Kaal Bhairav

Kāla Bhairava (Sanskrit: काल भैरव) is a formidable aspect of Lord Shiva, embodies the concept of time (Kāla) and destruction. The term ‘Kāla Bhairava’ is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Kāla’, meaning ‘time’ or ‘death’, and ‘Bhairava’, an epithet of Lord Shiva that signifies ‘terrifying’ or ‘frightful’. He is venerated in Siddha Dharma as the deity who is beyond death and beyond time. He is also the deity responsible for the Annihilation of Time. Known for his fearsome form, Kāla Bhairava’s worship is integral to various Hindu traditions, symbolizing the dissolution of fear, removal of obstacles and the protection against evils and adversaries.

There are many Bhairavaas mentioned in Tantra. Kāla Bhairava holds a profound place in it. Kāla Bhairava holds the keys to the dimensions of time and space, symbolizing his control over these cosmic elements. Kāla Bhairava are often found at the entrances of Shiva temples or the outskirts of cities, signifying his role as the protector of sacred spaces and communities.

According to Himalayan Siddhas, Kāla Bhairava is the protecting deity for all Shakti Peeth. The name and form of Kāla Bhairava changes as per the specific Shakti in that Shakti Peeth, but all protecting Bhairavaas of Shakti Peeth are diverse manifestation of Kāla Bhairava.

Kāla Bhairava removes pain and sufferings from life. His blessing can help devotees overcome all kinds of fear and even death as well.

Kāla Bhairava is also the enforcer of divine justice. His fierce form and attributes emphasize his role in maintaining cosmic order and enforcing divine law, particularly by punishing those who stray from the path of righteousness. He is also the guru of Lord Shani.


According to Siddha Dharma, when the universe was created then Kāla Bhairava manifested as Kāla or time as formless aspect of Bhairava.

Another story comes from Siddhas who were present in Kailash when Sati was getting knowledge from Shiva. At that time when Shiva was revealing to Sati that he is Kāla as well, upon request of Sati, Shiva manifested a form beyond time from his third eye. And from that invisible form, Kāla Bhairava manifested and was praised and worshipped by all who were present there in Kailash.

One prominent story of the origin of Kāla Bhairava is about the time that Vishnu and Brahma were engaged in a dispute over their cosmic superiority. To settle this, Shiva manifested as unending pillar of fire between them. Vishnu went down the fire pillar to find its end and Brahma went upward. When neither of them were successful in finding the end, Lord Vishnu was humbled by this divine leela of Shiva but Brahma lied and claimed that he found the top end of the fire pillar. Hearing such lie of Lord Brahma, Shiva manifested in the form of Kāla Bhairavaa and severed the fifth head of Lord Brahma. Kāla Bhairava in his most common iconography is shown to be holding this head of Brahma.

In another story, when Sati died, then Shiva was lamenting (रुदन) roaming the three worlds carrying the half burnt body of Sati. This was causing dissolution and destruction of the region wherever Shiva was going. To stop this on request of other devtas, Lord Vishnu cut the body parts of Sati with his sudarshan chakra. Then the places the different parts of Sati fell transformed into ShaktiPeeth. And then Shiva manifested as Kāla Bhairava in each ShaktiPeeth in diverse avatar.

Due to this aspet of Bhairava as protecting deity of ShaktiPeeth, he is called as Kshetrapaal. Since Bhairava also embodies the characteristics of Lord Shiva and does what Shiva does, and is responsible for emboding and adhering to the way of Shiva and also for promoting it, he is also called as Dharmapaal. Kāla Bhairava also gave knowledge and wisdom to Lord Shani. Kāla Bhairava thus is venerated as teacher and guru.

According to Siddha Dharma, Kāla Bhairava created a protective shield around Shiva when Lord Shiva was suffering and lamenting the death of Sati. Kāla Bhairava was the companion of Shiva in those times. Maha Siddhas of Himalaya say that if your life has obstacles, suffering, pain and lacks despite you having shakti and being capable, then doing sadhana and worship of Kāla Bhairava helps. If you are afraid of death then doing Kāla Bhairava sadhana helps in overcoming the fear.

Bhairava is the Shiv of Ashtha Matrika, and also of 64 Yoginis. Depending on different Shakti, the form and nature of Kāla Bhairava transforms into specific form reflecting the Shakti.


Kāla Bhairava, a fearsome manifestation of Lord Shiva, is often represented in murtis, idols and painting in a suitable form reflecting his aspects as the guardian of the annihilation of time and the ultimate enforcer of cosmic order. Kāla Bhairava is depicted in a fearsome form, often with flaming eyes, sharp, tiger-like teeth, and a stern, commanding posture. His appearance is meant to instill fear in the wicked and to protect his devotees. He is usually shown wearing a garland of skulls, symbolizing the finite nature of human life and the impermanence of the material world. Holding a trident, a symbol revealing his oneness with Lord Shiva, represents his ability to destroy evil and ignorance, as well as the three gunas. He is often depicted with a khappar or a skull cup, which symbolizes the consumption of the ego and the illusions of the material world, leading to spiritual enlightenment. A snake often coils around his neck, signifying control over the power of time and death. Snakes are also symbols of regeneration and transformation, reflecting the cycle of creation and destruction. A dog accompanies him, sometimes depicted sitting at his feet or as his mount (vahana). The dog represents dharma (righteousness) and loyalty. It is also believed that the dog can guide souls to the afterlife, embodying the protective aspect of Kāla Bhairava towards his devotees. Like Lord Shiva, Kāla Bhairava is shown with matted hair, showing him unfazed and detached in worldly pleasures and vanity. His body smeared with ashes signifies the ultimate reality of death and the impermanence of life.

