Article: Nākoḍā Bhairava

Contributed by Knut Aukland

Image of Nākoḍā Bhairava

Replica image of Nākoḍā Bhairava in Prakrit Bharati Academy in Jaipur, Rajasthan. This figure is decorated with flower offerings. Nākoḍā Bhairava is a very popular protective god in the Śvetāmbara Pārśvanātha temple in Nākoḍā, Rajasthan.

Nākoḍā Bhairava
Image by Knut Aukland © Knut Aukland

In 1934 a new statue of Nākoḍā Bhairava was fashioned on the instruction of Jain mendicants after his true form – svarūp – had been revealed in the dreams and visions of various individuals. One of these was the Tapā-gaccha monk, Himācal-sūri. He installed the three-dimensional bust statue of Nākoḍā Bhairava inside the temple, next to Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha. It replaced the previous image, which did not depict Nākoḍā Bhairava as a human-like figure.

In his present anthropomorphic form, Nākoḍā Bhairava has a red, moustachioed face and four arms. Many gods have four arms in Jain art. In each hand he holds an item associated with bhairavas all over India, namely:

  • a bowl – kapāla – in his lower right hand
  • a drum – ḍamaru – in his lower left hand
  • a sword – khaḍga – in his upper right hand
  • a trident – triśūla – in his upper left hand.

Many replicas are found both inside and outside India, reflecting his popularity. These shrines are the scene of religious ceremonies similar to the worship rituals surrounding the original Nākoḍā Bhairava.


Pujārī in the Pārśvanātha temple at Nākoḍā, Rajasthan. A pujārī is a temple attendant who prepares items for rituals and looks after the temple and any images. Dressed in the sacred colour, a pujārī is often a brahmin or another high-caste Hindu.

Image by Knut Aukland © Knut Aukland

Although Nākoḍā Bhairava is secondary in the Śvetāmbara temple of Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha, he is a popular figure of worship. Nākoḍā Bhairava is a deity subject to the cycle of rebirth and thus can intervene in the world of human affairs, unlike a Jina who is a liberated soul. Worshippers pray to Nākoḍā Bhairava for help in worldly concerns, particularly wealth. There are two unusual elements associated with the worship of Nākoḍā Bhairava, which are more common in Indian religions in general than among Jains. First, he is well known for possession of his devotees. Secondly, the auspicious offerings of sweets – prasāda – are considered unlucky if taken outside the temple premises.

Morning and evening pūjās and āratīs are held daily for Nākoḍā Bhairava, but always after the main image of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva has been worshipped. The pujārī draws a curtain in front of the closest sitting Pārśva image during the worship of Nākoḍā Bhairava. A way of preventing Pārśva from being offended, the drawing of the curtain is rare in Jain religious practice, although it is familiar to Hindus. All rituals are led by the Hindu pujārīs and the winners of auctions – bolis – held for the various parts of the worship. For the Pārśva idol these offerings include:

  • bathing the image – prakāl pūjā
  • offering saffron – kesar pūjā
  • burning incense – dhūp pūjā
  • offering perfume – itr pūjā
  • offering flowers – puṣpa pūjā
  • the final offering of the lamp ceremony – āratī.

The worship of Nākoḍā Bhairava consists of only the last three ceremonies. The highest auction bids are put forward for the lamp ceremony honouring the bhairava. The ritual of the 'sacred gaze' – darśana – and donating to the bhairava are both thought to be particularly auspicious during the evening lamp ceremony.

Many worshippers consider Sundays a particularly auspicious day for worship of Nākoḍā Bhairava. Evening gatherings with hymn singingbhajan – often take place at the weekends or on special occasions.

Many people perform a 'sacred gaze' – darśana – of Nākoḍā Bhairava upon arrival. The temple is arranged so that visitors pay their respects to the main figure of Pārśva first. Prayers are often performed while gazing at Nākoḍā Bhairava.

Some devotees report that they donate sums of money they have promised if their wishes are fulfilled. Many Jain businessmen consider Nākoḍā Bhairava to be their business partner and donate percentages of their yearly income to him.


A possessed man lies outside the Pārśvanātha temple in Nakoda, Rajasthan. Some of the pilgrims to this popular Śvetāmbara site celebrate while others seem unsure.

Possessed man
Image by Knut Aukland © Knut Aukland

It is especially during the singing of evening āratīs on Sundays that Nākoḍā Bhairava is known to possess devotees. Some of the possessed devotees will answer questions from the other worshippers on issues of health and future outcomes.

Nākoḍā Bhairava appears to be particularly prone to possess devotees during the yearly fair – melā – held around the birthday of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. Pārśva's birthday is celebrated in the festival of Poṣa-daśamī, which falls in late December or early January and is celebrated by all Jain sects.

This is also an occasion where non-Jains come to worship the bhairava. Jains allow non-Jains to take part in the regular worship of the bhairava and he also possesses them at times.

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