Creation and Destruction are two essential aspects of the universe, which is continually subject to their alternating rhythms. The two are equally dominant in the world and indeed depend upon each other in symbiotic fashion. Bhairavi embodies the principle of destruction. She arises or becomes present when the body declines and decays, which is a natural, inevitable, and irresistible force. Bhairavi is also evident in self-destructive habits, such as eating tamsic food (food having a quality associated with ignorance and lust) and drinking liquor, which wear down the body and mind. She is present, it is said, in the loss of semen, which weakens males. Anger, jealousy, and other selfish emotions and actions strengthen Bhairavi's presence in the world. Righteous behavior, conversely, makes her weaker. In short, she is an ever-present goddess who manifests herself in, and embodies, the destructive aspects of the world. Destruction, however, is not always negative, creation cannot continue without it. This is most clear in the process of nourishment and metabolism, in which life feeds on death; creation proceeds by means of transformed energy given up in destruction.
Bhairavi is also identified with Kalaratri, a name often associated with Kali that means "black night (of destruction)" and refers to a particularly destructive aspect of Kali. She is also identified with Mahapralaya, the great dissolution at the end of a cosmic cycle, during which all things, having been consumed with fire, are dissolved in the formless waters of procreation. She is the force that tends toward dissolution. This force, furthermore, which is actually Bhairavi herself, is present in each person as one gradually ages, weakens and finally dies. Destruction is apparent everywhere, and therefore Bhairavi is present everywhere.
One of her dhyana mantras, that of Sampatprada-bhairavi, says that she is intoxicated with her youth, and most descriptions of her, despite her association with destruction, say that she is attractive, young, and shapely. Bhairavi's association with sexual desire and fulfillment is mentioned often in her thousand-name hymns. In the Shakta-pramoda, for example, she is called She Who Is Fond of Semen and Menstrual Blood and She Who Is Worshiped by Those Who Worship with Semen. In her thousand-name hymn in the Vishvasara-tantra, she is called Lovely One, She Whose Form Is Semen, Who Produces Semen, Who Gives Love, Who Enjoys Sexual Intercourse, Who Is Dear To Kama, and Who Dwells in the Yoni.
She is shown here seated on a lotus, with four arms, two of them making the gestures of granting boons and removing fear respectively. The other two hands hold a book and rosary.
Bhairavi has facets and epithets that assert her cosmic importance, if not supremacy. A commentary on the Parashurama-kalpasutra says that the name Bhairavi is derived from the words bharana (to create), ramana (to protect), and vamana (to emit or disgorge). The commentator, that is, seeks to discern the inner meaning of Bhairavi's name by identifying her with the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction.
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
Kinsley, David. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine, New Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.
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