Brahma’s incestuous relationship with his daughter

Written by Sulaiman Razvi

As per Hindu texts, Brahma had incestuous relationship with his own daughter Saraswati. Such an act was done by the creator Brahma. There are different versions of this story. Saraswati is Brahma’s consort and it’s mentioned in Puranas, As per Skanda Purana III.i.41.98-99 Brahma had two wives Gayatri and Saraswati. As I said earlier, there are several versions to this story. Some text says that Brahma was married to Saraswati and some say he had incestuous relationship without marriage. Some say Brahma cohabited with Saraswati for the propagation after marrying her and some say he cohabited with her for propagation without marriage, verses which talks about Brahma’s relationship with Saraswati for propagation doesn’t view the relationship as sinful. Some text says that Brahma and Saraswati were greeted and welcomed after their marriage and some text says that Brahma was punished for having an affair with his own daughter. I have taken some references from Catherine Ludvik’s book. Following verse shows Brahma’s marriage with Saraswati and how they were welcomed in Brahma-loka,

Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Krishna Janma Khanda 35.8-20 “…Then he came and bowed to me; and having secured Saraswati, the enchantress of the three worlds, as his bride Brahma dallied with her in several places in solitude. After a good deal of diversion, he desisted from his amours and came back to Brahma-loka…Then they performed auspicious rites, greeted Brahman and the goddess Bharati, gladly ushered them in into the land of Brahma. Brahma sported with her day and night and was absorbed in sexual enjoyments…” Tr. Rajendra Nath Sen

Brahmanas speaks of this illicit relationship,

Pancavimsa Brahmana 8.2.10 Prajapati went on top of his own daughter Usas. His semen flew away. It was poured on this (the earth). He made it perfect, [thinking]: ”Let this [Semen] of mine not be spoiled.” He made it [something] real, namely, cattle.

Aitareya Brahmana 6.5.27 For the semen is like something unspeakable secretly poured forth into the womb. The sperm becomes blended. For when Prajapati had carnal intercourse with his daughter, his sperm was poured forth upon the earth (and was mixed up with it. This was done for making the sperm produce fruit.

Matsya Purana 3.43-44 “Brahma, fired with passion in her company, married Satarupa and began to pass his days in enjoyment inside a lotus. He enjoyed the company of Savitri for hundred years, and after a long time Manu was born to them.” Tr. Taluqdar of Oudh, edited by B.D. Basu

The chapter 4 of Matsya Purana justifies this act of Brahma saying that Devas beget progeny in quite different ways.

The other version of this story is that, Brahma had incestuous relationship with his daughter in order to create living beings,

Birhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.3 “He was not at all  happy.  Therefore people (still)  are not happy when alone.  He desired a mate. He became as big as man and wife embracing each other. He parted this very body into two. From that came husband and wife. Therefore, said Yajnavalkya, this  (body) is one-half of oneself, like one of the two halves  of a split pea. Therefore this  space is indeed filled by the wife.  He was united with her.  From that men were born.” Tr. Swami Madhavananda

AdiShankaracharya writes on this verse,

He, the Viraj called Manu, was united with her, his daughter called Satarupa, whom he conceived of as his wife. From that union men were born.” Adi Shankaracharya on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.3, Tr. Swami Madhavananda.

The next verse 1.4.4 says she ran away and became different animals and Prajapati assumed the male forms of those animals and had sex (read rape) with her thence all such creatures were born, So this shows that creation took place after Prajapati raped his daughter. Creation after father having sex with daughter is also supported by the Vedas,

Rig Veda 10.61.5-7 (Rudra), the benefactor of man, whose eager virile energy was developed, drew it back when disseminated (for the generation of offspring)again the irresistible (Rudra) concentrates (the energy) which was communicated to his maiden daughter. When the deed was done in mid-heaven in the proximity of the father working his will, and the daughter coming together, they let the seed fall slightly; it was poured upon the high place of sacrifice. When the father united with the daughter, then associating with the earth, he sprinkled it with the effusion[Semen]: then the thoughtful gods begot Brahma : they fabricated the lord of the hearth (of sacrifice) ; the defender of sacred rites.

Following Hindi translation is by Pandit Ram Govind Trivedi
rv 10.61.5-7

Some Hindus says that these verses from Vedas are allegorical. I am not talking about whether these verses are allegorical or not although Panchavimsha and Aitareya Brahmana (mentioned above which are commentaries of these verses) doesn’t explain it allegorically, But I am concerned about the obscenity promoted in Vedas. Was Ishwar short of words that he used such vulgar words in Vedas? Why can’t he use some nice poetry if he wants to convey a message? There is no doubt that these verses promote incest between father and daughter, If Hindus don’t agree then they should furnish reference from Vedas wherein Ishwar prohibits incest between father and daughter. Another version shows that Brahma divided himself into two parts a male and a female and creatures were born from these two after their union,

Shiva Purana, Vayaviyasamhita 7, Section I, chapter 17.1-4 “Securing the great and eternal Sakti from the lord and desiring to initiate the process of procreation by copulation, Brahma become a wondrous man in one half and a woman in one half. From the woman half was born Satarupa. The man half created Viraja, called Svayambhuva Manu, the first creation. Performing a difficult penance the gentle Satarupa got the Manu of bright fame as her husband.” Tr. J.L. Shastri

