In Hindu Mythology, at the time of creation, the Brahman [Force which runs through all of us and the Great energy which created everything in the universe] manifested itself into the form of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.
Lord Brahma was the Creator and Lord Vishnu was the Preserver. They worked together and everything was fine with the universe. However once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma had a fight with each other.
Lord Vishnu said, ‘Brahma, I am the Preserver. I am more powerful than you…’
Lord Brahma snorted, ‘If I had not created anything, where does your role come into this…’
‘More People worship me …’ Lord Vishnu angrily. The fight was threatening to go out of hand, when the other Gods went to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva told the Gods that he would take care of this and asked the Gods to be in peace.
As Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma were angrily staring at each other, a huge pillar erupted before them. The pillar was so long that neither Lord Vishnu nor Lord Brahma could either see the beginning or the end of it.
Their fight forgotten the two Gods got together. ‘What is this, Vishnu? Did you…?’ asked Brahma pointing at the column. Vishnu shook his head.
Lord Brahma said, ‘Let us find out how huge this pillar is….I will go to the top…’
Lord Vishnu nodded, ‘…I will go to the bottom….’
Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up, whereas Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha [Boar] and went digging down to find the end of the pillar.
On and on Brahma flew but the pillar never seemed to end….What is this and how long can it get…Brahma thought…Suddenly Lord Brahma thought of something else. What if Vishnu is able to reach the bottom of the pillar….What if he comes back first….He will make fun of me and tell me that he is better than me…Lord Brahma started flying with renewed vigour but he still could not find the end of the pillar…As Brahma flew he saw a beautiful Ketaki flower on the pillar.
He picked up the flower, ‘You are so beautiful, what are you doing here, Ketaki.?’
‘Sir, I was offered to this pillar for prayer. As the wind blew, I was blown down the pillar. But the pillar is so long that even after a few years I am still on the pillar…’
Looking at the flower Brahma had an idea. ‘Ketaki, you have been on this pillar. I want you to do something for me…Can you lie for me?’
The flower looked at Lord Brahma suspiciously as Lord Brahma laughed nervously, ‘You see, I had a bet with Vishnu, about who is better. At that time this pillar came between us. I went looking at the top and Vishnu went looking at the bottom. If I take you back and tell Vishnu that I…I found the top and you…also said the same…well I would become a stronger God than Vishnu….’ Lord Brahma said looking desperately.
The Ketaki flower slowly nodded his head, ‘Ok I will support your story…’
Happily, Lord Brahma carried the flower in his beak and flew back. He met Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar still digging the base, unable to get to the bottom of the pillar.
Tired Lord Vishnu got out of the digging to meet Lord Brahma. ‘Were you able to find the top Brahma?’ He asked tiredly.
Lord Brahma proudly pulled out the flower and said, ‘Yes, I have seen the beginning of the pillar…’ Lord Vishnu looked disbelievingly as Lord Brahma continued, ‘..and as proof of the same, I have brought this back…’ He said placing the Ketaki flower on the pillar. ‘This flower was at the top of the pillar and I brought is back… Well?’ Lord Brahma nervously peered at the flower.
The Ketaki spoke, ‘Yes Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma speaks the truth. I was at the top of the pillar. Lord Brahma brought me from there…’
Lord Vishnu looked dejected, ‘Well Brahma, good for you…I have not been able to get to the bottom. I have been digging….digging and digging…the pillar does not seem to end…’
Lord Brahma looked smugly, ‘Well that means that I am….’ CRACK!
Much to the surprise of Lord Brahma, the pillar split open. From inside the pillar came the beautiful three eyed God – Shiva. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma looked dazed as Shiva appeared before them with all his splendor and power.
Lord Shiva addressed Lord Brahma who was looking at him with an open mouth, ‘You saw the end of the pillar, Brahma?’
Lord Brahma did not say anything. He just looked down and stared blankly. Lord Vishnu looked uncomprehendingly as Lord Shiva continued angrily, ‘You lied, Brahma! This pillar is a form of me..It is a linga – a form in which I am easily found. There is no beginning or end for this linga.You, me and Vishnu- we are all forms of the Brahman – each one of us has a job – Creation, Preservation and Destruction. There is no ‘who is better’ between us….’ Lord Shiva said angrily, ‘We have to function together not fight with each other.
Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma both apologized to Lord Shiva. However Lord Shiva was not yet finished, ‘Brahma for your lie, I curse you…You will never be worshiped like the rest of us….And you Ketaki…’Lord Shiva thundered as the flower quailed, ‘You will never be offered in prayers from now on….
Both Lord Brahma and the flower did not dare object. They had paid the price for lying…
Lord Brahma has very few temples in India and is rarely worshiped separately. Lord Shiva’s curse is said to be one of the reasons for this. Even now the Ketaki flower is never used for worship or offered while prayers.
Lord Shiva is always prayed in the form of the linga, which is regarded as his symbol, the form in which he first appeared to stop the fights between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.