Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Bhairava included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Bhairava

A Pārṣada of Śiva.


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.

Bhairava became a tree as soon as he was cursed. He became a tree because he subdued the gods. Therefore that tree came to be called "DAMANAKA" tree (Damana = Subdue). It has another name. "TĀTIRI" tree. Even now, pious people offer pūjā to this tree. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapters 52-80).


Once Brahmā and Viṣṇu became swollen with pride. In his haughty way, Brahmā insulted Śiva. Under the insult, Śiva was infuriated and out of the fire of his fury was born Bhairava with his black form. (Liṅga Purāṇa 1.90).


As soon as he was born, Bhairava rushed towards Brahmā and pinched off his fifth head which had insulted Śiva. By this, he incurred the sin of Brahmahatyā. For the expiation of this sin, as ordered by Śiva, Bhairava started on a journey to go abegging, with Brahmā’s severed head in his hand. Śiva then created a woman named "Brahmahatyā" and asked her to follow Bhairava.

Although Bhairava visited many holy places, he was not able to liberate himself from the sin of Brahmahatyā. At last, at the suggestion of Śiva, he went to Vārāṇasī and washed off his sin. Brahmā’s head which he carried, was also deposited there and the place became famous under the name of "Kapālamocana tīrtha". (Śiva Purāṇa, Śatarudra Saṃhitā).


In Kālikā Purāṇa there is an elaborate account of the family of Bhairava. According to this Purāṇa, Vijaya, the reputed King of Vārāṇasī was born in the family of Bhairava. Kālikā Purāṇa also says that Vijaya destroyed the Khāṇḍavī city and set up the Khāṇḍava forest in its place.

According to Kālikā Purāṇa, Bhairava and Vetāla were, in their previous births, two Śivapārṣadas named Mahākāla and Bhṛṅgi. It was by the curse of Pārvatī. that they were born as mortals in their next birth. (Kālikā Purāṇa 53).

The Purāṇas mention eight Bhairavas called Asitāṃga, Ruru, Caṇḍa, Krodha, Unmatta, Kapāli, Bhīṣaṇa and Saṃhāra.


Bhairava has a terrible shape. He wears the crescent moon and plaited hair on his head. His weapons are, sword, arrow, dagger, bow, trident, rope etc. At times he is dressed in elephant-skin. He has five faces. Serpents are his ornaments. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapters 52-80).

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