2:40 am - Friday May 7, 2021




By Ramakant Tiwariramakant-tiwari


Bhagavana Kala Bhairava  is a deity whose name implies terribly frightful, Rudra Avatara  of Siva  associated with annihilation. He is depicted aggressivly with angry eyes shaped like lotus blossoms, blazing hair, tiger’s teeth, snake coiled around neck or crown and an eerie garland of human skulls. Kala Bhairava  carries a trident, drum and severed fifth head of Brahma. His throat is blue in colour due to poison swallowed by Him to protect the world from annihilation. He masters Yama, deity of death, Moksa  and entire Tantra  while His third eye represents supreme eternal wisdom. Bhairava  originated in Sanatana  legends, worshipped by Hindu-s, Buddhist-s, Sikhs, Jains throughout Bharata  and Nepal as the wandering manifest of Siva  guarding cardinal points.


The name Bhairava  has it’s roots in the word Bhiru  meaning fearful. Bhairava  literally means terribly fearful manifest. He protects his devotees from dreaded foes like greed, lust, anger etc. These are foes that never allow us seek the Supreme Absolute within our innermost realm. Bha  also means creation while Ra, sustenance and Va, dissolution. Therefore, Bhairava  is the one who creates, sustains and dissolves in three stages of life. Therefore He is regarded as the Ultimate and Supreme. Origin of Bhairava  can be traced to a dialogue between Brahma  and Visnu  recounted in Siva Mahapurana. When Visnu  inquired of Brahma  about the Supreme Creator of Universe, Brahma  responded Himself to be the Supreme Creator and aspired to be worshipped by Him. Brahma  too had five heads as with Siva  hence, declared Himself to be the real Siva !! He also began interfering and questioning Siva  for His divine responsibilities. Angered by His tantrums, Siva  flung a nail from His finger that transformed into Kala Bhairava  who beheaded Brahma  to restrain Him. Thus, Brahma Kapala  is held in hands of Kala Bhairava, His Ahamkara  was destroyed to become enlightened. Beheading Brahma’s head amounted to slaying a Brahmana. Consequently, Kala Bhairava  had to wander carrying the gory head with Him for 12 years like a vagabond till He was liberated of the Karma.


In the manifest of Kala BhairavaSiva  guards all Saktipitha-s. Each Saktipitha Mandira  has a Mandira  dedicated to Kala Bhairava. Another version narrates Siva  Himself created Bhairava  by transforming Kali’s wrath into Bhairava  after successful slaying of demon Dahurāsuraṇ  by Kali. Thereafter, Kali  and Bhairava  merged into Siva. After the merger, Bhairava  appeared as Astanga Bhairava. Yet another Puranic  version states, Siva  created Bhairava  to destroy demons in a battle with Deva-s. Astanga Bhairava-s were created from Kala Bhairava  subsequently who married Asta Matrika-s. From Asta Bhairava-s and Asta Matrika-s, 64 Bhairava-s and 64 Yogini-s were created. Normally Siva Mandira-s have Bhairava, also known as Ksetrapala, facing north-south direction in a standing position with four hands armed with drum, noose, trident and a skull. Some manifests of Bhairava  have more than four hands. His weapons, dog as His mount, protruding teeth, garlanded with red flowers, all these impart a terrifying appearance. His regular Puja  begins with Surya  concluding with BhairavaBhairava  likes Abhiṣeka  with red flowers, Ghee lamp, coconut, honey, boiled food, fruits etc. Friday midnight is the auspicious moment to pray to Bhairava  as it is believed, devotees may have Darsana  of both, Bhairava  and Bhairavi.


Svarnakarsna Bhairava, the ultimate manifest, is red complexioned, golden attired with a lunar crescent on His Crown and four hands. One of His hands carry a golden vessel assuring prosperity and wealth with Mangalavara  being preferred day of His worship. Ancient texts also describe Him having thirty-two hands, bird shaped with golden complexion, terrible teeth and human form above the hip. He is also worshipped to destroy adversaries. Eight Bhairava-s represent five Bhuta-s viz. AkasaVayuAgniJalaPrthvi  and other three being SuryaCandra  and Atma. They all have different appearances, weapons, Vahana-s, bless their devotees with eight types of wealth representing Asta Laksmi. Regular worship of Bhairava  leads worshippers to his  / her pre-determined Guru. Eight individual Mantra-s invoke eight Bhairava-s separately. Bhairava  worshiping begets prosperity, success, superior progeny, prevents premature death, eradicates debts and liabilities. All manifests of Bhairava  evolve only from Śiva  alone who is also adored as Mahā Bhairava.


