Kala Bhairava Ashtami is a Hindu festival that is dedicated to Kala Bhairava. The day is celebrated as Kala Bhairava’s birthday. It is observed on Krishna Paksha Ashtami of Margashirsha. It is also called Kala Bhairava Jayanthi. Bhairava Ashtami is celebrated in both North and South India. Kala Bhairava Ashtami 2022 is on Wednesday, 16 November.
Who is Lord Kala Bhairava?
Kala Bhairava is the God of Time and Death. He is a fierce form of Lord Shiva. He is also called Kshetrapalaka, the One who protects the Universe, Dandapani (one who holds a danda or stick), and Svaswa (One whose mount is a dog).
Lord Shiva took this form to teach Lord Brahma a lesson. Lord Brahma had become very egoistic and arrogant. He claimed that he was the supreme God as he had created the Universe. He also began to interfere in Shiva’s sphere of activity. This irked Lord Shiva. It is said that Kala Bhairava manifested from a strand of hair from Shiva’s eyebrow. Other versions say that he emerged from Shiva’s nail. Bhairava cut off the 5th head of Brahma as he had claimed that he, too, had 5 heads like Shiva, and hence was equal to him. In this manner, he destroyed Brahma’s ego.
But, by chopping off Brahma’s head, Shiva had committed the sin of Brahmahatya. The head remained stuck to his finger. He wandered all over the world carrying the head, seeking redemption from his sin. When he reached Kashi, the head fell off, and Shiva was redeemed from his sin. Bhairava stayed back in Kashi and came to be called the Kotwal (guardian deity) of Kashi. He is also the guardian of all the Shaktipeethas (Shakti temples), and we can find shrines for him at every Shaktipeetha.
Kala Bhairava is the one who rules Shani or the planet Saturn. He is also called Vairavar by Tamils. He has the status of a Grama devata or village guardian in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and protects devotees in eight directions. He also protects treasures. For the Aghora sect, he is the chief God.
Kala Bhairava is always shown with his mount, a black dog.
Kala Bhairava Ashtami Pooja
On Kala Bhairava Ashtami, people worship Lord Bhairava. They also observe a strict, day-long fast to please him. Sunday is a special day for Lord Bhairava, so if the Ashtami falls on Sundays, it is even more divine. Devotees take a holy dip in sacred rivers as well on this day. They listen to mythological stories of Shiva and recite Slokas and Mantras for Lord Bhairava. Devotees offer him fruits, flowers, and wine/alcohol.
People flock to nearby Kala Bhairava temples to invoke his blessings. They also offer milk, prasad, and Bhog to black dogs. At temples, priests conduct various Poojas and many rituals. Some stay awake the entire night to please Lord Kala Bhairava.
Benefits of Bhairava Ashtami Pooja
Worshipping Kala Bhairava on Kala Bhairava Jayanthi helps remove obstacles and hurdles from one’s life.
It can bestow health, wealth, success, and prosperity.
Kala Bhairava is the deity of Time and Death. He helps one to use their time productively and also bestows good health. He protects devotees from accidents and mishaps.
Lord Bhairava is the guardian deity of temples and travelers. When the temple priest leaves for the day, he submits the temple keys to Kala Bhairava. Travelers also worship him, as he protects them from dangers during their travels.
As the God of Time, he helps one to utilize time effectively and efficiently.
Many coiled serpents, which serve as his bracelets, earrings, anklets, and sacred thread (yajnopavita), adorn Bhairava's body. He is attired in tiger skin and an apron of human bones. Bhairava is accompanied by a black dog (Shvan), which is his divine vehicle or vahana. His consort is Bhairavi, a fierce aspect of the Goddess who is indistinguishable from Goddess Kali.
Bhairava has eight forms. They are the Ashta Bhairavas:
- Asithaanga Bhairava
- Ruru Bhairava
- Chanda Bhairava
- Krodha Bhairava
- Unmattha Bhairava
- Kapaala Bhairava
- Bheeshana Bhairava
- Samhaara Bhairava
Kala Bhairava Temples
There are many Kala Bhairava temples in India. They include Maha Kala Bhairava Temple, Dhombaram bedu village (Tamilnadu), Kala Bhairav Mandir, near Dohla railway crossing, Dhuri (Punjab), Kala Bahairav Temple, Barhara, Rampatti, (Madhubani, Bihar), Swayambhoo Sri Sri Sri Bhairava Swamy Temple in Bhimavaram, West Godavari Dist, (Andhra Pradesh), etc. Shri Kala Bhairava Nath Swami Temple of Madhya Pradesh is also very renowned.
The idols of Kala Bhairava are of black marble usually. Devotees pay a visit on Saturdays and Kala Bhairava Asthami to witness his adorning veneration and magnetism.
His temples are found around the Shakti temples or Shaktipeethas. There are 52 Bhairavas, and supposedly, Shiva assigned the job of guarding each of the 52 Shaktipeeths to one Bhairava. In Karnataka, he is the supreme God for the Vokkaligas (Gowdas), a Hindu community. In the Jogi Vokkaliga, he is a caretaker and punisher.