Brahma is believed to have created himself and, hence, is called Swayambhu, which means "self-manifested." He is also called Pitamaha, Hiranyagarbha and Viswakarma. Pitamaha means "father of fathers," Hiranyagarbha means "golden fetus" and Viswakarma means "architect of the universe."
Brahma has four heads that look in four directions and has four hands. It is said that the four Vedas were born out of his four heads. He sits on the lotus flower assuming padmasana, or "lotus pose." According to a purana, or "ancient text," Brahma originally had five heads. One of his heads was cut off by Shiva who got angry with Brahma when he lied to him. The white swan in which Brahma moves about represents intelligence and the ability to make the right decisions.
Here is the significance of all that is associated with the image of Brahma:
- The four heads of Brahma symbolizes that he possesses all knowledge required to create the world.
- The four aspects of personality of human beings - namely, the mind, intellect, ego and conditioned consciousness - are referred to by the four hands of Brahma.
- The white beard of Brahma symbolizes his wisdom.
- The book held by the back hand of Brahma highlights the importance of right knowledge.
- The cosmic energy is symbolized by the kamandal, or "water pot," in the front left hand.
- The mala in Brahma's right hand is for chanting.
- Brahma's swan has a unique discriminating quality of separating milk from water when mixed together. Similarly, Brahma separates the right from the wrong.