Bhairava: 24 definitions


Bhairava means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Images (photo gallery)

In Hinduism

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

[«previous (B) next»] — Bhairava in Purana glossary
Source: Puranic Encyclopedia

1) Bhairava (भैरव).—A nāga belonging to the Dhṛtarāṣṭra Vaṃśa. There is a reference to this nāga in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 17. He was burnt up at the Sarpasatra performed by King Janamejaya. (See full article at Story of Bhairava from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani)

2) Bhairava (भैरव).—A Pārṣada of Śiva. General. Immediately after his birth, this terrible monster subdued all the Devas without getting the permission of Śiva. Enraged at it, Śiva turned him into a tree by a curse. But Śiva was soon pacified and lifted the curse by declaring that those who offered pūjā to the gods would get the full reward for their worship only if they offered pūjā to Bhairava also.

Source: Shiva Purana - English Translation

Bhairava (भैरव) is one of the deities associated with a “Rudraksha with eight faces” (Aṣṭavaktra), according to the Śivapurāṇa 1.25, while explaining the greatness of Rudrākṣa:—“[...] a Rudrākṣa with eight faces (aṣṭavaktra) is called Vasumūrti and Bhairava. By wearing it a man lives the full span of life. After death he becomes the Trident-bearing lord (Śiva)”.

Bhairava is also associated with a “Rudraksha with nine faces” (Navavaktra):—“[...] a Rudrākṣa with nine faces (navavaktra) is also Bhairava. Its sage is Kapila. Its presiding goddess is Durgā of nine forms, Maheśvarī Herself”.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

1a) Bhairava (भैरव).—A Śiva gaṇa.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 41. 27; IV. 14. 7; 17. 4; 19. 78-9; 33. 17.

1b) An epithet of Rudra; the form assumed by Śiva when Gaurī returned from penance; She became Bhairavī;1 Image of, to be placed in each temple but not in mūlāyantana.2

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 158. 24; 179. 1.
  • 2) Ib. 252. 10; 259. 14.

1c) A tīrtha on the banks of Carmanvatī sacred to the Pitṛs.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 22. 31.

1d) tapas performed by Brahmā.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 26. 10.

1e) An Apsarasa clan from Mṛtyu.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 57.
Source: JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places

Bhairava (भैरव) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. I.52.15, I.57) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Bhairava) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

Purana book cover
context information

The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Purana from relevant books on Exotic India

Shilpashastra (iconography)

Source: Wisdom Library: Śilpa-śāstra

Bhairava (भैरव) is a manifestion of Śiva. According to the Rudrayāmala, there are eight main forms of Bhairava who control the eight directions of this universe. The term is used throughout Śilpaśāstra literature.

The eight forms of Bhairava are:

  1. Asitāṅga,
  2. Ruru,
  3. Caṇḍa,
  4. Krodha,
  5. Unmatta,
  6. Kāpāla,
  7. Bhīṣaṇa,
  8. Saṃhāra.

Each of these forms has eight emanations thus totalling to sixty-four Bhairavas.

Source: Google Books: Elements of Hindu iconography

Bhairava (भैरव).—(According to the Śilparatna), in the aspect of Bhairava, Śiva has eighteen arms; the additional hands hold the ḍamaru and the śaṅkha. In the instance [of sixteen arms], the following six objects should be carried in addition to those mentioned in connection with the image of Siva with ten arms; namely, the bāṇa, the cakra and the gadā in the right hands and the bow, a bell and the śaṅkha in the left hands. When Śiva has ten arms, the right hands should carry an akṣamālā, a sword, the śaktyayudha, the daṇḍa and the śūla; whereas the left hands should carry the khaṭvāṅga, a snake, a skull, the kheṭaka and the deer.

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras (śilpa)

Bhairava (भैरव) is the name of a deity depicted at the Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli, representing a sacred place for the worship of Śiva.—[...] in the right corner is the sanctum of Bhairava. Bhairava is found to be in digāṃbara form (clothed in sky). His dog accompanies him. The dog is an incarnation of Kuṇḍodara (Kuṇḍōdaran) (he who carries Śiva’s umbrella). Bhairava is represented as standing in samapāda-sthānaka in samabhaṅga with four hands. The upper right hand holds uḍukkai (drum) with sarpa (snake) on it and pāśa in the upper left hand in kaṭaka-hasta. The lower right hand holds śūla (trident) and the lower left hand holds kapāla (Brahmā’s skull) in kaṭaka-hasta and siṃhakarṇa/vismaya-hasta. His scarf is a necklace of skulls. The basic measurement for making the image of Śiva is covered by uttama-daśatāla.

