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Kaal Bhairava, the Hindu God with a Difference

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kaal Bhairava is a god who is the fierce representation of Lord Shiva the Hindu God. He represents the nether world and the world of spirits and Ghosts.

Hinduism has a pantheon of Gods. One of the more important Gods is Lord Shiva. This God is also referred to as the creator as well as the destroyer. No Hindu ritual is complete without reference to this God. Shiva has a number of forms attributed to him. One of them is Kaal Bhairava. He is the Lord Shiva in a fierce manifestation. Lord Shiva as Kaal Bhairava represents the seamier side of life. As I have already pointed out, Shiva is the creator as well as the destroyer and in the latter form he is Kaal Bhairava. Not many people know that Shiva as Kaal Bhairava is a part of Buddhist religion as well and occupies a place of importance there. Thus a visit to Sri Lanka and Thailand will reveal that the Buddhist temples there have statues of Shiva as Kaal Bhairava ensconed.In Sri Lanka he is referred to as Bahirwaa. The appeal of Shiva as Kaal Bhairava transcends boundaries of nations and he is the national deity of Nepal.

Appearance of Kaal Bhairava

As per Hindu mythology Kaal Bhairava manifests himself in 8 forms. All these 8 forms have a common thread as far as attire and dress is concerned. In all forms Kaal Bhairava will wear a tiger skin and an apron composed of human bones. Thus many worshipers of Shiva in this form worship him in the midst of graveyards and cremation grounds. Kaal Bhairava also is adorned with ornaments made of snakes, reptiles and serpents. Shiva as Kaal Bhairav is usually depicted with 4 hands and each of his hands carry a noose, a trident and a skull. This makes Kaal Bhairava a unique God, the like of which is not seen in any other religion except Buddhism.

The appearance of Kaal Bhairava is again something unique. He sports long teeth and a red tongue. This gives the God a fearful look. The purpose is to convey his worshippers that Shiva also represents the nether world and the world of spirits and ghosts. Thus a particular sect of Hinduism called the Aghora sect worship Kaal Bhairava. This sect indulges in Black magic and black arts and carries out their rituals in the grave yards of Hindus. In early days the Aghora sect was also cannibalistic in nature, though now this is on the wane.

Temples of Kaal Bhairava

Kaal Bhairava statues in most cases also depict a dog along with him. The dog is the divine vahana or transport for the God who travels on his back. In all temples dedicated to Kaal Bhairava, the deity is ensconced in the centre of the temple and all worshippers have to enter barefoot to pay their obeisance to the god.

Kaal Bhairava has temples dedicated solely to him and they are spread all over India. The temple at Ujjain about 60 km from Indore has a special significance. It is one of the most important temples dedicated to Kaal Bhairava. A strange ritual is carried out in this temple that is the essence of worshipping Kaal Bhairava.

The Ritual of serving liquor

This temple ritual starts with the devotee buying a bottle of wine or hard liquor like rum or whisky and presenting to the deity. The priest will accept the bottle and pour the contents in a shallow plate, which is held to the lips of the deity. It is a wonder to see the liquor slowly vanish from the plate. Believers believe that the liquor is drunk by the God. There is no scientific explanation for it except that it does take place and I have been a witness to it.

The power of Kaal Bhairava

In Hinduism worshipping the God Kaal Bhairava has special significance. He is the benefactor who looks after a believer travelling to distant lands. Most Hindus will offer a garland of cashew nuts to the God before embarking on a voyage. It is also recommended to feed 11 dogs on a Saturday as the dog is the mode of transport of Kaal Bhairava. The great sages and learned Gurus advice feeding the dogs with a typical Indian dish of Halwa and Puri.

Time and eternity is what Kaal Bhairav refers to. The God frowns on idle persons and time wasters. But bear in mind that since Kaal Bhairava is in reality Shiva only, worshipping him bestows all the benefits that Lord Shiva showers on his disciples and worshipers. Thus visiting Ujjain is a must for a Hindu and a tourist as well, to witness the ‘miracle’ of the God consuming hard liquor.


James R. Coffey
Posted on May 7, 2011
Rana Sinha
Posted on Apr 19, 2011

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Madan G Singh

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