Bhairava Puja

Bhairava is the fierce manifestation of Śiva, whom Buddhists regard as a protector of the Dharma. Both Hindus and Buddhists worship during Indra Jātra; a long-established Newar tradition is a special ritual offering of rice beer that is returned to the devotees playfully as a liquid prasād that is blessed by the god.

The large temple near the old royal palace in Kathmandu has a huge mask from which this is poured, one of many temples that do this with crowds of devotees attending. During the festival, a long straw is inserted and extended outward so that the priests can attached a funnel linked to a large storage vessel. Devotees line up to gulp down the divinely-infused elixir.

Newar families wanting to do the ritual in their own homes procured smaller masks like the one in this exhibition, with a circular hole bored in the middle of the tooth-fanged mouth.


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