Destruction (guard god)
Bhairava Kathmandu 1972
Kaal Bhairava statue situated at Kathmandu, Nepal
Devanagari भैरव
Affiliation Aspect of Shiva
Weapon Trishula
Consort Bhairavi
Mount Dog

Bhairava (Sanskrit: भैरव, ("Terrible" or "Frightful",[1]), sometimes known as Kala Bhairava, is the fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation.[2] He is one of the most important deities in Nepal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, who originated in Hindu mythology and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike.


Tamil nadu, epoca cola, bhairava, la forma terribile di shiva, x-xi sec.

Kalabhairava, chola period,10 th-11 th century.Tamil nadu.India.

Indian - Head of Shiva in form of Bhairava - Walters 25261 - Three Quarter

Head of Bhairava, dated 11th-century CE

Nepalese - Bhairava with Goddess - Walters 543024 (2)

Bhairava with his consort, Bhairavi

The origin of Bhairava can be traced to the conversation between Brahma and Vishnu recounted in the Shiv Mahapuran where Vishnu asked Brahma who is the supreme creator of the Universe. Arrogantly, Brahma told Vishnu to worship him, he being the supreme creator. One day Brahma thought, "I have five heads, Shiva also has five heads. I can do everything that Shiva does and therefore I am Shiva" Brahma had become a little egoistic. Not only had he became egoistic, he started to forge the work of Shiva. Brahma started interfering in what Shiva was supposed to do. Then Mahadeva (Shiva) threw a small nail from His finger, which assumed the form of Kala Bhairava, and casually went to cut the head of Brahma. The skull of Brahma is held in the hands of Kala Bhairava; Brahma Kapala in the hands of Kala Bhairava and Brahma's ego was destroyed and he became enlightened. Then onwards he became useful to himself and to the world and deeply grateful to Shiva. In the form of the Kaala Bhairava, Shiva is said to be guarding each of these Shaktipeeths. Each Shaktipeeth temple is accompanied by a temple dedicated to Bhairava.



Shri Swarna Kala Bhairava consecrated at Kaga Ashram, Thiruvannamalai, India

His temples or shrines are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva across India, including Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi and the Mahakaleshwar Temple at Ujjain, where at the Kal Bhairav Temple, he is worshipped by the Kapalika and Aghori sects of Shaivism, here one can also find the Patal Bhairav and Vikrant Bhairav shrines.[3][4]

Kaal Bhairava temples can also be found around Shakti Peethas, as it is said Shiva allocated the job of guarding each of 52 Shakti Peethas to one Bhairava. As such it is said there are 52 forms of Bhairava, which are in fact considered as manifestation of Shiva himself.

Traditionally Kal Bhairav is the Grama devata in the rural villages of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where he is referred to as "Bhaivara/Annadhani" Vairavar. In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme God for the community commonly referred as "Gowdas", especially for the Gangadikara Gowda caste he is considered as the care taker and punisher.

Also another set of people in Kashmir that have their origin from Gorat, or the minister of Mata Sharika worship Bhairava during Shivratri [5]

The Hindu reformer Adi Sankara has written a hymn on Kala Bhairava of Kashi which is called as Kala Bhairav Ashtakam.[6]


Bhairava Ashtami commemorating the day Kal Bhairav appeared on earth, is celebrated on Krishna paksha Ashtami of the Margashirsha month of Hindu calendar with a day special prayers and rituals.[7]


Bhairava - Indian Art - Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Bhairava with vahana, shvana (dog) at Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

He is depicted ornamented with a range of twisted serpents, which serve as earrings, bracelets, anklets, and sacred thread (yajnopavita). He wears a tiger skin and a ritual apron composed of human bones.[8] Bhairava has a dog (Shvan) as his divine vahana (vehicle). Bhairavi is a fierce and terrifying aspect of the Devi who is virtually indistinguishable from Kali, with the exception of her particular identification as the consort of Bhairava.

Bhairava himself has eight manifestations i.e. Ashta Bhairava:

  • Asithaanga Bhairava
  • Ruru Bhairava
  • Chanda Bhairava
  • Krodha Bhairava
  • Unmattha Bhairava
  • Kapaala Bhairava
  • Bheeshana Bhairava
  • Samhaara Bhairava

Kala Bhairava is conceptualized as the Guru of the planetary deity Shani (Saturn). Bhairava is known as Bhairavar or Vairavar in Tamil where he is often presented as a Grama devata or village guardian who safeguards the devotee on all eight directions (ettu tikku). Known in Sinhalese as Bahirawa, he protects treasures. Lord Bhairava is the main deity worshipped by the Aghora sect.


