The word Viswakarma (Biswakarma) is a combination of two words – Viswa (the universe) and Karma (one who performs the work).
Grammatically, Viswakarma means worker of the universe but actually he is not simply a worker. Rather, he is believed to be the builder of the universe. He is known, accepted, regarded and worshipped as the main craftsman of Gods and the chief architect of heaven. It is believed that he is a son of Lord Brahma. In other belief he is sayambhu (self born). Whatever be his parental identity it is established that he is the officially empowered and divinely qualified builder of palaces of Gods. Apart from this, mythologically he is the sole builder of flying chariots of Gods for their movement around the universe (heaven and earth) and the designer of all the weapons of Gods which they used in war against demons. He is the chief engineer and prime architect of heaven, exposer of art, creator of art of ornaments. He is the monarch of all architectural and artistic works of the universe.
Like other Gods Viswakarma is worshipped by devotees with due solemnity and pomp. There is separate schedule and procedure of Viswakarma puja which is celebrated with a view to gain blessings of Lord Viswakarma as he is the origin of architecture, engineering, building and craftsmanship. He has four hands, he wears a crown and lots of gold jewellery, holds a water pot which is believed to be the fountain of blessings to devotees, a book, a noose and craftsman’s tools in his hands. Viswakarma puja is observed mainly by engineers, architects, carpenters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, vehicle owners and other professionals who work with machines and tools. Vehicles and machines are worshipped believing it to be the embodiment of Viswakarma. It is thought that the machines and tools were used by Viswakarma for innovating new designs and fashions in the fields of manufacturing, production, designing, assembling, building, modernising, furnishing and finishing.
Almost all other Hindu Gods are worshipped in temples (the only exception for Manasha Devi because apart from temples Manasha puja may be held at the outskirts of localities, in abandoned houses, in bushes etc. which are believed to be favourite abodes of snakes). Nature of Viswakarma puja is also an exception to the normal practice of worshiping in temples only. As Viswakarma is the God of engineering and architecture, other than temples, Viswakarma puja is celebrated also within factory premises, workshop areas, manufacturing sheds, shop floors and office buildings which are believed to be places of work of Viswakarma. Like other deities bright looking statues are prepared by experts and experienced sculptors. In absence of idols images of Viswakarma are also used. The idols are placed in temples or in other places of worship. All the machineries are also worshiped by craftsmen in the name of Viswakarma to gain divine inspiration and skills to create and develop better products in factories and workshops. Sophisticated electronic machines are also worshipped for smooth functioning and vehicles are worshipped for providing better services. Colourful clothes, usually white striped with red, chains made of thin decoration paper and mangalsutra (holy threads, mainly red, yellow, blue or green) are tied on machineries, modern electronic equipments, computer servers and vehicles like garlands. Workers refrain from using their tools and machines on that day as a sign of regard to Viswakarma so that the God can take rest and bless them so that they can start working with renewed vigour and refreshed energy from next day. Images of lord Viswakarma is placed at intersections of roads or street corners. Viswakarma puja is also associated with processions organised jointly by factory owners and workers as well. Both of them require blessings of Viswakarma because these two classes are also winged together. Owners need machines for running their business and workers depend on it for their livelihood. Workers also pray for smooth functioning of machines used in factories, workshops and industries. All workers gather at one common place and pay their homage to Viswakarma. In some places there is a tradition of flying kites and holding competition of kite flying.
Dates of all other pujas (Durgapuja, Kalipuja, Laxmipuja, Saraswati puja etc.) of the Hindus vary every year because those are scheduled on the basis of the lunar calendar. On the contrary, according to Bengali almanac, date of Viswakarma puja is fixed on the last day of Bhadra which is normally the 17th September of Gregorian calendar. To be more specific, it is the day of Bhadra Sankranti when, astrologically, the sun starts its journey from Leo to Virgo (commonly known as Singha to Kanya ). As the date is scheduled on the basis of solar day i.e. transit of the sun, it never varies. Even if it varies it is not for more than a single day. During last twenty years the date varied only twice which was the 18th September but how the date is calculated?
It is known that two different procedures are followed for calculating days of Bengali months in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Days of Bengali months fluctuate between 29 and 32 though in almanac of Bangladesh there is no Bengali month having 32 days. For this year (1424 Bengali year) the calculation is like this:
Though there is slight variation in break up Viswakarma puja normally falls on the 155th day (corresponding to the 260th day of Gregorian calendar) of Bengali year as per our calculation.
