Some decades ago independent shrines for God Bhairava were not there in south except the one in Kshetrabalapuram a small hamlet in Kuttalam Taluk, situated eight km from Mayiladuthurai on way to Kumbakonam. A small, but divinely glorious shrine for God Bhairava in the name of Ananda Kala Bhairava exists. None knows the origin of this centuries old shrine or who initially commenced God Bhairava worship there, but the divinity of God Bhairava in this glorious shrine cannot be disputed. At one period of time in south there were no independent God Bhairava temple except the one in Kshetrabalapuram (However in recent decades some temples have been constructed specially for God Bhairava in some other states). Contrary to fearsome looking God Bhairava, placid, ever smiling God Bhairava manifest in the temple bestowing boons to devotees removing hurdles in their life, cure personal ailments, settle family disputes, and beget children when they offer worship and pray by lighting up oil filled Bitter guard or Pumpkin lamps, a very unique feature one can see only here even though the practice of lighting up the oil lamp with Bitter Guard or Pumpkin has spread to other Bhairava Temples elsewhere. People come even from long distances or outstation to offer prayer for nine weeks continuously and light up oil lamp on Bitter guard at the end of which they get their prayer fulfilled, so claim the devotees.
Initially the historical importance of this shrine, God Ananda Kala Bhairava remained unknown even to the villagers who traditionally considered him in the shrine to be one of the Village deities as it was situated in open space without any temple structure. The greatness of God Bhairava enshrined and the historical importance of the shrine were realized only few decades ago by the spiritual leaders, learned Pundits and other scholars who visited there and today it has turned out to be one of the most sacred site for God Bhairava in south. The sanctum in the shrine is very small and entire shrine roof top is covered with cement sheets. The puja performed is also non agama in nature and temple is managed by the local villagers.
God Kala Bhairava
World over God Bhairava can be seen depicted in fearsome form with Trisul and a human head hanging in hand, accompanied by a Dog which is his carrier vehicle (Vahana). He is said to be one of the eighth fierce manifestations of God Shiva. The human head or skull hanging in his hand is believed to be that of the severed head of God Brahma. The scholars also state that it is not a head and instead a skull that explain the philosophy that one’s’ soul is finally liberated (Mukthi) at the hands of God Kala Bhairava. In some of the temples he is also depicted with frowning, angry eyes, with tiger’s teeth and flaming hair, naked with garlands of skulls and a coiled snake around his neck. Contrary to such postures in several temples, in the shrine at Kshetrabalapuram, God Kala Bhairava can be seen standing alone without accompanied by carrier vehicle Dog, placid, smiling, and with four hands. As stated earlier there are no exclusive shrines for God Bhairava in south except the one in Kshetrabalapuram and in most of the temples one can see his image carved out on pillars or carved out stone idols (Statues) kept in a small open chamber behind God Shiva’s sanctum walls. However in Sakthi temples (Parvathi) God Kala Bhairava enjoys special status, being guardian deity as dispatched by God Siva to guard his wife Parvathi. God Kala Bhairava’s small shrine or sanctum in Devi temples can be seen kept outside the sanctum of Devi. In some of the temples God Kala Bhairava is known as Kshetrapalaka (not Kshetrabalaka) or guardian deity for the temple and therefore the keys of the temple sanctum doors are ceremonially submitted to him (God Kala Bhairava) at temple closing time and received back from him at opening time.
