The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “bhairava incarnation” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 8 - Bhairava incarnation

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nandīśvara said:—

1. O Sanatkumāra, O omniscient one, listen to the story of Bhairava by listening to which alone, devotion to Śiva becomes firm and steady.

2. Bhairava is the prior form of Siva, the great soul. Fools who are deluded by Śiva’s Māyā do not know about it.

3. O Sanatkumāra, neither Viṣṇu of four arms nor Brahmā of four faces knows the greatness of lord Śiva.

4. There is nothing to be surprised at in this. Siva’s Māyā is inscrutable. Deluded by it people do not even worship him, the great lord.

5. If any one knows him the supreme soul, he alone is lord Śiva. But then, none of these people know him out of their own will.

6. Although lord Śiva is omnipresent he is not seen by the people of deluded intellect. He is known as a mere lord, he who is beyond the reach of minds and words.

7. O great sage, in this connection I shall narrate an

ancient legend. O dear one, listen to it with faith. It is the great cause of perfect knowledge.

8. As Brahmā was stationed on the wonderful and beautiful summit of Meru, all the celestial sages approached him with a desire to know the real truth.

9. All the great sages with palms joined in reverence and shoulders drooping down came there and bowed to Brahmā. They asked him respectfully.

The celestial sages said:—

10. O lord of gods, O lord of subjects, O Creator, O leader of the worlds, tell us the real fact. What is that sole unchanging entity?

Nandīśvara said:—

11. Deluded by the Māyā of great lord and not knowing the great fact the lotus-born Brahmā replied haughtily.

Brahmā said:—

12. O gods, O sages, all of you listen with attention and intelligence I shall describe the great unchanging entity as it really is.

13. I am the womb (material cause) of the universe, the creator, the self-born, the unborn, the lord, the primordial being, the Brahman, the sole unsullied soul.

14. O excellent gods, I am the instigator of the worlds, and the deterrent too. There is none greater than I or any other who causes their revolution.

Nandīśvara said:—

15. While the Creator was saying thus, O sage, Viṣṇu who was there became angry as he too was deluded by Māyā. He spoke these words derisively.

16. O Brahmā, this is not proper. It is sheer foolishness on the part of a practiser of Yoga. Without knowing the great reality, this is being mentioned in vain.

17. I am the Creator of all the worlds, the great Śtman, the greatest Puruṣa, the sacrifice, the lord Nārāyaṇa, the master of Māyā and the greatest goal.

18. O Brahmā, it is at my behest that creation is carried on by you. Without regard for me, the lord, no life can exist in the worlds.

19. O sage, thus starting a mutual clash due to delusion and desiring to conquer each other they asked the Vedas about truth.

20. The Vedas were there in embodied form. They shall be specifically asked. With this idea in mind they asked the four Vedas about the truth.

Brahmā and Viṣṇu said:—

21. Vedas are the authorities everywhere. They have been honoured everywhere. Hence you please say unreservedly. What is the sole unchanging entity?

Nandīśvara said:—

22. On hearing their words, the Vedas spoke in reality after remembering the lord.

23. “If we are honoured, O deities as the causes of creation and maintenance, we shall cite authorities that will dispel your doubts.

Nandīśvara said:—

24. On hearing the conditions mentioned by the Vedas the two deities told the Vedas—“What is mentioned by you is acceptable to us as authority. What is that entity? Please tell us that.

Ṛgveda said:—

25. That in which the Bhūtas stay, that from which everything comes out, what they call as the greatest entity—that is Rudra alone.

Yajurveda said:—

26. The lord who is worshipped by means of all sacrifices and meditation, whereby we have an authority—that sole seer of all is Śiva.

Sāmaveda said:—

27. That by which this universe whirls, that which is meditated upon by Yogins, the light whereby the universe Is illuminated—that Tryambaka alone is the greatest.

Atharvaveda said:—

28. They call that sole being Śiva who is beyond all misery who is the lord of gods whom the people who have the blessing of devotion see.

Nandīśvara said:—

29. After hearing what was thus said by the Vedas, Brahmā and Viṣṇu, deluded very much by the Māyā (and hence) crooked in consciousness smiled and said to the Vedas.

Brahmā and Viṣṇu said:—

30. O Vedas, what is this that you all speak without sense? What has happened to you? All wisdom is utterly lost now.

31-32. The lord of Pramathas incessantly sports with Śivā. He is naked and of yellow colour and tawny due to dust. His dress and features are ugly. He has matted hair and moves about on his bull. He wear? serpents as his ornaments. How can he be the supreme Brahman? Where is that Brahman free from any attachment?”

33. On hearing their words, the all-pervasive Praṇava who though unembodied assumed an embodied, extensive form told them thus.

Praṇava said:

34. Lord Īśa, Rudra, Śiva indulging in sports and assuming various forms never sports about with the Śakti different from him.