While depicting in Bharatanatyam, Bhairava is represented in samapāda-sthānaka with the two upper hands holding kapittha-hasta and the lower right hand holding the trident and the lower left hand holding kapāla in kapittha and siṃhamukha opened/kuvi-patāka/alapadma-hasta. There is a sannidhi for Cokkarliṅga where the liṅga is found with Nandi in front of the liṅga and the deity Pārvatī to the left of the liṅga in her usual form.

Bhairava is also depicted in the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (or Madura), which represents a sacred place for the worship of The Goddess (Devī).—Bhairava is represented with four hands where the upper right hand holds the kettle-drum in kaṭaka and the upper left hand holds the noose in kaṭaka, while the lower right hand has the trident in kaṭaka-hasta and the lower left hand has the cup or skull in pallava-hasta. He is represented as standing. While depicting in dancing techniques, he is represented with the upper two hands in kaṭaka-hasta and the lower right hand in kapittha-hasta and the lower left hand in kuvi-patāka or siṃhamukha opened with fingers slightly bent.

Bhairava is also depicted in the Subramanya Swamy Temple (or Subrahmaṇya Svāmi Temple) in Tiruchendur (or Tirucendur/Tirucentur), representing a sacred place for the worship of Murugan.—Bhairava is found in standing posture in samabhaṅga with four hands. The upper right hand holds aṅkuśa and the upper left hand holds antelope in kaṭaka-hasta. The lower right hand holds triśūla in kaṭaka-hasta and the lower left hand holds kapāla in vismaya-hasta. A dog is found behind the icon of Bhairava. Then there is the sannidhi for the dancing Naṭarāja in his usual form. Pārvatī is found to the left of the dancing Naṭarāja and a sage is found to the right.

Shilpashastra book cover
context information

Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Shilpashastra from relevant books on Exotic India

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

Source: Wisdom Library: Śaivism

Bhairava (भैरव) is a Sanskrit word referring to one of the sixty-eight places hosting a svāyambhuvaliṅga, one of the most sacred of liṅgas according to the Śaivāgamas. The presiding deity residing over the liṅga in this place (Bhairava) is similarly-named Bhairava. The list of sixty-eight svāyambhuvaliṅgas is found in the commentary of the Jirṇoddhāra-daśaka by Nigamajñānadeva. The word liṅga refers to a symbol used in the worship of Śiva and is used thoughout Śaiva literature, such as the sacred Āgamas.

Source: Vijnana Bhairava or Divine Consciousness

Bhairava (भैरव).—Kṣemarāja in his Udyota commentary gives a description of the esoteric meaning of Bhairava. The sum and substance of it is that Bhairava is an acrostic word consisting of the letters, bha, ra and va;

  • bha indicates bharaṇa or maintenance of the universe;
  • ra indicates ravaṇa or withdrawal of the universe;
  • va indicates vamana or projection i.e., manifestation of the universe.

Thus Bhairava indicates all the three aspects of the Divine.

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras (shaivism)

Bhairava (भैरव) refers to one of the manifestations of Śiva.—Śiva, in the form of Bhairava helps the devotees by punishing those who harass them

Shaivism book cover
context information

Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Shaivism from relevant books on Exotic India

Vastushastra (architecture)

Source: Shodhganga: Temples of Salem region Up to 1336 AD

Bhairava (भैरव).—Bhairava, according to tradition is considered as the kṣetrapāla. Therefore his sculptures are found generally in almost in all the temples. In the forms of Bhairava of the region different varieties are discemable. They are four-handed, eight-handed, and sixteen-handed Bhairavas. These Bhairava sculptures except three are in sthānaka posture, while three are in āsīna posture. Iconographically, they may be identified as vāṭuka, kṣetrapāla and aghora Bhairavas.

Vastushastra book cover
context information

Vastushastra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vāstuśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science (shastra) of architecture (vastu), dealing with topics such architecture, sculpture, town-building, fort building and various other constructions. Vastu also deals with the philosophy of the architectural relation with the cosmic universe.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Vastushastra from relevant books on Exotic India

Pancaratra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)

Source: Wisdom Library: Pāñcarātra

Bhairava (भैरव) refers to an aspect of nṛsiṃha (‘man-lion’), according to the Vihagendra-saṃhitā 4.17, which mentions seventy-four forms (inlcuding twenty forms of vyūha). He is also known as Bhairavanṛsiṃha or Bhairavanarasiṃha. Nṛsiṃha is a Tantric deity and refers to the furious (ugra) incarnation of Viṣṇu.

