Study Guide

The Trimurti in Lord of Light

By Roger Zelazny

The Trimurti

The Trimurti is the title given to the rulers of heaven, namely Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu. These guys are the supreme of the supreme, the baddest of the bad, the three gods you don't want to mess with. But are they really all that and a bag of chips?

By Our Powers Combined

Before we get into the Trimurti's role in the novel, perhaps it's best we take a look at the individuals making up this powerful trio of divinity. Remember: Here we're talking about the original Trimurti. Brahma and Shiva both die at some point in the novel and are replaced by Kali and Agni respectively, but since both those characters have their own discussion pages, we'll keep them separate from here. Okay, here we go:

  • Lord Brahma / Madeline: Brahma is main decision maker in heaven—if you need something done, you ask his permission. But he's weak-willed, usually letting others, like Ganesha and Kali, convince him about what actions need to be taken. Most of his true effort is spent trying to get women to "worship him as a man, not as a god" (2.223) in order to suppress the feeling that "[he] had been born a woman and somehow was woman still" (2.224). Sounds rough.
  • Lord Shiva is the "old war horse" of the three (2.224). He spends no time in the novel playing the political game, choosing instead to spend his days riding into battles with his awesomely powerful trident. You do you, Shiva.
  • Lord Vishnu is the architect of the Celestial City. Like an obsessive artist, his concerns lay purely with his masterpiece. When Sam is murdered in the streets of the Celestial City, Vishnu complains that "the City should not have been defiled with blood" (5.442). After the Battle of Keenset, Sam is dead, the gods have taken severe loses, Nirriti grows in power, and Accelerationism is on the rise—and all Lord Vishnu has to say is that "the wilderness had come into the City at last" (6.800). See? Totally obsessed.

Bad Deities, Bad

See the common factor? All three members of the Trimurti are inwardly focused, and as rulers of the lives of mankind, they should probably be a little more interested in the affairs of the world, don't you think? In the Trimurti, we see the perfect example of bad leadership, the kind that only considers its personal gains over the needs of others.

In contrast, Sam starts out only thinking of his own needs—that is, the need to get himself a fresh body and brand new resurrection machine—but later develops a desire to see the needs of others met. The Trimurti? Yeah, not so much.

Mythological Origins

Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are the supreme gods of the Hindu pantheon, where they are indeed known as the Trimurti:

  • Brahma: The creator, it's believed his four heads delivered the four Vedas, Hinduism's holy texts, to humanity.
  • Shiva: The destroyer, but also the god of regeneration, makes him both terrifying and also benevolent. 
  • Vishnu: The preserver who keeps the universe in check while Brahma creates and Shiva destroys, Vishnu is said to have come to Earth in the form of ten avatars. Nine have come so far, one being the historical Buddha. He will return for a tenth and final time this eon (source).