Every Jyotirlinga  has a Mandira  dedicated to Bhairava  too. Visit to every Jyotorlingesvara  must be preceded by adoration of Bhairava  in His exclusive Mandira  too. Shrines of Patala Bhairava  and Vikranta Bhairava  are located in Ujjain as well. The deity in Kala Bhairava Mandira  at Ujjain accepts liquor in a flat silver bowl offered by Pujari-s and leaves a bit for devotees as Prasada. That constitutes Tamasika  worship, also known as Vammargiya PujaAvanti Khanda  of Skanda Purana  mentions Kala Bhairava, thus being older than even Mahabharata. Historically, the temple dates back to Parmar dynasty during 8th to 10th century AD with the original one constructed by King Bhadrasen. However, present temple building reveals Maratha influence with a conical tower studded with stone lampholders. This Mandira  is central to Tantric Sadhana  with the deity being a huge stone smeared with vermillion with two eyes created on it. Murty  is purported to be Tantric  in origin, not in human form but as a Vighraha  i.e. embodiment of Param Brahmatma  with no contours at all being Nirakara.      


Jagadguru Adi Samkaracarya  composed a poetic adoration dedicated unto Bhagavana Kala Bhairava  known as Kala BhiravastakamaBhairava Astami  commemorating the day Kala Bhairava  appeared, is celebrated on Krsna Paksa Astami  of Margasirsa, as a day of prayers and rituals. Kala Bhairava  is adored with ornaments ranging from twisted serpents as earrings, bracelets, anklets to sacred Yajnopavita. He wraps tiger hide and an apron of human bones. He has a Svana  as His divine mount. Devi Bhairavi  is a fierce and terrifying aspect of Sakti  almost indistinguishable from Kali  except that of Her being His consort. Like Jyotirlinga-s, Kala Bhairava  shrines exist in Saktipitha-s too. Bhagavana Siva  is believed to have allocated responsibility of guarding all 52 Saktipitha-s to one Bhairava  each. Thus emerged 52 manifests of Kala Bhairava, all directly from Siva  Himself. Eight Bhairava  manifests collectively known as Asta Bhairava, happen to be –


Asitanga Bhairava

Ruru Bhairava

Canda Bhairava

Krodha Bhairava

Unmatta Bhairava

Kapala Bhairava

Bhisana Bhairava

Samhara Bhairava


Sixty four Bhairava-s are grouped in eight categories and each category is headed by one Astanga Bhairava. Eight Astanga Bhairava-s together monitor eight directions of the universe. Each Astanga Bhairava  has one sub Bhairava  under Him totalling sixty four Bhairava-s. All Bhairava-s are governed by Maha Swarna Kala Bhairava, also known as Kala Bhairava, Supreme Master of Time of the universe. Bhairavi  is His consort and Bhairava  is also known as protector who guards eight directions of the universe. Bhairava  guards every Mandira  wherein He is established and consecrated. In Siva Mandira-s, keys are placed before Bhairava  when locked for the day at night. He is also protector of women and the weak.


Kala Bhairava  is conceptualized as Guru  of Sani  and known as Bhairavara  or Vairavara  in Tamil where He is often adored as Grama Deva  or guardian of the village who safeguards devotees in eight directions; known as Bahirawa  in Sinhalese, said to protect treasure. He is the deity worshipped by Aghora  sect. Kala Bhairava  is an important deity of Newars. All traditional settlements of Newars have a Kala Bhairava Mandira. Majority of Kala Bhairava Mandira-s in Nepal are maintained by Pujari-s of Newar community. Kathmandu valley is dotted with Kala Bhairava  shrines while in Sri Adichunchanagiri  of Karnataka, Sri Kalabhairaveswara  is adored as Ksetra Palaka. Traditionally, Kala Bhairava  is Grama Deva  in rural Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu where He is also described as Bhaivara / Annadhani Vairavara. In Karnataka, Kala Bhairava  is the supreme deity for community referred to as Gowda-s. Gangadikara Gowda  community adores Him as their caretaker and protector. Sri Kala Bhairava Nath Swami Mandira  in Madhya Pradesh is also widely known.

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