If there is a city where you will find a temple in whichever street you turn to, it is Ujjain! Also, there are some temples like the Kaal Bhairav Temple which will definitely stun you.
The main temple is the Mahakaleshwar (the Jyotirlinga). Then there is the biggest Ganesha temple; a temple for the planet Jupiter; then a cave temple where a sage is living (but you find it hard even to breathe in such a place); then a temple where a lamp never extinguishes. Such stories and endless miracles are found in every nook and corner of Ujjain!
Of all the unique temples, the Kaal Bhairav Temple caught my special attention. The fascinating story associated with the temple is that the deity here drinks alcohol! Yes! Have you ever heard of a temple where alcohol is accepted as an offering? No, right?! But here is one such temple where you not only offer liquor to God, but he literally drinks it!
Don’t believe me? Read on...
Kalabhairava is considered the most fierce representation of Lord Shiva. He is considered terrifying and is represented with big blaring eyes, untied hair that looks more like burning fire, wearing a garland made of a human skull, and protruding teeth like a tiger's. In His hand, one can see the severed fifth head of God Brahma. That's right! Brahma had five heads and not four.
The story goes-
Once, there was some argument amongst the Gods to decide who is the supreme creator of the universe. Every Veda and scriptures hailed Lord Shiva as the mighty creator. Thus, Brahma got angry. Shiva got angry, too, knowing that Brahma thinks of himself as the supreme. This escalates into a duel, where Brahma stares at Shiva. Shiva, in a greater rage, cuts off Brahma’s head.
Kaala Bhairavar is considered a protector of the universe. It is common to see his statue erected at the entrance of villages and being religiously worshipped. In most of the Shiva temples, especially the Jyotirlingas, you see a shrine for Kaal Bhairav. It is said that if you visit the Jyotirlinga, then you have to pay a visit to KaalBhairava 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 Kaal bhairav is that He uses a dog as a vehicle. Kaal Bhairav is also associated with tantric activities because Aghoris worship him. Such poojas are done during midnight and have even more interesting stories. Even Buddhism adapted this form of his fierce representation. One can see paintings of Kala Bhairava in many monasteries.
Kaal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain
Having paid a visit to the Mahakaleshwar Temple of Ujjain, it is a must to pay a visit to Kaal Bhairav. Mahakaleshwar was a very well-organized temple. I got to sit right opposite the sanctum sanctorum and pray however long I wanted. You can also get to see the Shiva Linga from anywhere in the huge hall.
After hopping around many more temples, it was finally 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 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 an offering to God. As soon as I saw the plate, I looked at the vendor in utter disbelief! Why do you ask?
The plate had flowers, sandalwood, kumkum, incense sticks, a packet of sweets, and a bottle of liquor!! A bottle of alcohol in a temple?! Hey Ram!! "This is what God here takes," the seller chuckled as he saw my perplexed expression and placed the plate in my hands.
I, however, did not take the plate and continued to walk ahead in amusement. More and more shops selling liquor started appearing gradually. Not just the country-made liquor! There were expensive wine bottles↣— Old Monk, Blender's Pride, Antiquity, Smirn Off Vodka, and even the costliest scotch bottles!
These were being sold in authorised government shops. These shops resembled a vegetable market! People were buying these plates of offerings along with the choicest alcohol with utmost sincerity!
Wikipedia says that the temple was built by a king called Bhadrasen. The temple is built in the Maratha style in black stone. There is a Deepa Stamba, a tall towering lamp made of stone, particularly to the Maratha kingdom. The inside of the temple was not as glorious as the ornate entrance. It looked like any other ordinary temple. Photography is not allowed beyond the point of entrance. Be mindful of the heavy crowd; you might have to stand in long queues.
Kaal Bhairav gulps the Alcohol!
Now comes the part that astonished me the most. Inside is the shrine of Kaal Bhairav. There is a Shiva Linga, not entirely cylindrical but more like a big stone, smeared with vermillion (kumkum).
The bright orangish body is contrasted with thick black eyebrows and a golden coloured crown over it. Two bright eyes shine through the smeared vermillion, and red-coloured lips mark the mouth. To me, it looked like the eyes were inside a cavity. On His head is the famous Maratha Pagadi that the royal family used to wear and the making of which (the Pagdi) is a fast-disappearing art now.
The crowd is very chaotic. There is a lot of pushing and pulling. I soon found myself in a corner stuck to the wall like a lizard, letting the crowd pass through me! I wanted to watch the interesting proceedings. The queue moves slowly—the devotee 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 near the deity. He then places the plate near the statue's mouth opening, and Kala Bhairava drinks the alcohol!
I 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! I am not making this up...
I could not believe my eyes. I kept watching in amazement. The action happened right in front of my eyes, repeatedly and swiftly! The priest pours the alcohol on the plate, and it disappears in no time. I thought that some kind of tank must have been kept underneath where all this alcohol must be gettings poured into. But then I wondered what will they do by mixing all this alcohol.
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 rushes to offer their ‘prasad’ to the deity. Some even drink it once out of the temple, like a temple offering.
Once outside the temple, I sat in a calm place and googled about this Kaal Bhairav alcohol mystery. Nothing substantial came up.
A theory proposed- the particular stone of which the deity is made must be porous in nature and might have the quality to absorb all the liquor! How much can a stone absorb? That too so many variants of alcohol is poured into it for hundreds of years. I rejected this theory. The next theory said that the alcohol evaporates into thin air! Completely agree, but the amount of time it takes to evaporate cannot match the speed of disappearance that I had witnessed.
The next Google search said that once a team tried to conduct studies on the matter, the head priest refused. Then a team finally did successful research, but they couldn't find anything odd. They concluded that Kaal Bhairav is indeed drinking all that alcohol!!!
Don’t believe me? Visit it and see for yourself. You will enjoy it a lot.