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Kala Bhairava - Shiva in his most fearful form

Lord Shiva in Indian culture is worshipped in various forms. Just like Kaali is the fiercest form of Parvati, Kala Bhairava is the most fearful manifestation of Shiva. In certain subsects of Hinduism, he is equaled to the entire Universe and the most important deity in the Tantric sect. Kala Bhairava is considered to be the ultimate judge for souls and even Yama cannot interfere in his decisions. Kala Bhairava has a pitch-black complexion with protruding teeth. He is seen with a black dog who is considered to be his mount. He is also known as Khestrapala or the protector or guardian of the cosmos. Some scriptures mention him to be the son of Shiva. There are different legends regarding his origin. Let us hear a few of them.

At the time of the creation once there was a heated argument between Brahma and Vishnu over supremacy. Very arrogantly Brahma declared himself to be the most powerful God. He also mentioned that he was at par with Shiva and could easily perform all his duties. Very soon he started inferencing in Shiva's work as well. This made Shiva angry and threw a nail from his finger at Brahma. This nail manifested into Kala Bhairava, the most fearful form of Shiva. Kala Bhairava chopped Brahma's 5th head to teach him a lesson. Brahma's ego head was completely shattered and he soon realized his mistake. However, the head got stuck in Kala Bhairava's hand. No matter how hard he tried he could not get rid of it. He had sinned of killing a brahmin and hence had to carry his karma. For a long time, Kala Bhairava kept moving across the Universe with Brahma's head in his hand. He used it to beg alms. He had to undergo this punishment to clear out the karma of killing. Finally, after some thousand years, Vishnu suggested him to visit Kashi. As soon as Kala Bhairava reached Kashi, the head finally drooped off and he was set free from the sin. He was so elated that he decided to stay there forever. This is why he is also called the Kotwal of Kashi. It is mentioned in our scripts that the land of Kashi or Benares is completely governed by Kala Bhairava. Anyone dying there will have to deal with Kala Bhairava directly and no matter how bad the person was, he is sure to achieve Moksha. Post-death the soul goes through the toughest penance which clears his Karma account and he achieves Nirvana. Not even Yama, the lord of Death can interfere here.

In another version, there was a demon named Dahrusuran. He had a boon that he could only be killed by a female. Hence Parvati took the form of Kaali to kill him. After killing him. Kaali's anger manifested into a small child. This is when Shiva decided to merge with Kaali and the little child. This is when Kala Bhairava was born. This is why Kala Bhairava is also known as the son of Shiva.

In another version once there was a fight between Devas and Asuras. This is when Shiva created Kala Bhairava. Kala Bhairava then produced 8 Bhairavas known as Ashtanga Bhairavas. These 8 bhairavas are known to the protectors of the Universe. They are also associated with the 8 key elements i.e air, water, earth, fire, space, sun, moon, and soul. The Ashtanga Bhairavas went onto marry Ashta Matrika and produced 64 Bhairavas and 64 Yoginis. These Bhairavas are scattered all across the Universe and are known as Guardians. They also protect the different Shaktipeeths which were formed when Vishnu had cut Sati's dead body to get Shiva out of his grief. This is when Shiva had appointed Bhairavas to protect the different parts which fell on Earth.

Kala Bhairava is married to Bhairavi. The best time to worship Kala Bhairava is midnight, especially on a Friday night. it is believed that Kala Bhairava protects his devotees from external as well as internal enemies like greed, lust.anger, etc. He is also worshipped by travellers before starting their journey. There are numerous temples dedicated to Kala Bhairava especially in Tamil Nadu. He is also worshipped in nearby countries like Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka.

Art Credit: Unknown

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