One day Brahma and Vishnu were walking down the path. They came to a place where they met, and Brahma was walking from one direction and Vishnu from the other direction. And Brahma said, “Would you please step aside, I’m trying to pass.” And Vishnu said, “Well, you know, I’m the protector of the entire universe, and I think it would be appropriate for you to step aside, for me.”
And Brahma said, “Well, you know, I’m the creator of the universe, so you step aside for me.” And Vishnu said, “You took birth from the lotus, which came out of my navel, so you step aside for me.”
And as Maya would have it, they began to argue as to who would step aside for whom, who is the greatest, and they decided on a competition. There was a Shiva Lingam that came out of the ground right between the two of them. And it went up, up, up through the clouds all the way to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, they couldn’t see the end of it.
And Brahma and Vishnu said, “Let’s find the end of this Shiva Lingam.” And Brahma said, “That’s fine, I’ll get on my swan and fly to the top.” And Vishnu said, “I will become a boar, and I’ll go to the bottom. And the first one to return here to the ground zero, he will be the superior amongst the two of us.”
So, Vishnu became a boar and he started digging into the earth down along side the Shiva Lingam. And He went down, down, down, and He said, “This Shiva Lingam doesn’t have an end. I’m getting tired, and I’m getting hungry and I’m going back, I can’t find the end of the Shiva Lingam. Shiva is Infinite.” Vishnu came back.
Brahma got on his swan, and he started going up, up, up, higher, he went through the clouds. And he went higher still, and he was getting to where he thought he must be near the end of the Shiva Lingam. When a gust of wind came and blew a mallika flower off the top of the Shiva Lingam, and it started falling down.
Brahma caught the mallika flower, and he said, “Hello little flower, where have you come from?” And the flower said, “I came from the top of the Shiva Lingam, some devotee put me there, and a gust of wind blew me off of the top of the Shiva Lingam.” Well Brahma said, “That’s just wonderful, I was just going up to the top of the Shiva Lingam to get a little flower just like you! I have a little work for you, a little job for you.”
And the flower said, “What is that job?” And Brahma said, “Well, you just tell Vishnu that I took you off of the top of the Shiva Lingam.” And the mallika flower said, “Well, Brahma, that’s not quite true. A devotee put me on top of the Shiva Lingam, and a gust of wind blew me off of the top of the Shiva Lingam, and that’s how i came to be in your hand.” And Brahma said, “Do you know who I am? I’m the creator of the universe. And if you do this little thing for me, I will make sure that you are honored amongst all flowers.”
Brahma put the flower in his pocket, and returned to ground zero. Brahma saw Vishnu already standing there waiting and he said, “Hi Vishnu, did you find the bottom of the Shiva Lingam?” And Vishnu said, “No. I went down as far as i could possibly go, and I got tired and I got hungry and I decided to come back. I couldn’t find the end. How about you? Did you find the top of the Shiva Lingam?”
And Brahma said, “Yes I did. I went up there, I said hello to Shiva, I took darshan of the Divine Lord. I came back just to tell you all about it.” Vishnu said, “Wait a minute, there was no end down below, how could there be an end up on top? What proof do you have?” And Brahma said, “You know I thought that you would be a doubting thomas, and I didn’t think that you would believe me, so I brought this mallika flower just to give proof.”
And Vishnu said, “Hey flower, where did you come from?” And the flower said, “I came from the top of the Shiva Lingam.” And then Vishnu thought for a minute and He said, “Flower, did Brahma take you from the top of the Shiva Lingam?” And the little flower began to shake, and he said, “Yesss.”
And suddenly Shiva shouted out, “Liar! Brahma didn’t take you from the top of the Shiva Lingam, nobody can measure the limits of Infinity. Without my grace no one can reach the top of the Shiva Lingam! That flower is lying! And so is Brahma, and now I pronounce I will never accept mallika flowers in my worship.”
And Brahma used to have five heads. And Shiva said, “Because you’ve spoken a lie, I’m not going to accept any words that come out of the mouth that spoke the lie.” And he cut off one of the heads.
So that’s why Brahma has four faces now. And that’s why we don’t offer mallika flowers to Shiva.