The Hindu Pantheon

Lord Shiva’s Ten Well known Avatars

​Sanchita Chowdhury for

shiva avatars lineup

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. Here are 10 of Lord Shiva most well known avatars

Piplaad Avatar

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 Avatar

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.

Veerbhadra Avatar

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.

Veerbhadra Avatar1

Bhairava Avatar

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.


Ashwatthama Avatar

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.

Sharabha Avatar

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.


Grihapati Avatar

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.

Durvasa Avatar

Lord Shiva took this form to maintain discipline in the Universe. Durvasa was a great sage and was known for being short-tempered.

Durvasa Lord Shiva

Hanuman Avatar

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.

krishna hanuman

Rishabh Avatar

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.

Nandi Avatar

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