Kal Bhairav Temple, Kashi (Varanasi)
The city of Kashi is famous for the shrine of Kaal Bhairav, the kotwal of Kashi or the policeman of Varanasi. His presence evokes fear, no different from some of our policemen.
He has a thick moustache, rides a dog, wraps himself in tiger skin, wears a garland of skulls, has a sword in one hand and in another hand holds the severed head of a criminal. People go to his shrine to do jhaad — sweeping of hex.
Hex means the disruption of one’s aura through witchcraft (jadoo-tona) and malefic gaze (drishti or nazar). Black threads and iron bracelets are sold in shops around the temple, offering Kaal Bhairav’s protection to the devotee.
The story goes that Shiva took the form of Bhairava to behead Brahma who became arrogant after creating the world. Brahma’s head seared into Shiva’s palm and he wandered the Earth chased by Brahma-hatya, the infamy of killing the creator.
Shiva finally descended from Kailas southwards along the river Ganga. A point came when the river turned north. At this point, he dipped his hand in the river, and Brahma’s skull became undone and Shiva was thus liberated form Brahma-hatya. This became the site of the famous city of Avimukta (site where one is liberated) which is now called Kashi. It is said that the city stands on Shiva’s trident. Shiva stayed here as the guardian, driving away all those who threaten the city, protecting its inhabitants.
The idea of eight Bhairavs guarding the eight directions (four cardinal and four ordinal) is a common theme in various Purans. In the south, many villages have the shrine of 8 Vairavar (local name for Bhairav) in the eight corners of the village. Bhairava is thus acknowledged as the guardian god.
For many centuries, this temple was a spiritual center in Kashi for the most severe of Shiva ascetics, the “Kapalis” or “Skull-Bearers,” and their later descendants, the Gorakhnathis. Today, however, the temple is no longer the exclusive domain of such extremist yogis and is, rather patronized by ordinary householders for his protective blessings.
Old timers in Kashi believe whenever residents of Kashi leave the city for short journeys, they worship Kaal Bhairav [taking his permission] and on return back to Kashi, they again worship Kaal Bhairav. It is said that those living in or visiting Kashi, must worship Kaal Bhairav and he in turn, grants protection/shelter to all his devotees.
While Kal Bhairav acts as Kotwal of Kashi, Dandapani Bhairav will act as a magistrate.
Here’s the Documentary; The Myth of Kaal Bhairav’s Shrine, Kashi (Varanasi)