Visualization and Meaning in Tantras
Chapter 5. Transformative Role of Imagination in Visualizing the Image of Bhairava
TRANSFORMATIVE ROLE OF IMAGINATION IN VISUALIZING THE IMAGE OF BHAIRAVA
Bhairava is the central deity of Kaula Tantrism. In medieval Tantras, Bhairava is considered to be the central deity of sixty-four Āgamas, and while separate Tantric texts are attributed to goddesses such as Kubjikā, Bhairava resides at the center of the deity maṇḍala in many of these traditions. The peculiarity of Bhairava as carrying a skull cup, as well as other weapons such as a staff or a trident, helps to relate this deity to the Kāpālikas. The shrines of Bhairava located nearby the cremation grounds (most often near the shrines of Yoginī, Cāmuṇḍā, or Kālī), or the deity shown with a dog as his ride further confirm his Kāpālika association. Bhairava, however, is not merely worshipped by the Tantrics in their esoteric rituals, as the deity is widely revered throughout the pan-Indian continent, with shrines dedicated to him widely distributed in Kathmandu valley, Varanasi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. While the earliest imagery of Bhairava appears around the 6th Century, this deity comes to prominence with the rise of the distinctive philosophical school of Trika in Kashmir during the 9th-10th centuries. In this chapter I will examine one image of Bhairava, the Svacchandabhairava, as detailed in a text by the Kashmiri Tantric theologian and philosopher Kṣemarāja (11th C.), disciple of the prominent Kashmiri philosopher Abhinavagupta.
With the development of...
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