The Madhya Pradesh government had imposed a liquor ban in the district of Ujjain for the duration of the month-long Simhastha Kumbh Mela.
However, for Kaal Bhairav, the presiding deity of a famous shrine in the temple town, it has been business as usual. Between 21 April and 21 May, the god was offered Rs 66 lakh worth of liquor.
While banning the sale of liquor in honour of the Kumbh Mela, the government made an exemption for the Kaal Bhairav temple.
This is because while several deities across the country are propitiated with alcohol, only Kaal Bhairav is supposed to be endowed with the mysterious power of drinking the liquor. The priest sits in front of the statue and pours the liquor in a stainless steel dish. He then places the dish next to slit that forms the lips of the statue, and Kaal Bhairav ‘drinks’ whatever is served.
Till date, how this phenomenon occurs is a mystery to the scientific community.
So, the government decided to set up two liquor counters right outside the temple premises.
“Keeping in view the Simhastha fair, we opened two liquor counters, one for desi and the other for foreign liquor,” the deputy commissioner (excise), Raghavendra Upadhyay, said. “These shops have saved devotees from getting duped by non-licenced vendors.”
The counters sold liquor in 180ml or ‘quarter’ bottles. And they really helped the government fill its coffers, according to Ujjain division excise officials.
At last count, the figure stood at Rs 66 lakh, but the final figure will certainly go up in the coming few days, when the last few days of the Simhastha Kumbh Mela are taken into account.
Kaal Bhairav is a favourite deity of tantriks. Every day, hundreds of devotees stream into this black stone temple, located right in the middle of a cremation ground, to offer liquor to the god.
The god is an incarnate of Lord Shiva, or ‘MahaKaal’, and the temple is believed to have been built by King Bhadrasen. The temple is mentioned in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana.
The worship of the eight Bhairavs is a part of Shaivite tradition, with Kaal Bhairav the chief among them. It is believed to have been a part of the Kapalika and Aghora sects in Indian practiced religion, and Ujjain has been a prominent centre for these two sects.
According to the Prithviraj Bharati, priest at the famous Mangalnath temple in Ujjain, liquor is offered to the god because it forms one of the five rituals of tantra – Madira (liquor), Mudra (gesture), Maithun (copulation), Mans (meat) and Meen (fish).
In the olden days, all five Ms were offered to the deity. But priests say that now, apart from liquor, the other four rituals are performed only symbolically.