Kala Bhairab – A manifestation of Shiva in Kathmandu, Nepal

The statue of Kala Bhairab, or Black Bhairab , behind the Jagannath Temple in the Kathmandu Durbar Square, shows Shiva in his most fearsome form. The large stone deity of Kala Bhairab wears a garland of skulls, has six arms and stands on a dead body of a demon. The deity was said to have been found in a field north of the city. The lions on top and the sun and moon on the left were added later.
It is believed that to tell a lie in front of Kala Bhairab will instantly die, and disagreements in the past would be resolved here. He is one of the most important deities of Nepal, sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. Bhairab is invoked in prayers to destroy enemies. Bhairab has a dog as his divine vehicle.

The origin of Bhairab can be traced to the conversation between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu recounted in “Shiv Maha-Purana” where Lord Vishnu asks Lord Brahma who is the supreme creator of the Universe. Arrogantly, Brahma tells Vishnu to worship him because he (Brahma) is the supreme creator.

This angered Shiva who in reality is the creator of all. Shiva then incarnated in the form of Bhairab to punish Brahma. Bhairab beheaded one of Brahma’s five heads and since then Brahma has only four heads. When depicted as Kala Bhairab, Bhairab is shown carrying the amputated head of Brahma.
Cutting off Brahma’s fifth head made him guilty of Brahmanicide, and as a result, he was forced to carry around the head for years until he had been absolved of the sin.


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