In Hinduism, it is believed that there is only one ultimate truth – Brahman. This concept is the ultimate spirit that infuses everything. It is considered to be completely impersonal and cannot be described in words. Every aspect of the universe is part of Brahman, but Brahman is more than the total of everything in the universe.
Every Hindu God is meant to stand for one part of Brahman. The trinity of Hindu Gods - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva share a portion of the godhead and are each accountable for one element of him. Brahma is known as the creator and conceives everything in the cosmos. Vishnu is renowned for maintaining the dharma and the functioning of the universe. Shiva is recognized for taking on the destructive feature of the Brahman. When it comes to annihilation and destruction, Lord Bhairava is revered as an avatar of Lord Shiva himself.
Who is Lord Bhairava?
Lord Bhairava is an extremely ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva and is typically connected to destruction. As per ancient Hindu tales, the deity is Shiva’s form of transcendency and terror. He is a wandering avatar of Lord Shiva. It is believed there are 64 Bhairavas in total. These Bhairavas are categorized under eight segments. Kala Bhairava, the supreme ruler of time of the Universe, supervises and monitors the Bhairavas.
He is widely revered by millions of Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists in India and Nepal with great devotion and passion. Worshipped as Bahirawa in Sinhalese, Lord Bhairava is believed to guard treasures. He is the main god who is prayed to by the Aghori sect. Kashmiri residents originating from Gorat honor Lord Bhairava during the Shivaratri festival.
The head of the Bhairavas is known as the Astanga Bhairavas. The eight incarnations of Bhairavas, who shield and govern the 8 directions of the universe, are:
- Asitanga Bhairava: Enhances creative energy and helps bring prosperity
- Ruru Bhairava: Assists in defeating enemies
- Chanda Bhairava: Increases self-confidence
- Krodha Bhairava: Empowers an individual with the power to create potential and vital decisions in life
- Unmattha Bhairava: Helps improve your command over your speech
- Kapala Bhairava: Assists in eliminating unproductive works and actions
- Bheeshana Bhairava: Combat negativity and overcome evil spirits
- Samhaara Bhairava: Erases bad outcomes of past actions
Origins in Hindu Scriptures
Lord Bhairava is a Shaivite God who is venerated by Hindus. In Shaivism, he is believed to be a frightening incarnation of Lord Shiva and is linked to destruction. In the Trika system, Bhairava is known to stand for supreme reality, equivalent to Para Brahman. Typically, in Hinduism, Bhairava is also referred to as Dandapani as he is holding a rod (Danda) to penalize sinners. He is also called ‘Swaswa’, which means ‘the one whose mode of commute is a dog’.
The Puranas also have a version of Lord Bhairava. In this account, there was a battle between gods and demons. To annihilate the asuras, Lord Shiva formed Kala Bhairava from whom Aṣṭāṅga Bhairavas were generated. These Astha Bhairavas tied the knot with Ashta Matrikas. Both the Ashta Bhairavas and Ashta Matrikas are known to have frightful forms. Out of these Ashta Bhairavas and Ashta Matrikas, 64 Bhairavas and 64 Yoginis were formed.
Origin of the Name
The literal translation of ‘Bhairava’ is fearful or terrible. Its interpretation is not quite the same. It generally means he is the deity who guards his worshippers from external enemies as well as from inner enemies like anger, lust, greed, and several other negative emotions. There is yet another interpretation of the name. ‘Bha’ denotes creation, ‘Ra’ for preservation, and ‘Va’ stands for destruction. Thereby, Bhairava is regarded as the ultimate godhead and merges all the forces of the universe.
Lord Bhairava in Hindu Iconography
It is pretty easy to locate Bhairava idols in every Lord Shiva’s temple. These idols are typically positioned in the north-facing and south-facing directions.
The deity is portrayed as being adorned with a variety of twisted serpents, which work as anklets, bracelets, and sacred thread. He dons a tiger skin and a ritual apron made of human bones. As Ksetrapala (guardian of the temple), he is shown in a standing pose with his four hands holding his drum, pasa (noose), trident, and skull.
A couple of depictions showcase him not wearing any clothes, four hands, protruding teeth along with a garland of red flowers, and a scary appearance. His divine vahana (vehicle) and constant companion is his dog Shvan who is always depicted adjacent to him.
The form known as Svarṇākarṣṇa Bhairava portrays him with a red complexion and is clad in a bright golden outfit, with a moon on his head and four hands, with one hand holding a golden vessel. Lord Bhairava’s consort Bhairavi is a terrifying and frightening feature of the Devi who is practically identical to Kali, with the notable exception of her recognition as Lord Bhairava’s spouse.
Legends surrounding Lord Bhairava
Numerous stories feature Lord Bhairava, the fierce and terrifying part of Lord Shiva. One of the most famous tales, which shows up in the Shiva Mahapurana was an argument between Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Lord Vishnu posed Brahma with a question about who the Supreme Creator of the Universe was. Hearing the query, Lord Brahma became slightly egoistic, as he was always honored as the Creator. Moreover, he believed that since he had five heads like Lord Shiva, he could accomplish anything that Shiva could. He then started to copy the work of Shiva and started meddling with his daily tasks.
Lord Shiva was tolerant for a while but later he grew impatient and could not bear Lord Brahma’s interference anymore. He broke a tiny nail from his finger and threw it. This nail took on the avatar of Kaala Bhairava. The form proceeded straight to Brahma and cut off one of his heads. Therefore, Bhairava is usually depicted holding the skull of Brahma in one of his hands.
