Who is Lord Kala Bhairava?
Lord Kala Bhairava, who is highly revered in India, is a fierce form of Lord Shiva. He is usually depicted with angry eyes resembling lotus blossoms, tiger’s teeth, blazing hair, and a snake around his neck or crown as well as a garland of human skulls. With a terrifying mien, Kala Bhairava’s arms hold a drum, a trident and Lord Brahma’s severed fifth head. His throat is blue from swallowing the halahala poison. Hence, he is regarded as the conqueror of death. His third eye stands for supreme wisdom.
Legend behind Kala Bhairava
Many interesting legends abound on Kala Bhairava. A tale in the Shiv Mahapurana talks about his origin. Once, Lord Brahma told Lord Vishnu to worship him, as he created the universe. This infuriated Lord Shiva, who took the form of Kala Bhairava to punish him. He chopped off one of Brahma’s five heads. Thus Brahma now has only four heads while Bhairava the fifth is carried by Shiva. But by chopping off Brahma’s head, Shiva became guilty of killing a Brahman. For this reason, Bhairava had to carry the head around with him for 12 years. He roamed about like a vagabond, until he was freed of the sin. The idol of Bhairava is often seen in this frightening form.
The word ‘Bhairava’ itself has deep meaning. ‘Bhai’ denotes fear as well as lustrous light. It can give one material wealth. ‘Rava’ denotes echo. While ‘Ra’ eliminates negativity and stifled consciousness, ‘Va’ creates opportunities. To sum up, Bhairava means that we can achieve ‘aseem anand’ or great delight by using fear.
Benefits of Worshipping Kala Bhairava
Bhairava is revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. He helps them to achieve success, conquer enemies and attain material comforts. He also helps them to use their time constructively in attaining their goals. This is why he is known as the Lord of Time. Those who waste time in trivial pursuits can become more efficient and productive if they worship Kala Bhairava regularly. He makes our souls pure through his power and brings luck to believers. As if by miracle, one finds oneself at the right place at the right time to avail the best opportunities.
Another name for Lord Bhairava is ‘Kotwal’ or ‘Kshetrapalaka’, meaning ‘guardian of the temple’. Hence, the keys to the temples of Shiva and Shakti are ceremonially given to Bhairava at closing time and taken back from him in the morning. Usually, there is a shrine dedicated to him in such temples. He is also the guardian deity of travellers and blesses pilgrims. According to the Siddhas, before going on a journey, especially during night travel, one should light lamps and put a garland of cashew nut wreaths on Lord Bhairava. This ensures their safety and protection. For those who live abroad too, the worship is equally significant. Though he is one of the most feared gods, he is also one of the most rewarding and protective deities. In Tantrism, he is revered as Batuk Bharav. As he is a Rudra, the Lord is an expert in tantra-mantra.
Kala Bhairava’s vehicle is the dog which is usually seated on one side, eager to taste the blood dripping from the chopped head of Lord Brahma. Hence, one way to honor him is by taking care of and feeding dogs. Kala Bhairava is known to bestow great blessings and the boon of auspicious time to those who worship him. There is a myth that if one feeds ‘halwa puri’ (sweet bread) to hungry dogs, all problems will vanish automatically.
Worship of Kala Bhairava
Kala Bhairava has been worshipped from time immemorial. But sacred texts claim that the 60 years from April 2002 to April 2062, constitute the most important period. The 8th day (Ashtami) after the Full Moon (Poornima) is the best day for pooja. Devotees celebrate Kala Bhairava Jayanthi on the day he appeared on earth in Margashirsha (November-December) month. The 12 Jyotirlinga Shiva shrines in Ujjain, Kasi, Tiruvannamalai and others perform many special ceremonies on this day.
There are 8 forms of Kala Bhairava – Chanda Bhairava, Asithaanga Bhairava, Krodha Bhairava, Ruru Bhairava, Unmattha Bhairava, Bheeshana Bhairava, Kapaala Bhairava and Samhaara Bhairava. As he guards the 52 Shaktipeethas, it is believed that there are 52 forms of Bhairava across the holy sites. It is necessary to protect Shakti for everlasting peace in the midst of increasing wrath, hatred and violence. Praying to Lord Kala Bhairava and Sarabeswara and Amruta Mrityunjaya is necessary for this.
Kala Bhairava is worshipped by the Aghoris, the Kapalika sect, Gorat Kashmiris, Assamese tantric practitioners, the Gowdas of Karnataka, people in Kathmandu and Sri Lanka and many other communities. The Bhairava in Kashi is greatly revered. In rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, etc., he is regarded as the village protector. Decorative statues of ‘grama devata’ adorn most village entrances.