VISVAKARMAN, VISVAKARMA – The celestial architect

Vis´vakarman (omnificent) may originally have been an epithet for any powerful god, but it was used in the Rigveda most often for Indra and Sûrya. There are two Rigvedic hymns to Vis´vakarman praising him as the all-seeing god, the one who names the gods, and that one beyond the comprehension of mortals.

He was said to be the sacrifice and the one to whom the sacrifice is given. The Nirukta added that Vis´vakarma, son of Bhuvana, held a sarva-medha (total sacrifice) offering something of everything and ending with himself. In the Epics and Purânas this Vis´vakarman was reduced in status and personified as one with creative power, the heavenly architect.

He could even be called a Prajâpati, when the term came to refer to any creative being. Vis´vakarman was described as having the powers and the very office of Tvashthri, a reference that is too vague to suggest anything more than the fearsome Tvashthri has been reduced to an office.

Vis´vakarman became the great builder of celestial palaces and kingdoms, as well as constructing the magical weapons of the gods. The Râmâyana has him building Lanka for the demon Râvana and then generating the ape Nala who builds the bridge to Lanka for Hanuman’s invasion of Lanka.

VISVAKARMAN, VISVAKARMA - The celestial architect

Some Purânic accounts make Vis´vakarman the son of the eighth Vasu (attendants of Indra), Prabhâsa. Others say that Vis´vakarman married Yogasiddhâ, a wonderfully beautiful and virtuous woman, with whom he had a daughter, Samjñâ.

When Samjñâ found her husband, Sûrya, too bright and hot, Vis´vakarman put the sun on a lathe and trimmed away an eighth. From what fell from his lathe Vis´vakarman forged the discus of Vishnu and the trident of S´iva as well as weapons for the rest of the gods, including Kubera, god of wealth, and Kârttikeya, god of war.

In the Vâmana Purâna Vis´vakarma became the mean father who cursed his beautiful daughter, Citrângadâ. He in turn was cursed by the sage Ritadhvaja to be reborn a monkey. (The treatment of Vis´vakarman [Vis´vakarma] demonstrates just how authoritative the Vedas are when Vedic gods are so easily reduced to mean fathers.)

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