Hinduism - Who Is Bhairava?

 Bhairava means "awful" in Sanskrit. 

A vengeful and powerful celestial servant of Shiva who is often mistaken for Shiva himself. 

  • Bhairava is created when the deity Brahma insults Shiva, according to the Shiva Purana, a sectarian book, and Shiva's wrath manifests as Bhairava. 
  • Bhairava's first act after birth is to sever one of Brahma's heads—the one whose mouth has spoken the insult—leaving the deity with four heads. 

Bhairava is guilty of brahmin murder, the most severe of the four major sins, since Brahma is a brahmin priest (mahapataka). 

  • Brahma's severed head clings to Bhairava's hand as a symbol of the severity of his deed; as penance (prayashchitta), Bhairava must roam the countryside as a beggar, exhibiting Brahma's severed head as a constant advertising of his crime. 
  • Bhairava visits numerous pilgrimage sites (tirtha) on his journeys, but none of them will cleanse him of the sin of brahmin slaughter. 
  • In the city of Benares, at a place known as Kapalamochana ("releasing the skull"), he eventually gets a pardon. 

Brahma's head falls from his palm into the Ganges as soon as Bhairava bathes there, indicating that his guilt has been atoned for. 

  • Bhairava is significant in a variety of settings, despite his reputation as Shiva's attendant. 
  • He is often shown as the spouse of strong, independent goddesses such as Durga and Kali, despite the fact that he is subservient to them, which is appropriate given their position as supreme deities. 

Bhairava's connections with fury and strength have made him a popular deity among tantric practitioners, who may call him for magical abilities or other favors. 

  • Bhairava is also revered by the Naga class of the Dashanami Sanyasis, ascetic Shiva worshippers (bhakta) who formerly worked as merchants and mercenary warriors, who see him as a holy representation of themselves. 
  • The dog, Bhairava's animal vehicle, symbolizes some of the ambiguity connected with him. 
  • In Hindu tradition, the dog is nearly always a scavenger and regarded extremely unclean.

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