Bhairava is a very aggressive form of Lord Shiva, the supreme God of destruction. He has the power to eradicate evil, annihilate adverse energies and spread positive vibrations around. Bhairavas are said to be 64 in number, and they are believed to be guarding the cardinal points and controlling the different directions. Kala Bhairava is the chief of the Bhairavas and he is regarded as the supreme ruler of universal time. Bhairava’s mount is the dog that is also considered his companion.
Of the many Bhairavas, 8 are of special significance and are considered as very important manifestations of Shiva. These prominent forms are together known as Ashta Bhairavas, the eight-Bhairava aspects. They are said to be lording over the 8 directions. Unmatha Bhairava is regarded as the fifth of the Ashta Bhairavas.
Legend of Bhairava
There are interesting legends about the origin of Bhairava. Shiva Purana gives an account of one of them.
Once, there arose an argument between the Gods Brahma and Vishnu, as to who among the two was bigger. The matter reached Lord Shiva and in order to settle it, he transformed himself into a massive pillar of light that went stretching beyond the universe itself and stood there between them. He then declared that whoever finds its ends, would be considered stronger. Vishnu took the form of a wild boar and went deep down, searching for the bottom end, but he did not succeed. Brahma, on the other hand, started going upwards in the form of a swan to find the upper end, but he too could not go anywhere near the top. However, while Vishnu returned empty-handed and conceded his failure, Brahma started boasting that he did indeed find the top of the amazing column of light. In order to support his claim, he also produced the Ketaki flower as a proof of having reached the top and taken it from there. The reality however was otherwise, as the flower was only falling down from the top when Brahma was flying upwards. Shiva then decided to expose Brahma’s duplicity, emerged out of the infinite light, declared thathis claim was not true at all and pulled up the creator for his dishonesty. He also created Bhairava from the fire of his third eye, and this ferocious Lord simply plucked out Brahma’s fifth head, which actually uttered the falsehood. Thus chastised, Brahma repented for his mistake and bowed to Shiva as atonement for his illusion and wrongdoing.
Thus, the advent of Bhairava itself happened only to challenge and destroy falsehood and uphold truthfulness.
It is also said that the separated skull of Brahma got stuck to Bhairava’s hands inextricably and he had to move around from place to place, trying to get rid of the severed head. He went about seeking alms in the skull, so that it could become full and fall off his hands on its own; the Bhairava came to be known as Bhikshadana, the mendicant. It was Lord Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi who gave him food at last, which could fill the skull and immediately, it fell off his hands, relieving Bhairava of his affliction. It is for this reason that Bhairava is also regarded as a wandering form of Shiva.
Ashta Bhairava – The Features
Ashta Bhairava, the 8 famous forms of Bhairava remain as the widely worshipped Bhairava aspects of Lord Shiva. Though they are normally taken together for worships and rituals, they are individual Godly entities with distinct characteristics of their own. They are said to represent the 5 fundamental elements of air, water, fire, earth and space, and also the Sun, the Moon and Atma, the soul. These 8 Gods are known in the names — Asitanga Bhairava, Ruru Bhairava, Chanda Bhairava, Krotha Bhairava, Unmatha Bhairava, Kapaala Bhairava, Bheeshana Bhairava and Samhara Bhairava.
Unmatha Bhairava is the fifth among the Ashta Bhairavas. He is a fair-complexioned, pleasant-faced and four-armed deity, who is facing the western direction. He carries in his hands weapons like iron cudgel, spear and shield, and also a water pot. His mount is the horse and Goddess Varahi, his consort.
It is believed that the blessings of Unmatha Bhairava can check the negative traits of ego and self-praise. They can also provide strong control over one’s expression and good articulation skill.
People can visit the Veezhinathar temple at Thiruveezhimizhalai in the Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu, offer prayers to Lord Unmatha Bhairava there and get his divine blessings.