The God who Drinks – Kaal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain

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Ujjain is filled with temples. Whichever street you turn into, there is going to be some prominent temple that you have to pay a visit. The main temple is the Mahakaleshwar (the Jyotirlinga), then there is the biggest Ganesha, then a temple for the planet Jupiter, then a cave temple where a sage is living but you find it hard to breathe, then a temple where the lamp never dies. So many stories and so many miracles around every street of Ujjain. Of all that what caught my attention was the Kaal Bhairav Temple of Ujjain. Temples of India always have fascinating stories associated with them and this one too has one. Wonder what? He drinks alcohol! Have you heard of a temple where alcohol is accepted as an offering? Here is one unique temple where you not only offer liquor to Kal Bhairav but He also literally drinks it!

Ujjain ghat
The beautiful city of Ujjain

KalaBhairava

Kalabhairava is considered the most fierce representation of Lord Shiva. He is more often considered terrifying and is represented wit blaring eyes, untied hair that looks more like burning fire, adorning a garland made of human skull, protruding teeth like that of a tiger’s and in His hand one can see the severed fifth head of God Brahma. That’s right. Brahma had five heads and not four. But then there was some argument among the Gods as who is the supreme creator of the universe. Every Veda and scriptures pointed to Lord Shiva and Brahma got angry. Shiva also got angry that Brahma thinks He is the supreme creator of the universe. So they argue and when Brahma stares at Shiva with glaring eyes like that of a fire burning, Shiva just cuts off that head. No head then no eyes to stare and Shiva becomes the supreme lord.

kaala bhairavar
Kaal Bhairavar shrine in a Hindu Temple – Source Kaala Bhairavar

Kaala Bhairavar is considered as a protector. It is common to see His statue erected on the entrance of villages and pooja being done to it like any other temple. And most of the Shiva temples, especially the Jyotirlingas, you get to see a shrine for Kaal Bhairav. It is said that if you visit the Jyotirlinga then you have to pay a visit to KalaBhairava as well. Almost all the Shakthi Peethas have a shrine for Him too and He stands to guard the premises. The easiest way to identify Him is that He uses a dog as a vehicle. So if you see a statue with a dog sitting next to it that is Kala Bhairavar. This God is also associated with tantric activities because He is worshipped by Aghoris and pooja is done during midnight and some more stories like that. Even Buddhism adapted to this form of fierce representation. You could have seen the painting of KalaBhairava in many monasteries.

kaala bhairava buddhism
Kaal Bhairav representation in Buddhism

Kaal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain

Now having paid a visit to the Mahakaleshwar of Ujjain, it is a must to pay a visit to Kaal Bhairav too. Mahakaleshwar was a very well organized temple. I loved spending time here and you get to sit right opposite the sanctum sanctorum and pray however long you want, as you get to see the Shiva Linga from anywhere in the huge hall. After hopping many more temples it was time to pay a visit to Kaal Bhairav. It is about 4km away from the Jyotirlinga shrine and the many tuk tuks around take you to everywhere in the town. The vehicle stopped a little away and asked us to walk further down. The moment I got out, the hawkers handed out the pooja plate to be given as offering to God. And my eyes went in disbelief and looked up the guy wondering if he was mocking. The plate of the offering had flowers, sandalwood, kumkum, incense sticks, a packet of sweet and a bottle of liquor!! Bottle of alcohol in a temple?! Hey Ram!! “This is what God here takes”, he chucked the plate into my hands as though he could read my mind.

KalaBhairavUjjain
Liquor bottle along with Pooja plate

I did not take the plate but continued to walk in amusement. More shops arose selling liquor. Not just the country made liquor. There were quality wine bottles, Old Monk, Blender’s Pride, Antiquity, Smirn Off Vodka and even the costliest scotch bottles! Sold in government authorized shops that pretty much looked like vegetable selling shops. And people bought these plates of offerings along with alcohol with utmost sincerity and walked into the temple.

Alcohol kaal bhiarav
Government authorised liquor shops

The temple looked like made of black stone. Wikipedia says the temple was built by a king called Bhadrasen. The temple is built in the Maratha style. The easiest way to identify this is by seeing the Deepa Stamba, a tall towering lamp made of stone that is particular to the Maratha kingdom. This temple had it too right at the entrance. The inside of the temple was not as glamorous as the entrance. It looked like any other ordinary temple. Photography is not allowed beyond the point of entrance. There was a huge rush and we had to wait in the queue.

Kaal Bhairav ujjain
Entrance of the temple

Kaal Bhairav gulps the Alcohol!

Inside is the shrine of Kaal Bhairav. In the shape of Shiva Linga, not entirely cylindrical but more like a big stone, smeared with vermillion which is the kumkum. The bright orangish body is contrasted with thick black eyebrows and a golden colored crown over it. Two bright eyes shine through the smeared vermillion and a red colored lips marks the mouth. To me, it looked like the eyes were inside a cavity. And on His head is the famous Maratha Pagadi that the royal family used to wear and the making of which is a fast disappearing art now. The crowd is pushing and pulling and I found myself a corner and stuck to the wall like a lizard, letting the crowd pass through me. I wanted to watch the proceedings. The queue of people walks in, hands over the offering plate to the priest. The priest opens the alcohol bottle and pours nearly one-fourth of it into a shallow plate. He then places the plate near the mouth opening of the statue and Kala Bhairava drinks the alcohol. Am not joking at all! The priest is not even tilting the plate to pour it through some hole, he places it close to the lips and the liquor starts to disappear.

Kala Bhiarav Ujjain liquor
Kaal Bhairav – Source Wikipedia

I could not believe my eyes. And I kept watching. The action happens repeatedly and quite swiftly! He pours the alcohol on the plate and it disappears. My mind is imagining some kind of tank should be there underneath where all this alcohol gets poured into. But what will they do mixing all these alcohol together? We are in an era where I cannot blindly believe it to be a miracle and that Kaal Bhairav is drinking all the alcohol! No one in the temple would tell you how it happens. The sea of people is rushing in and getting their prasad. Some drink it right there once out of the temple, like a temple offering.

kala Bhairava
Cos the God likes alcohol

Once outside the temple, I sat in a relatively calm place and start to google about this Kaal Bhairav alcohol mystery. Nothing substantial came up. It is the same boring theory, this particular stone could be porous in nature and might have the quality to absorb. I don’t want to believe this cos how much can a stone absorb? That too so many liters of variants of alcohol is poured into it for hundreds of years. The next read was alcohol evaporates into thin air! Completely agree but the amount of time it takes to evaporate cannot match this speed of disappearance that I witnessed. The next read was that there was a team which tried to conduct studies but the main priest refused. There is no cavity near the mouth. Then a team did successful research but they couldn’t find anything odd and concluded that He is indeed drinking all that alcohol.

Deep Stamba maratha
Deepa Stamba

Myth or Miracle, the sea of faith coming in to visit this temple doesn’t seem to be less. For some, this place could be like filled with amusement and curiosity. And for some, it is their faith and belief. Let me try not to question that. If you are in Ujjain then definitely do pay a visit to Kal Bhairav temple without fail and let me know what you observed.

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kaala bhairav ujjain
Kaala Bhairava Temple, Ujjain


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4 Comments

  1. The Untourists February 17, 2019
    • Chittra M February 17, 2019
  2. Niranjan R February 21, 2019
    • Chittra M February 21, 2019

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