Bhairava (Sanskrit: भैरव, lit.'frightful'), or Kala Bhairava, is a Shaivite and Vajrayāna deity worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. In Shaivism, he is a powerful manifestation, or avatar, of Shiva.[1][2][3] In the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, Bhairava represents the Supreme Reality, synonymous to Para Brahman.[4][5] Generally in Hinduism, Bhairava is also called Dandapani ("[he who holds the] danda in [his] hand"), as he holds a rod or danda to punish sinners, and Svaśva, meaning, "he whose vehicle is a dog".[6] In Vajrayana Buddhism, he is considered a fierce emanation of boddhisatva Mañjuśrī, and also called Heruka, Vajrabhairava, and Yamantaka.[7][8]

12th-century Bhairava sculpture
Mantraॐ भैरवाय नमः ॥ oṁ bhairavāya namaḥ
WeaponTrishula, Khaṭvāṅga, Sword, Kapala, Sickle, Vajra, Noose, Pinaka bow, Pashupatastra arrow, Pestle and Damaru
DayTuesday and Sunday
FestivalsBhairava Ashtami

Bhairava is worshipped throughout India, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Japan, as well as in Tibetan Buddhism.[9][10]

Etymology edit

Bhairava originates from the word bhīru, which means "fearsome". Bhairava means "terribly fearsome form". It is also known as one who destroys fear or one who is beyond fear. One interpretation is that he protects his devotees from dreadful enemies, greed, lust, and anger. These enemies are dangerous as they never allow humans to seek God within. There is also another interpretation: Bha means creation, ra means sustenance and va means destruction. Therefore, Bhairava is the one who creates, sustains and dissolves the three stages of life. Therefore, he becomes the ultimate or the supreme.[11][full citation needed]

Hinduism edit

Bhairava depicted in Elephanta Caves, mid-5th century.

Legend edit

Mahakala Bhairava depicted on a chaturmukha (four-faced) lingam, 10th century
Murti of Akasha Bhairava, Kathmandu

The legend of the origin of Bhairava is traced back to a conversation between Brahma and Vishnu described in the Shiva Purana.[12]

Shiva manifested as a pillar of light to settle the dispute of superiority between Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma dishonestly proclaimed his victory, stating that he had discovered the higher end of the pillar of light. To punish him for his dishonesty and arrogance, Shiva produced Bhairava from the region between his brows. When Bhairava sought instruction from Shiva, the deity directed him to, "worship Brahma with his sharp-pointed quick-moving sword". Bhairava decapitated the fifth head of Brahma for uttering the falsehood. Vishnu interceded on Brahma's behalf and sought mercy, and the two deities then worshipped Shiva.[13]

Having committed the sin of brahmahatya (the murder of a Brahmin) by decapitating Brahma, Bhairava was pursued by the terrible female personification of the sin. The skull of Brahma was still attached to his hand. To expiate himself of the sin, Bhairava roamed the three worlds. He visited Vaikuntha, where he was honoured by Vishnu and Lakshmi. When Bhairava visited Kashi, the city of the liberated, Brahmahatya left him, and the skull of Brahma was released from his hand.[14]

In another legend, Brahma is regarded to have stated to Vishnu to worship him as the supreme creator of the universe. Noting that both Shiva and he had five heads, Brahma came to believe that he was identical to Shiva and was equal to his powers. When his arrogance started to affect his role in the universe, Shiva threw a lock of his hair from his head. This assumed the form of Bhairava, who decapitated one of Brahma's heads. When the skull (kapala) of Brahma was held in the hand of Bhairava, the creator deity's ego was destroyed and he became enlightened. In the form of Bhairava, Shiva is said to guard each of the Shakti Pithas (A group of temples dedicated to the goddess Shakti). Each Shakti Pitha is accompanied by a temple dedicated to Bhairava.[15][16]

