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A ferocious form of Śiva; infused with a terrifying and ecstatic power, he is worshipped by Kāpālikas and others. The myth associated with him tells how he was generated from Śiva's fury at the boasting of Brahmā, cut off the latter's fifth head, and, as a great penance (mahāvrata), was condemned to make a long pilgrimage with the god's head stuck to his hand. Bhairava is therefore frequently depicted as a dishevelled, wandering mendicant ascetic, skull in hand, accompanied by an impure and inauspicious dog, and haunting cremation grounds—a perfect role model for the behaviour of his Kāpālika devotees. In village Hinduism, Bhairava (also known as Bhairon, or Bheru) frequently has a protective function, and is worshipped as the tutelary deity of a village (grāmadevatā) or a clan (kuladevatā). He can also be found as the guardian or watchman of Śiva temples. See also Svacchandabhairava.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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