From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the raga in Hindustani classical music, see Bhairav (raga). For the 2001 film, see Bhairav (film).
Destruction (guard god)
Devanagari भैरव
Affiliation Aspect of Shiva
Weapon Trishula
Consort Bhairavi
Mount Dog

Bhairava (Sanskrit, "Terrible, Frightful")[1] sometimes known as Kala Bhairava, is a Hindu deity, a fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation.[2][3] He is often depicted with frowning, angry eyes and sharp, tiger's teeth and flaming hair; stark naked except for garlands of skulls and a coiled snake about his neck. In his four hands he carries a noose, trident, drum, and skull. He is often shown accompanied by a dog.[4] He originated in Hindu mythology[citation needed] and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. He is worshipped in Nepal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.


Kaal Bhairab, Kathmandu, Nepal
Bhairava with his consort, Bhairavi

The origin of Bhairava can be traced to a conversation between Brahma and Vishnu recounted in the Shiv Mahapuran, in which Vishnu inquired of Brahma, "Who is the supreme creator of the Universe?". Arrogantly, Brahma told Vishnu to worship him as Supreme Creator. One day Brahma thought, "I have five heads, Shiva also has five heads. I can do everything that Shiva does and therefore I am Shiva". Brahma had become a little egoistic. Not only had he became egoistic, he started to forge the work of Shiva. Brahma started interfering in what Shiva was supposed to do. Then Mahadeva (Shiva) threw a small nail from His finger, which assumed the form of Kala Bhairava, and casually went to cut off one of Brahma's heads. The skull of Brahma is held in the hands of Kala Bhairava; Brahma Kapala in the hands of Kala Bhairava and Brahma’s ego was destroyed and he became enlightened. Then onwards he became useful to himself, to the world and deeply grateful to Shiva. In the form of the Kaala Bhairava, Shiva is said to be guarding each of these Shaktipeeths. Each Shaktipeeth temple is accompanied by a temple dedicated to Bhairava.


Shri Swarna Kala Bhairava consecrated at Kaga Ashram, Thiruvannamalai, India

His temples or shrines are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva across India, including Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi and the Kal Bhairav temple, Ujjain. In Ujjain, one can also find the Patal Bhairav and Vikrant Bhairav shrines.[5][6]

Kaal Bhairava temples can also be found around Shakti Peethas, as it is said Shiva allocated the job of guarding each of 52 Shakti Peethas to one Bhairava. As such it is said there are 52 forms of Bhairava, which are in fact considered as manifestation of Shiva himself.

Traditionally Kal Bhairav is the Grama devata in the rural villages of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where he is referred to as "Bhaivara/Annadhani" Vairavar. In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme God for the community commonly referred as "Gowdas", especially for the Gangadikara Gowda caste he is considered as the care taker and punisher.

Also another set of people in Kashmir that have their origin from Gorat, or the minister of Mata Sharika worship Bhairava during Shivratri [7]

The Hindu reformer Adi Sankara has written a hymn on Kala Bhairava of Kashi which is called as Kala Bhairav Ashtakam.[8]


Bhairava Ashtami commemorating the day Kal Bhairav appeared on earth, is celebrated on Krishna paksha Ashtami of the Margashirsha month of Hindu calendar with a day special prayers and rituals.[9]


Bhairava is depicted ornamented with a range of twisted serpents, which serve as earrings, bracelets, anklets, and sacred thread (yajnopavita). He wears a tiger skin and a ritual apron composed of human bones.[10] Bhairava has a dog (Shvan) as his divine vahana (vehicle). Bhairavi is a fierce and terrifying aspect of the Devi who is virtually indistinguishable from Kali, with the exception of her particular identification as the consort of Bhairava.

Bhairava himself has eight manifestations i.e. Ashta Bhairava:

  • Asithaanga Bhairava
  • Ruru Bhairava
  • Chanda Bhairava
  • Krodha Bhairava
  • Unmattha Bhairava
  • Kapaala Bhairava
  • Bheeshana Bhairava
  • Samhaara Bhairava

Kala Bhairava is conceptualized as the Guru of the planetary deity Shani (Saturn). Bhairava is known as Bhairavar or Vairavar in Tamil where he is often presented as a Grama devata or village guardian who safeguards the devotee on all eight directions (ettu tikku). Known in Sinhalese as Bahirawa, he protects treasures. Lord Bhairava is the main deity worshipped by the Aghora sect.


Bhairava is an important deity of the Newars. All the traditional settlements of Newars have at least a temple of Bhairava. Most of the temples of Bhairava in Nepal are maintained by Newar priests. There are several Bhairava temples in the Kathmandu valley.[11]

Images of Bhairava

See also


  1. ^ Apte, p. 727, left column
  2. ^ For Bhairava form as associated with terror see: Kramrisch, p. 471.
  3. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 76. 
  4. ^ "Bhairava: The Wrathful". Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Sunita Pant Bansal (2008). Hindu Pilgrimage: A Journey Through the Holy Places of Hindus All Over India. Pustak Mahal. ISBN 8122309976. 
  6. ^ Diana L. Eck (1982). Banaras: City of Light. Taylor & Francis. pp. 192–3. ISBN 0710202369. 
  7. ^ Syed Siraj Ul Hassan (1920). The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Vol. 1. Asian Educational Services. p. 482. ISBN 8120604881. 
  8. ^ "Hindu Bhakti". Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Dr. Bhojraj Dwivedi (2006). Religious Basis Of Hindu Beliefs. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. p. 172. ISBN 8128812394. 
  10. ^ Bhairava statuette in copper from 15th-16th century Nepal, in collection of Smithsonian Institution. Accessed August 11, 2007.
  11. ^ "Bhairav Temple – Lord Bhairo Baba". Retrieved 14 April 2015. 

External links