Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

28 Avatars of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva holds a significant place among the three main gods of Hinduism, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. The trinity comprises Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the protector; and Maheshwara, known as Shiva, the annihilator. Throughout history, Shiva has descended to earth multiple times in various avatars or incarnations. This article will highlight the 28 Avatars of Lord Shiva.

1. Ardhanarishvara


Ardhanarishvara form of Lord Shiva showcases a tranquil and harmonious representation. In this form, one half of the body belongs to Lord Shiva, while the other half belongs to Goddess Parvati. This unique combination embodies a sense of calmness and serenity, and it is known to bestow blessings upon devotees.

2. Ashwatthama


According to legend, Ashwatthama is referred to as the “Vish Purush,” believed to have emerged from Shiva after consuming the Halahala poison during the Samudra Manthan. He received a boon enabling him to eliminate tyrannical Kshatriyas. Prophecy states that he would be born as Bhardwaja’s grandson, raised as a Brahman, yet drawn towards the life of a Kshatriya. This Vish Purusha was eventually born as Ashwatthama to Drona and Kripi.

3. Avadhut

Lord Shiva took on this form to teach Lord Indra a lesson about being too proud. Indra thought he was very important because he was the king of all gods. One day, when Indra and the other gods were on Kailash mountain, Shiva turned into a sage. He blocked their way and didn’t move when Indra asked. Indra got angry and tried to use his powerful weapon, but it didn’t work. This made Indra realize he was too proud, and Shiva then showed his real form to him.

4. Allama Prabhu

Allama Prabhu was a lesser-known manifestation of Lord Shiva, often considered a Brahman figure closely associated with the elder Basava. He played a significant role, either as a primary instigator or subsequent assistant, in their endeavors. Over time, he assumed the role of Basava’s mentor and spiritual guide. Allama Prabhu played a crucial part in the revolutionary events at Kalyanapuri, during which King Bijala was defeated, and a new religious movement was founded.

5. Bhairava


Bhairava avatar emerged when Lord Brahma falsely claimed supremacy. In response, Lord Shiva transformed into Bhairava and removed Brahma’s fifth head. This act led to Shiva carrying the guilt of Brahminicide (Brahma Hatya), compelling him to wander as Bhikshatana with Brahma’s skull for twelve years. This form of Shiva is believed to protect all the Shakti Peethas.

6. Bhikshuvarya

The tale of Bhikshuvarya Avatar centers around King Satyarth of Vidarbha, his wife, and their son, highlighting the incarnation of Lord Shiva known as “Bhikshuvarya Avatar.” As the Kali Yuga emerged after the Mahabharata, moral boundaries blurred, leading to conflicts driven by greed. King Satyarth was slain during an attack on his kingdom, leaving his pregnant wife to seek refuge in a forest. There, she gave birth and faced a perilous encounter with a crocodile at a lake. Lord Shiva, disguised as a beggar, aided her, revealing her child’s royal heritage. The beggar woman embraced her role, and Shiva unveiled his true form, blessing the child. With Shiva’s blessings, the child grew, overcame challenges, and reclaimed the kingdom.

7. Brahmachari


In his Brahmachari avatar, Lord Shiva tested Goddess Parvati’s determination to marry him. After sacrificing her life in Daksha’s Yajna, Sati was reborn in the house of the Himalayas and undertook intense austerity to win Lord Shiva’s hand in marriage. To gauge her devotion, Shiva assumed the guise of a celibate ascetic and engaged with her. Despite facing criticism from the ascetic about Shiva, Parvati’s anger showcased her unwavering devotion. In a touching moment, Shiva revealed his true self, unveiling his divine form to a delighted and devoted Parvati.

8. Bhichhuwarya

In this form, Lord Shiva protects his all creatures from any difficulty.

9. Durvasha


Lord Shiva once assumed the form of Durvasa on Earth to uphold the universe’s discipline. Durvasa, a revered sage, was famed for his fiery temperament. With a tall frame, a long beard, and a greenish-red complexion, he donned ragged attire and wielded a sacred Bilva tree stick. Accompanied by a multitude of ten thousand disciples, he journeyed rigorously, abiding by strict vows and subsisting solely on the Durva (Dubo) herb.