Manifestation of God Bhairava
The birth of God Bhairava is connected to a conversation between God Brahma and God Vishnu in Devaloga. Once in Devaloga when God Brahma and God Vishnu were discussing as to who amongst them was supreme, with arrogance God Brahma opined that he being the creator of the Universe was supreme than other including God Siva. God Brahma further advised God Vishnu that henceforth he commence worshiping him as he was Supreme even as the four Vedas standing there disputed his claim and expressed that only God Shiva was the Supreme as he was Paramathman combined with feminine power Sakthi. Brahma however ignored Veda’s opinion and further in an act of offending the feelings of God Siva who was listening to the conversation standing by a side, he (God Brahma) began to speak disparagingly about God Shiva who in reality was Supreme as Parabriman and who created the Universe. God Siva could not tolerate the fallacy and misbehavior of God Brahma anymore and in fit of anger asked his shadow God Rudra standing there to remove the very head of God Brahma which disparagingly spoke ill of him (God Siva). On orders of God Siva, immediately God Rudra took the form of ferocious God Bhairava and plucked out the particular head of God Brahma which spoke ill of God Siva thus unknowingly getting attracted with Brahmahathi Dosha for the sin committed, the act of plucking out the head of anyone tantamount to killing. Once God Brahma lost one of the heads, realizing his mistake and fearing further humiliation from the hands of God Bhairava he (God Brahma) sought pardon from God Siva who accepted it grace but at the same time God Siva could not remove the Brahmahathi Dosha befell on God Bhairava, who of course unhesitatingly carried out only the orders of him (Supreme) and once the Dosha was incurred by anyone, irrespective of their status, it could only be absolved by undertaking penance. The entire events were getting unfolded as ordained to a drama staged by Parabriman himself for certain reasons.
God Brahma loses one of his heads
There are contradictions in Puranas on no of heads God Brahma initially possessed. According to one version in Puranas, initially God Brahma was created with only one head and as he began the act of creation and turned towards each of the four directions, new heads sprouted, one each facing each direction thus totaling to four heads. Each one of the heads began reciting one of the four Vedas. Thus Brahma’s four heads represented the four directions like South, North, West and East and the four Vedas namely Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. When God Bhairava cut off the fourth head of God Brahma, he was left with only three heads.
As per another version in Puranas, God Brahma while engaged in the process of creation, he himself created a woman named Shatrupa. Once she was out, he was attracted towards her beauty and began gazing her in whichever direction she went. While helping him in the process of creation she noticed that his attention was slowly turning to be sensual in nature. From one point of time he began expressing the feelings of his lust in open to her and since he had four heads facing each direction, she could not escape from his sensual eyes in any direction. Embarrassed by the act which intruded her privacy, when Shatrupa in order to escape his attention ran towards devaloga above, even then God Brahma did not turn off his attention on her and quickly sprouted another head above four heads to see above thus possessing five heads in all. Shatrupa ran to Goddess Parvathi and pleaded with her to save her from God Brahma. Seeing the plight of Shatrupa, furious Goddess Parvathi blocked the path of God Brahma who began following Shatrupa and cursed him that he would lose his head of shame that embarrassed and agonized Shatrupa, in an act of humiliation in Boologa. Only then God Brahma realized his mistake and sought her pardon, but could not escape the fairness of justice even though he was divine. When God Bhairava plucked out was the fifth head of God Brahma he was (God Brahma) left with only four heads. Now the next curious question is why did God Brahma lose one of the heads at the hands of God Bhairava?
Emanation of God Bhairava- Philosophy and concept
In the highest level of spiritual pedagogy, it is stated that when the Universe was created by Paramathman, lots of Gods and Gods along with Semi and Demi Gods were also destined to be created by the respective three Supreme Trios for performing certain acts in divine inspired dramas to be enacted in Universe for the welfare of mankind and to effectively spread the message of spiritual doctrine. In each of the drama to be enacted, the roles of Shiva-Sakthi were to be crucial and most importantly Goddess Parvathi’s manifestation in different forms and in different places on earth sometimes even as human was essential. Therefore each of the three deities have to create hundreds and thousands of shadow incarnations of theirs in different forms like Semi and Demi Gods and spirits having different nature for participating in the particular drama getting enacted. Goddess Parvathi was destined not only to incarnate or manifest in different places, in different forms of divine but also has to settle in shrines or temples established on earth when she would have to remain alone in isolated places. Though divine she too needed protection from other jealous divine elements and a guardian deity was therefore necessary to guard her in the shrines. In order to meet this purpose God Siva had to create a special shadow incarnation from his radiance exclusively to give her protection. Also he being liberator (the one who gives Mukthi) of souls, part of the duty needed to be transferred to his shadow incarnation to offload his burden. The shadow incarnation shall then on begin to perform the duty properly on behalf God Siva. Thus the shadow incarnation to be created shall be independent in form and perform twin duties like guardian deity of sacred place Kasi where he would accord liberation to the departed souls and secondly to remain guardian deity in the temples of Goddess Parvathi to give protection to her. With these in mind, God Siva the Supreme, created from his radiance God Bhairava also called Kala Bhairava for performing the twin duties.
