of Indian literature, although his role in intervening within the realms of humanity or the gods is limited. Once he created something, Brahma tended to permit the preservative force of Vishnu and the destructive force of Shiva to take the foreground.
Modern scientists have used this conception as a metaphor for the nature of the universe, which exists according to particle physics in a form of stasis in which creative and destructive forces contend.