There is another school of thought that states that Shiva himself created Bhairava. It states that there was once an asura named Dahurāsura, who got a boon that he could be killed only by a woman. Parvati took the form of Kali to kill him. The wrath of Kali killed the asura. After killing the asura, her wrath metamorphosed as a child. Kali fed the child with her milk. Shiva made both Kali and the child to merge with him. From this merged form of Shiva, Bhairava appeared in his eight forms (Aṣṭāṅga Bhairavas). Since Bhairava was thus created by Shiva, he is sometimes said to be one of the sons of Shiva.[17]

The Puranas also give a version of Bhairava. In this version, there was a war between devas and asuras. To eradicate the asuras, Shiva created Kala Bhairava, from whom the Aṣṭāṅga Bhairavas were created. These Ashta Bhairavas married the Ashta Matrikas. Both groups of these deities are described to possess dreadful forms. From these Ashta Bhairavas and Ashta Matrikas, 64 Bhairavas and 64 Yoginis were created.[18]

Depiction edit

Dancing Bhairava, Bengal, 12th century.
Indonesian stone Bhairava, from the syncretic Hindu-Buddhist Singhasari temple in East Java, Indonesia

Normally in Shiva temples, idols of Bhairava are situated in the north, facing Southern direction. He is also called Kṣhetrapāla. He appears in a standing position with four hands. His weapons are drum, pāśa (noose), trident and skull. In some forms of Bhairava, there are more than four hands. He appears with a dog. His weapons, the dog, protruding teeth, terrifying looks, and a garland with red flowers all give him a furious appearance.[19][20]

In all Shiva temples, regular puja (reverence) rituals begin with Surya and end with Bhairava. Devotees offer what is understood to be favored by Bhairava: a ghee bath (abhiṣeka), red flowers, ghee lamp, unbroken coconut, honey, boiled food, fibrous fruits etc. If a Bhairava idol is facing west, it is good; facing south is moderate; facing east is not good. The right time to pray to Bhairavi is midnight. At midnight it is said that Bhairava and his consort Bhairavi will give darśana (appearance) to their devotees. The most appropriate time is a Friday midnight. There are eight types of flowers and leaves used in archana (अर्चन) to Bhairava.[21][22]

In Kashmir Shaivism, Bhairava is the ultimate form of manifestation or pure "I" consciousness.

One of his forms is called Svarṇākarṣṇa Bhairava ; In this form, he has red or blue complexion and is clothed in golden dress. He has the moon over his head. He has four hands, one of which he holds a golden vessel. He gives wealth and prosperity. Performing pūja on Tuesdays gives quick results. In some of the ancient texts he is said to have thirty two hands, the shape of a bird, golden complexion, terrible teeth, and a human form above the hip. Worshipping him destroys enemies.[1][23]

Some forms of Bhairava are guardians of the eight cardinal points. There are 64 Bhairavas. These 64 Bhairavas are grouped under eight categories and each category is headed by one major Bhairava. The major eight Bhairavas are called Aṣṭāṅga Bhairavas. The Ashta Bhairavas control the eight directions of this universe. Each Bhairava has seven sub Bhairavas under him, totaling 64 Bhairavas. All of the Bhairavas are ruled and controlled by Maha Kala Bhairava otherwise known as Kala Bhairava, who is the supreme ruler of time of this universe as per some Śaiva tantric scriptures (āgamas). Bhairavi is the consort of Kala Bhairava.[24] The eight Bhairavas are said to represent five elements viz. ākāś, air, fire, water and earth and the other three being sun, moon and ātman. Each of the eight Bhairavas are different in appearance, have different weapons, different vāhanas (vehicles) and they bless their devotees with eight types of wealth representing Ashta Lakshmis. Continuous worship of Bhairava leads the worshipper to a true Guru. There are separate mantras to all the eight Bhairavas.[25]

Bhairava is also called upon as protector, as he guards the eight directions of the universe. In Shiva temples, when the temple is closed, the keys are placed before Bhairava. Bhairava is also described as the protector of women. He is described as the protector of the timid and in general women who are timid in nature.[26][27]

It is generally believed that worshiping Bhairava gives prosperity, success and good progeny, prevents premature death and gives solution to debts and liabilities. Different forms of Bhairava evolve only from Śiva, who is called the Mahā Bhairava.[28][29][30]

