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Lord Vishvakarma

Celestial Creator in Art Thought and Literature

By Choodamani Nandagopal

“Visvakarma, the Lord of the arts, master of a thousand handicrafts,

carpenter of the gods and builder of their palaces divine, fashioner

of every jewel, first of craftsmen, by whose art men live, and whom,

a great and deathless god, they continually worship.”

Mahabharata

Rig Veda, tenth Mandalasuktas 81 and 82[i] RV carries two suktas in the name of Vishvakarma so also of Indra, Agni and Maruts. The citation goes as Rishi Vishvakarma Bhauvana, the Creator Vishvakarma, the maker of all that exist in the world manifested, who executes the process of creation on the earth and heaven as a Designer. Vishvakarma in sukta 82 is addressed as the father of vision, wise in spirit, originator of the two worlds, rich in light, having the comprehensive mind. He is the Disposer, Ordained and the highest Seer. He knows all the worlds and domains and He alone assigns the names to the Gods.

[i]R.L.Kashyap,Rig Veda Samhita Mandala 10, Sri Aurobindo Kapali Shastry Institute of Vedic Culture,

2012, p 254 to 259

Portrayal of Vishvakarma in Vedas

Lord Sri Vishvakarma is the origin of all sculptures, the creator of the varied architecture of this universe and the source of all forms, names and actions. He existed even before creation and is the cause of not only the cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction but even the condemnation and grace later on.Hekeeps Mother Gayatriin his heart and has provided refuge at His feet for Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. Preoccupied with the dharma of their duties, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and other Gods rely on Him for their powers and are His instruments.

He is beyond description (nirguna) and formless (niraakaara). He is as high as the Meru Mountain and is seated on an effulgent seat. He is adorned with bracelet, armlet, gem-studded garlands, a crown decked with divine gems, earrings and yellow clothing. He shines like lightning and dazzles all the eyes that try to see Him. He is also known as Prajapati and Hiranyagarbha. The clouds are his vehicle.

Through a yajna he created the universe and is the first yajnakartru.He is like the divine kalpavriksha and fulfils the desires of devotees who surrender unto Him.He is everlasting and is the ultimate truth.He is called the Lord of speech by Vedarshis. He is the ocean of origin for all the vedaagamas. He is said to be equally versatile in jnana and karma yogas and can be considered to be the tattvic origin of all divine forms.He is the priest who makes offerings to the sacrificial fire, the father who created everything and the one who protects and nurtures everything. He is the cause for all the worlds to be glowing with prosperity and the one in whom all the worlds converge just the way all the spokes of a chariot wheel converge at the centre. The closing of His eyelids signify the end of the world and His auspicious glance is the cause of creation.

The SvayambhuVishvakarma is honoured not only for creation of the universe but also for having initiated sacrifice and then given the example by sacrificing himself.  In later times when he assumes the form of Tvastra Brahma, and in this new position of hierarchy his role is relegated to an architect of the gods. He built the heavens and palaces to gods, such as Indra’s Vyjayanta, Kubera’s and then Ravana’s  Lanka, Pandavas palace at Indraprastha. As Tvashtri, he created many of the chariots, including that of Pushpaka of Kubera. He takes pride in preparing suitable and appropriate weapons to gods that included the thunderbolt of Indra, the lance of Kartikeya, the trident of Siva and the discus of Vishnu. It is believed that when the part of Surya’s substance fell blazing, Vishvakarma put on the lathe and created the strongest weapon synonyms to the power of these gods. Varahamihira, in Brhat Samhita, while introducing a chapter on architecture mentions about the thee architects namely, Visvakarma, Maya and Kama, who have given the architectural vision of dwelling places for gods, kings, Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Shudras. The temple is built in the likeness of universe and is reduced image. The architect of this world image, the temple, is looked upon as descended from, and in his sphere alike to,