Similarly God Brahma was destined to lose one of the heads on earth after enacting a drama and the head to be lost, again creation of God Brahma himself, needed to be liberated after performing its task. Since God Kala Bhairava had to perform the duty of liberating the souls on earth, the head of God Brahma, after completion of its duty on earth too needed to be liberated and sent back to devaloga. In this process, the glory of Varanasi (Kasi), where Siva-Sakthi manifested too needed to be revealed. Thus by various acts of divine drama, the importance of God Bhairava needed to be revealed to the universe.
God Bhairava sheds Brahmahathi Dosha
Coming back to the main story, once God Bhairava got affiliated with Brahmahaththi Dosha, the severed head of God Brahma turned into a skull and got attached to one of his fingers and failed to get released from hand. Unable to get the skull released from fingers, God Bhairava sought counsel from God Siva. God Siva told him that by the act of chopping off the head of God Brahma who was creator of all four Vedas, he had been affiliated with Brahmahaththi Dosha which would only go away when the skull gets released from his hand. Therefore in order to get rid of the sin and be absolved from the Dosha he (God Bhairava) has to roam around the universe with the skull stuck to the fingers, seeking alms till he reached Kashi in the form of Bhikshatana, a mendicant. Once he (God Bhairava) entered Kashi, he would be absolved of the Brahmahaththi Dosha. As God Shiva finished, a fierce looking maiden appeared before God Bhairava. God Shiva instructed the maiden to frighten and relentlessly chase God Bhairava everywhere until he reached the holy city of Kashi. Thereafter she may go away from there as she cannot enter the holy city of Kashi. As per the instructions of God Shiva, the journey of God Bhairava began seeking alms with the skull of God Brahma stuck in hand, and as chased by the frightening maiden. On entering Kashi the skull got released from the fingers and fell down. The maiden who chased him also disappeared. Thus the Brahmahaththi Dosha of God Bhairava sank into the nether-world, freeing him from the dosha to attain the status of the guardian deity of Kasi where Kasi Vishwanath and his spouse Parvathi too manifest to give liberation (Moksha) to the souls for whom final rites and rituals were done there.
History and story of the Kshetrabalapuram temple
What is the history of Kshetrabalapuram? The story of Ananda Kala Bhairava temple in Kshetrabalapuram is far different from the other puranic stories on God Kala Bhairava. It is actually an extension of the basic Puranic stories. The Brahmahathi Dosha of God Bhairava for severing the head of God Brahma did not fully end in Kasi as everyone believed, but actually he was absolved from the Dosha completely in Kshetrabalapuram. Thus only the first part of God Bhairava’s Dosha got released in Kasi while the other part got released in Kshetrabalapuram to complete it. Read the interesting historical story connected with this shrine in Kshetrabalapuram.
As per the temple history, after God Brahma’s head was severed it instantly turned into a skull and got stuck to the fingers of God Bhairava. When God Bhairava sought guidance from God Siva to get rid of the skull, saddened God Siva informed him that he (God Bhairava) has been afflicted with Brahmahathi Dosha on account of killing a Brahmin (God Brahma) even though the sin was not intentionally committed by him (God Bhairava) directly, but was carried out on his (God Siva) orders. The event was destined for certain cause and therefore in order to get rid of the dosha he (God Bhairava) has to roam around the universe carrying the skull seeking alms in the form of Bhikshatana, a mendicant till the skull fall in some place on earth where he (God Bhairava) would be partly absolved of the Brahmahathi Dosha (first stage of Brahmahathi Dosha) and the fearsome maiden following him would also vanish. The earth where the skull fell would also become sanctified.