The 15th-century Vihagendra-saṃhīta is a canonical text of the Pāñcarātra corpus and, in twenty-four chapters, deals primarely with meditation on mantras and sacrificial oblations.

Pancaratra book cover
context information

Pancaratra (पाञ्चरात्र, pāñcarātra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Narayana is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaishnavism, the Pancaratra literature includes various Agamas and tantras incorporating many Vaishnava philosophies.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Pancaratra from relevant books on Exotic India

Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

Source: DSpace at Pondicherry: Siddha Cult in Tamilnadu (shaktism)

Bhairava (भैरव).—The male deities in Śaktism are called Bhairavas. Śiva is also a Bhairava. But he being the Puruṣa of Śakti his position is different from them. In reference to the deities the Tantras can be classified as Śakti, Śiva and Bhairava.

Source: Shodhganga: Iconographical representations of Śiva (shaktism)

Bhairava (भैरव) or Bhairavatantra refers to one of the thirty-three Dakṣiṇatantras, belonging to the Śāktāgama (or Śāktatantra) division of the Āgama tradition. The Śāktāgamas represent the wisdom imparted by Devī to Īśvara and convey the idea that the worship of Śakti is the means to attain liberation. According to the Pratiṣṭhālakṣaṇasamuccaya of Vairocana, the Śāktatantras are divided into to four parts, the Bhairava-tantra belonging to the Dakṣiṇa class.

Shaktism book cover
context information

Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Shaktism from relevant books on Exotic India

General definition (in Hinduism)

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Bhairava (Sanskrit: भैरव ("Terrible" or "Frightful") sometimes known as Kala Bhairava, is the fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation. He is one of the most important deities in Nepal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, who originated in Hindu mythology and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike.

Bhairava himself has eight manifestations i.e. Ashta Bhairava:

  • Asithaanga Bhairava
  • Ruru Bhairava
  • Chanda Bhairava
  • Krodha Bhairava
  • Unmattha Bhairava
  • Kapaala Bhairava
  • Bheeshana Bhairava
  • Samhaara Bhairava

Kala Bhairava is conceptualized as the Guru of the planetary deity Shani (Saturn). Bhairava is known as Bhairavar or Vairavar in Tamil where he is often presented as a Grama devata or village guardian who safeguards the devotee on all eight directions (ettu tikku).

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: Een Kritische Studie Van Svayambhūdeva’s Paümacariu

Bhairava (भैरव) participated in the war between Rāma and Rāvaṇa, on the side of the latter, as mentioned in Svayambhūdeva’s Paumacariu (Padmacarita, Paumacariya or Rāmāyaṇapurāṇa) chapter 57ff. Svayambhū or Svayambhūdeva (8th or 9th century) was a Jain householder who probably lived in Karnataka. His work recounts the popular Rāma story as known from the older work Rāmāyaṇa (written by Vālmīki). Various chapters [mentioning Bhairava] are dedicated to the humongous battle whose armies (known as akṣauhiṇīs) consisted of millions of soldiers, horses and elephants, etc.

General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of General definition from relevant books on Exotic India

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

bhairava (भैरव).—m (S) A name of śiva, but esp. an inferior manifestation or form, of which this is the common name for eight; viz. asitāṅga, ruru, canda, krōdha, anmatta, kupati, bhīṣaṇa, saṃvhara. All these allude to terrific properties of mind or body. In the general apprehension bhairava is identified with, or very faintly distinguished from, khaṇḍērāva. 2 A musical mode,--that which is calculated to excite emotions of terror. 3 An ear-ornament of females. bhairavācī sēvā asaṇēṃ in. con. To be deaf.

--- OR ---

bhairava (भैरव).—a S Formidable, frightful, terrific.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English

bhairava (भैरव).—m Name of śiva. a Terrific, formidable.

context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Marathi from relevant books on Exotic India

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Bhairava (भैरव).—a. (- f.) [भीरोरिदम् अण् (bhīroridam aṇ)]

1) Terrible, frightful, horrible, formidable; वेल्लद्भैरवरुण्डमुण्डनिकरैर्वीरो विधत्ते भुवम् (velladbhairavaruṇḍamuṇḍanikarairvīro vidhatte bhuvam) U.5.6.

2) Miserable.

3) Relating to Bhairava.

-vaḥ 1 A form of Śiva (of which 8 kinds are enumerated).

2) The sentiment of terror (bhayānaka).

