Lord Bhairava the Terrible & Frightful, sometimes known as Lord Kala Bhairava, is a Hindu deity, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with annihilation. He is often depicted with frowning, angry eyes and sharp, tiger’s teeth and flaming hair; stark naked except for garlands of skulls and a coiled snake about his neck. In his four hands he carries a noose, trident, drum, and skull. He is often shown accompanied by a dog. He originated in Hindu mythology and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. He is worshipped in Nepal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.
The origin of Lord Bhairava can be traced to a conversation between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu recounted in the Shiva Mahapuranam, in which Lord Vishnu inquired of Lord Brahma, “Who is the supreme creator of the Universe?”. Arrogantly, Lord Brahma told Lord Vishnu to worship him as supreme creator. One day Lord Brahma thought, “I have five heads, Shiva also has five heads. I can do everything that Shiva does and therefore I am Shiva”. Lord Brahma had become a little egoistic. Not only had he became egoistic, he started to forge the work of Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma started interfering in what Lord Shiva was supposed to do. Then Lord Shiva threw a small nail from His finger, which assumed the form of Lord Kala Bhairava, and casually went to cut off one of Lord Brahma’s heads. The skull of Lord Brahma is held in the hands of Lord Kala Bhairava. From then on, Lord Brahma’s ego was destroyed and he became enlightened. He became useful to himself, to the world and was deeply grateful to Lord Shiva for his mercy from destroying Lord Brahma.
His temples or shrines are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred twelve shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva across India, including Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi and the Kal Bhairav temple, Ujjain. In Ujjain, one can also find the Patal Bhairav and Vikrant Bhairav shrines.
Kaal Bhairava temples can also be found around Shakti Peethas, as it is said Lord Shiva allocated the job of guarding each of 52 Shakti Peethas to one Lord Bhairava. As such it is said there are 52 forms of Lord Bhairava, which are in fact considered as manifestation of Lord Shiva himself.
In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme God for the community commonly referred as “Gowdas“, especially for the Gangadikara Gowda caste, he is considered as the care taker and punisher.
The Hindu reformer Adi Sankara has written a hymn on Lord Kala Bhairava of Kashi which is called as Kala Bhairav Ashtakam.