Did you know that Lord Shiva took avatars? Well, Lord Shiva took 19 avatars in all in various Yugas. In Shiva Mahapuran, there is a mention of these Avatars of Lord Shiva.
Here’s a look into the 19 Avatars of Lord Shiva.
In fact, each of the 19 avatars of Lord Shiva had a specific purpose of fulfilling the welfare of humankind. So, keep reading for knowing more about the 19 avatars of Lord Shiva.
Table of Contents
19 Lord Shiva Avatars
1: Piplaad Avatar of Lord Shiva
According to Hindu legends, Lord Shiva took avatar in the form of Piplaad to Sage Dhatichi. However, Dhatichi left his son even before he was born. Piplaad was very upset about his father’s behavior and asked the Devas why his father had left him.
Devas told him that his father had to leave him because of the unfavorable planetary position of ‘Shani.’ When Piplaad came to know about this, he cursed Shani, who started falling its celestial abode.
Piplaad forgave Shani Deva on the condition that he will not trouble anybody before 16 years of age. It is said that those who pray to this form of Lord Shiva get rid of Shani Dosha. As per the Shiva Purana, Lord Brahma had named this form of Lord Shiva as Piplaad.
2: Nandi Avatar
The Nandi Avatar is the divine gatekeeper of Lord Shiva. His statue can be seen in every Shiva temple across the country.
As Lord Shiva represents all being on Earth, this avatar of Lord Shiva is an indication of it.
In fact, many temples in India are exclusively built for Nandi. One such famous temple of Nandi is the Nandisvara Temple in Karnataka.
Lord Nandi is worshipped as the keeper of the herds. He is represented with a bull-faced with four hands. Two of his hands hold an ax and an antelope. The other two hands are joined in homage. This human form is known as Nandikeshwara.
3: Veerabhadra Avatar
Lord Shiva took Veerabhadra Avatar when Goddess Sati immolated herself at the Daksha Yagna. Lord Shiva was extremely furious. He plucked a hair strand from his head and threw it on the ground. Veerabhadra arose from the hair strand of Lord Shiva.
This form of Lord Shiva (Veerabhadra) broke all the sacrificial vessels, polluted the offerings, insulted the priests, and even cut off Daksha’s head, trampled on Indra, and broke the staff of Yama. He finally returned to Kailash.
4: Bhairava Avatar of Lord Shiva
The Bhairava Avatar of Lord Shiva is also known as Kaal Bhairava. He is recognized as the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva that is often associated with annihilation. The origin of Bhairava has been recounted in the Shiva Maha Purana.
It is said that Lord Vishnu asked Brahma, who is the supreme creator of the Universe. Brahma was arrogant and told Lord Vishnu that he should worship him as he (Brahma) is the supreme creator.
This behavior of Brahma angered Lord Shiva, who then incarnated in the form of Bhairava to punish Brahma.
Bhairava beheaded the head of Brahma (one of Brahma’s five heads), who since then has only four heads. In fact, Bhairava has been depicted carrying the severed head of Brahma.
However, he felt guilty of the crime of committing a Brahma Hatya Paap. He carried the disembodied skull of Brahma for twelve years. He went on to roam as Bhikshatana (a mendicant) until he was absolved of the sin.
It is said that in the frightful form of Bhairava, Lord Shiva is guarding each of the 52 Shaktipeethas across India. Each Shaktipeethas has a temple that is dedicated to Bhairava.
5: Sharabha Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took Sharabha Avatar in the form of part lion and part bird. In fact, Sharabha is an eight-legged beast that is mightier than a lion and elephant. It can kill the lion.
According to Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva assumed Sharabha Avatar to tame Narasimha – the fierce man-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu. The Sharabha Avatar is popularly known as Sarabeshwara or Sharabeshwaramurti.
The Sharabha Avatar has been described in the form of a bird with the golden color that has two uplifted wings. Two red eyes, and four legs in the form of a lion that touches the ground, claws upwards, with an animal tail. Its two-part body is shown as a human with the face of a lion and an ornamented crown. It also has side tusks that give an overall frightening sight.