Trika System edit

Trika and Kashmiri Shaivism names the Absolute Reality (Para Brahman) as Bhairava. The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra is a key Tantra text of the Trika System. Cast as a discourse between the god Bhairava and his consort Bhairavi it briefly presents 112 Tantric meditation methods or centering techniques (Dharana). The text is a chapter from the Rudrayamala Tantra, a Bhairava Agama. Bhairavi, the goddess, asks Bhairava to reveal the essence of the way to realization of the highest reality. In his answer Bhairava describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness. References to it appear throughout the literature of Trika, Kashmir Shaivism, indicating that it was considered to be an important text in the schools of Kashmir Shaiva philosophy and Trika.[4][5]

List of Bhairavas edit

"Trikala Bhairava", Eastern Ganga Dynasty, 10th century.

The list of manifestation of Shiva:[31][unreliable source?]

  • Batuk Bhairava
  • Abhiru
  • Akshobhya Bhairava
  • Amar
  • Ambar
  • Amritaksha
  • Asitanga Bhairava
  • Bagh Bhairava
  • Baidyanath
  • Bhadrasen
  • Bhava
  • Bhiruk
  • Bhishan
  • Bhoothnath Vetal / Betal Bhairava
  • Chakrapani
  • Chanda
  • Chandrashekhar
  • Ghanteshwar
  • Jogesh
  • Kala Bhairava
  • Kapalbhairav
  • Kapali
  • Kapilambar
  • Kramadishwar
  • Krodhish
  • Ksheer Kantak
  • Kshetrapaala Bhairava
  • Lambkarna
  • Maharudra
  • Mahodar
  • Marthanda
  • Matang Bhairava
  • Nakuleshwar
  • Nandikeshwar
  • Nimish
  • Pachali Bhairava
  • Patal Bhairava
  • Rakshaseshwar (Nayanair)
  • Rudra Mahadev
  • Ruru
  • Sambaranand
  • Samhaar Bhairava
  • Sanhar
  • Sanwart
  • Sarvanand
  • Sarvanand
  • Shai Bhairava
  • Shri Khutkuni Bhairava
  • Sthanu
  • Swarnakarshan Bhairava
  • Trayambak
  • Tripuresh
  • Trisandhyeshvara
  • Tumbeswar
  • Umananda or Bhayaanand
  • Unmatta Bhairava
  • Vakranath
  • Vakratund
  • Vamana
  • Varaha (Baraha)
  • Vatsnabh or Dandpani
  • Vikrant Bhairava
  • Vikritaksh
  • Vimocanā
  • Viśveśvara

Buddhism edit

Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava, c. 1740s.

Buddhism also adopted Bhairava (Tibetan: 'Jigs byed; Chinese: Buwei) as a deity and a dharmapala or dharma protector.[32] The various buddhist forms of Bhairava (variously called Herukas, Vajrabhairava, Mahākāla and Yamantaka) are considered fierce deities and yidams (tantric meditational deity) in Tibetan Buddhism. They also have their own set of Buddhist tantras, the Vajrabhairava tantras.[33] According to Tibetan tradition, these tantras were revealed to Lalitavajra in Oddiyana in the tenth century.[34]

These texts play a particularly important role in the Sarma (new translation) traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, especially among the Gelug school where Vajrabhairava is one of the three central highest yoga tantra practices of the lineage.[35]

Bhairava - Mahakala is also popular in Mongolia as a protector deity and was also popular among the Manchus.[35]

The deity is also central to Newar Buddhism. The tantric practices associated with Bhairava focus on the transformation of anger and hatred into understanding.[36]

Worship edit

Kala Bhairava attended by devotees in Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Temples or shrines to Bhairava are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples. There are also the sacred twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva which can be found all across India including the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi and the Kal Bhairava temple, Ujjain. The Patal Bhairava and Vikrant Bhairava shrines are located in Ujjain as well.[37][38]

