Ashta Bhairava and the Nakshatras

Ashta Bhairava
Starting with the next Full Moon and continuing daily until the celebration of Bhairava Ashtami, I’ll be posting a nine-part series on the connections between Shiva in his form as Mahakala Bhairava and the Vedic Lunar Mansions or Nakshatras. This series will reveal the forms of the Ashta Bhairavas (the eight major manifestations of Bhairava), the Nakshatras they are associated with, their consorts, their mantras and the seven other Bhairavas that each of the Ashta Bhairavas in turn manifests.

Before that, here’s some details about the Nakshatras themselves that will assist with aligning each of the Ashta Bhairavas to their corresponding Asterisms and Mansions. As most of us westerners tend towards using the Tropical Zodiac, the equivalent Tropical degrees have been included. Note also that the Vedic Mansions are twenty-seven in number and divided into segments of 13º 20′ rather than the twenty-eight mansions of 12º 51′ our own system inherited from the Arabic Manzils. With the Moon’s transit averaging about 13º 12′ each day, each Nakshatra lasts about a day give or take up to around five hours either way depending on the ‘speed’ of the Moon.

Nakshatra Meaning Asterism Sidereal º Tropical º
Ashwini The Heavenly Twins β and γ Arietis (Sheratan) 0º Aries 26º Aries
Bharani The Bearer 35, 39 and 41 Arietis 13º 20′ Aries 9º 20′ Taurus
Krittika Pleiades Alcyone 26º 40′ Aries 22º 40′ Taurus
Rohini The Red One Aldebaran 10º Taurus 6º Gemini
Mrigshirsha The Deer’s Head λ and φ Orionis (Meissa) 23º 20′ Taurus 19º 20′ Gemini
Ardra The Moist One Betelgeuse 6º 40′ Gemini 2º 40′ Cancer
Punarvasu Two Restorers of Goods Castor & Pollux 20º Gemini 16º Cancer
Pushya The Nourisher Asellus Borealis & Asellus Australis 3º 20′ Cancer 29º 20′ Cancer
Ashlesha The Embrace Alphard & Minchur 16º 40′ Cancer 12º 40′ Leo
Magha The Bountiful Regulus 0º Leo 26º Leo
Purvaphalguni First Reddish One Zosma 13º 20′ Leo 9º 20′ Virgo
Uttaraphalguni Second Reddish One Denebola 26º 40′ Leo 22º 40′ Virgo
Hasta The Hand Alchiba, Kraz, Algorab & Minkar 10º Virgo 6º Libra
Chitra The Bright One Spica 23º 20′ Virgo 19º 20′ Libra
Swati Very Good Arcturus 6º 40′ Libra 2º 40′ Scorpio
Vishaka Forked (Radha) Zub’genubi & Zub’schemali 20º Libra 16º Scorpio
Anuradha Following Radha Akrab & Dschubba 3º 20′ Scorpio 29º 20′ Scorpio
Jyeshta The Eldest/Most Excellent Antares & Palhaukale 16º 40′ Scorpio 12º 40′ Sagittarius
Mula The Root Shaula 0º Sagittarius 26º Sagittarius
Purvashadha First of the Invincible Ones Kaus Media & Kaus Australis 13º 20′ Sagittarius 9º 20′ Capricorn
Uttarashadha Second of the Invincible Ones Nunki 26º 40′ Sagittarius 22º 40′ Capricorn
Shravana Hearing Altair 10º Capricorn 6º Aquarius
Dhanishtha Most Benevolent δ Delphinum 23º 20′ Capricorn 19º 20′ Aquarius
Sathabhistha A Hundred Healers γ – λ Aquarii 6º 40′ Aquarius 29º 40′ Aquarius
Poorva Bhadrapada The First with Lucky Feet Markab & Scheat 20º Aquarius 16º Pisces
Uttara Bhadrapada The Second with Lucky Feet Algenib 3º 20′ Pisces 29º 20′ Pisces
Revati Prosperous ζ Piscium 16º 40′ Pisces 12º 40′ Aries

The Ashta Bhairavas each rule over three Nakshatras, with the exception of Bheeshana Bhairava, who rules over six. As well as being necessary for eight Bhairavas to have rulership over twenty-seven Nakshatras, this also occurs due to Bheeshana’s planetary association with both the South (Ketu) and North (Rahu) Lunar Nodes. Details of their Consorts and the directions of their Guardianships are also given below.

Nakshatra Bhairava Planet Consort Direction
Ashwini Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Bharani Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Krittika Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Rohini Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Mrigshirsha Chanda Mars Koumari South
Ardra Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Punarvasu Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Pushya Unmattha Saturn Varahi West
Ashlesha Samhara Mercury Chandika Northeast
Magha Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Purvaphalguni Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Uttaraphalguni Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Hasta Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Chitra Chanda Mars Koumari South
Swati Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Vishaka Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Anuradha Unmattha Saturn Varahi West
Jyeshta Samhara Mercury Chandika Northeast
Mula Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Purvashadha Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Uttarashadha Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Shravana Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Dhanishtha Chanda Mars Koumari South
Sathabhistha Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Poorva Bhadrapada Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Uttara Bhadrapada Unmattha Saturn Varahi West

Here, the Bhairavas are also restored to the order of their directional guardianship, which starts in the East and revolves clockwise.

Bhairava Meaning of Name Direction Colour
Asitanga Black-limbed East Gold
Ruru A Dog or Deer South East Pure White
Chanda Fierce South Blue
Krodha Wrathful South West Smoke
Unmattha Mad, intoxicated West White
Kapala Skull North West Yellow
Bheeshana Dreadful, Horrible North Red
Samhara Annihilation North East Lightning

From what’s been presented above, it’s clear that each Bhairava aligns with a specific celestial body and portion of the Moon’s transit around the Zodiacal signs. With each Bhairava forming a part of the greater whole of Mahakala Bhairava,  all twenty-seven mansions and nine planets (each of which is represented three-times) can be seen as aspects of the greater whole of that great and terrifying form of Shiva that is Lord over Time, Death and the Universe. The rest of this series will look into each of the Ashta Bhairavas in more detail and will conclude, on Bhairava Ashtami, with a summary of That which they constitute a part of.

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