Every day, devotees line up at the steps of the Kal Bhairav temple in Ujjain, India, with liquor bottles in hand. Although it might seem disrespectful to arrive at a place of worship with alcohol, it’s quite the opposite at this Hindu temple. The liquor is actually an offering.
The recipient of this boozy bounty is Bhairav, a manifestation of Shiva. Inside the temple, Bhairav’s statue is a vibrant shade of red and decorated with flowers. A priest sits before the statue, pouring a little bit of each visitor’s bottle into a saucer. When it’s filled, he says a prayer and tips the liquid into a small slit in the idol’s mouth.
While there’s no official figure on how much alcohol Bhairav “drinks” daily, it’s estimated that visitors bring several hundred liters every day. Both government-sponsored and unlicensed vendors sell foreign brands and the local liquor known as desi daru. The small bottles often come in baskets that feature other offerings, including flowers and incense.
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