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Akash Bhairav Temple, Kathmandu Overview

A significant deity worshipped in Kathmandu is the Akash Bhairav who is also known as the 'Lord of the sky'. There is a temple dedicated to him merely 5 minutes away from Kathmandu Durbar Square, known as the Akash Bhairav Temple. Devotees worship Akash Bhairav with great dedication because it is believed that worshipping him ensures strength, safety and goodwill for Nepal and its people. In fact, the state-run airline has Akash Bhairav as their symbol to reassure this belief that the deity is protecting them under any circumstance. Indra Jatra, an annual 8-day festival devoted to the god, is also celebrated with great enthusiasm. Followers from all over the world come to Kathmandu to be a part of the important pooja rituals performed during this time of the year.

Akash Bhairav Temple Kathmandu
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Legend and Iconography of Akash Bhairav

Akash Bhairav is also known as King Yalambar and Aaju which means the first king of Nepal. It is believed that the temple was actually once the palace of King Yalambar, the first king of Nepal who ruled the region about 3000 years ago and established the nation from Tista in the east and Trishuli in the west. The mighty temple is situated on the first floor of a two storey building and houses a gigantic mask or head, discovered in Kathmandu, representing the deity. It was dug up centuries ago and installed inside the temple on a throne made of silver.  

Akash Bhairav Temple Kathmandu
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The idol of the deity is accompanied by Bhadrakali and Bhimsen and have an image on the top, that, some say is Gautama Buddha and some think is Lord Brahma. The mask or the head is coloured blue representing the colour of the sky, has silver eyes and is adorned with ornaments and garlands. It is also believed to be the mask that King Yalambar wore to disguise as Bhairav when he was on his way to participate in the legendary battle of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna, upon knowing that the King was going to help the losing party, chopped off his head in rage. This head is believed to have flown through the sky and finally fell in Kathmandu.

After the mask was found buried in the ground, it was dug up, restored and installed in the temple. The deity is mostly considered the progenitor of the peasant group. However, the legendary stories make him a deity for all, and he is worshipped either as King Yalamber or Akash Bhairav or Barbarika. Every year, during Indra Jatra, the sacred mask is taken out in a procession that passes through the street in front of Kumari Bahal, seeking blessings of the Kumari too. A pit stop at the Akash Bhairav Temple, the protector of the region is a must when strolling through the streets near Durbar Square.  

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