Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Kirateshwar:Exploring the Archer Avatar of Shiva

Within Hindu mythology, we discover a lesser-known form of Lord Shiva – the Kirateshwar Avatar. Here, Lord Shiva takes the guise of an archer, displaying remarkable finesse and skill. This incarnation reveals Shiva’s multifaceted nature, teaching us about focus, humility, and devotion. It reminds us that divinity can appear unexpectedly, guiding us on a path of spiritual growth and wisdom.

Story of Kirateshwar

The famous story of Kirateshwar is found in the Mahabharata. This story is divided into eighteen parts, called cantos, and it tells about Arjuna‘s fight with Lord Shiva. It’s also known as the ‘Story of Kiratarjuniya’.

The Exile and Sage Vyasa’s Advice

During the period of exile in the epic Mahabharata, the Pandavas received guidance from Sage Vyasa. He advised them to use this time to appease the Gods and enhance their strength. One of the Pandavas, Arjuna, chose to propitiate Indra to gain more power. He embarked on a journey to the Indrakila Hill and began rigorous austerities.

Indra’s Advice and Arjuna’s Austerity

Appearing before Arjuna, Indra suggested that he seek blessings from Lord Shiva. Only Mahadeva possessed the ability to grant a warrior formidable weapons. Taking Indra’s counsel to heart, Arjuna embarked on a path of intense penance. His diet consisted solely of dry leaves and fallen fruits. The intensity of his penance led to the emanation of heat from the earth, causing hardship for living beings.

Lord Shiva’s Arrival as Kirata

After witnessing Arjuna’s dedication, Lord Shiva chose to manifest as Kirata, a hunter. As Shiva approached Arjuna, a demon in the form of a boar emerged, poised to attack. Arjuna and Kirata simultaneously released arrows, resulting in the boar’s defeat. Both claimed responsibility for the kill, sparking a verbal dispute that escalated into a fierce battle.

The Intense Battle and Divine Manifestations


The conflict began with a clash of arrows, only to progress to swords, missiles, and more. Arjuna’s attempts were consistently countered by Kirata’s formidable defenses. When Arjuna employed fire missiles, Kirata retaliated with rain missiles. Even the potency of the Nagastra was diminished by Kirata’s mastery of the Garudastra. The battle eventually escalated to hand-to-hand combat, where Kirata effortlessly overpowered Arjuna.

The Realization and Transformation

As the battle raged on, Arjuna gradually realized that Kirata was no ordinary human. In a moment of clarity, he collected clay and fashioned a Shivling, adorning it with forest flowers. These flowers mysteriously gravitated towards Kirata’s head. In an act of surrender, Arjuna prostrated at the feet of Shiva, recognizing the divine presence.

Blessings of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva blessed Arjuna

In response to Arjuna’s humility and devotion, Shiva revealed his true form, seated atop Nandi. The mighty Lord Shiva blessed Arjuna with the Pashupatastra, a powerful weapon. This divine gift bestowed upon Arjuna immense strength and prowess that extended beyond the physical realm. Arjuna’s encounter with Shiva as Kirata not only showcased Lord Shiva’s multifaceted nature but also underscored the significance of devotion, humility, and recognizing the divine presence in unexpected forms.

Worship and Temples

While Kirateshwar isn’t as commonly worshipped as other forms of Lord Shiva, there are temples dedicated to this unique version. The Kirateshwar Mahadeva Temple in Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal, is a well-known pilgrimage site. There, people pray and seek blessings from Lord Kirateshwar. Another Kirateshwar Mahadeva Temple is found in Legship, West Sikkim, India, by the River Rangeet. The temple is also called Kirateshwar Mahadeva Thaan by the Kirati people or simply known as Shiv Mandir.


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

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