Lord Shiva has several forms and avatar manifestation of a deity in physical body form. Although his original ascetic form is widely revered, his Pashupatinath and Vishwanath avatar are also quite famous. But one of the most fearsome avatars of Lord Shiva is the Kalabhairava. This form of Shiva, described by Adi Shankaracharya in the Kalabhairava Ashtakam , is shown to be naked, black, entwined with a garland of skulls, three eyes, weapons of destruction in his four hands, and entwined with snakes. The depiction of this form may seem at odds with the dispassionate, calm, and meditative form that many pray every day, but there is deep symbolism associated with Kalabhairava.
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Lord Shiva has several forms and avatar manifestation of a deity in physical body form. Although his original ascetic form is widely revered, his Pashupatinath and Vishwanath avatar are also quite famous.
But one of the most fearsome avatars of Lord Shiva is the Kalabhairava. This form of Shiva, described by Adi Shankaracharya in the Kalabhairava Ashtakam , is shown to be naked, black, entwined with a garland of skulls, three eyes, weapons of destruction in his four hands, and entwined with snakes.
The depiction of this form may seem at odds with the dispassionate, calm, and meditative form that many pray every day, but there is deep symbolism associated with Kalabhairava.
Before finding out what it is, let us first read the lyrics of Kalabhairava Ashtakam. The vehicle of Kalabhairava is shvaana a dog. It is the most fearsome depiction of Lord Shiva. In spirituality, the words death and time are symbolic. Shvaana is formed of two words shva and na. In Vedic literature, the meaning of shva is tomorrow and yesterday, and the meaning of na is not.
So shvaana means something which is neither yesterday nor tomorrow, something which is only in the now, the present moment. So, Kalabhairava is someone who is neither yesterday nor tomorrow. He is ever-present in the now. Also, Lord Kalabhairava is the lord of the city of Kashi. This also has a symbolic meaning. In tantra, Kashi is recognized as Agya Chakra , which is located in between the eyebrows. The depiction of Kalabhairava is vikraala large and fearsome. It signifies that time eats away everything.
Anything that is present in this world, it will dissolve and perish with time. The kings and empires that were here thousands of years ago, the wonders that are present now and anything that will come in the future, they will perish as time passes. And where is time?
It is not in the past or the future. It is now. And when this realization of time and present moment comes, our Agya Chakra the seat of knowledge in our body gets heightened, signifying the presence of Lord Kalabhairava in us. This leads us to the deepest state of samadhi meditation which is also called a state of Bhairava. In the Kalabhairava Ashtakam , where Adi Shankaracharya praised Lord Kalabhairava as the Lord of Kashi, he actually means the Agya Chakra — signifying total awareness of the present moment.
This is also coveted by all the Devatas divine energies. Adi Shankaracharya says that even the lords, those divine energies bow down at the feet of Kalabhairava, yearning for that state of bliss and samadhi. Just remembering the state of Kalabhairava, by chanting the Kalabhairava Ashtakam every day gives us knowledge of life and leads us to liberation.
We are provided with merits that are unknown, incomprehensible and intangible. Chanting this Ashtakam frees us from shoka grief , moha attachment and delusion, the cause of misery , dainya poverty or the feeling of lack , lobha greed , kopa irritability and anger , and tapa sufferings.
Lord Kalabhairava is described as bhoot sangha nayaka - the lord of the pancha bhootas - which are earth, fire, water, air, and ether. He is the granter of all kinds of coveted excellence in life, all the knowledge that we desire.
There is a difference between learning and excellence and this state of bliss gives a person all the coveted excellence. By remembering Kalabhairava, a person attains the bliss that is in the deepest state of Samadhi, where you are devoid of all worries, not bothered by nothing. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talks about this state of samadhi and the different ways that we can attain it in the Vigyan Bhairava course, conducted in several places every year.
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The spiritual symbolism behind Kalabhairava So, Kalabhairava is someone who is neither yesterday nor tomorrow. Benefits of chanting Kalabhairava Ashtakam Just remembering the state of Kalabhairava, by chanting the Kalabhairava Ashtakam every day gives us knowledge of life and leads us to liberation.
Kala Bhairava Ashtakam
The entire universe and its beings revolve on the wheel of time or Kaalachakra that is ruled by Kaala Bhairava. Chanting the Kaala Bhairava Ashtakam daily brings peace to the mind, shields from misfortunes and makes one healthier and wealthier. Kaala Bhairava removes all obstacles and negativities of the devotees. He dispels sorrow, delusion, meekness, anger, restlessness while instilling dynamism, spiritual progress, and auspiciousness. Kaala Bhairava is the Lord of Time. And time itself is the Divinity.
Important Kaal Bhairav Mantras and its benefits
It consists of eight stanzas, characteristic of an Ashtakam. Kala Bhairava is described as black, naked body entwined with snakes, fangs, garland of skulls, three eyes, weapons for punishment in four hands, with shining golden bells attached to his waist-belt. Those who study these 8 verses on Kala Bhairava, which are enticing and which are a source of knowledge and liberation, which increase the righteousness of a person and destroy greed, attachment, depression, anger and heat and enable us to move towards the proximity of feet of Shiva Kala Bhairava positively. The first stanza is a salutations to Sri Kala Bhairava the supreme lord of Kasi. His Lotus feet are served by Indra, The king of the devas and the great one who wears snake as his sacrificial thread a cord worn by the Dvija's hanging from their left shoulder and goes below the right shoulder and a moon on his head. He is extremely compassionate and is praised by Sage Narada and other Yogis, who also is a Digambara remains naked. The second stanza is a salutations to Sri Kala Bharaiva who is the supreme Lord of the city of Kasi, who has the brilliance of a million suns, who rescues us from the ocean of worldly existence and who is Supreme, Who has a blue throat, who bestows us with worldly prosperities, which we wish for, and who has three eyes, who is death unto death itself, whose eyes are like a pair of lotus flowers, whose spear supports the three worlds like an axle axis around which they rotate, and who is imperishable.
Kalabhairava Ashtakam - In sanskrit with meaning
Kalabhairava, the fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva , is the God who is the protector of Benares. But the sin of beheading Lord Brahma followed Kalabhairava everywhere . Also the head of Brahma stuck to him. To keep away the sin and punishment which were chasing him, Kalabhairava entered the city of Benares. The sin could not enter the city. Kalabhairava was made as the Kotwal  of Benares.