Kāla Bhairava holds a staff (danda) in one hand. The staff, or danda, symbolizes Kāla Bhairava’s authority as the enforcer of divine law and order. It represents his role as a divine punisher who maintains balance and discipline in the universe. Just as a staff aids in walking, especially through difficult terrain, it symbolizes guidance for souls through the spiritual journey, helping them navigate the challenges of life and death. The skull in Kāla Bhairava’s hand emphasizes the transient nature of life and the certainty of death. It serves as a stark reminder of mortality and the impermanence of the physical world. Holding the skull of Brahma in hand by Kāla Bhairava also symbolizes the conquest of ego and ignorance, as the skull represents the ultimate fate of all egoistic pursuits and identities. Skull is a vessel of wisdom, holding the nectar of enlightenment. It signifies that true knowledge arises from understanding and accepting the realities of death and impermanence.


In Siddha Dharma, the wisdom tradition of Kāla Bhairava was promoted by Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath. In deshaj or vernacular tradition promoted by Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath, Kāla Bhairava is known as Kāla Bhairoo. Here in Bhairoo, bha implies bhaya or fear and Ru implies Rudan or lament. The very manifestation of Kāla Bhairava is so fearsome that that all directions begin to lament (rudan). Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath said that Kāla Bhairavaa is so powerful that the manifestation of Bhairavaa or Bhairoo spreads tanḍava or dance of destruction in all directions so much so that all the devi, devtā, yaksha , kinnara , gandharva begin to lament becoming terrified of death.

Some significant aspect of this tradition given by Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath involves offering a sacrifice (bali) of Rot or a round bread- sweatened with jaggery or honey, with a hole in center. One often does sadhana of Kāla Bhairava by lighting sacred smoke in a dhuni.

Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath is the head of deshaj parampara in Kaulantak Peeth. He has given shabar mantra or desaj mantra of Kāla Bhairava along with other practices and rituals.

In Kaulantak Peeth, apart from Kāla Bhairavaācāra we have practices given by Maha Siddha Matsyendra Nath. Bhairava is Ugra Ugrattara Ugrattom or most fierce deity. One should be doing sadhana practices of Kāla Bhairava as given by tradition. Guru and ācārya informs which mantra to use for Bhairava sadhana, what bhaav or emotions one should be in for Bhairava sadhana are all part of Kāla Bhairava Yogācāra. So if one is renunciate or householder, one can do the sadhana of the gentle form of Kāla Bhairava and obtain his blessings.

Kāla Bhairavaācāra

During this time when practices of Kāla Bhairava became prominent in siddha tradition, one sadhana practice karmakand manual manuscript was written down by Maha Siddha Sveta Ketu Nath which is called Kāla Bhairavaācāra. There is no origin story in this manuscript.
Kāla Bhairavaācāra says that despite having capability, energy and shakti, if you suffer and face obstacles, then you should do sadhana of Kāla Bhairava as Kāla Bhairava sadhana can liberate you from such sufferings.

Kāla Bhairavaācāra is a karmakaand manuscript which contains yantra manḍala,avaran rituals, fire sacrefices homa rituals, and Kāmya rituals which are specific ritual to obtain boons and wish fulfillment. It contains karmakanda rituals and practices. This manuscript also describes Kāla Bhairavaa Guru Manḍala, mantrāvali or chain of mantras for Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa or Kāla Ḍanḍa.

Kāla Bhairavaācāra Yantra Manḍala

Kāla Bhairavaācāra manuscript which is primarily a karmakānda ritual handbook describes Kāla Bhairavaācāra Yantra Manḍala. Yantra and Manḍala are same for Kāla Bhairavaa. The only difference is that yantra encloses the manḍala with a bhupur.

Yantra has bhupur which has bandha or locks in four corners which is denoted with half sun or moon. Then comes 64 petals circle on which 64 forms of Bhairava reside. There is another circle within it which has eight lotus petal where the eight Bhairava or aśṭa Bhairava reside. There are eight small circles on the eight petals which represent the eight loka or realm of the aśṭa Bhairava.

Within it lies one shakti downward facing triangle which is the Bhairavai trikoṇa. There are three upward facing Shiv triangles. The first triangle is the Shiv triangle of the 64 Bhairava. The other triangle represent the eight prominent Bhairava or aśṭa Bhairava and the third upward facing shiv triangle is the Kāla Bhairava triangle.