Further, Stella Kramrisch adds, that ‘with regard to the making of universe, Visvakarma is the working, Brahma the thinking aspect of the Supreme Principle’. Varahamihira in the chapter on the Glory of Indra’s Banner, describes the jewels offered by the Gods to decorate the Indra Dhvaja. Amongst all the gods, the first to offer an ornament red like the Asoka flowers and of quadrangular form was  Visvakarma, the celestial architect and followed by Siva, Indra, Yama, Varuna, Vayu, Skanda, Agni, Surya, Tvasta, Visve-Devas, Guru, Shukra and other sages. These ornaments are taken as the celestials are presided before the Indra-Dhvaja.  This establishes the supreme place of Visvakarma in the order and cadre of the deities worshipped in any of the auspicious occasions or temple festivals.

Veronica Ions, Indian Mythology,Newnes Books, 1983  P 83

M. Ramakrishna Bhat, Varahamihira’s  Brhat SamhitaChapter LIII – p460 – 470

Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple VolI, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996, p 11

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There are quite a number of historical inscriptions in the temples, where the mentioning of the historical architect in comparison with the celestial architect Visvakarma. One such inscription found on the mantapa of the Purana Mahadeo Temple, Sikar Rajputana states, “The architect (Sutradhara) of this temple of Siva (Sankarabhavana) was Candasiva, the famed son of Virabhadra, omniscient like Visvakarman in the science of architecture” The Visvakarma tradition in temple building is of greater significance and many of the texts have been compiled and working manuals were created from time to time by the master artisans on the basis of the science and art of architecture and iconography of the Visvakarma lineage. The icon of Visvakarma Panchami Brahma has the five faces representing Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, Eeshaana aspects and ten hands holding on right side trishula, chakra, bana, sarpa and akshamala, while on left side holding dhamaru, sankha, dhanus, vina and kumuda pushpa, signifying the attributes of the trimurti namely, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha.

The Dhyanashlokas to be meditated on the different forms of Vishvakarma with reference to the Kashyapa Shilpa text:

श्रीवाण्याश्रित पादपद्म युगळम् विद्युत्प्रभा भासुरम्
गायत्रीयुतमव्ययम् दशभुजम् मेर्वग्र पीठोज्ज्वलम्
देवर्षिस्तुत पञ्चवक्त्रमभवम् मन्दस्मितास्यम् शिवम्
वन्दे शिल्पसहस्र मूलपुरुषम् श्री विश्वकर्म प्रभुम् ||1||
केयूरैः कटकैर्विभूषितकरम् हारावळी सम्युतम्
दीव्यद्रत्न किरीटकुण्डलधरम् पीताम्बरालङ्कृतम्
सृष्ट्यादि त्रय हेतुमूलवपुषम् मेघाधिरूढोज्ज्वलम्
सर्वाभीष्ट वर प्रदायकमहम् वन्दे तमीशम् सदा ||2||
येन च होत्रा पित्रा भर्त्रा विलसन्ति सकल भुवनानि
यन्नाभा वरपटलम् तम् वन्दे विश्वकर्माणम् ||4||
यस्य निमेषः प्रळयो जगतामुदयश्च यच्छुभोन्मेषः
यद्रूपम् जगदखिलम् तम् वन्दे विश्वकर्माणम् ||5||
हरिहर हिरण्यगर्भ प्रमुखादेवा स्वकर्म परतन्त्राः
अङ्गानि यस्य महसस्तम् वन्दे विश्वकर्माणम् ||6||