35. The great lord, is self-luminous and eternal. Śivā is his Śakti in the form of Bliss, not a chance occurrence.

Nandīśvara said:—

36. Even after this explanation the ignorance of Brahmā and Viṣṇu was not quelled. It was due to the Māyā of Śiva alone.

37. Then a great flame manifested itself in their midst. It filled the space between the heaven and the sarth by means of its splendour.

38. O sage, then Brahma and Viṣṇu saw a shape in the form of a man in the middle of the mass of flame. Its body was huge and wonderful.

39. The fifth head of Brahmā burnt with rage (as. though saying) “who is this bearing a man’s outline and features in our midst?”

40-41. By the time Brahmā could reflect properly, the great Being was seen immediately as the three-eyed Nīlalohita with the trident in his hand and an eye in the forehead. Serpents and crescent moon constituted his ornaments. The deluded Brahmā on seeing him said laughingly.

Brahmā said:—

42-43. “O Nīlalohita, I know you. Do not be afraid; O moon-crested one. You, Rudra, came out formerly from my forehead. Since you cried, the name Rudra was also assigned to you by me formerly. O son, seek refuge in me alone. I shall save you.”

Nandīśvara said:

44. O sage, on hearing the haughty words of the lotus-born Brahmā, Śiva became angry as if out for destruction.

45. Angrily, he created a Puruṣa Bhairava blazing in great brilliance. Then he spoke lovingly.

Śiva said:—

4-6. O Kālabhairava, at the outset this lotus-born Brahmā shall be chastised by you. You shine like god of death, hence you are Kālarāja.

47. You are called Bhairava because you are of terrifying features and you are capable of supporting the universe. Since even Kāla is afraid of you, you are called Kālabhairava.

48. When you arc angry you will be suppressing the wicked souls. Hence you will be known everywhere as the suppressor of the wicked.

49. Since you will be devouring the sins of devotees in a trice your name will be famous as sin-eater.

50. O Kālarāja, you will have forever the suzerainty over my city Kāśī, the city of liberation, which is greater than all other cities.

51. You alone will be the chastiser of those who commit sins there. Citragupta will write down their auspicious and inauspicious activities.

Nandīśvara said:—

52. After receiving all these boons. Kāla-Bhairava, in a trice, cut off Brahmā’s head with the tip of the nails of the fingers of his left hand. [1]

53. The limb that commits offence shall be chestísed. Hence the fifth head that censured was cut off.

54. On seeing Brahma’s (Brahmā’s?) head cut off, Viṣṇu became terribly afraid. Devotedly he repeated the Śatarudriya mantras and eulogised Śiva.

55. The frightened golden-wombed Brahma (Brahmā?) too performed the Japa of Śatarudriya. O sage, thus, in an instant, both of them were divested of their pride.

56. But they realised that Śiva is the Supreme Brahman with Sat (Existence) Cit (knowledge) and Ānanda (Bliss) as the characteristics. He is the great Ātman and transcends the attributes.

57. O omniscient Sanatkumāra, listen to my extremely auspicious advice. As long as there is pride, perfect knowledge lies excessively hidden.

58. Eschewing false prestige and pride, a man realises lord Śiva. Lord Śiva quells the arrogant because he is the destroyer of arrogance.

59. Coming to know that Brahmā and Viṣṇu had been deprived of their pride, lord Śiva the great god became delighted and the lord assured them of his protection.

60. After consoling both of them, the delighted Śiva, favourably disposed towards his devotees, spoke to Bhairava—his own other form.

Lord Siva said:—

61. This Viṣṇu shall be honoured by you as well as by Brahmā, O Nīlalohita, hold the skull of Brahmā as an atonement.

62. Show to the world the rite of expiation for removing the sin of slaying brahmin. You beg for alms by resorting to “the rite of skull.”

63. After saying this and creating a virgin renowned as “Brahmahatyā” even as he was watching, Śiva, in the form of mass of flame, spoke thus.

64. Until she goes to the divine city of Vārāṇasī you too shall follow her for a terribly long period.

65. You will have free access to everywhere except the city of Vārāṇasī. When she goes to Vārāṇasī you can be freed of her in a trice.

Nandīśvara said:—

66. Thus directing the Brahmahatyā, the wonderful lord Śiva, vanished from the scene.

Footnotes and references:


Vs (Ch 8) speaks of Bhairava’s attempt to cut off the fifth head of Brahmā at the instance of śiva and also of the cancellation of that attempt by the intervention of Śiva at the behest of Viṣṇu. The present account of Śatarudra Saṃhitā is somewhat different from the above account. Here Kālabhairava is mentioned to have severed the fifth head of Brahmā with the nails of his left finger. This account is substantiated by similar accounts in the other Purāṇas.

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