3) Fear, terror.

4) Name of a musical mode (rāga) calculated to excite emotions of fear or terror.

5) A mountain.

-vī 1 A form of the goddess Durgā. °चक्रम् (cakram) a disc of the goddess भैरवी (bhairavī); प्रवृत्ते भैरवीचक्रे सर्वे वर्णा द्विजोत्तमाः । निवृत्ते भैरवीचक्रे सर्वे वर्णाः पृथक् पृथक् (pravṛtte bhairavīcakre sarve varṇā dvijottamāḥ | nivṛtte bhairavīcakre sarve varṇāḥ pṛthak pṛthak) || Utpattitantra.

2) Name of a Rāgiṇī in the Hindu musical system.

3) A girl of 12 or a young girl representing the goddess Durgā at the Durgā festival.

-vam Terror, horror.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Bhairava (भैरव).—mfn.

(-vaḥ-vī-vaṃ) Formidable, horrible, terrific. n.

(-vaṃ) Horror, the property of exciting terror. m.

(-vaḥ) 1. A name of Siva, but more especially an inferior manifestation or form of the deity, eight of which are called by the common name Bhairava, and are severally termed Asitanga, Ruru, Chanda, Krodha, Un- Matta, Kupati, Bhishana, and Sanhara, all alluding to terrific properties of mind or body. 2. The name of a river. 3. A musical mode; that which is calculated to excite emotion of terror. f. (-vī) 1. A name or form of Durga. 2. A young girl personating Durga at the festival of that goddess. 3. Name of a Ragini. E. bhīru fearful, aff. aṇ .

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Aufrecht Catalogus Catalogorum

1) Bhairava (भैरव) as mentioned in Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum:—See Tilakabhairava, Yajñabhairava.

2) Bhairava (भैरव):—of Tīrabhukti, father of Puruṣottama, husband of Jayā, the patroness of Vācaspatimiśra (Dvaitanirṇaya). Oxf. 273.

Bhairava has the following synonyms: Bhairavendra.

3) Bhairava (भैरव):—son of Janārdana, father of Nārāyaṇa, father of Mādhava, father of Rāmakṛṣṇa (Siddhāntacandrikā). Hall. p. 173.

4) Bhairava (भैरव):—Kāṭhakavahniprayoga or Sāvitracayanaprayoga Baudh. Kaukilīsautrāmaṇīprayoga Baudh.

5) Bhairava (भैरव):—Gopradānavidhi.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Bhairava (भैरव):—mf(ā and ī)n. ([from] bhīru) frightful, terrible, horrible, formidable (am ind.), [Mahābhārata; Rāmāyaṇa] etc.

2) relating to Bhairava, [Catalogue(s)]

3) m. Name of a form of Śiva (cf, [Religious Thought and Life in India 85]), [Prabodha-candrodaya; Rājataraṅgiṇī; Purāṇa] (in the latter 8 Bh°’s are enumerated, viz. mahā-, saṃhāra-, asitāṅga-, ruru-kāla-, krodha-, tāmracūḍa-, or kapāla-, candracūḍaor rudra-bh; sometimes other names are given e.g. vidyā-rāja, kāma-r, nāga-r, svacchanda-r, lambita-r, deva-r, ugra-r, vighna-r)

4) a man representing Bh°'s, [Horace H. Wilson]

5) a jackal, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

6) a mountain, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

7) (in music) Name of a Rāga

8) Name of a chief of Śiva’s host, [Kālikā-purāṇa]

9) of a son of Śiva by Tārā-vatī (wife of Candra-śekhara, king of Karavīra-pura), [ib.]

10) of a Nāga, [Mahābhārata]

11) of a Yakṣa, [Catalogue(s)]

12) of a hunter, [Hitopadeśa]

13) of 2 kings and various teachers and authors (also with tripāṭhin, daivajña, tilaka, dīkṣita, ācārya, bhaṭṭa and miśra), [ib.]

14) of a river, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

15) m. [plural] Name of a [particular] sect, [Viṣṇu-purāṇa]

16) Bhairavā (भैरवा):—[from bhairava] f. Name of Nirṛti, [Vyogay.]

17) [v.s. ...] [plural] of a class of Apsaras, [Viṣṇu-purāṇa]

18) Bhairava (भैरव):—n. terror or the property of exciting terror, [Horace H. Wilson]

19) = bhairava-tantra below.

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

Discover the meaning of bhairava in the context of Sanskrit from relevant books on Exotic India

See also (Relevant definitions)

Relevant text

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: