To sustain the law and balance of nature Lord Shiva took many avatars in various yugas. In Shiv Mahapuran, there is a mention of these 19 Avatars of Lord Shiva.
Talking about Lord Shiva, very few of us know all about his 19 avatars. Every avatar of Lord Shiva has a special significance. Each of the 19 incarnations of Lord Shiva had a specific purpose and ultimate motive for humankind’s welfare. So, if you want to know more about the 19 avatars of Lord Shiva, then read on.
Different Avatars of Lord Shiva with Story with it.
1. Piplaad Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took birth in the house of sage Dadhichi as Piplaad. But the sage left his house even before Piplaad was born. When Piplaad grew up he came to know that his father left the house due to the wrong planetary position of Shani. So, Piplaad cursed Shani and caused the planet to fall from its celestial abode. Later, he forgave Shani on the condition that the planet would never trouble anyone before 16 years of age. Hence, worshipping the Piplaad form of Lord Shiva helps to get rid of Shani dosha.
2. Nandi Avatar of Lord Shiva
If you enter any Shiva temple, you will first witness a statue of the quietly formidable Nandi, Lord Shiva’s mount and the divine gatekeeper. Lord Shiva represents all beings on Earth. This avatar of Lord Shiva is an indication of it. As a primary Hindu God, Nandi is traced in lineage back to ancient dairy farmers that depended on cows for their main livelihood. As their foremost source of sustenance, Nandi was worshiped as keeper of the herds. In this form he was said to be bull-faced with a body much like his hallowed Shiva, but with 4 hands. Two hands holding ax and antelope, and the other two joined in homage. In this human form, he is known as Nandikeshwara.
3. Veerbhadra Avatar of Lord Shiva
After Goddess Sati immolated herself at the Daksha Yagna, Lord Shiva became extremely furious. Lord Shiva plucked a hair strand from his head and threw it on the ground. It was from the hair strand that Veerbhadra and Rudrakali were born. It is the most fierce avatar of Shiva. He is depicted as a dark God with three fiery eyes, wearing a garland of skulls and carrying terrifying weapons. This avatar of Lord Shiva severed Daksh’s head at the Yagna.
4. Bhairava Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this avatar at the time when Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a fight over superiority. When Lord Brahma lied about his superiority, Shiva took the form of Bhairava and cut off Lord Brahma’s fifth head. Severing a Brahma’s head made Lord Shiva guilty of the crime of killing a Brahmin (Brahma hatya) and hence Shiva had to carry the skull of Brahma for twelve years and roam as a Bhikshatana. In this form, Shiva is said to guarding all the Shakti Peethas.
5. Ashwatthama of Lord Shiva
When Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison during the churning of the ocean, the poison started burning his throat. The ‘vish purush’, personification sprang out of Lord Shiva and the Lord blessed him with a boon. Lord Shiva granted him the boon that the vish purush would be born on earth as the son of Drona and would kill all the oppressive Kshatriyas. Thus the vish purush was born as Ashwatthama.
6. Sharabha Avatar of Lord Shiva
The Sharabha form of Lord Shiva is partly bird and partly lion. According to Shiv Purana, Lord Shiva took the form of Sharabha to tame Narasimha, the half-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu.
7. Grihapati Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took birth in the house of a Brahmin called Vishwanar as his son. Vishwanar named him Grihapati. When Grihapati attained the age of 9, Narada informed his parents that Grihapati was going to die. So, Grihapati went to Kashi to conquer death. Grihapati was blessed by Lord Shiva and he conquered death.
8. Durvasa Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this form to maintain discipline in the Universe. Durvasa was a great sage and was known for being short-tempered. Wherever he went, he was received with great reverence from humans and devas alike. Once Atri, the manasputra of lord Brahma, went to do penance at the bank of the river Nivindhya which flew by the foothills of Trayakshakul mountain as per the instructions of Lord Brahma himself. He commenced a tremendous penance. The effects of his penance were such that devastating flames of fire manifested from his head. The fire spread in all three worlds in no time. The deities were terrified by the death and destruction caused by the fire. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva went to Atri and blessed him. Later on Atri’s wife- Anusuya gave birth to three sons, who in fact were the incarnations of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma incarnation as the Moon, Lord Vishnu as Dutt, and Shiva took incarnation as Durvasa.
9. Hanuman Avatar of Lord Shiva
The great monkey God is also one of the avatars of Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva took birth in the form of Hanuman to serve Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of Ram. Until this day, he is known as the biggest disciple of Lord Ram. Lord Shiva was so infatuated by the appearance of lord Vishnu in his form of Mohini during the Amrit Manthan episode that his semen was released on the ground. This semen was established by the Saptarishis in the womb of Anjani, with the permission of lord Shiva himself. In this way was born the mighty Hanuman.
