Shiva or Mahadev is known as “The Destroyer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu. He is the supreme being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions in Hinduism.
To set up an ideal work on the Earth for his creatures, he had taken a variety of avatars and incarnations. His avatars are mostly related to protecting his devotees from the tortures of devils and cruel curses of proud Gods as well.
Shiv Puran was recited by Lord Shiva himself to Lord Brahma. It was then initiated by Sage Vyasa to his disciples, Sage Shaunak and Sage Suta for the benefit of mankind. Saturudra Samhita of Shiva Purana mentions that the omnipresent Shiva had taken countless incarnations in different Kalpas or Aeons.
The following 19 Lord Shiva Avatars have been taken from the Shiv Purana itself, which defines how Lord Shiva was able to sustain law and balance in the world. Let us have a look at the Lord Shiva Avatars one by one.
1. Piplaad Avatar
According to Hindu legends, Lord Shiva took avatar in the form of Piplaad or Sage Dhatichi’s son. However, Dhatichi had left his son even before he was born. Piplaad being upset about his father’s behaviour had to reason with the Devas why his father had left him.
Devas had told him that his father had to leave him because of the unfavourable planetary position of ‘Shani’. Piplaad cursed Shani, who started falling its the celestial abode.
Piplaad forgave Shani Deva on one 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. According to 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. This Avatar of Lord Shiva indicates that he represents every form on Earth.
Many temples in India are exclusively built for Nandi. One such famous temple of Nandi is the Nandishwara Temple in Karnataka.
Lord Nandi is worshipped as the keeper of the herds. He is represented with a bull-faced four hands. Two of his hands hold an axe and an antelope. The other two hands are joined in homage. This human form is known as Nandikeshwara.
3. Veerbhadra Avatar
Lord Shiva took Veerbhadra Avatar when Goddess Sati immolated herself at the Daksha Ygna. lord Shiva was extremely furious. He had plucked a hair strand from his head and threw it on the ground from which Veerbhadra arose to protect Goddess Sati.
This form of Lord Shiva broke all 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. Sharabha Avatar
This Avatar of Lord Shiva is in the form of part lion and part bird. Sharabha is an eight-legged beast that is mightier than a lion and elephant.
According to Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva assumed Sharabha Avatar, also known as Sarabeshwara or Sharabeshwara Murti to tame Narsimha - the fierce man-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu.
This Avatar has been described in the form of a bird with a golden colour 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 part lion and part bird body are shown as a human with the face of a lion along with 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 is 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, respectively.
This form of Lord Shiva usher's 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’s grandson and be raised as Brahmin but would be attracted to Kshatriya Hood. Ashwatthama took birth as Vish Purusha to Drona and Kripi.
6. Bhairava Avatar
The Bhairava Avatar of Lord Shiva or Kaal Bhairava is recognized as the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva that is often connected with annihilation. The Shiva Maha Purana reconsidered the Bhairava Avatar.
When Lord Vishnu had asked Lord Brahma, who was the supreme creator of the Universe, Brahma being arrogant told Vishnu to worship him as the supreme creator. This behaviour of Brahma had angered Lord Shiva who then incarnated into Bhairava to punish him.
He beheaded the head of Brahma (one of Brahma’s five heads), who since then only has four heads. Bhairava has been depicted carrying the severed head of Lord Brahma in one hand.
It is believed that in the frightful form of Kaal Bhairava, Lord Shiva guards each of the 52 Shakti Peethas across India. Each Shakti Peethas has a temple that is dedicated to Bhairava.
7. Durvasa Avatar
Lord Shiva took Durvasa Avatar for maintaining the discipline of the Universe. He was a great sage known for his short-tempered behaviour who was received with great reverence from humans and Devas alike.
Once Arti (the ManasPutra of Brahma) went to do penance on the banks of River Nivindhiya according to the instructions of Lord Brahma himself. He started to do a tremendous penance.
Arti was deeply engrossed in his penance so much so that devastating flames of fire manifested from his head. This fire spread in all three worlds in no time. All the deities became much terrified by the death and destruction that was caused by his fire.
Later, Arti’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, and Lord Shiva took incarnation as Durvasa.
8. Grihapati Avatar
In ancient times, there was a Brahmin named Vishwanar with his devoted wife, Suchismati. She wanted to have a son like Lord Shiva. So, Vishwanar went to Kashi to please 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, who was named as “Grihapati” by Lord Brahma.
At the age of 9 years old, Grihapati was informed that he would die due to the evil effects of the planetary combinations because of which he proceeded towards Kashi to do penance.
Lord Indra became very pleased with Grihapati and requested him to demand anything that he wished. However, Grihapati refused to do so and was attacked by Vajra as he made Indra furious.
Right then, Lord Shiva appeared and protected the terrified Grihapati from the wrath of Indra. He blessed Grihapati that even Kaalvajra would not be able to kill him.
9. Lord Hanuman
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 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 Visnu, 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.
11. Yatinath Avatar
Once there was a tribal man 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 that 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.
13. Bhikshu Arya Avatar
The Bhikshu Arya 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.
Shiva was called Sureshwar as he appeared in the form of Indra.
15. Kirateshwar Avatar
Lord Shiva took the form of Kirat or hunter when Arjuna was meditating to kill an Asura named Mooka, who was disguised as a 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 board first with arrows.
Arjuna challenged Lord Shiva for a duel disguised in the form of Kirat. Lord Shiva was pleased with Arjuna’s valour 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 with 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
Lord Shiva took Avadhut Avatar to crush the arrogance of Indra.
All of the 19 Lord Shiva Avatars teach a different lesson and were taken to fulfil various purposes respectively. These Lord Shiva Avatars are preached and praised by many people across the country. Each one of them is praised for their own significance and reasons.
These avatars are known to sustain the law and balance of the world and save mankind from the dangers. Let us pray and hope Lord Shiva keeps this world safe and protected from all evils.
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