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Kaal Bhairav – The Kotwal of Kashi

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वाराणस्यांभैरव: देवसंसारभयंनासंनम! 

जनमजन्मस्य: कृताम्पापम्दर्शनेनविनश्यति!

The shlok which resides on the tongue-tip of every Kashi Vasi glorifies the fierce yet compassionate nature of Kaal Bhairav. How their sins get abolished with a mere image of him tells a lot about his association with this great city.

The word Bhairav is a combined form of three words Bha = creation, Ra = sustenance, Va= destruction (defining the combined nature of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh respectively).

The mythological origin of Kaal Bhairav dates back to the one-story which is the origin of many legends, from the Jyotirlinga to the four-headed Brahma and the establishment of the supremacy of Shaivism.

The story tells that a conversation broke out between Lord Vishnu & Brahma questioning who is supreme amongst the three of them: Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the sustainer, and Shiva – the destroyer. A pillar of light erupted from the earth and asked them to find out its end. Both Brahma & Vishnu started their search for the ends of the Prakash Stambh (the pillar of light/Jyotirlinga). Eventually, Vishnu surrendered to the ultimate reality but Brahma failed to do so. Yet Brahma didn’t accept his defeat and started the show of his authority. The act of Brahma made Shiva angry which resulted in the origin of the fierce form of Rudra from his hair lock when he plucked it and threw it on mighty Mandrachal

Mighty Shiva ordered Bhairav to punish Brahma by cutting his fifth head from which he uttered the insults to Shiva.

Following the order, the fierce Kaal Bhairav cut away the 5th head of Brahma with his little fingernail. The Brahma’s head got stuck to the Bhairav’s nail and now the curse of Brahma Hatya followed him. Worried Bhairav roamed around the universe to get rid of Brahma Hatya but not even the holiest of holy tirtha helped him.

At the suggestion of Lord Vishnu, Kaal Bhairav entered the city of light: Kashi, where on the bank of Matsyodari Tirtha (present Macchodari) and Ganga the kapal(Head) of Brahma fell on earth, hence both Brahma & Kaal Bhairav got liberated and Brahma Hatya moved to Pataal. Following it, Kaal Bhairav took his penance at the sangam of matsyodari tirtha & Ganga which became famous as Kapal Mochan Tirtha. Shiva pronounced that Kaal Bhairva will remain in Kashi in order to remove sins of the disciple and punishment giver before the liberation of souls after which Shiva will give Taraka Mantra for Moksha.

Kapal mochan tirtha:

The earlier texts suggest that it was at the Sangam of Matsyodari Tirth (present Macchodari Pond) and Ganga but during the later period, Laat Bhairav Kund became famous as Kapal Mochan Tirtha. South to the Laat Bhairav Kund, Raani Bhavani Talab is also mentioned as Kapal Mochan Tirtha but the Matsyodari Kund correlates with the factual findings.

Kaal Bhairav temple: 

The position of Kaal Bhairav Temple has now been moved from its original place (the Matsyodari Kund) due to frequent destruction & encroachment on the original site.

The present temple was built in mid 17th century by Maratha Army Commander Sardar Vinchurkar in the Nagra Style of temple architecture.

Kaal Bhairav is the Kotwal of Kashi, as he decides the course of punishment for residents of Kashi & without his permission, one cannot stay here or perform his duties without any obstacle. Even till now, the Government officials pay their homage irrespective of their caste, creed, and culture so that they can have a peaceful stay.

It’s important to visit Kal Bhairav temple after the darshan of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, without which the pilgrimage is believed to be incomplete.

The temple compound is filled with priests, who carry brooms made of peacock feathers. They perform rituals to wash away the bad omen from the pilgrims followed by the tying of holy threads (Ganda).

Other deities in the temple: 

Small temples dedicated to Nav Graha, Goddess Durga, Hanuman & Ganesha.

Important functions

Tuesday and Sunday of Every week, Bhairav Ashtami, Mahashivratri, Annakoot Festival. 

Annakoot festival (Img source: Google Maps)


The til or mustard oil is very customary to the Bhairav apart from flowers and sweets. On special occasions, the tradition of Alcohol offering is also being performed there.


The temple remains open from 05:00 AM to 01:30 PM and from 04:30 PM to 09:30 PM.

How to Reach:

K- 32/22, Bhaironath. One can easily walk from Maidagin/ Chowk to the temple.

Nearby Temples:

Dandapani  Bhairav Temple
Aas Bhairav Temple
Mritunjaya Mahadev Temple
Kritivasheshwar temple
Sankatha Temple
Kashi Vishwanath temple

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