10. Grihapati


Shiva incarnated as Grihapati, the son of Saint Vishwanar. Residing along the Narmada river’s banks, the saint fervently worshipped Shiva, yearning for him to become his own child. Touched by the saint’s devotion, Shiva granted his wish and was born as Grihapati, fulfilling the saint’s heartfelt prayers.

11. Harihara


Hari-hara is the name of a combined deity form of both Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara) from the Hindu tradition. Also known as Shankaranarayana (“Shankara” is Shiva, and “Narayana” is Vishnu), Harihara is thus worshipped by both Vaishnavites and Shaivities as a form of the Supreme God.

12. Hanuman


In the Shiva Purana, it is mentioned that Hanuman is considered an avatar of Lord Shiva. According to the story, when Lord Vishnu took the form of Rama and descended to Earth to defeat Ravana, Lord Shiva also manifested in the form of Hanuman. His purpose was to accompany and serve Lord Rama during his earthly journey. This tale reflects the idea that Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva complemented each other’s presence, emphasizing their interconnected roles.

13. Krishna Darshan

Lord Shiva assumed the incarnation of Krishna Darshan to emphasize the significance of rituals and yajnas in one’s life. In this story, a prince named Nabhag, who was denied his rightful share of the kingdom by his brothers, was instructed by his father to assist a sage in achieving detachment for a successful yajna. Once Nabhag fulfilled the task, Sage Angiras, impressed, intended to bestow wealth upon him. However, this was intercepted by the Krishna Darshan avatar of Shiva. Through this avatar, Shiva illustrated the importance of spiritual growth and salvation, ultimately granting Nabhag his blessings.

14. Kirateshwar


Lord Shiva assumed the guise of a hunter, Kirat (Kirateshwar Avatar), while Arjuna was engrossed in meditation, aiming to thwart the Asura Mooka, disguised as a boar. Arjuna’s meditative state was disrupted by a noise, leading him to spot the boar. Both Arjuna and Kirat shot arrows simultaneously, sparking a dispute over who hit the boar first. The disagreement escalated into a confrontation between Arjuna and Kirat. Unaware that he was challenging Lord Shiva in disguise, Arjuna displayed his courage. Upon revealing his true form, Lord Shiva commended Arjuna’s bravery and gifted him the potent Pashupata Astra, symbolizing the melding of mortal valor with divine favor.

15. Khandoba

This is another incarnation of the Lord Shiva having horse as his vehicle and loaded with the sword, trident, bowl and trident. Lord Shiva in this form is mainly worshiped in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. He is the most popular family deity in Maharashtra.

16. Mahesh

Mahesh avatar is also a peaceful form of Lord Shiva that blesses his devotees.

17. Neel Kanth

Neel Kanth

The Neel Kanth avatar holds significant importance in the mythology of Lord Shiva. It is said that during the Samudra Manthan (churning of the cosmic ocean), a potent poison (Halahala) emerged, endangering the world. In response, Lord Shiva consumed the poison to safeguard the world from its harmful effects. To prevent the poison from spreading, Mata Parvati placed her palm on his neck, allowing only the poison-free portion to be consumed. This particular manifestation of Lord Shiva is known as the Neel Kanth avatar, symbolizing his selfless act and the protective role he plays in preserving the world.

18. Nandi


Saint Shilada, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, fervently prayed for a child who would be immortal. In response to his prayers, Lord Shiva manifested as Nandi and was born as Shilada’s son. Nandi, in his divine form, serves as the esteemed gatekeeper of the sacred abode of Lord Shiva, Kailash Parvat.

