Bhairava (Kala)


Kala BhairavaThis miniature bronze, just about 6.5 cm, may have served as a personal icon in a home altar. He is holding a sword, Trishul, drum (Khadga) and cup (maybe skull), starting lower right hand in the clockwise direction.Kala Bhairava back.jpg

He is naked but for ornaments. The list of ornaments includes Kundalas, necklaces, Haras, chest band, Channivara, armlets, wristbands, a waistband with bells, Sirachakra, anklets and loose anklets. He is also sporting full-length skull garland.

The attributes in his hands match in nature and in the order with what H K Sastri in his book Indian Images of Gods and Goddesses  (page 151) as Kala Bhairava’s features. So does the hair arrangement, like a halo, and the skull garland.

Bhairava is one of the manifestations of Ugra (ferocious) aspects of Siva. Even death (Kala) fears this form of Bhairava and hence Kala Bhairava.

Bhairava is supposed to be holding Brahma’s severed head by the hair in his lower left hand. There are several stone sculptures and relief work showing that feature. I am yet to come across such depiction in bronzes. In bronze, Bhairava holds a cup/skull instead.

Another feature that is different here is the absence of dog, supposed to accompany Bhairava. Common in bronzes and almost always in stone sculptures. It is possible that omission in this icon, meant for home worship, as dog is considered impure by orthodox Hindus.

The face is worn due to ritual use to notice his fangs.  What is remarkable is the grace this bronzes exhibits with the body in tribhanga (triple flex) despite the ugra (ferocious) nature of the deity.

Use of high copper content alloy and the fine nature of work indicates this may be from Tamil Nadu.  It may not date prior to 16th century.


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