The Sharabha Avatar is depicted as having thirty arms. Each arm holding thunderbolt, chakra, mushti, Sakti, sword, musala, fire, mace, Varada, arrow, flag, a skull cup, plough, a lotus flower, a snake and with one hand that encircles Durga in a hug.
This form of Lord Shiva ushers good luck, cure all diseases and destroys all enemies.
Ashwatthama is the “Vish Purusha” that sprung out of Shiva when he consumed Halahal during Samudra Manthan. He is the Ansha Avatar of Lord Shiva, he was granted the blessing that he could kill the oppressive Kshatriyas.
He would take birth as Bharadwaja grandson and raised as Brahmin but will be attracted to Kshatriyahood. This Vish Purusha took birth as Ashwatthama to Drona and Kripi.
7: Grihapati Avatar
In ancient times, there was a Brahmin named Vishwanar with his devoted wife, Shuchismati. She wanted to have a son like Lord Shiva. So, Vishwanar went to Kashi for pleasing Lord Shiva with his penance.
He began to worship Vishweshwara Lingam with great devotion. Finally, Lord Shiva was pleased with his devotion and agreed to take birth as his son.
In some time, Shuchismati gave birth to a beautiful child. Lord Brahma named the child as “Grihapati.” At even an early age, Grihapati was very proficient in all the Vedas and other sacred texts.
When Grihapati became nine years of age, Sage Narada informed Vishwanar that Grihapati would die due to the evil effects of the planetary combinations. When Grihapati came to know about his death, he proceeded towards Kashi to do penance.
Grihapati began his penance at Kashi. Lord Indra became very pleased with Grihapati and requested him to demand anything that he wished. However, Grihapati refused to do so. Indra became very furious with Grihapati and attacked him with his Vajra.
Grihapati became terrified. Right then, Lord Shiva appeared and protected him from the wrath of Indra. Lord Shiva blessed Grihapati. Lord Shiva told Grihapati that even Kaalvajra would not be able to kill him. Grihapati became immensely pleased.
The Shivalinga that was worshipped by Grihapati came to know as Agnishwar Lingam. Lord Shiva told Grihapati that he would become the Lord of all directions.
8: Durvasa Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took Durvasa avatar for maintaining the discipline of the Universe. He was a great sage known for his short temper, he received great reverence from humans and Devas alike.
Once Atri (the Manas Putra of Lord Brahma) went to do penance on the banks of River Nivindhya according to the instructions of Lord Brahma himself. He started to do a tremendous penance.
Atri was deeply engrossed in his penance so much so that devastating flames of fire manifested from his head. This fire spread in all the three worlds in no time. All the deities became much terrified by the death and destruction that was caused by this fire. Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva came to Atri and blessed him.
Later, Atri’s wife Anasuya gave birth to three sons who were the incarnations of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma took incarnation as Moon, Lord Vishnu took incarnation as Dutta, Lord Shiva took incarnation as Durvasa.
9: Lord Hanuman Avatar
Lord Shiva was so fascinated by Lord Vishnu in his Mohini form during the Samudra Manthan (churning of the oceans) episode that his semen was released on the ground.
With the permission of Lord Shiva himself, this semen was established in the womb of Anjani by the Saptarishis. In this way, the mighty Lord Hanuman was born.
10: Vrishabha Avatar
The churning of the great oceans brought out numerous things. In fact, there was a fierce battle between demons and deities over the vessel of the elixir (nectar). Lord Vishnu tricked all the Asuras (demons) by creating an illusion of enchanting beauty.
When the Asuras took note of them, they forcibly carried them to their abode – Patal Lok. After that, they came back to take control of the nectar. However, the gods had already taken it.
Vishnu went to the Patal Lok to annihilate them. However, he was caught up in Maya and fathered many immoral sons who went on to create a ruckus for the Gods. To get rid of these cruel sons of Vishnu, Lord Shiva assumed the form of an Ox known as Vrishabha Avatar and killed all the brutal sons of Lord Vishnu.
However, Lord Vishnu came to fight the ox. Still, he returned to his abode after realizing that it was an incarnation of Lord Shiva himself.