In order to get rid of the remaining part of the Brahmahathi Dosha, from the place where the skull fell he (God Bhairava) should further continue his travel around the Universe, now seeking blood as Biksha and collect it in his Kamandal (small water pot held in hand). Once the Kamandal gets fully filled with blood, then the Brahmahathi Dosha would be wiped off completely. On way his son (God Vinayaga) would meet him to guide him to find the right place where his Kamandal would get filled with blood so that he could manifest there in placid form much different to his original fearsome form, portraying satva guna.
As per the command of his Lord, God Bhairava, emanation from God Siva began to travel and got rid of the first stage of Brahmahathi Dosha in Kasi when the skull fell there. Kasi too became sanctified with the manifestation of God Siva and Goddess Parvathi as Kasi Vishwanatha and his spouse Visalakshi. God Bhairava was made the guardian deity of Kasi in the name of God Kala Bhairava.
With his power, God Bhairava converted part of his power as Kala Bhairava and left it temporarily in Kasi to come back and retake it after getting rid of the remaining part of his Brahmahathi Dosha. God Bhairava continued to travel seeking Blood as Biksha but nowhere he got even a single drop of blood as Biksha. Dejected God Bhairava reached a place called Thiruvalanchuzhi in south where he met God Siva’s son God Vinayaga manifested there in the form of Swetha Vinayaga, and offered worship to him and sought his guidance to find the final destination where his Kamandal can be fully filled with blood. Swetha Vinayaka advised God Bhairava to throw his Trisul on the eastern side and reach the place where the Trisul fell, sit in penance and pray God Vishnu seeking Kamandalful of blood as Biksha. God Bhairava complied with the advice of Swetha Vinayaga and threw his Trisul on eastern side which went and fell in the present place of his (God Bhairava) temple in Kshetrabalapuram.
When God Bhairava reached Kshetrabalapuram, he found it to be an isolated place surrounded by dense trees and wild plants. However the place where the Trisul fell was open spaced near a natural water tank. He sat in penance and prayed Lord Vishnu who appeared before him and put a drop of blood from his finger into his Kamandal. In the next moment the Kamandal got fully filled with blood thereby ending the Brahmahathi Dosha incurred by God Bhairava for plucking the head of God Brahma. God Vishnu then disappeared.
Once rid of dosha, God Bhairava took bath in the nearby water tank and not only his Trisul struck on earth flew back and rejoined him but his appearance too became placid and smiling without original form of fearsome look. Thus the water tank came to be called as Soola Theertham (Sacred Water tank of Trisul). As soon as he came out of the water tank, God Vinayaga too appeared at the bank of the water tank in the form of a lad and took blessings from God Bhairava since God Bhairava now freed of all doshas was indeed emanation of his father God Siva. This place therefore came to be called as Shethra Balapuram meaning the place where God Vinayaga appeared as a boy. God Vinayaga proclaimed that henceforth the place would be no less to the greatness of Kasi, but in fact a bit higher than it as God Bhairava, the guardian deity of Kasi to liberate the souls by destroying the effects of sins, himself got rid of the sins completely in Kshetrabalapuram.
There are some water tanks surrounding this temple. They are known as Kaveri Theertham, Ganesha Theertham, Chakra Theertham, Skanda Theertham and Soola Theertham. Slowly as the place gained highest level of sanctity, divine forces like Brahma, Demi and Semi Gods like Devendra, Navagrahas along with other Deva ganas, greatest Rishies and Saints too came and offered worship to God Bhairava here. Centuries ago the greatness of this place where God Bhairava manifest as Ananda Kala Bhairava remained unknown to many, reason being it was in a remote and isolated village not accessible easily. But as time passed, the greatness of the place kept on passing to people by word of mouth stories and a small shrine was established by the villagers.
