A short time after the creation, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu chanced upon each other while walking in an empty plain.
"Greetings, Lord Brahma," said Lord Vishnu, respectfully.
"Greetings, Lord Vishnu," Brahma responded. "Where are you going over this barren plain?"
"I go to look over my greatness," said Lord Vishnu, proudly. "In this world, my devotion takes first importance, and I go to listen to the prayers of my people." This reply did not please Lord Brahma.
"Many may pray to you, Lord Vishnu," he said, "but they forget whom it was who gave them lips to pray. When they honor you in prayer, they honor me more, since I gave them the ground on which to worship." Lord Vishnu scowled, and the ground beneath him shook. "If there be a greater power than I, then let him manifest!"
Between the two gods appeared a blazing pillar that stretched both into the sky and into the depths of the earth. Its light blinded them, and they raised their hands to ward off the glare. They craned their necks back until they touched the earth, yet they could not see the end of the pillar. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were filled with wonder.Who could be mightier than both the Creator and the Preserver of the world? They decided to seek the end of the pillar.
"I shall change into a goose and seek the end of the pillar in eternity," said Lord Brahma. He stretched out his arms, and they grew great white feathers, and his face narrowed to a goose's thin bill.
"I shall change into a boar and seek the end of the pillar in the earth," said Lord Vishnu. His blue skin changed to matted hair, and his nose grew long, sharp tusks.
Lord Brahma leaped into the sky and Lord Vishnu dove into the earth, both seeking the end of the great pillar without a name. Lord Brahma beat his wings and soared past the treetops.He beat them again and rose above the hills. He beat them again and floated above the mountains.The pillar stretched higher still. He beat his wings even higher and soared among the heavens.He beat them again and rose among the stars.The pillar stretched higher still. Lord Brahma flew for ages, beyond time and eternity itself, until his wings ached and his feathers drooped with fatigue. Still there was no end to the pillar. He returned to the empty plain.
Lord Vishnu dug deep into the earth, past the roots of plants and trees. He dug further, snuffling his nose deeper, past the roots of rivers. The pillar stretched deeper. He dug deeper, past the feet of mountains.He dug deeper and deeper into the bottom of the earth itself. The pillar stretched farther still. Lord Vishnu dug until his tusks were dulled and his whiskers drooped with fatigue. Still there was no end to the pillar. He returned to the empty plain.
"Lord Brahma!" called Lord Vishnu, when he saw Lord Brahma land on the grasses."I have dug and dug and cannot find the end of the pillar. It does not end in the earth."
"Ah, Lord Vishnu !" returned Lord Brahma. "I have flown and flown and cannot find the end of the pillar. It does not end in the sky."
The pillar shook, and the earth trembled. It shook again, and the sky shuddered. It shook a third time, and a shining figure stepped from its depths.
His skin was marred with bhasma (ashes), and his head was matted and curly. A third eye called Tryambakam burned in his forehead. A snake hissed at his throat.
He lowered his trident, the trisul. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu bowed in acknowledgment. Here truly was a power as great-if not greater- than their own. Thus was born Lord Shiva, the destroyer, Lord of demons.