Hinduism is a faith before time, before history. There is no death of prophet, no brutal exodus, no enlightened Bodhi tree shade to mark its spark. Brahma, one of its least popular gods despite belonging to the “Trimurti,” or trifecta of Hindu gods conformed also by Vishnu and Shiva, could technically mark a form of origin. But, more so, he marks the beginning of a recording, as many accounts give him credit for the four Vedas, vital Hindu sacred texts, one flowing from each of his four mouths.
But, then, Brahma could very well be confused with Brahman, or the concept of Ultimate Metaphysical Reality, for the wording in the Vedas themselves are ambiguous when referring to the being, Brahma, versus the concept, Brahman. And, if Brahma indeed marks a start, then where did he come from? Well, one version recounts that he emerged on a lotus flower from Lord Vishnu’s belly. But then some branches of Hinduism equate Lord Vishnu with Brahman, the concept. The question follows: if Lord Vishnu, master of Brahman, the idea, gave birth to Brahma, the being, from his belly, then didn’t Vishnu come first?
The point is, it does not matter. The stories of Hinduism are beautiful enough to motivate the suspension of disbelief in favor of all-encompassing religiosity. More than religion, Hinduism is a devotional modus of life in which mystery and minutiae mix. Inconceivable, eternal gods accompany man through bouts of bad traffic because there they literally are, perched atop dashboards with fresh cut flowers and saffron third eye. At the drugstore, at the office, at the playground, the divine is there, mantled by gifts offered by man.
Some spaces are more sacred than others, certainly. Sacrosanct sites abound. But via quotidian, casual ritual, secular spaces also become hallowed, enshrined. The sanctification of the public everyday, however, remains an intimate, private endeavor, one that, to me, renders the Hindu faith so compelling. To visit India and witness the boundless, colorful manifestation of personal religious intention is to know that the holy lives within but can activate transformative joy without.