God Bhairava manifest as Ananda Kala Bhairava in Kshetrabalapuram temple and is in standing posture holding Kabala, Trisul, Pasam called Noose and Drum in four hands to grant boons to those who worship and pray him with sincerity. Kala Bhairava is known as Kshetrabalakar (Boy of the place) here. Normally God Bhairava is God of Ugra Swaroopa (angry in nature), but in this place where he got rid of his Brahmahathi dosha, he is placid, sober and remain in a happy state of mood. The temple is a small shine facing west. One could also see Swetha Vinayakar in the temple. Nandi faces Kala Bhairava. But Dog, the carrier vehicle of Bhairava is not found there. There is also a well inside the compound.
Another unique practice of lighting oil lamps in Bitter guard and Pumpkin is seen here. The lighting up of oil lamps made of terracotta, metal, porcelain and cut pieces of lemon and to keep them before the altar are common and began thousands of years ago and are continued to this day. But the origin of lighting up lamps filled with oil in the Bitter guard and Pumpkin commenced only in this shrine in Kshetrabalapuram before ages and now spread to many parts of the world where Bhairava temple exists.
The logic behind lighting up lamps made of Bitter guard has been that the life of everyone on earth is filled with sorrow and miseries similar to the taste of Bitter guard. The Bitter guard reflects the life of humans on earth. The cause of miseries may be many, some of which are due to the curse incurred for the sins committed by their forefathers or committed by their own. Even if they have been committed unknowingly, it continues to haunt the families for generations thereby causing unknown fear haunting their mind. In order to get rid of such fear psychosis and obstacles in life besides lighting lamp in Bitter guard with prayers, food items made out of Bitter guard is also distributed to the devotees as Prasad which is unique and cannot be seen in other temple. To get relieved of the effects of sin one has to unconditionally surrender to the divine and God Kala Bhairava is the best answer for it since he is not only punisher of sinners, but also compassionate enough to free one from the effects of sin when surrendered to him unconditionally as he is an emanation from God Siva otherwise called Paramathman, the one who created the universe and destroyer as well. If God Kala Bhairava is prayed by lighting up lamp filled with oil in Bitter guard he (God Bhairava) will remove the darkness from their life and brighten up their life to enable all around happiness prevail in the family.
Each of the graha dosha’s are wiped out by God Bhairava’s grace if one pray him here particularly on Sundays by chanting particular Bhairava Gayathri Sloka which consists of separate mantras for Bhairava and Gayathri relevant to each of the graha. The Prana Devatha and Upasakthi Devatha to be prayed are indicated below.
For getting rid of the problems one face and remedies by way of praying with specific flower and other item and distribution of Prasad as displaced in the temple is reproduced below for the benefit of the devotees visiting there.
Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom…. எமது பணிவான வணக்கங்கள்…. உங்கள் பணி சிறக்க பலர் நன்மை பெற எங்களது அன்பான வணக்கங்கள்…. உங்களால் பலர் எளிதாக பயன்பெறுவர், நலம் பெறுவர்
Thanks sharing valuable information. Even my native village is close by I did not know. This is useful. I pray lord bhairva to give you all the bless in this life and next.
Thank you sir
Dear Sri jayaraman,
Thank you for this wonderful writeup. This is badly needed. Our native village is Kshetrabalapuram. We have had the fortune of visiting the temple few times.
The temple needs a formal writeup and captured in various sites that reference Shiva Temples, South Indian Temples etc. given the historical significance of this temple. I understand Sri MahaPeriva had mentioned to one of his devotees this temple is even older than the one in Kashi.
If possible you can ask some donors to print my article on the said temple in the form of a small booklet and distribute to devotees free of cost who visit there and perform archana or sell it at nominal price. The history of the temple will automatically get spread. The article can mention my name as author and I will give permission to the donor to use the article free of charge if they approach me in firstname.lastname@example.org.