Brahmanda Purana “Brahma discarded his own shining physical body. After dividing his own body into two, he became a man by on half. By (another) half he became a woman and she was Satarupa. She was the Prakrti, the mother of all living beings (and manifested thus) because the lord was creating out of desire. ..The half that was created as a woman became Satarupa. That divine lady performed a very difficult penance for a hundred thousand years and obtained Purusa of brilliant fame as her husband. Indeed, he is called Manu, the Purusa, the earlier son of the self-born lord…After obtaining as his wife, Satarupa who was not born of any womb, the Purusa sported with her. Hence it is called Rati (sexual dalliance).” Tr. G.V. Tagare

Some stories also says that it was Brahma’s son and daughter who had incestuous relationship for propagation,

Devi Bhagavatam 3.13.15-16 “Next Svayambhava Manu sprang from the lower half of Brahma; and the daughter named Satarupa came out of the left hand side of the Brahma’s body. The two sons Priyavrata and Uttânapâda were born of Manu in the womb of S’atarûpâ and the three daughters, very beautiful and fair complexioned, were also born of him.” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

Srimad Bhagvatam 4.1.1 Sri Maitreya said: Svayambhuva Manu begot three daughters in his wife Satarupa, and their names were Akuti, Devahuti and Prasuti.

Swami Prabhupada writes on this verse: “…The Supreme Lord Himself does the real creation by agitating His material energy, and then, by His order, Brahma, the first living creature in the universe, attempts to create the different planetary systems and their inhabitants, expanding the population through his progeny, like Manu and other progenitors of living entities, who work perpetually under the order of the Supreme Lord…Svayambhuva Manu was the son of Brahma. Brahma had many other sons, but Manu’s name is specifically mentioned first because he was a great devotee of the Lord. In this verse there is also the word ca, indicating that besides the three daughters mentioned, Svayambhuva Manu also had two sons.”

Swami Prabhupada
on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.12.48 “…His transcendental value is not to be minimized, even though he exhibited a tendency to enjoy his own daughter. There is a purpose for the exhibition of such a tendency by Brahmā, and he is not to be condemned like an ordinary living entity.”

A version of Kausitaki shows that Brahma’s sons were attracted to their sister and Kausitaki Brahamana also finds no problem in this act,

Kausitaki Brahmana 6.1.1-12 “Prajapati, being desirous of propagation, underwent penance; from him when heated were born five, Agni, Vayu, Adityaa, Candramas, and Usas as fifth. He said to them, ‘Do ye also practise fervour.’ They consecrated themselves; then when they had consecrated themselves and had acquired fervour, Usas, offspring of Prajapati, taking the form of an Apsaras, came out in front of them; to her their minds inclined; they poured out seed; they went to Prajapati, their father, and said, ‘We have poured out seed; let it not remain here’. Prajapati made a golden bowl, an arrow breadth in height and similar in breadth; in it he poured the seed; then arose he of a thousand eyes, of a thousand feet, with a thousand fitted (arrows).” Tr. A.B. Keith

Other versions shows that Brahma was punished for having an affair with his own daughter,

Satapatha Brahmana Prajapati set his mind on his own daughter, either Sky or Dawn. ‘May I pair with her,’ [he wished. He made love to her. That indeed was a sin for the gods: ‘He who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister, [commits a sin].’ Those gods then said to this god who is lord of cattle. ‘An act of transgression he commits who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister. Pierce him.’ Rudra, having aimed [him], pierced him. In the middle [of the act, his semen spurted forth. Thus indeed it was.

Matryani Samhita (4.214 [35, 11-15]) Prajapati desired his own daughter Usas, she became a red deer, [and he,] having assumed a buck, went on top of her. Prajapati set his mind on Usas, his own daughter. She, having become a deer, stood still for him. He, having become a buc, jumped on her. he (rudra-agni) reflected: ”For this have the gods produced me, for supervision. This one (Prajapati) transgesses. Let me pierce him.” He pierced him. Pierced, he threw off this [buck] appearance and rose upwards.

Aitareya Brahmana 3.33.1-4 The gods saw him (Prajapati). ‘Prajapati does what is not done.’ They sought one who would hit him. They could not find this [god] amongst one another. Their most dreadful forms they gathered into one. Brought together, those [forms] became (abhavat) this god. Therefore there is this name of his (i.e., Bhutapati) that contains [the word] Bhuta. He thrives if he thus knows this name of his. To him the gods said: ”Prajapti here has done what is not done. Pierce him.” ‘So be it.’ He said. ”Let me choose a boon from you.” ”Choose,” [They said]. He chose this very boon: overlordship of cattle (Pasu}. Therefore there is this name of his (Pasupati) that contains [the word] Pasu. As an owner of cattle he thrives, if he thus knows this name of his.

Skanda Purana III.i.40.6-12 “Prajpati (i.e. Brahma) was formerly deluded, O Brahmanas. He desired like a lover of his own daughter named Vac (Speech) joyously. This daughter of Prajapati became ashamed on noticing his lecherous love for her. Hence she assumed the form of a Rohita deer. Inclined to have sexual dalliance with her, Brahma too took the form of a deer. As she went ahead in the guise of a female deer, he too followed her. On seeing him intent on having sexual intercourse with his daughter, all the deities condemned him: ‘This Brahma is committing a deed that should not be done, i.e. (attempt to have) sexual union with one’s own daughter.’ Thus they censured the creator and the Lord of the worlds. On seeing Paramesthin (Brahma) engaged in the forbidden act, Lord Hara took up the Pinaka bow and assumed the form of a hunter. He fitted one arrow to his bow. He drew the bow string as far as his ear and hit Brahma with his sharp arrow. Struck down by the arrow of the Annihilator of the three Puras, Brahma fell down on the ground.” Tr. G.V. Tagare