This beautiful sculpture depicts Kaal Bhairav, the
Lord of Destruction and an incarnation of the
Hindu god Shiva. According to one legend
Brahma and Vishnu were disputing who had the
right to be worshipped as supreme creator of the
universe. When Brahma claimed this title for
himself, Shiva became angry and created Bhairav
to punish Brahma for his arrogance. Having cut
off one of Brahma’s five heads, Bhairav was
forced to carry it around as a reminder of his sin.
Despite the damage to the left side of the piece it
is still possible to make out some of Bhairav’s
attributes, including the skull cap that he holds
in front of his chest.
Kaal Bhairav is especially popular in Nepal and
his image is placed before temples and paraded
through the streets during the festival of Indra
Jahra. It is believed that his statue acts as a lie
detector and people suspected of committing a
crime were often brought before him to elicit a
confession. It was thought that if they lied they
would immediately bleed to death. The large
garland draped around his neck and beneath his
belly is adorned with skulls, a common attribute
that sometimes also appears in his headdress.
Writhing snakes, or nagas, adorn his earlobes
and add to the ferocity of his appearance. Traces
of red and orange powder, which was added to
the sculpture by pious devotees remind us of the
awe and respect that this deity once inspired.