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We are all familiar with the Dashavatar or the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu. But do you know that Lord Shiva also has avatars? In fact, Lord Shiva has 19 avatars. An avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity in human form on earth. Usually, the prime motive of an avatar is to destroy evil and make life easy for other human beings.
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 the ultimate motive of welfare of humankind.
So, if you want to know more about the 19 avatars of Lord Shiva, then read on.
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 bad planetary position of Shani. So, Piplaad cursed Shani and caused the planet to fall from its celestial abode. Later, he forgave Shani on a 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.
Nandi or the great bull is the mount of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Nandi in many parts of India. The Nandi avatar of Lord Shiva is seen as the protector of the herds. He is depicted as bull faced with four hands. The two hands are seen holding an axe and an antelope while the other two are joined.
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.
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 guard all the Shakti Peethas.
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.
The Sharabha form of Lord Shiva is part bird and part lion. According to Shiv Purana, Lord Shiva took the form of Sharabha to tame Narasimha, the half lion avatar of Lord Vishnu.
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.
Lord Shiva took this form to maintain discipline in the Universe. Durvasa was a great sage and was known for being short-tempered.
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.
After the Samudra manthan, once Lord Vishnu went to the Patal Lok or the underworld. There he was infatuated by 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 recognising that it was Lord Shiva's incarnation, he left the fight and returned to his abode.
There was once a tribal man named Aahuk. He and his wife were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. One day Lord Shiva visited them in the form of Yatinath. Since they had a very small hut which could accommodate only two people, Aahuk decided to sleep outside and let the guest sleep in. Unfortunately Aahuk was killed by a wild animal at night. In the morning, finding Aahuk dead, his wife decided to kill herself. Then Lord Shiva appeared in his real form and blessed her with a boon that she and her husband will be reborn as Nala and Damayanti and Lord Shiva would unite them.
Krishna Darshan Avatar
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 the 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.
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.
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 fulfil 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.
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 valour and gifted him his Pashupata.
Lord Shiva took this incarnation to ask the hand of Parvati in marriage from her father Himalaya.
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.
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.
This incarnation was taken by Lord Shiva to crush the arrogance of Lord Indra.