अष्ट-भैरव, aṣṭa-bhairava

According to the philosophy of Kapalikas, Bhairava, being the cause of the creation of the universe, and then its dissolution, manifests itself in seven forms, and also in the eighth form as the eternal Samhara-Bhairava, which is Paramatman.

Thus, Bhairava appears in eight (ashta) forms. The first seven forms are Asitanga, Ruru, Canda, Krodha, Unmatta, Kapala, Bhishana and are respectively identified with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, Surya, Rudra, Indra, Candra and Yama. The eighth form, Samhara Bhairava, is the true Bhairava.  All other deities are just a part of it and can be conditionally divided into the ones who are creating, supporting and destroying.  In this case, the creator is Ruru (Brahma), the supporter is Asitanga (Vishnu) and the destroyer is Krodha (Rudra).

Eight forms of Bhairava:
  1. Asitanga (asitāṅga) — Dark Bhairava
  2. Ruru (ruru) — Wild Bhairava
  3. Canda (caṇḍa) — Fierce Bhairava
  4. Krodha (krodha) — Angry Bhairava
  5. Unmatta (unmatta) — Mad Bhairava
  6. Kapala (kāpāla) — Bhairava with a skull
  7. Bhishana (bhīṣaṇa) — Intimidating Bhairava
  8. Samhara (saṃhara) — Destructive Bhairava


Eight Bhairavas ​​also correspond to the Vedic deities of the cardinal points: Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirriti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera, Ishana. The Bhairavas are the protectors of the cardinal points — Kshetrapalas, they protect the place of the sadhana and sadhaka himself from various destructive influences.

Just as the Matrikas are manifestations of one Goddess, so Bhairavas are manifestations of one Bhairava-tattva.  Each aspect of the Goddess has its own Bhairava.

N/a Bhairava Bhairavi Vahana Color (of body) Direction Diety
1 Asitanga Brahmi Swan Navy East Indra
2 Ruru Maheshvari Bull Snow white South-east Agni
3 Canda Kumari Peacock Gold South Yama
4 Krodha Vaishnavi Eagle Black South-west Nirriti
5 Unmatta Varahi Horse Gold West Varuna
6 Kapala Indrani Elephant Pink North-west Vayu
7 Bhishana Camundi Lion Red North Kubera
8 Sarva Shatru Samhara Mahalakshmi/ Narasimhi/ Yogeshvari Dog White North-east Ishana

Sixty-four Bhairavas and their Shakti

"Shiva Agamas" say that from the body of each of the above eight Bhairavas, eight more Bhairavas emerged. Thus, a total of sixty-four forms of Bhairavas are obtained, which stand guard over the Universe.  In "Rudrayamala", the following description of the eight groups of Bhairavas ​​is given:


1. The Asitanga group includes Vishalaksha, Marttanda, Modaka-priya, Svacchanda, Vighna-santushta, Khecara and Sacharachara. They are all golden in color and well built, holding in their hands trishul (trident), damaru (drum) and khadga (dagger).


2. The group headed by Ruru includes the following Bhairavas: Kroda-damshtra, Jatadhara, Vishvarupa, Virupaksha, Nanarupadhara, Vajrahasta and Mahakaya. The color of the Bhairavas of this group is pure white; they are all adorned with jewels and carry in their hands akshamala (rudraksha mala), ankusha (an elephant driver's hook), a scroll (manuscript), and vina (musical instrument).


3. Canda, Pralayantaka, Bhumikampa, Nilakantha, Vishnu, Kulapalaka, Mundapala and Kamapala form the third group. They are beautiful. They are blue in color and hold agni, shakti, mace and cup in their hands.


4.The group headed by Krodha includes Pingalekshana, Abhrarupa, Dharapala, Kutila, Mantranayaka, Rudra and Pitamaha. They are all smoky in color and carry a dagger, shield, long sword and ax.


5. The Unmatta-Bhairava group includes Vatukanayaka, Shankara, Bhutavetala, Trinetra, Tripurantaka, Varada and Parvatavasa. They are beautiful, their bodies are snow-white, they hold in their hands a cup, shield, mace and a short spear.


6. Kapala, Shashibhushana, Hasticarmambaradhara, Yogisha, Brahmarakshasa, Sarvajna, Sarva-devesha and Sarva-bhutahridi-sthita form a marching group and they are all yellow and carry the same weapons as in the previous group. 


7. Bhishana, Bhayahara, Sarvajna, Kalagni-Maharaudra, Dakshina, Mukhara and Asthira form the seventh group. They all carry the same weapons as the aforementioned group and are colored in red.

Сарва Шатру Самхара Бхайрава

8. In Samharabhairavas group there are Atiriktanga, Kalagni, Priyankara, Hriananda, Vishalaksha and Dakshasamsthita. These bhairavas are dazzling in color, reminiscent of lightning. They carry the same weapons as in the previous group.

The eight Matrikas correspond to the eight Bhairavas. Each of the eight Matrikas governs eight more Matrikas, so they form eight chakras of 64 Yoginis and Bhairavas.

Matrikas and Bhairavas are present in Mahashoddha-nyasa of the Shri Vidya tradition, where each of the eight Bhairavas, as well as each of the eight Matrikas, correspond to one or another chakra in the subtle body:
  • Muladhara: Brahmani — Asitanga Bhairava
  • Svadhishthana: Maheshvari — Ruru Bhairava
  • Manipura: Kaumari — Canda Bhairava
  • Anahata: Vaishnavi — Krodha Bhairava
  • Vishuddha: Varahi — Unmatta Bhairava
  • Ajnya: Indrani — Kapala Bhairava
  • Bhale Chakra: Camunda — Bhishana Bhairava
  • Brahmarandhra: Mahalakshmi — Samhara Bhairava

Bhairavas in Natha Yoga

Since Natha Sampradaya is a monastic tradition, Nathas mainly worship Ugra (angry) form of Bhairava — Mahakala (Kala Bhairava).  Ashtabhairavas are considered as his aspects and are identified with the Nine Nathas (the ninth is Gorakshanath).

Usually in tantra, Bhairavas ​​are worshiped with their Shaktis (Yoginis or Bhairavis), it is always Yamala (union of Shiva and Shakti), the purpose of which is yoga (unity and non-duality).  Therefore, Nathas worship the immediately completed, yogic form of Bhairav ​​(yoga-rupa) in the form of the Navanathas, who have Shakti inside, united with them. And the most basic of them is, of course, Gorakshanath, the rest of the Navanathas (and Bhairavas) are its expanded form.