1. Lord Sri Vishvakarma, who is the origin of all sculptures, the creator of the varied architecture of this universe, the source of all forms, names and actions, has provided refuge at His feet for Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge and is called the Lord of speech by Vedarshis. He is the ocean of origin for all the vedaagamas, shines like lightning and is dazzling all the eyes that try to see Him. He, who is nurturing all creatures by keeping Mother Gayatri, protective armour of the whole of creation, in his heart, who is as high as the Meru Mountain, is seated on an effulgent seat and fulfils the desires of devotees who surrender unto Him, like the divine kalpavriksh
2. I salute the Lord of the world, Sri Vishvakarma, who is the cause of not only the cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction but even the condemnation and grace later on, who is adorned with bracelet, armlet, stone-studded garlands, a crown decked with divine gems, earrings, yellow cloth and having the clouds as vehicle and who fulfils the wishes of His devotees.
4. I bow to Lord Vishvakarma who is the priest who makes offerings to the sacrificial fire, the father who created everything, the one who protects and nurtures everything, the cause for all the worlds to be glowing with prosperity and the one in whom all the worlds converge just the way all the spokes of a chariot wheel converge at the centre.
5. I prostrate to Lord Vishvakarma, the closing of whose eyelids signify the end of the world and whose auspicious glance is the cause of creation.
6. I bow to Lord Vishvakarma in whom, preoccupied with the dharma of their duties, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and other Gods rely on for their powers and whose instruments they are.

Pancha Brahmas
panchVishvakarma has the form of Shuddha (pure) Brahma and is effulgent with five faces. These five faces are called Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, Eeshaana. The five Vedas originate from these five faces. The five Brahmas namely Saanaga, Sanaatana, Ahabhoovana, Pratna and Suparna were born from these five faces.

श्री पञ्चास्य विराजितम् तदुदय तत्पञ्च वेद प्रभुम्
पञ्चब्रह्म निदानमाद्यमलम् तद्विश्वकर्मात्मकम्
शुद्ध ब्रह्म समप्रपञ्चक जनिस्थित्यन्त हेतुम् विभुम्
स्वान्ते नित्यमुपास्महेति सकलाभिष्टार्थ संसिद्धये ||3||

1. I constantly prostrate to the Shuddha (pure) Brahma, the form of Vishvakarma, who is effulgent with five faces, who is the reason for the five Vedas originating from these five faces, who effected the birth of the five Brahmas namely Saanaga, Sanaatana, Ahabhoovana, Pratna, Suparna, who existed even before creation and is the reason for creation, sustenance, destruction and the condemnation and grace later on, is everlasting and is the ultimate truth, for the fulfilment of all my desires.

Manu Brahma- Lord of iron sculpture Lord of Rock Sculpture emerged from the Sadyojata face of Vishvakarma
manu-bramhaThe first among the pancha brahmas was born out of the face Sadyojaata and is called Manu Brahma. He has the colour of a pure Sphatika flower (white). He is companion to Adishakti and is the epitome of peace. He is the lord of the Rigveda and is the founder of Rig shaakha. He is also known as Saanaga and Rudra and is the lord of the sacrificial altar having three corners. He is the founder of iron sculpture. Dark clouds are his vehicle. He is the lord of the eastern direction.
.
सद्योजात मुखाज्जातम् शुद्ध स्फटिक सन्निभम्
आदिशक्तियुतम् शान्तम् ऋग्वेदस्याधिनायकम्
त्रिकोणकुण्ड होतारम् कालमेघोपरिस्थितम्
लोहकृन्मूल पुरुषम् मनुम् ध्यात्वाऽर्चयाम्यहम् ||10||

Lord Vishvakarma has five faces called Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, Eeshaana. The one who was born out of the face Sadyojaata was the first among the pancha brahmas and is called Manu Brahma. He has the colour of a pure Sphatika flower (white), is companion to Adishakti and is the epitome of peace. He is the lord of the Rigveda and is the founder of Rig shaakha. He is also known as Saanaga and Rudra and is the lord of the sacrificial altar having three corners. He is the founder of iron sculpture, the first of the five brahmas and has dark clouds as his vehicle. He is the lord of the East. I meditate upon and worship Him.

