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Brahma, Savitri and Gayitri

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Although Brahma, the Creator, is one of the trinity of top Hindu gods, along with Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer), his importance has dwindled since Vedic times and he has nothing like the following of the other two. The story behind his temple here in Pushkar serves to explain why this is so, and also reveals the significance of the temples here named after Brahma’s wives, Savitri and Gayitri.

The story goes that Lord Brahma was to marry Savitri, a river goddess, at a sacrificial ritual called a yagna, which had to be performed at a specific, astrologically auspicious moment. But Savitri, busy dressing for the ceremony, failed to show up on time. Without a wife, the Creator could not perform the yagna at the right moment, so he had to find another consort quickly. The only unmarried woman available was a shepherdess of the untouchable Gujar caste named Gayitri, whom the gods hastily purified by passing her through the mouth of a cow (gaya means “cow”, and tri, “passed through”). When Savitri finally arrived, she was furious that Brahma had married someone else and cursed him, saying that henceforth he would be worshipped only at Pushkar. She also proclaimed that the Gujar caste would gain liberation after death only if their ashes were scattered on Pushkar lake – a belief that has persisted to this day. After casting her curses, disgruntled Savitri flew off to the highest hill above the town. To placate her, it was agreed that she should have her temple on that hilltop, while Gayitri occupied the lower hill on the opposite, eastern side of the lake, and that Savitri would always be worshipped before Gayitri, which is exactly how pilgrims do it, visiting Savitri’s temple first, and Gayitri’s temple afterwards.

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