This is a statue of Bhairava, a "local ferocious divinity" associated by tribal peoples with cremation grounds (smasana), ghouls and ghosts (vetala, pisaca). He is worshipped throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal as well as in Tibetan Buddhism. Bhairava originates from the word bhīru, which means "fearful". Bhairava means "terribly fearful form". It is also known as one who destroys fear or one who is beyond fear. The right interpretation is that he protects his devotees from dreadful enemies, greed, lust and anger. Bhairava protects his devotees from these enemies. These enemies are dangerous as they never allow humans to seek God within. There is also another interpretation. Bha means creation, ra means sustenance and va means destruction. Therefore, Bhairava is the one who creates, sustains and dissolves the three stages of life. Therefore, he becomes the ultimate or the supreme.
The statue was made in the Chola period. The Chola dynasty was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India.