Maya Brahma- Lord of sculpture in wood and boat-making
maya-bramhaThe second among the five brahmas, Maya Brahma, was born out of the face Vaamadeva. He is blue in colour. He is one with Paraashakti and is protecting and nurturing all the worlds. He has given rise to Yajurveda and is its founder. He is the lord of sacrifices in the four-cornered sacrificial altar. He is also called Sanaatana and Vishnu. He is the founder of Daarushilpa (sculpture in wood) and Naukaashilpa (Dheemaan). He is the lord of the southern direction.

वामदेव मुखोद्भूतः मेघवर्णो महाद्युतिः
पराशक्तियुतो देवो यजुर्वेदाधिनायकः
धीमान् चतुष्कोणकुण्ड होता नीलाभ्रवाहनः
दारुकृन्मूल पुरुषः पातुमाम् सर्वदा मयः ||11||
The second among the five brahmas, Maya Brahma, born out of the face Vaamadeva is blue in colour, one with Paraashakti and is nurturing all the worlds. He has given us the Yajurveda and is its founder. He is the lord of sacrifices in the four-cornered sacrificial altar. He is also called Sanaatana and Vishnu. He is the founder of Daarushilpa (sculpture in wood) and Naukaashilpa (Dheemaan) and is protecting all the worlds. He is the lord of the southern direction. May He protect us always

Tvashtru Brahma- Lord of Brass and Bronze Sculpture
Tvashtru BrahmaThe third among the five brahmas is Tvashtru Brahma. He was born out of the Aghora face of Lord Vishvakarma. He is blood-red in colour and is the lord of Saama Veda. He is the lord of the circular sacrificial altar. He is the consociate of Icchaashakti. He is also called Ahabhoona and Brahma. He is the lord of the western direction. He has given birth to Saamaveda and is its founder. He is the founder of Kaamsya (brass) and Taamra (bronze) forms of sculpture.

अघोर मुख सञ्जातम् महामाणिक्य सन्निभम्
इच्छाशक्तियुतम् वृत्तकुण्ड होतारमव्ययम्
सामवेदाधिपम् रक्त मेघवाहन सम्स्थितम्
ताम्रकृन्मूल पुरुषम् त्वष्टारम् पूजयाम्यहम् ||12||
The third among the five brahmas is Tvashtru Brahma. He was born out of the Aghora face of Lord Vishvakarma. He is blood-red in colour and is the lord of Saama Veda. He is the lord of the circular sacrificial altar and is one with Icchaashakti. He is also called Ahabhoona and Brahma. He is the lord of the western direction. He has given the Saamaveda and is its founder. He is the founder of Kaamsya (brass) and Taamra (bronze) forms of sculpture. I meditate upon and worship Him.

Shilpi Brahma- emerged from the Tatpurusha face of Vishvakarma

Shilpi BrahmaShilpi Brahma was born from the Tatpurusha face of Vishvakarma and is the fourth of the pancha brahmas. He is of the colour of smoke and is also called Pratna and Indra. He is the lord of the sacrificial altar with six corners and is associated with Kriyaashakti. He is the lord of the northern direction. He is the founder of Atharva Veda and rock sculpture.

तत्पुरुष मुखज्जातम् श्याम वर्णम् महौजसम्
षट्कोणकुण्ड होतारम् क्रियाशक्तियुत प्रभुम्
अथर्वाम्नाय नेतारम् श्वेतमेघोपरिस्थितम्
शिलाकृन्मूल पुरुषम् शिल्पिनम् प्रणमाम्यहम् ||13||

Shilpi Brahma was born from the Tatpurusha face of Vishvakarma and is the fourth of the pancha brahmas. He is of the colour of smoke and is also called Pratna and Indra. He is the lord of the sacrificial altar with six corners and is associated with Kriyaashakti. He is the lord of the northern direction. He is the founder of Atharva Veda and rock sculpture. I salute Him.