Similar to Viswakarma puja there are other festivals which are celebrated on the same date every year. One is Makar Sankranti which marks the first day of transit of the sun into the Capricorn (commonly known as Makar) and except rare exception the date is the 14th January (normally the beginning of the Bengali month of Magh) of the Gregorian calendar which itself is a solar calendar as well. Another festival is Manasha puja which is scheduled on the last day of Sravan every year.
There are many instances of splendid craftsmanship and excellent architectural wonders of Viswakarma in Indian mythology. Throughout the four yugas (ages) he built a number of cities and palaces for Gods and others as well. In Satya-yuga (age of truth) he built the Swarga Loke (heaven ), the abode of Gods and demigods where Indra, king of Gods, ruled. In Treta yug (the second age) Viswakarma built the Golden Lanka, capital city of Ravan. There is a legend behind construction of Golden Lanka. When Lord Shiv married Parvati he asked Viswakarma to build a beautiful palace for them. Accordingly, Viswakarma built a palace of Gold. On the day of Grihaprabesh (ceremony of entrance into a newly built house) Shiv invited wise Ravana to perform the ritual. After the sacred ceremony was over, Shiv asked Ravana to want something as Dakshina (fee or gift given to a priest or teacher or a Brahmin or someone else by a master or student or anyone else in return of doing something for him particularly after worship or end of formal student life etc.). Overwhelmed with the beauty and grandeur of the palace, clever Ravana asked Shiv for the golden palace itself. Naturally, Shiv was truthful to his words and being obliged he had to give away the palace to Ravana. In this way, taking full advantage of Shiv’s simplicity, wicked Ravana grabbed Golden Lanka though finally it was ravaged in war against Ram.
Another mythical town built by Viswakarma was Dwarka, the capital of Sri Krishna’s kingdom in northern India which has become a well known pilgrimage for the Hindus. As we know from the Mahabharat cities like Hastinapur (capital of the Kauravs, near Meerut, Uttar Pradesh in India) and Indraprastha (capital of the Pandavs, towards the south of present day New Delhi) were built by Viswakarma. Looking at the dazzling beauty of the stunning buildings and everything there Duryodhan and his entourage were puzzled when they visited Indraprastha during the Rajsuya Yagna arranged by the Pandavs. Mistaking the surface of one portion of the palace for ripples of lake Duryodhan lifted his clothes knee high to avoid being drenched. Duryodhan walked on straight but fell in waist high water which became a matter of laughter and amusement for Draupadi and her maids who were standing at nearby balcony (Sabha Parba). Draupadi jokingly commented – a blind man’s (actually she meant born blind Dhritarashtra, father of Duryodhan) son another blind. On the other hand, their laughter roused anger and insult in the mind of Duryodhan. At another part of the palace, mistaking the solid crystal structure for exit gate Duryodhan was hurt on the head but apart from all these, hurt of insult was deep rooted in his mind because he was also a king and naturally he could not forget that insult which turned into a root cause of Kurukshetra War.
Viswakarma is also related to image of Jagannath Dev. Though made by Viswakarma, touch of his architectural wonder is totally absent from the image. Inverse to all other works of Viswakarma, image of Jagannath is ugly looking and odd shaped but there are reasons behind it. According to Vaishnav version when Sri Krishna ended his physical life as Avatar (incarnation) his mortal remains were left to decay which were collected by some pious people and were preserved in a box. Indrdyumna (a king of Lunar Dynasty of Somvamgsa lineage in Orisha, India) came to know it and being directed by Lord Vishnu to create the image of Jagannath from a log and consecrate the bones of Krishna in its belly, he requested Vishwakarma and a Brahmin carpenter for the purpose. Vishwakarma accepted the offer on condition that he would not be disturbed till completion of the work and started working closed door. After a fortnight the anxious king could not restrain himself and out of curiosity he visited the place to see the progress of work but being annoyed with the king due to contravention of words Viswakarma left the place leaving the image of Jagannath unfinished, odd looking and without hands and feet.
Viswakarma is not merely a builder of buildings but a builder of beauty and introducer of aesthetics in construction as well as engineering works. Viswakarma puja is not simply worship of one day. It is a source of inspiration towards continuous efforts of innovation and beautification in sectors like industrial production, manufacturing, engineering, designing architecture, fashion and construction.
The writer is the Commissioner of