10. Rishabh of Lord Shiva
Avatar After the Samudra manthan, once Lord Vishnu went to the Patal Lok or the underworld. There he was infatuated with the beautiful women. Lord Vishnu had many sons during his stay there. But all his sons turned out to be cruel and monstrous. They started tormenting all Gods and humans alike. It was then Lord Shiva took the form of an ox or Vrishabha and killed all the cruel sons of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu came to fight the ox but after recognizing that it was Lord Shiva’s incarnation, he left the fight and returned to his abode.
11. Yatinath Avatar of Lord Shiva
There used to live a bheel named Aahuk on the Arbudachal mountain. His wife was Aahuka and both of them were supreme devotees of lord Shiva. Once, lord Shiva wanting to test their devotion appeared before them disguised a hermit Yatinath. Aahuk honored his guest and treated him very well. Lord Shiva then requested him to give shelter for the whole night. Aahuk expressed his inability as he had a very small hut, in which only two people could be accommodated at a time. But his wife intervened and requested Aahuk to sleep outside the hut with his arms, as it would be inappropriate on their part to miss this chance of proving their hospitality. The hermit, who in reality was lord Shiva and Aahuk’s wife slept inside the hut, while Aahuk himself slept outside. Unfortunately, Aahuk was killed by a wild animal while he was asleep. In the morning when lord Shiva found that Aahuk had died, his heart was filled with grief. But Aahuka consoled him and decided to give up her life by jumping into the burning pyre. Right then lord Shiva appeared in his real form and blessed her by saying “In his next birth your husband would take birth in a royal family. He would become Nala and you would be born as Damayanti. I would myself appear in the form of a swan and help both of you to unite.” After saying this, lord Shiva established himself as immovable Shivalinga, which later on became famous as Achaleshwar linga.
12. Krishna Darshan Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this incarnation to highlight the importance of yagna and rituals in a person’s life. As per the story, there was a king named Nabhag, who had left his home for education in a Gurukul during his childhood. Meanwhile, in his absence, his brothers distributed the entire wealth among themselves thus leaving him out of the distribution. As Nabhag returned and came to know about it, he approached the sage Angiras. The sage was trying to perform a Yajna, but was not able to. Nabhag helped him accomplish the Yajna, pleased by which, he gave him the wealth left after performing the Yajna. It was at this point that Krishna Darshan Avatar of Lord Shiva appeared and prevented sage Angiras from donating the wealth. He showed Nabhag the significance of higher spiritual attainment and salvation and hence gave the blessings.
13. Bhikshuvarya Avatar of Lord Shiva
This incarnation of Lord Shiva protects human beings from all kinds of dangers. Once a beggar was passing by a child who had just then taken birth near the banks of a pond and where his mother had died. While the newborn was crying, the beggar woman hesitated to take the baby in her lap. Lord Shiva then appeared as another beggar and advised the beggar woman to take the child and bring him up.
14. Sureshwar Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva once took the form of Indra to test one of his devotees. That is why he came to be known as Sureshwar. Once a child Upamanyu, the son of sage Vyaghrapad meditated to please Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, with an intention to test his devotion, appeared there along with Goddess Parvati, both disguised as Indra and Indrani, respectively. They not only attempted to instigate him against Lord Shiva but also promised to bless him and fulfill all his blessings. However, this could not lure the boy and his devotion for Lord Shiva proved to be true. Pleased by this, both the deities revealed their original identity and blessed the child. This form of Lord Shiva was then known as Sureshwar.
15. Keerat Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva descended in the form of a hunter or Keerat while Arjuna was meditating. Duryodhan had sent a demon named Mooka to kill Arjuna. Mooka had disguised himself as a boar. Arjuna was engrossed in his meditation when suddenly his concentration got disturbed by a loud noise. He opened his eyes and saw Mooka. He and the Keerat struck the boar at the same time with arrows. A fight broke between the Keerat and Arjuna as to who struck the boar first. Arjuna challenged Lord Shiva in the form of Keerat for a duel. Lord Shiva was pleased by Arjuna’s valor and gifted him his Pashupata.
16. Suntantarka Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this incarnation to ask the hand of Parvati in marriage from her father Himalaya.
17. Brahmachari Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this avatar to test Goddess Parvati’s love for him. After sacrificing herself in the fire of Yajna, Sati was born again as Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas. As Parvati, she wanted to marry Lord Shiva. It was as Brahmachari that Lord Shiva had tested her determination to marry him.
18. Yaksheshwar Avatar of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva took this avatar to take away the false ego from the minds of the Gods. When the deities after defeating the demons during Samudra Manthan, had become arrogant, Lord Shiva disliked it as pride was not a quality for gods to possess. Lord Shiva then presented some grass before them and asked them to cut it. It was Lord Shiva’s attempt to destroy their false pride through this divine grass. Hence, nobody could cut the grass and the pride vanished. This form of Lord Shiva then came to be known as Yaksheshwar.
19. Avadhut Avatar of Lord Shiva
This incarnation was taken by Lord Shiva to crush the arrogance of Lord Indra.