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Kala Bhairab

Kala Bhairav, Kathmandu Overview

Kala Bhairav is a grand temple located at Kathmandu Durbar Square in the religious complex of Hanuman Dhoka, dedicated to a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. In this form, the lord is depicted carrying the decapitated head of Shani, wearing an ornamental snake, tiger skin, and a ritual apron made of human bones. The place of worship is an open-air area in the complex and has a gigantic 12-foot tall idol of Kala Bhairav sculpted in the 6th century and is regarded as the largest in the world. The idol and the structures that surround it are made of stone and were carved in the 5th century. It was discovered by King Pratap of the Malla dynasty amidst paddy fields in the 17th century.

Back in the time, people believed that anyone who would lie down in front of the idol would attain freedom from their lives. This may not be necessarily true. However, locals still continue worshipping this grand and fierce incarnation of Lord Shiva with all their devotion. Kala Bhairav is the terrifying avatar of Lord Shiva who is also called the Lord of Time and Death. He is worshipped by the Hindus as the guru of Lord Shani who is ruled by the planet Saturn and as Manjusri, Heruka, Yamantaka, and Vajrabhairava in Vajrayana Buddhism. The idol of Kala Bhairav is seen standing in a violent form, stepping over a dead body holding a decapitated head in one hand.

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According to a legend, Kala Bhairav had decapitated one of Lord Brahma's five heads and as punishment, was made to carry that head and roam around for many years till he was forgiven. This avatar of Lord Shiva is fierce and unforgiving. He is mostly associated with vetala (ghouls) and pisaca (ghosts). The name 'Bhairava' literally means a terrifying form that is not afraid of anything. Thus, he can protect his devotees. He is also believed to be the supreme one after Lord Vishnu and can create, sustain, and dissolve life on earth.

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