Ashtakams are a form of poetry which includes eight stanzas and four line each. Sri Aadi Shankaracharya wrote many popular Ashtakams on various dieties. By their nature of having 8 stanzas they are very transformative and I think this was Sri Aadi Shanakra’s intention as well, to transform the devotee at a subtle level. From my experience I think each diety’s Ashtakam could also be mapped to the rashi chakra. Here I attempt to map the Kaala Bhairava Ashtakam.
व्यालयज्ञसूत्रमिन्दुशेखरं कृपाकरम् ।
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥१॥
Vyaala-Yajnya-Suutram-Indu-Shekharam Krpaakaram |
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||1||
This Ashtakam starts at Mithuna since Ardra is in Mithuna and Kaala Bhairav being represented by Ardra nakshatra. The 3rd house is all about “earning your stripes”. Here Sri Shankaracharya starts with Narada and other Yogis praising Bhairava. 3rd house is also about arms and protection. Bhairava is Digambara i.e. he doesn’t have any clothing a form of protection. The directions are his clothing.
भानुकोटिभास्वरं भवाब्धितारकं परं
नीलकण्ठमीप्सितार्थदायकं त्रिलोचनम् ।
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥२॥
Bhaanu-Kotti-Bhaasvaram Bhavaabdhi-Taarakam Param
Niila-Kannttham-Iipsita-Artha-Daayakam Trilocanam |
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||2|
Rashi: Karkataka Cancer (Karkataka) rashi is the natural fourth rashi signifying death, the real “home”, one of the moksha sthanas, where we find peace. Bhairava is the death of death. Sri Shankaracharya here mentions Bhairava’s lotus eyes. The left eye is ruled by Moon. 4th house is also about worldly pleasures.
श्यामकायमादिदेवमक्षरं निरामयम् ।
भीमविक्रमं प्रभुं विचित्रताण्डवप्रियं
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥३॥
Shyaama-Kaayam-Aadi-Devam-Akssaram Nir-Aamayam |
Bhiimavikramam Prabhum Vicitra-Taannddava-Priyam
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||3||
The weapons used by Bhairava are used to create order in the universe. Simha (Leo) is all about governance, name, fame and authority. Bhairava creates order in the universe by his destructive dance and whose methods of operation are strange like the strategy used by the kings of yore. Bhairava is famous for his strange dance and big eyes (Sun is right eye).
भक्तवत्सलं स्थितं समस्तलोकविग्रहम् ।
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥४॥
Bhakta-Vatsalam Sthitam Samasta-Loka-Vigraham |
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||4||
Rashi: Kanya Like the shining golden bells around Bhairava’s waist (Kanya/gut area) which jingles creating a variety of pleasing Sounds, life on this earth plane is like this, binds us with Rog/Rna/Shatru.
कर्मपाशमोचकं सुशर्मदायकं विभुम् ।
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥५॥
Karma-Paasha-Mocakam Su-Sharma-Daayakam Vibhum |
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||5||
Rashi: Tula Tula (Libra) rashi is where one makes choices, that is between what is Dharma and Adharma. Shani Bhagawan (the rope of karma/paasha) is judging your karmas, but Bhairava, who is the guardian of Dharma can free us from all the karmas and give us great joy.
नित्यमद्वितीयमिष्टदैवतं निरंजनम् ।
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥६॥
Nityam-Advitiiyam-Isstta-Daivatam Niramjanam |
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||6||
Rashi: Vrischik The natural eighth rashi is another moksha sthana and signifies death. Life and death are two sides of the same coin. Bhairava is the destroyer of death (metaphorically its a mirror/Darpan of life) with his terrible fangs. Bhairava is the eternal non-dual (life/death) and thus the favorite deity.
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥७॥
Kaashikaa-Pura-Adhinaatha-Kaalabhairavam Bhaje ||7||
Rashi: Dhanu It is the ninth natural house signifying the belief system, principles and higher knowledge. Bhairav here is granting us the boon of Ashta Sidhi after crossing the duality of life and death in Vrischik. The garland of skulls represent all the intellectual pursuits and higher studies.
काशिवासलोकपुण्यपापशोधकं विभुम् ।
नीतिमार्गकोविदं पुरातनं जगत्पतिं
काशिकापुराधिनाथकालभैरवं भजे ॥८॥
Kaashi-Vaasa-Loka-Punnya-Paapa-Shodhakam Vibhum |
Niiti-Maarga-Kovidam Puraatanam Jagatpatim
Kaashikaapuraadhinaathakaalabhairavam Bhaje ||8||
Rashi: Makar Bhairava is the leader of all goblins (Mars the leader is exalted in Makar) and bestows glory (ones reputation is earned by their deeds). He destroys both merits and demerits and is the most ancient (Shani) lord of the universe.
कालभैरवाष्टकं पठंति ये मनोहरं
ज्ञानमुक्तिसाधनं विचित्रपुण्यवर्धनम् ।
प्रयान्ति कालभैरवांघ्रिसन्निधिं नरा ध्रुवम् ॥९॥
Kaalabhairavaassttakam Patthamti Ye Manoharam
Jnyaana-Mukti-Saadhanam Vicitra-Punnya-Vardhanam |
Prayaanti Kaalabhairava-Amghri-Sannidhim Naraa Dhruvam ||9||
Rashi: Kumbha At the end Sri Shankaracharya gives us the Phala Sthuthi (fruits of dedication) in Kumbha rashi the natural rashi of desires and wish fulfillment. He says Bhairava gives us the strange results according his own ways like the quality of this rashi. One must overcome sorrows, delusions, infatuations, depressions,desires, passions and anger before the final moksh in Meena rashi.
Observe that Bhairava is a lower amsha of Mahadeva and hence it starts in Mithuna and ends at Kumbha one rashi short of the final rashi – Meena. We can similarly map, Shankara’s Mahalakshmi Ashtakam starting from Mesha Rashi (Adi Lakshmi).