Temples of Munnur (Historical Study)

by R. Muthuraman | 2016 | 67,784 words

This essay represents a historical study of the Temples in and around Munnur, situated in the Dakshina Kannada district in the state Karnataka (India). Munnur is regarded as an important religious city for the followers of both Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The ancient history of Munnur traces to the reign of the Chola, from whom the city derives it's ...

Images of Bhairava

Bhairava is one of the terrific forms of Siva[1] and represented as a nude youth with a dog. Varah Purana describes the origin of Bhairava. Brahma created Rudra as the protector of the universe and named him Kapali. Rudra, offended by the name Kapali, cut off the fifth head of Brahma in fury with the nail of his left thumb. However, the head stuck to his thumb. When Rudra sought Brahma's advice on how to get rid of it, Brahma told him to observe the Kapalika Vrata.

Accordingly Rudra went to Mahendra Parvata wore an yajnopavita made of hair, a garland of skulls around his neck, and placed a skull on his jatamakuta and held a kapala in His hands. He went on a holy pilgrimage to all the sacred places and in the twelfth year of the pilgrimage he reached Kasi (modern Varanasi) where Brahma's head (skull) fell from his left hand. Rudra bathed in the holy Ganges and returned to Kailasa.[2]

Kalithogai speaks of diva's Kapala dance.[3] In this dance Siva carries the Kapala in his hands. It is inferred that Bhairava was in existence during the Sangam age. Agamas recognise the sixty four different forms of Bhairava.[4] Bhairava's iconographic forms found at Dharmaraja ratha of Mahabalipuram and Kailasanatha temple of Kanchipuram, confirm the worship of Bhairava during the Pallava period. Under the Cholas, Bhairava images were developed in number and stylistic characters.

Bhairava's one term sculpture is shown in the Adavalleswarar temple at Munnur. This Bhairava is in the first prakara' s eastern side of the temple. This, belongs to the Kala Bhairava category. They have four hands each holding damaru and pasa in the back hands while a sula and a kapala are in the front hands. The hairs are adorned as jvalakisa by a betel leaf shaped nimbus of flames with a, cranium and a twisting serpent at its centre. The heads have opened round eyes, wide nostrils, thick eye-brows and protruding teeth. These were the customary of ancient sthapatis to introduce them in the representation of terrific themes. They have dangling makarakundala and heavy patrakundala attached to the right ear-lobes and the left shoulder, necklaces around the neck, udarabandha across the stomach, and padasaras on the feet. The two serpents with their twisted bodies, rest around his waist. The long ornamented skull and bone garland hangs down upto the knees. The Bhairava stand in front their vehicle dog facing right with its tail curled up as usual. The figure on the western cloister has a broken front left hand.

Footnotes and references:


Margaret Stutley, "Bhairava," The Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography, London, 1985, p. 18.


Ramesh Shankar Gupte and V. D. Mahajan, Op, Cit.,p. 119.


Naccinarkkiniyar, (ed.), Kalithogai, Chennai, (Tamil), 1996, K.va.1,1. 12,p. 1.


R. Raju Kalidoss, Velusamy Sudanthiran, A. and T. Chandrakumar, Cindaikiniya Cirpakalai, Tanjavur, (Tamil), 1995, p. 140.

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