Kalabhairava Jayanti is the birthday of Bhairava, the fierce aspect of Lord Shiva. The holy occasion falls on the eighth day after full moon i.e. the Ashtami after Poornima in the Karthik month. This year it falls on the 14th of November. Kalabhairava Jayanti is also known as Bhairava Jayanti, Bhairavashtami and Bhairava Jayanti in different parts of India.
Legend has it that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were once debating as to who is superior among them. In the debate, Lord Shiva was not amused by Brahma’s remarks. In a fit of rage, Lord Shiva cut and threw a small nail from His finger, which manifested itself as Kala Bhairava who cut off the fifth head of Lord Brahma. However, Kala Bhairava had to pay for His deeds. He had to take up the vow of a Kapali in order to absolve His sins. He had to roam around the entire world as a beggar with the skull of Brahma as His begging bowl. The sin got finally absolved when He reached Varanasi. A temple dedicated to Bhairava exists in Varanasi even today.
Devotees stay awake throughout the night of Kalabhairava Jayanti by reciting prayers and worshipping Shiva, Parvati and Bhairava. An Aarti is performed at midnight amidst the beating of drums and blowing of conches. After taking bath the following morning, devotees offer prayers to their departed elders. They later worship Shiva, Parvati, Bhairava and His Vahana, a dog. Dogs are offered curds, milk, sweets and other food items. The occasion is even holier if it falls on Tuesday or a Sunday, which are considered to be very auspicious for worshipping Bhairava.