With this action, Lord Bhairava was able to fully overpower Lord Brahma and humbled him, thereby ending his ego and blessing immediate enlightenment upon him. He was incredibly appreciative of Bhairava and bowed down before him and assured to work towards the benefits of the Universe, from then on.
There is another story that talks about how Lord Shiva himself conceived Bhairava. There was once a ferocious asura called Dahurasuran. After he performed rigorous penance, he was blessed with a boon that he could only be assassinated by a woman. Goddess Parvati assumed the form of Kali to kill him. After completing her task, her anger manifested as a child. Kali nourished her kid with her milk. Witnessing this, Lord Shiva materialized and got both Kali and the child to fuse into him. From this avatar of Bhairava, Shiva showed up in all his eight forms of Ashtanga Bhairavas. Since the deity was the reason for Bhairava’s existence, the latter is occasionally called his son.
An altered version of the original tale has a slightly different take. When Lord Brahma humiliated Lord Shiva, the latter assumed the avatar of the ferocious Bhairava. He leaped out from Shiva’s Third Eye and chopped Brahma’s head off. His skull then got attached to Bhairava’s left palm. Bhairava had to be penalized for cutting the holiest and scholarly Brahma’s head. To pay for the biggest sin of Brahmataya, Bhairava vowed to roam as a naked beggar with the skull serving as his begging container. He is eventually released from his sin when he arrives at the sacred city of Varanasi. There is a shrine devoted to Bhairava in this city.
Characteristic Traits of Lord Bhairava
Lord Bhairava has been portrayed as a fierce guardian of women. He is talked about as a defender of the timid, particularly females who are meek. He is generally depicted as a protector as he shields the eight directions of the universe. In Lord Shiva temples, when the temple is shut, the keys are kept in front of the deity. His third eye is supposed to stand for eternal supreme wisdom.
Vahana of Lord Bhairava
Lord Bhairva’s vahana is a dog. The animal is generally seated on one side and looks ferocious and menacing with protruding teeth and a scary expression. Feeding and caring for hungry dogs is believed to be an incredible way of honoring and showcasing your devotion and commitment to Lord Bhairava. It is thought that if you feed dogs ‘halwa puri’ (sweet bread), then it is likely you will overcome your problems.
Interesting Facts about Lord Bhairava
Lord Bhairava is also known as the Lord of Time. He helps worshippers to productively use their time to achieve their objectives. If one prays to the deity with utmost sincerity, you will stop wasting time in meaningless activities and use that energy for a constructive purpose. He assists in cleansing the soul with his divine power and creates favorable odds for his devotees. As if by magic, more often than not, worshippers find themselves at the right place and correct time for incredible opportunities.
Lord Bhairava is also renowned for being the Guardian of Temples (also called ‘Kotwal’ or ‘Kshetrapalaka’). The keys of the shrine are ritually placed before Bhairava at closing time and then retrieved when the temple is opened in the morning.
He is also revered as the Guardian of Travelers. It is believed that before commencing on a trip, a devotee needs to light diyas (lamp) and make a garland of cashew nut wreaths and offer it to the Lord Bhairava idol. This promises safety and protection. He is known to guard all those who travel long-distance, particularly at night.
Festivals dedicated to Lord Bhairava
In India, there are numerous sacred days devoted to many gods, religious and cultural festivals. One of them is the auspicious Kala Ashtami. It is celebrated on every Hindu lunar month during Ashtami Tithi of Krishna Paksha (the 8th day during the waning phase of the moon). It is devoted to Lord Bhairava, believed to be a ferocious and terrifying avatar of Lord Shiva. There are12 Kala Ashtami every year. The Ashtami Tithi (8th day) after Purnima (full moon) is regarded as the finest day to offer your prayers to Lord Bhairava.
Kala Ashtami: Puja Vidhi
- Devotees who fast on this day should wake up early and cleanse themselves by taking a bath.
- Offer coconut, rice, sandalwood, roses, milk, and nuts to the Lord Bhairava idol.
- Afterwards, light incense sticks and a diya (lamp) with mustard oil while reciting mantras devoted to Lord Shiva.
- At night time, the worshippers present water to the moon and break their fast
- Those who are fasting, generally keep away from drinking alcohol, consuming tobacco, eating non-vegetarian food among others.
- Moreover, the devotees need to be celibate during the fasting duration.
Best Way to Worship Lord Bhairava
Here are some ways to showcase your devotion to the deity:
- On the lord’s birthday – Kalabhairava Jayanthi – it is vital to pay your respects to dead ancestors in the morning.
- Before offering any prayer to Lord Bhairava, do take a bath early in the morning and clean your body of all impurities.
- Placing a yantra of Lord Bhairava is obligatory by presenting prayers, mantras and flowers.
- It is believed to be extremely auspicious if one chants the powerful Kalabhairava mantras
- Feeding hungry dogs on special days such as Kalabhairava Jayanthi is very beneficial as the canine is considered to be the vahana of Lord Bhairava. The dogs can be given milk, curd and sweets.
- Offering food to Brahmins on Kalabhairava Jayanthi is also thought to be favorable.
- Worshippers can please the Lord by visiting the Bhairava temples in the evenings.
Benefits of Worshipping Lord Bhairava
Devotees offering their prayers to Lord Bhairava will benefit as the deity blesses them with time management skills. He will help his devotees get rid of anger, greed and lust and overcome all kinds of addictions. He is a true guardian and protector whose blessings if you take before commencing on a journey assure safe travel. Worshippers will also get relief from serious illnesses, be cured of mental disorders and be bestowed with health, wealth and prosperity. Scroll Down to read more
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