Gorat Kashmiris are known to worship Bhairava during Shivratri.[39] The renowned Hindu reformer, Adi Sankara composed a hymn on Kala Bhairava called "Sri Kalabhairava Ashtakam" in the city of Kashi.[40]

Observances edit

Bhairava Ashtami, commemorating the day Kala Bhairava appeared on earth, is celebrated on Krishna paksha Ashtami of the Margashirsha month of the Hindu calendar. It is a day filled with special prayers and rituals.[41]

Iconography edit

Bhairava is depicted as being 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.[42] Bhairava has a dog (shvana) 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.[43][44]

Bhairava himself has eight manifestations called the Ashta Bhairava:[45]

  • Asitāṅga Bhairava
  • Ruru Bhairava
  • Caṇḍa Bhairava
  • Krodha Bhairava
  • Unmatta Bhairava
  • Bhīṣaṇa Bhairava
  • Saṃhāra Bhairava

Kala Bhairava is conceptualized as the guru-natha (teacher and lord) of the planetary deity Shani (Saturn).[46][47]

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 in eight directions (ettu tikku). Known in Sinhalese as Bahirawa, he is said to protect treasures. He is the main deity worshipped by the Aghora sect.[48]

Temples edit

Reflection of blue sky on mask of Shwet Bhairava at Basantapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

Bhairava is an important deity of the Newars. All the traditional settlements of Newars have at least one 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.[49]

In south Karnataka, Lord Sri Kalabhairaveshwara is present as Kshetra Palaka in Sri Adichunchanagiri Hills.[50]

Kala Bhairava temples can also be found around Shaktipeeths. It is said that Shiva allocated the job of guarding each of the 52 Shaktipeeths to one Bhairava. There are said to be 52 forms of Bhairava, which are considered a manifestation of Shiva himself. Traditionally, Kala Bhairava is the Grama devata in the rural villages of Maharashtra, where he is referred to as "Bhairava/Bhairavnath" and "Bairavar". In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme God for the Hindu community commonly referred to as Vokkaligas (Gowdas). Especially in the Jogi Vokkaliga, he is considered the caretaker and punisher.[51] Shri Kala Bhairava Nath Swami Temple of Madhya Pradesh is also popular.

See also edit

References edit

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  2. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). Gautam, K.S. (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 76.
  3. ^ "Bhairava: The Wrathful". Archived from the original on 13 February 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b Singh, J. (2002). Vijnanabhairava, Or Divine Consciousness: A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga. Tantra Series. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 1. ISBN 978-81-208-0820-1.
  5. ^ a b Wallis, Christopher D. (15 August 2013). Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition. Mattamayura Press. ISBN 978-0-9897613-6-9.
  6. ^ Sehgal, Sunil (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: C-G, Volume 2. Sarup & Sons. pp. 491–492. ISBN 978-81-7625-064-1.
  7. ^ Whalen-Bridge, John; Storhoff, Gary (2009). The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature. State University of New York Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-4384-2659-4.
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  9. ^ Johnson, W. J (1 January 2009). A Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ACREF/9780198610250.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19861-025-0. OCLC 244416793. OL 23224406M. Wikidata Q55879169. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  10. ^ Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam (28 May 2013), Bhairava, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0019, Wikidata Q55919026 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  11. ^ Hiltebeitel
  12. ^ The Śiva Purana, Śatarudra Samhita, chapter 8, The Śiva Purana, part III (English translation), Motilal banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, reprint edition (2002), pp. 1097–1103.
  13. ^ Shastri, J. L. (1 January 2000). The Siva Purana Part 1: Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 57–60. ISBN 978-81-208-3868-0.
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  45. ^ vdocuments.mx_the-kubjika-upanishad-egbert-forsten-56885839dd6b9. p. 7.
  46. ^ பைரவரைப் போற்றும் தேவாரப் பதிகம்
  47. ^ பைரவர்
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Cited sources edit

  • Hiltebeitel, Alf, ed. (1989). Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees: Essays on the Guardians of Popular Hinduism. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-88706-982-7.

External links edit