Belur Chennakeshava Temple: Bhairava – A fearsome incarnation of Shiva

Bhairava carved on the south exterior wall of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Bhairava – Bhairava – A fearsome incarnation of Shiva

Bhairava – A fearsome incarnation of Shiva
In Hindu mythology, Bhairava is a fierce form of Shiva created by himself to destroy internal and external enemies. The sculptural depictions of Bhairava emphasize the fierceness of his physical presence.

As you can see from the image, Bhairava is standing with a fearsome stance. He is a digambara (i.e., wearing no clothes), but partly covering his body are many pieces of jewelry, including necklaces, anklets, armbands, and udiyana (waistband). In addition, the yajnopavita, a looped thread sacred to Hindus, hangs from his left shoulder and goes across the chest.

A crown made of a garland of kapālas (skull cups) adorns his head while another set of kapālas hangs from one of his necklaces. Surrounding his legs are the two coiled nāgas (serpents) with one visible head.

With one of his left hands, Bhairava is carrying a severed head, which belonged to Brahma. According to a legend, Brahma used to have five heads, four of which faced the cardinal directions, and the fifth head gazed upwards. Shiva cut off the fifth head when he found out that Brahma became infatuated with a female goddess created by Brahma himself. Bhairava’s other hands are holding a variety of objects that include a trishula (trident), Shula (a pointed weapon), damaru (drum-like instrument), and pāsha (noose). Dancing at the bottom are ganās, spirits that accompany Shiva. All in all, the depiction of Bhairava here is a fearsome sight.

This relief is carved on a pillar on the south side of the exterior wall surrounding the garbhagriha of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple in Karnataka, India.

Related Images
Bhairava inside a mini shrine at the main entrance
Shiva slaying Gajasura

Shilābālikes – Bracket figures mounted below the eaves
Darpana Sundari, Sukha Bhashini, Nātya Sundari, Gāna Sundari, Kesha Sundari, Tribhangi, Nagna Sundari, Kapāla Durga, Koravanji, Nātya Mohini, Betegārthi

Male Bracket Figures
Flute playing male musician
Narthaka – Davane playing male dancer
Davane playing male musician

Related Pages
Hoysala Temples
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples
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Durga Temple at Aihole

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