There are six circles around the triangles which are the hidden realm or guhya loka of Bhairava which is the source where Bhairava resides with supreme abundance and wisdom. There are many Bhairava in tantra sadhana who are only mentioned or addressed by their names but their details and characteristics are not mentioned but kept hidden. The tradition of these guhya or secretive Bhairava is an oral tradition that is continuing in the guru disciple tradition. Their karmakand rituals and practices are secret, they are not written down but only learnt and practiced in guru disciple tradition.

In the innermost section of the yantra within the enclosure of shiv and shakti triangles lies the circular dot or bindu where Kāla Bhairava reside in union with his Shakti.

If one removes removes bhupur from Kāla Bhairavaācāra Yantra and have the remaing aspects of yantra intact then that becomes Kāla Bhairavaācāra Manḍala.

Yantra āvaraṇa rituals usually follows the same mantra as Manḍala āvaraṇa rituals. But Kāla Bhairavaācāra Yantra āvaraṇa rituals have their distinct mantras and rituals while Kāla Bhairavaācāra Manḍala has its own mantra and rituals as per Kāla Bhairavaācāra manuscript.

Kāla Bhairavaācāra Guru Manḍala

SL No. Mahasiddha’s Name (Hindi) Mahasiddha’s Name (English)
1 महासिद्ध श्वेतकेतु नाथ Mahasiddha Swetaketu Nath
2 महासिद्ध आलाप नाथ Mahasiddha Aalap Nath
3 महासिद्ध वैरोचन नाथ Mahasiddha Vairochan Nath
4 महासिद्ध गंध नाथ Mahasiddha Gandh Nath
5 महासिद्ध उन्मत्त नाथ Mahasiddha Unmatta Nath
6 महासिद्ध केतुभद्र नाथ Mahasiddha Ketubhadra Nath

Maha Siddha Hiraṇyagarbha Nath was the first Maha Siddha who witnessed when Lord Shiva reveals the form of Kāla Bhairava to Sati on Kailash. From Maha Siddha Hiraṇyagarbha Nath this knowledge comes to Maha Siddha Sveta Ketu Nath who composed the manuscript Kāla Bhairavaācāra. From Maha Siddha Sveta Ketu Nath, this wisdom tradition follows to Maha Siddha Ālāpa Nath, Maha Siddha Vairocana Nath, Maha Siddha Gandha Nath, Maha Siddha Unmatta Nath and Maha Siddha Ketu Bhadra Nath. These six maha siddhas take the lineage wisdom tradition of Kāla Bhairava forward. They form the Kāla Bhairavaācāra Guru Manḍala.

Maha Siddha Sveta Ketu Nath is known as granthadipati or the lord of Kāla Bhairavaācāra manuscript. Maha Siddha Ālāpa Nath is the lord of Bhairava manḍala or manḍalādhipati. Maha Siddha Vairocana Nath is known as KālaBhairavaādhipati who is the lord for providing the knowledge and wisdom of Kāla Bhairavaa. Maha Siddha Gandha Nath is venerated as the creator of Kāla Bhairava Ḍanḍa Mālā mantrāvali or chain of mantra. Maha Siddha Unmatta Nath is known as the creator of the avaraṇa rituals under Kāla Bhairavaācāra. Maha Siddha Ketu Bhadra Nath is known for giving hastamudra or tantrik hand gestures, mahāmantra, initiation dīksha mantra and kshamā mantra or prayers for forgiveness.

All knowledge and sadhana practices of Kāla Bhairavaa is locked or kilit. Whether it practices of any of the diverse forms of Kāla Bhairava, or the guhya hidden form of Kāla Bhairava who reside in the secret realms, or whether it is the fierce or gentle forms of kāla Bhairava, all such knowledge traditions and their practices are locked. They can only become effective through utkilan or unlocking with involves veneration and worship rituals of Kāla Bhairavaācāra Guru Manḍala. One does the utkilan, abhishincana , tarpan and other rituals to access the sadhana practices of Kāla Bhairavaa by doing the worship ritual of Kāla Bhairavaācāra Guru Manḍala in rituals as given in the siddha tradition.

Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa or Kāla Ḍanḍa Mālā

Bhairava holds a ḍanḍa or staff in hand. This is also known as musala. A yogi obtains strength of dharma and courange to withstand injustice by meditating on this Bhairavaa ḍanḍa. One also gets shakti to destroy sins and negative energies and bad habits by meditating on Bhairava ḍanḍa. One also does chanting of Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa Mālā mantras to become free from obstacles, sufferings, pain, death and diseases. This Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa or Kāla Ḍanḍa Mālā Mantra is a sequence of 100 mantras. It is recommended to do chanting this Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa or Kāla Ḍanḍa Mālā during midnight while meditating on Kāla Bhairavaa and Bhairavaa Ḍanḍa.

Kāla Bhairavaācāra Kāmya Prayoga

There are some rituals or prayoga or methodology given which are done for wish fulfillment and removal of obstacles in life.