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Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, by W.J. Wilkins, [1900], at

p. 75



Tvastri, or, as he is called in the later works, Visvakarma, is the architect and workman of the gods—the Hindu Vulcan. The heavenly places were formed by him, and the warlike gods are indebted to him for their wonder-working weapons. He sharpens the iron axe of Brahmanaspati (Agni), and forges the thunderbolts of Indra. He is intimately associated with men; he forms husband and wife for each other from the womb, and blesses the married couple with offspring. This accounts for the fact that the wives of the gods are his most constant companions. He made the world and all that is in it; and he is the protector of the creatures he has made. He shares with the other gods in the sacrifices offered by mortals. *

Tvastri is in several passages connected with the Ribhus. These were sons of a man named Sudhanvan; who, owing to their great skill in working, obtained immortality and divine honours. The Ribhus made Indra's chariot and horses; also by their great austerities restored their parents to youth. They are spoken of as the pupils of Tvastri. It was through their skill in manufacturing four sacrificial cups out of one their

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master had fashioned that they became divine. This exhibition was made at the command of the gods, and exaltation to deity the promised reward. Tvastri was very angry at their success; and, ashamed of being seen, hid himself amongst the women. It is said that he even tried to slay his pupils. According to other accounts, he admired their skill and was pleased at the result. Tvastri was the father-in-law of Vivasvat (the Sun).

Indra is occasionally described as being in a state of hostility towards Tvastri and his son Visvarūpa, and ultimately caused the death of both. This Visvarūpa had three heads, called respectively, the Soma-drinker the Wine-drinker, and the Food-eater. On one occasion he declared in public that the sacrifices should be shared by the gods only; but in private he said the asuras (demons) should share them too. And as it is customary to keep promises that are privately made, Indra was afraid that the asuras, obtaining a share of the sacrifices, would be so strengthened as to be able to overthrow his kingdom; he therefore cut off the heads of Visvarūpa with his thunderbolt. The three heads were turned into birds: the Soma-drinker became a Kapinjala (a Francoline partridge), for Soma was of a brown colour the Wine-drinker became a Kalavinka (sparrow), because when men are intoxicated they make a noise like a sparrow; the Food-eater became a Tittiri (partridge), which consequently has a great variety of colour, for its body appears to be sprinkled with glut-and honey. Tvastri, enraged because Indra had slain his son, made a libation to the gods, but did not invite Indra to it. Indra, noticing this slight, by force took the vessel containing the Soma juice, and drank it. But he drank more than was good for him. Tvastri, being angry, at once broke off the sacrifice, and used the few drops of

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[paragraph continues] Soma left to give effect to a curse. He employed the right formula for accomplishing the death of Indra, but unfortunately laid stress upon the wrong word. So, instead of slaying Indra, he was himself slain by him. *

In the Purānas, Tvastri appears under the name of Visvakarma. In the "Vishnu Purāna" he is styled "the author of a thousand arts, the mechanist of the gods, the fabricator of ornaments, the chief of artists, the constructor of the self-moving chariots of the deities, by whose skill men obtain subsistence." Though not named as an Āditya in the Vedas, he is generally reckoned as one in the Purānas. In other places he is called a son of Brahmā. In pictures he is represented as a white man with three eyes. In his right hand he carries a club. He wears a crown, and is adorned with a necklace and bracelets of gold. He is worshipped once, twice, thrice, or four times each year, according to the devotion of his worshippers. Nowadays, no images of him are set up; each man worships the implements of his trade, as representatives. The carpenter bows down to his hammer, saw, etc.; the bricklayer to his trowel; the peasant to his plough; the student to his books; the clerk to his pen. When the worship is over, the day is spent in feasting and enjoyment.

Though, as we have seen in the Vedas, he is regarded in some hymns as the Creator and the Preserver, in the later books he occupies a much lower position. Brahmā is styled the Creator, and Vishnu the Preserver—whilst Visvakarma becomes a valued servant who fulfils the behests of his superiors. It is for skill and power to work in their ordinary avocations that his aid is now sought.


75:* Muir, O. S. T., v. 224.

77:* Muir, O. S. T., v. 232.

Next: Chapter X. Yama