Lord Shiva, the lord of destruction is the one of the most revered Hindu deity. He has a dedicated branch of devotees called shaivs. Everybody knows about Lord Shiva but a few are aware of his avatars. Here are the 10 avatars of Lord Shiva that will surprise you and also enhance your faith in him.
1. Krishna Darshan Avatar: Rishi Angiras was one of the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. He performed a yagya to appease the Lord but his worldly attachments prevented him from attaining his goal. Cosmic games are at times mysterious. The Lord wanted to accept the love and devotion of the Rishi and he had planned it way before rishi Angiras could have ever imagined. There lived a young prince called Nabhag who left his kingdom while he was a child to receive divine knowledge and education. On returning to his kingdom he discovered that his father had distributed the kingdom to his siblings completely without considering his stake. Nabhag rightly demanded his fair share from his father upon which his father directed him to Rishi Angiras for guidance. Nabhag then went to Angiras and preached his divine knowledge which led him to overcome his worldly attachments and complete his yagya. Pleased with Nabhag, the Rishi gave him the wealth that was left during yagya, however, Lord Shiva lay claim to this wealth as it was the part of the Yagya and manifested as Krishna Avatar hence providing salvation to Nabhag. Thus Nabhag received the ultimate wealth eventually.
2. Sharabha Avatar: The legend has it that Lord Vishnu took the form of Narasimha to kill the demon king Hiranyakashyap but his wrath didn’t subside even after killing the demon and he went on a spree of blind destruction. The entire existence of the world was in danger. It was then when Lord Shiva took avatar of Sharabha, an eight-legged part lion and part bird creature possessing more strength than any other beast. The Sharabha Avatar is hence attributed to pacifying Lord Vishnu’s Narasimha Avatar.
3. Piplaad Avatar: Lord Shiva being happy with Rishi Dadhichi took birth as his son named Piplaad, however, Rishi Dadhichi left his house even before the birth of his newborn son. This dismayed the young Piplaad and on probing about his father’s behavior he came to know that his father left him because of Lord Shani’s cosmic placement during his birth. This infuriated the young manifestation of Lord Shiva and he cursed Shani due to which Shani lost his prestige and home. Later he accepted Shani’s apology and lifted the curse only on the condition that Shani would not trouble anyone till the age of 16.
4. Ashwatthama Avatar: The mighty warrior son of Drone only a few know was actually an avatar of Lord Shiva. During the great Samudra Manthan lord Shiva took the onus of handling the poison that came out of the sea. He stored all the poison in his throat and gained the title of Neelkantha. This poison started burning the throat of Lord Shiva and a Vishpurush sprang out of it. Lord Shiva blessed the vishpurush that he would take birth as the son of Drona and would get the opportunity to kill kshatriyas.
5. Yaksheshwar Avatar: The legend has it that during the Samudra Manthan, amrut and visha both were produced. Everybody craved for the amrut but neither the devtas nor the asuras wanted the poison. Eventually, the devtas received the amrut and with it arrogance. They were so overpowered that not only they defeated the asuras but also developed huge ego. It was then that Lord Shiva took the form of a Yaksha to slay their ego and hence Yaksheswar Avatar was manifested.
6. Yatinath Avatar: Not much is known about this avatar apart from the story that there was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva called Ahuk. Lord Shiva was so happy with his pure devotion that he paid him a visit as Yatinath. Since Ahuk lived in a small hut, he let the Lord sleep inside the hut and slept in the open himself. Unfortunately Ahuk was killed during the night and upon seeing this his wife also decided to end her life. This is when Yatinath expressed his real form in front of his wife and blessed her that they would reunite as a couple in form of Nal and Damayanti in the Mahabharat Era.
7. Grihapati Avatar: Once upon a time there lived a staunch shaiv devotee brahmin called wishvanar. Satisfied by his devotion, Lord Shiva took birth as his son Grihapati. When Grihapati was just 9 years old his family was visited by sage Narad who informed them that Grihapati would soon die. Upon hearing this Grihapati made it a point that he would conquer death itself, and that’s exactly what he achieved at Kashi.
8. Durvasa Avatar: Known for his short temper and anger, this avatar of Lord Shiva was born as a son to Rishi Atri and Mata Anusuya. The legend has it that Durvasa was full of Lord Shiva’s wrath. He is also indirectly attributed to the great Samudra Manthan. The story has it that once Rishi Durvasa was roaming freely and suddenly he spotted a beautiful nymph. He asked her to give him the garland of flowers that adorned her. Knowing the notorious nature of Durvasa, she was more than happy to hand over the garland to him. Further on his course, Durvasa saw Lord Indra mounted on his elephant Airawat and praised by the fellow Devas. Durvasa, who was still in a state of ecstasy threw the garland at Indira as a sign of respect. Indra, however, gave the garland to Airawat who threw it on the ground. What followed was obvious, Indra got cursed and was routed by asuras. As a solution to his defeat, the Samudra Manthan took place in order to restore the cosmic balance.
9. Keerat Avatar: Lord Shiva took the avatar of Keerat(hunter) during the Mahabharat era in order to test and protect Arjuna. The story has it that once Duryodhana had hired an assassin called mooka to kill Arjuna while he was meditating. Mooka disguised himself as a wild boar and ran towards Arjuna. Luckily, Arjun’s concentration shattered and he lifted his bow to shoot an arrow towards the boar. But as luck may have it, the Keerat shot the boar at the same time. What ensued was a battle between Arjuna and Keerat over who owns the hunt. Impressed by Arjuna’s valor, Lord Shiva granted him the pashupatiastra.
10. Bhikshuvarya Avatar: The kingdom of Vidharbha was ruled by a king called Satyarath who was killed in a battle. His pregnant wife somehow saved her life by running into the nearby forest where she gave birth to a baby boy. Being tired due to the labor pain, she went to a nearby river to quench her thirst where she was unfortunately killed by a crocodile. The newborn prince was now an orphan and was crying desperately. On hearing the cries of the baby, a beggar with a little child of her own approached the prince, however, was hesitant to help him. Immediately Lord Shiva manifested as Bhikshuvarya Avatar and instructed the beggar to take care of the baby prince and also granted her a boon that no harm would come to her.
-by Avinash Srivastava