The God of Endings

There was a short break in the rain when we reached Kalabhairava temple. Bhairava are the destructive aspects of Shiva, and Kalabhairava is one which is supposed to bring about the end of time. This has crossed over to the Tantric Buddhist tradition in various forms, including the Yamantaka, who is supposed to bring about the end of death, through the ending of time. There was already a temple to Kalabhairava at this site when, in the late 18th century CE, the Maratha chieftain Mahadaji Shinde came to pray for success in battle. After winning the battle, now known as the third battle of Panipat, he replaced the old temple by a new one in 1775 CE.

The entrance gate is a typical late Maratha structure. I’d hoped to walk around the temple looking for the remnants of the older Paramara era frescos and the remnants of the old statues of that time. Unfortunately, there were too many restrictions on what was possible, and we gave up on that utopian idea.

The Family noticed something which had escaped me. “Do you see that there are no women here?” she asked. Indeed, now that she had pointed it out, I did. The probable reason is that the standard offering to the Kalabhairava of Ujjain is alcohol. Across the parking area in front of the gate was a line of shops selling things needed in the rituals of the temple. If you examine the photo above, you can see baskets with a ready made kit of all that you need. Nestled among the flowers is a bottle of alcohol. Near the foot of the attendant is the empty cardboard carton in which these bottles had been packed. I couldn’t trace the origins of this custom: could it be due to the Marathas, or is it older?