Vishvajna Brahma emerged from the Eeshana face of Vishvakarma

Vishvajna BrahmaVishvajna Brahma is the fifth among the five brahmas and was born from the Eeshaana face of Vishvakarma. He glows with the colour of gold. He is the lord of the upward direction and is also known as Suparna and Soorya. He is seated on a yellow cloud and has brought Pranava Veda. He is the companion of Jnaanashakti and is the lord of the sacrificial altar with eight corners. He is the founder of sculpture in gold (svarna shilpa).

ईशानमुख सञ्जातः तप्तकाञ्चन सन्निभः
ज्ञानशक्तियुतः पीत मेघ पृष्ठो परिस्थितः
प्रणव शृतीशाष्टास्र कुण्ड होता महामतिः
स्वर्णकृन्मूल पुरुषो विश्वज्ञः पातु माम् सदा ||14||

Vishvajna Brahma was born from the Eeshaana face of Vishvakarma, is the fifth among the five brahmas and glows with the colour of gold. He is the lord of the upward direction and is also known as Suparna and Soorya. He is seated on a yellow cloud and has brought Pranava Veda. He is the companion of Jnaanashakti and is the lord of the sacrificial altar with eight corners. May he, the founder of sculpture in gold (svarna shilpa), protect us always.

Conclusion:
Vishvakarma, the Celestial architect is not just a mythical persona but the legendary figure of a living tradition of Indian art and architecture. The traditional craftsmen and artists were come to be designated as the Vishvakarma Brahmins in course of time and they considered themselves as analogy of the divine architect Vishvakarma. The Rigveda, Mandala ten two sets of suktas are chants describing the creative power of Vishvakarma. The ancient text Vishvakarmiyam is believed to be the direct form of science and art of vastushilpa rendered by Vishvakarma. In some of the regions the vishvakarma tradition of iconography and iconometry are followed even today and the traditional sculptors of Karnataka are the true representatives of the cultural heritage of vishvakarma .

I acknowledge the support of Mr. Naresh, master craftsperson, Artisan Centre, Canara Bank Bidadi for the drawings of Vishvakarma and Sanskrit rendering Miss. Madhuvanti, Research Scholar Jain University. Sources for writing this part of text- Jnanananda, G. Kashyapa Shilpa Shastra (Uttarardha). Karnataka Shilpakala Academy. 1998:Bangalore.

Vishvakarma Pancha Brahmas
Metal casting, by Master Artisans Canara Bank Artisan Centre Bidadi Bangalore

Svayambhu Vishvakarma
Metal casting, by Master Artisans Canara Bank Artisan Centre Bidadi Bangalore

Vishvakarma Pancha Brahmas Metal casting, by Master Artisans Canara Bank Artisan Centre Bidadi Bangalore

Svayambhu Vishvakarma Metal casting, by Master Artisans Canara Bank Artisan Centre Bidadi Bangalore

End Notes
1. R.L.Kashyap, Rig Veda Samhita Mandala 10, Sri Aurobindo Kapali Shastry Institute of Vedic Culture, 2012, p 254 to 259
2. Veronica Ions, Indian Mythology, Newnes Books, 1983 P 83
3. M. Ramakrishna Bhat, Varahamihira’s Brhat Samhita Chapter LIII – p 460 – 470
4. Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple VolI, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996, p 11
5. Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple Vol. II Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996, p 403

Bibliography
V. Ganapathi Sthapathi, Indian Sculpture and Iconography – Forms and Measurements, Grantha Corporation, 2002
R.L.Kashyap, Rig Veda Samhita Mandala 10, Sri Aurobindo Kapali Shastry Institute of Vedic Culture,
2012
Veronica Ions, Indian Mythology, Newnes Books, 1983
M. Ramakrishna Bhat, Varahamihira’s Brhat Samhita
Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple VolI, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996]
Jnanananda, G. Kashyapa Shilpa Shastra (Uttarardha). Karnataka Shilpakala Academy. 1998:Bangalore.

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