The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

Bhairava (Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore)

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Bhairava


This statue depicts Bhairava, a Hindu deity and a fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation. Bhairava originated in Hindu legends and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. He is worshipped throughout India and Nepal.

As a terrifying form of Shiva, he is depicted with bared teeth, wide-open eyes and flared nostrils. The serpents and skulls on his head add to the fierce image. He is seen in this statue with a skull as a begging bowl in his right hand. A figure of Bhairavi his consort sits behind his right shoulder.

He is also represented with the usual attributes of Shiva, such as the drum, a symbol of creation and time plus the trident which is now damaged in this historical sculpture. Visible is also the ascetic aspects of Shiva such as the knotted cord around his chest.

Other South Asia and Islamic world highlights from the collection include:


  • Title:                 Bhairava
  • Dates:               10th century
  • Provenience:  Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Materials:        Sandstone
  • Museum:         Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore


“A beautiful woman belongs to everyone; an ugly one is yours alone.” Indian Proverb



Photo Credit: JOM