11: Yatinath Avatar of Lord Shiva
Once there was a tribal man called Aahuk. He, along with his wife, was ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. Once it so happened that Lord Shiva visited them in the form of Yatinath.
They had a small hut which cannot accommodate Lord Shiva as a guest. So, Aahuk had to go to sleep outside.
However, unfortunately, Aahuk was killed by a wild animal. His wife decided to end her own life. However, Lord Shiva blessed them that they would take birth in the form of Nala and Damyanti in their next life & Lord Shiva would unite them.
12: Krishna Darshan Avatar
Lord Shiva took the form of Krishna Darshan Avatar for highlighting the importance of Yagna and rituals in one’s life.
Once there was a king named Nabhag who, during his childhood, went to the Gurukul for getting an education. In his absence, his brothers distributed the wealth of the kingdom among themselves.
When Nabhag returned from Gurukul, he demanded his share of wealth. However, his brothers told him that they had not fixed his share of wealth as he was absent. They told him to go and meet their father.
Nabhag came to his father and made the same request.
His father told him to go to Sage Angiras, who was trying to accomplish a Yagna but was being unsuccessful due to his attachment.
So, Nabhag went to Sage Angiras, where he was performing the Yagna. Nabhag preached sage Angiras on the virtues of religiousness. The sage got free from all sorts of attachments, and the Yagna was completed.
Sage Angiras was immensely pleased to see Nabhag’s knowledge of religion. He gave all the wealth of the Yagna to Nabhag. However, Krishna Darshan Avatar of Lord Shiva came there and prevented him from donating the wealth to Nabhag. On the contrary, he staked his own claim.
Nabhag told Lord Shiva as the wealth was given to him by sage Angiras, he was the rightful owner of it. However, Lord Shiva sent Nabhag to his father to know his opinion. Shradhadeva (his father) told Nabhag that the person claiming the wealth was none other than Lord Shiva himself. He also said that whatsoever remains of the Yagna belonged to Lord Shiva only.
So, Nabhag went back and worshipped Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva blessed Nabhag that he would attain salvation.
13: Bhikshuvarya Avatar
The Bhikshuvarya Avatar of Lord Shiva protects human beings from all kinds of dangers.
14: Sureshwar Avatar
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati appeared before Upmanyu, the son of Sage Vyaghrapaad, disguised as Indra and Indrani, respectively. They told Upmanyu to stop worshipping Lord Shiva. Both of them wanted to test his devotion to Lord Shiva.
Upmanyu refused even after being cursed by them.
Now, Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati were totally satisfied with his devotion. Lord Shiva promised Upmanyu that he would always be present in the vicinity of his hermitage along with Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva was called Sureshwar as he appeared in the form of Indra.
15: Kirateshwar Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took the form of Kirat or hunter when Arjuna was meditating to kill an Asura named Mooka, who was disguised as boar.
Upon seeing the boar, Arjun and Kirat hit the boar with arrows at the same time. So, a fight broke out between Kirat and Arjun as to who struck the boar first with arrows.
Arjuna challenged Lord Shiva for a duel who was disguised in the form of Kirat. Lord Shiva was pleased with Arjuna’s valor and gifted him the Pashupata Astra.
16: Suntantarka Avatar
Lord Shiva took the form of Suntantarka Avatar to ask the hand of Goddess Parvati in marriage from her father, Himalaya.
17: Brahmachari Avatar
As Brahmachari Avatar, Lord Shiva tested Goddess Parvati’s determination to marry him.
18: Yaksheshwar Avatar
The Devas were filled with pride after defeating the Asuras during Samudra Manthan. So, Lord Shiva wanted to teach them a lesson that pride was not the quality for Gods to possess.
Lord Shiva presented them a piece of grass and asked them to cut it. It was done to destroy the false pride through this divine grass. Eventually, nobody was able to cut the grass, and their pride vanished. This form of Lord Shiva was called Yaksheshwar Avatar.
19: Avadhut Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took Avadhut Avatar to crush the arrogance of Indra.
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