Bhairava denotes "terrifying" and Kala Bhairava is a ferocious aspect of Shiva. Bhairava has eight principal manifestations. They are the guardians of the eight directions and also consorts of the Ashtamatrikas, the eight mother goddesses. The number 8 is closely associated with Bhsairava's symbolism. Thus, each Bhairava has eight sub-Bhairavas under them, and are further subdivided into eight (8 x 8 = 64).
Kala Bhairava, the God of Time:
Kaala Bhairava is the deity who controls time. Good and bad times can shape our destiny in crucial ways. When we go through a bad time, all kinds of unfortunate things happen to us. Conversely, during our good times, auspicious events take place in our lives. Kaala Bhairava has the power to change our bad time to good, as he is the deity of time. Worshipping him bestows many benefits including time management skills. It is a well-known fact that people who are successful in life possess good time management skills. Also, good and bad times signify the karma we have acquired. During our good times, we reap the rewards of good karma, and during our bad times, we suffer the consequences of our bad karma. The dog is the vehicle of Kaala Bhairava. It is believed that feeding and taking care of dogs please Bhairava and, in return, he helps us get rid of our sins and karma.
Kala Bhairava is also known as Kshetrapalaka (guardian of the temple). Hence, the temple’s door keys are ceremonially handed over to him when the temple closes at night and will be received from him again when it opens in the morning. Kala Bhairava is also the protector of travelers. Before embarking on a journey, especially at night, an idol of Kaala Bhairava should be decorated with a garland of cashew nuts. People also light lamps for him and request him to protect them when they travel.
The 8th Moon after Poornima or full moon, every month, is a good time to worship him as it is his power time. This is known as Kala Bhairava Ashtami. His birthday is celebrated as Kala Bhairava Jayanthi and comes in December/January. This year, it is on December 7.
The idol of Kaala Bhairava is usually seen holding a trident in one hand, and he has a human head/skull in the other. Beside him is his mount, the dog. The head/skull in his hand is that of Brahma. It denotes the soul’s liberation (Mukthi) at the hands of Kaala Bhairava. In some places he sports an angry, frowning, look, and has tiger’s teeth and flaming hair. He is naked and has garlands of skulls as well as a snake coiled around his neck.
The mythology behind Kala Bhairava:
There are many myths about Kaala Bhairava’s birth. According to one account, Lord Brahma became arrogant as he had the power of Creation, and spoke in an insulting way about Shiva. This annoyed Shiva who decided to teach him a lesson. He ordered Rudra (another form of Shiva) to take the form of Bhairava and decapitate the head of Brahma which taunted Lord Shiva. In another version from the Puranas, it says that Brahma created a beautiful female called Shatrupa. He became enamored of her and his eyes watched her constantly. Since he had four heads, he could gaze in all directions. Flustered by his constant attention, Shatrupa fled to heaven, but he created a fifth head that could gaze upwards as well. When Shatrupa confided her problem to Goddess Parvati, the latter confronted Brahma and cursed him. She said that because of the agony he had caused Shatrupa, he would lose his fifth head. And so it came to pass when Kaala Bhairava decapitated him.
Pumpkin Lamps and Kala Bhairava Worship:
It is common practice for devotees to light pumpkin, pepper, and bitter gourd lamps for Kaala Bhairava. This is believed to bring success and relief from black magic and illness. White pumpkin deepam (lamp) is made using pumpkin. It is very auspicious for Bhairava, and also, worshipping him on Kala Bhairava Ashtami Thithi can bring relief from debt. For resolving property disputes, too, worshipping him by lighting pumpkin deepam is said to be good. As Kaala Bhairava is the god of time, he also bestows good time management skills which one needs to attain success. Archetype Kala Bhairava protects one from all kinds of negativity. By helping you use your time in the best manner during your lifetime, he aids both material and spiritual growth.
Kaala Bhairava Jayanthi, the birthday of the deity, is on December 7, 2020.