19 Avatars of Lord Shiva

19 Avatars of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva (known as Mahesh or Mahadeva also) is one of the three renowned God figures (Trimurti) in Hindu mythology. Shiva is known as the destroyer and Mahadev, having various avatars Shiva is known as the Supreme God. He took many avatars and incarnations to set things right on the earth. By taking some avatars he saved some of his devotees from the devils. Various incarnations of Lord Shiv are hideously important as well as considered – assumed to be the most significant-important and effective for the safety of his devotees.

Lord Shiva (Mahesha, Shankara, Bholenath, Neelkanth, Mahadeva, Rudra, Mahadeva, or Bholenath) as he is known, took many avatars in various yugas. Just like Vishnu, has also taken about 19 incarnations in different eras. From Lord Hanuman to Rishi Durvasa, from Piplad to Ashwatthama all are parts of Shiva. Every avatar of Lord Shiva had a specific purpose and the ensuing motive for the welfare of humankind. Let’s know more about these 19 avatars and the significance behind them.

1. Piplaad Avatar

Lord Shiva incarnated as Piplaad he took birth as the son of sage “Dadhichi” and his wife “Suvarcha”. His father left him even before he was born. While growing up, when Piplaad got to know that his father had to leave the house due to the malefic effects of Shani, he cursed him. Later, he forgave Shani on the condition that Shani would never trouble anyone before the age of 16 years. This is why people worship Piplaad to overcome the Shani dosha.

2. Nandi Avatar

Lord Shiva is the protector of the herds. He is shown holding an axe in his hand and his face looks like a bull. Nandi Avatar is a sign of masculinity and vigor. Nandi is depicted as a bull with four hands. Two hands holding the axe and antelope, while the other two hands are joined.

3. Lord Virabhadra

Was born from Shiva’s Jata (Hair) during Daksha Yagna when Shiva’s consort Sati sacrificed her life. Veerbhadra defeated the Gods who fought with Shiva Ganas and cut the head of Daksha. Even Vishnu who was fighting the battle for Daksha was defeated by Veerbhadra. This form of Lord Shiva was very terrible, full of angry, hair opened. This incarnation indicated his love and care towards his wife.

4. Lord Sarabha

Shiva took this avatar in form of a strange creature (half-bird & half-animal) to calm down Lord Nrusingha. (Somewhere it is mentioned that Sharabha defeated Nrusingha in a duel. Veerbhadra was sent by Shiva to calm down Lord Nrusingha. When Veerbhadra politely requested him to calm down, Nrusingha became even more furious. So to teach him a lesson, Veerbhadra took Sharabha avatar as per instructions of Shiva and tamed him.)

5. Aswasthama

Ashwathama or Drauni the Rudravataar was born here in Tapkeshwar caves. He is considered as the avatar of one of the eleven Rudras and one of the Eight Chiranjivi Purush. Ashvatthama is born with a gem on his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans, it protects him from hunger, thirst, and fatigue.

6. Bhairav Avatar

Lord Bhairav is an avatar of Lord Shiva. He had to take this avatar when there was a fight between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. In form of Bhairava Lord Shiva cut off Lord Brahma’s fifth head and carried it for the next twelve years. People worship Lord Bhairon to achieve victory over their enemies, attain all material comforts in their life and be successful in all their tasks.

7. Maharishi Durvasa

Maharishi Durvasa was an incarnation of Lord Shiva or Rudra, hence the reason is understood about his short temper. Sage Durvasa is known to be responsible for the process of churning of the ocean to generate Ambrosia by Demigods and Demons.

8. Grihapati Avatar

This is a bit strange story and related to the child born in the family of Grihpati and Shuchismati. It seems that the parent desired that the child should have Shiva-like qualities but unfortunately, the child died at a young age, and then Grihapati started his journey to Kasi, the sacred place for resting the soul of the child in peace. It is also said that the journey was impeded by the demigod Indra. But the child was blessed by Shiva and then Shiva could not tolerate this hindrance and came to defend Grihpati. In many places, this form of Lord Shiva is worshipped.

9. Lord Hanuman

Hanuman is also an incarnation of Lord Shiva and this avatar is to showcase an example of the devotee to the people. The story goes that during the Samudra Manthan (sea exploration), Lord Vishnu disguised as a beautiful woman named Mohini who distracted the demons from the site of Samudra Manthan so that the semi Gods could do the job without any disturbance. Lord Shiva, even after knowing the facts was somehow also got infatuated by the exquisite beauty of Mohini. The energy liberated in this infatuation is said to be the reason for the birth of Hanuman from the womb of Anjani.

10. Krisha Darshan Avatar

To give knowledge to King Nabhag as to how to attain spiritual attainment in life. Actually, prince Nabhag was ousted by his brother from the kingdom and was sent to the saint Angiras for learning Yajna (a ritual done with fire) and after learning the saint was much pleased with Nabhag and wanted to award him some wealth. Lord Shiva told Nabhag to ignore worldly matters and devote time for real spiritual attainment. Nabhag followed and got Lord Shiva’s blessings. This is one unique Avatar where Lord Shiva has functioned as a spiritual teacher.

11. Bhikshuvarya Avatar

This particular Avatar is for the protection of humans in general and takes care of the human in all adverse conditions and dangers in their lives. It is said that worshipping this form helps us in getting over the threats and dangers in our lives.

12. Sureshwar Avatar

Lord Shiva was very pleased by the penance of Upamanyu, an avid devotee of Lord Vishnu. To test his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Lord Shiva. This is why he came to be known as Sureshwar.

13. Kirateshwar Avatar

Kirat means hunter. Lord Shiva incarnated in the form of a hunter of Keerat to test the devotion of Arjuna and kill the demon Mooka. During the test, Lord Shiva got pleased with Arjuna and gifted him his Pashupata.

14. Suntantarka Avatar

This was an Avatar with a purpose. As Lord Shiva agreed to marry Parvati then it was natural that he had to go to the father (Himalaya mountain) of Parvati to ask Parvati as his partner. Lord Shiva cannot go to his father in his normal form wearing all those special items on his crown so he had to make a disguise of a normal person.

15. Brahmachari Avatar

This is yet another manifestation of Lord Shiva, which was taken by him to test Maa Parvati. Maa Parvati worshipped Lord Shiva with true devotion and observed penance and got Lord Shiva as her husband

16. Yaksheshwar Avatar

The story of this avatar goes to the time of Samudra Manthan when gods became arrogant after consuming Amrit. To eradicate this false ego, Lord Shiva incarnated in the form of a Yaksha. 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.

17. Avadhut Avatar

Lord Shiva came as an Avadhut avatar when Lord Indra became arrogant and uncaring. He has taken this avatar to make Indra believe that arrogance is not a good attribute and is to be removed.

18. Yatinath Avatar

Yatinath is another incarnation of Lord Shiva in which he visited a tribal couple Aahuk and Aahuka. During his visit to the couple, Aahuk got killed by a wild animal. Finding her husband dead, Aahuka decided to kill herself. Then Lord Shiva appeared in his real form and blessed her with a boon, which says that she and her husband will reborn as Nala and Damayanti, and Lord Shiva will unite them.

19. Rishabh Avatar

In the Patal Lok, sons of Lord Vishnu were tormenting Humans and Gods alike. To teach them a lesson, Lord Shiva incarnated in the form of Ox or Vrishabha and killed all the cruel sons of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu came to fight the Rishabh, but realizing that it was Lord Shiva, he returned to his abode.

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.