This is part III of Shiva the Supreme. We will discuss about Bhairava in this posting. There are different interpretations for Bhairava. Shiva is worshiped in 25 forms as per agama sastra. The important ones are Lingothbhavar, Arthanadeswarar, Somaskanthar, Dakshinamurthy, Kalasamharamurthy, Sarabeshwarar, Neelakantar, Bhairavar, rishabarudar, Chandrasekarar, Natarajar and Gangadharar. Out of the 25 forms of Shiva Bhairava form is considered to be important. Abhat- tuth- tharanar, Vadugar, Kshetrabalar, Brahma-sira-chethar are said to be the other names of Bhairavar. There is another school of thought which says that Shiva himself crated Bhairavar. There was one demon by name Dahruhasuran who got a boon that he could be killed only by a woman. Kali was created by Shakthi to kill him. The wrath of Kali killed the demon. After killing the demon, the wrath became a child. Kali fed the child with her milk. Shiva made both Kali and the child to merge with Him. From this merged form of Shiva, Bhairva appeared in his eight forms (ashta Bhairavas). Since Bhairava was thus created by Shiva, he is said to be one of the sons of Shiva, others being Ganesha, Muruga or Skanda, Iyanaar (said to be the God of villages) and Virabhatrar. Bhairava is said to be the ultimate form of manifestation or pure I consciousness. This form is called Maha Bhairava or Shiva the Supreme. Others give Him terrifying forms. The word Bhairava originates from the word bheeru, which means fearful. Bhairava means terribly fearful form.
The right interpretation is that He protects His devotees from dreadful enemies. Who are the dreadful enemies? They are greed, lust and anger. Bhairava protects His devotees from these enemies. These enemies are dangerous as they never allow us seek Him within. There is also another interpretation. Bha means creation, ra means sustenance and va means destruction. Therefore Bhairava is the one who creates, sustains and dissolves the three stages of a life. In this context He becomes the Ultimate or the Supreme. Bhairava is also called the protector. If Bhairava is manifested as a form of Shiva, He becomes the protector of the universe. In all the temples, there will be a Bhairava statue. This Bhairava is the protector of temples. In Shiva temples, when the temple is closed, the keys are placed before Bhairava. In some of the ancient texts Bhairava is described as the protector of women. He is described here as the protector of the timid and in general women are timid in nature, hence this description. Puranas too give different versions of Bhairava. Brahma is the lord of creation. He thought that He is the Supreme and abused Shiva. Shiva created Bhairava who removed one of the five heads of Brahma and took away his skull. There is yet another version. There was a war between gods and demons. To eradicate the demons, Shiva created Bhairava from whom ashta Bhairavas were created. These ashta Bhairavas got married to ashta matas. These ashta Bhairavas and matas have dreadful forms. From these ashta Bhairavas and ashta matas, 64 Bhairavas and 64 yoginis were created. We will discuss more on Bhairava in the next posting.