Kala Bhairava

Kala Bhairava Kuladevata of Vaidya manetana Soratoor

Kalabhairava Temple Ujjain

Kalabhairava Temple, Ujjain

Bhairon Garhi Temple at Pauri Garhwal Uttarakhand India

Old age Bhairon Baba temple at Langur patti, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, India.

Uttar Pradesh
Jammu and Kashmir
Himachal Pradesh
Delhi and NCR
West Bengal
  • Bhomia ji Temple at Jain Swetambar Kothi, Madhuban, Jharkhand
Madhya Pradesh
  • Kaal Bhairavnath Temple, Sonari-, Bhoom, Osmanabad
  • The Kaal Bhairav Nath Mandir, Panchvati, Saptashrungi Devi on Rive Godavarinashik
  • Bhairavnath Temple, Sinnar, Nashik, Maharashtra
  • The Kaal Bhairav Nath Mandir Varne, Satara, Maharashtra
  • Shri KalBhairavnath Jogeshwari Temple, A/P-Bavdhan, Tal-Wai, Dist- Satara famous for BAGAD RATH.
  • Shri KalBhairavnath Mandir, Kasba Peth, Pune Maharashtra also known as Nava kal Bhairavnath Mandir .
  • Kalabhairav Temple at Dhargal, Goa
Andhra Pradesh
Kalabhairava Statue at Lord Shiva Temple in Adavivaram 02

Kalabhairava Statue in Adavivaram, Visakhapatnam district

Tamil Nadu

Bairavar koil,Thirupattur,Sivaganga district .Tamil Nadu

In the Kathmandu valley

Aakash bhairav

Aakash bhairav during Indra Jatra festival

Bhairava is an important deity of the Newars. All the traditional settlements of Newars have at least a temple of Bhairava. Most of the temples of Bhairava in Nepal are maintained by Newar priests. There are several Bhairava temples in the Kathmandu valley.[9] Some of them are:

  • The Kala Bhairava temple in Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu Durbar Square) has a 12-foot (3.7 m) high stone image of Kala Bhairava sculpted in the 5th or 6th century and later rediscovered in paddy field in the 17th century CE by King Pratap Malla. It was believed that people die if they speak false in front of this sculpture. So, this temple served as the supreme court of Nepal for a long time.
  • Akash Bhairava (Sava Bhakku Deva or Wanga Dya)
  • Swet Bhairava
  • Shanta Bhairava (Majipa Lakhey Dya)
  • Kirtimukha Bhairava (inside the Pashupatinath Temple
  • Unmatthta Bhairava (inside the Pashupatinath Temple)
  • Bagh Bhairava temple of Kirtipur
  • Batuk Bhairava temple, Lagankhel
  • "Kaal Bhairicha Navane Changbhale"
  • Pachali bhairav (Teku)
  • tika bhairav
  • mahangkal bhairav (Tudikhel)
  • pachali bhairav (Koligram)

Bhairava temple in Brazil

  • Kalabhairav temple in Brazil

Images of Bhairava

See also


  1. For भैरव as one of the eight forms of Shiva, and translation of the adjectival form as "terrible" or "frightful" see: Apte, p. 727, left column.
  2. For Bhairava form as associated with terror see: Kramrisch, p. 471.
  3. Sunita Pant Bansal (2008). Hindu Pilgrimage: A Journey Through the Holy Places of Hindus All Over India. Pustak Mahal. ISBN 8122309976. 
  4. Diana L. Eck (1982). Banaras: City of Light. Taylor & Francis. pp. 192–3. ISBN 0710202369. 
  5. Syed Siraj Ul Hassan (1920). The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Vol. 1. Asian Educational Services. p. 482. ISBN 8120604881. 
  7. Dr. Bhojraj Dwivedi (2006). Religious Basis Of Hindu Beliefs. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd.. p. 172. ISBN 8128812394. 
  8. Bhairava statuette in copper from 15th-16th century Nepal, in collection of Smithsonian Institution. Accessed August 11, 2007.

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