19. Piplad


In ancient times, a boy named Piplad was born to the saint Dadhichi and his wife Swarcha. He was raised by his aunt, Dadhimati. As Piplad grew older, he learned about his father’s troubles with Shani, the god of Saturn. Filled with anger, Piplad cursed Shani, causing him to fall from heaven. The gods intervened and pleaded for forgiveness on Shani’s behalf. Moved by their appeal, Piplad forgave Shani but laid a condition – if Shani’s gaze ever fell upon someone, that person could be freed from the curse by worshipping Lord Shiva.

20. Suntantarka


Lord Shiva assumed this incarnation with the purpose of seeking Goddess Parvati’s hand in marriage from her father, Himalaya. Disguised as a wandering dancer, Shiva, holding a Damaru, arrived at Himachal’s residence and performed a captivating Nataraja dance. When Himachal requested alms, Shiva asked for Parvati, angering Himachal. Later, still in disguise, Shiva revealed his true form to Parvati before departing. This act led Himachal and his minister to gain divine insight, prompting them to offer Parvati to Shiva in marriage.

21. Sharabha


In an episode from Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu vanquished Hiranyakashipu by incarnating as Narasimha, a divine being with a human-lion form. Following this intense encounter, Shiva took on the Sharava avatar to calm Narasimha’s fury. Sharabha, in this incarnation, appeared as a unique fusion of lion and bird-like attributes, characterized by eight legs. This act of Shiva in the Sharava avatar played a crucial role in restoring harmony after the intense conflict between Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu.

22. Sureshwar

Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati once appeared before Upamanyu, the son of sage Vyaghrapaad, disguised as Indra and Indrani. They tested his devotion by asking him to cease his penance and worship of Shiva. Upamanyu, however, remained steadfast and refused, even in the face of their curses. Impressed by his unwavering dedication, Shiva and Parvati revealed their true forms and granted him their blessings. Shiva pledged to remain near Upamanyu’s hermitage forever, earning the name ‘Sureshwar’ due to his appearance as Indra during the test.

23. Saddhu Avatar

Lord Shiva had taken Sadhu avatar many times according to the need of his devotees.

24. Veerabhadra


Veerabhadra is the most formidable manifestation of Lord Shiva. This fearsome form emerged when Shiva was consumed by anger after the tragic demise of Sati. In the aftermath of Sati’s sacrifice, Shiva transformed into Veerabhadra. This fierce incarnation of Lord Shiva wreaked havoc by obliterating King Daksha’s grand yajna, and in a vengeful act, he beheaded King Daksha for his role in Sati’s untimely death.

25. Vrishabha


During the Samudra Manthan, Vishnu employed a clever tactic to deceive the asuras by creating an illusion of enchanting beauties. As the asuras were captivated and carried these illusory beauties to their realm, Patal Lok, the gods managed to secure the coveted Nectar. However, a surprising turn of events occurred when Vishnu ventured into Patal Lok and fell prey to Maya’s illusion. This led him to father morally questionable offspring who wreaked havoc for the gods. In response, Lord Shiva took on the form of a bull, Vrishabha, and eliminated these troublesome offspring. Recognizing Shiva’s incarnation, Vishnu abandoned the confrontation and returned to his celestial abode.

26. Vaishyanath

This is one of the main avatars of Lord Shiva to his devotees.

27. Yatinath

Shiva took on the form of Yatinath and incarnated to assess the devotion of tribal Ahuk and his wife. Assuming the role of a guest, Shiva visited their home. Tragically, Ahuk lost his life while trying to protect Shiva. His wife, however, displayed immense pride in her husband’s sacrifice. Touched by her attitude, Shiva granted them the blessing of being reborn as Nala and Damayanti in their forthcoming life.

28. Yaksheshwar

After the deities triumphed over the Asuras in the Samudra Manthan, they grew proud. This pride didn’t sit well with Lord Shiva, who believed that gods shouldn’t harbor such arrogance. To address this, Lord Shiva displayed a humble blade of grass before them and challenged them to cut it. This act aimed to shatter their false sense of superiority. However, none could sever the grass, and their pride dissolved. This manifestation of Lord Shiva became known as Yaksheshwar.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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