Bhagwan Shiv

Five basic incarnations of Bhagavan Siva

 While narrating the contents of Shata Rudra Samhita of Siva Purana of Maharshi Veda Vyasa, Suta Muni addressed the congregation of Sages commencing the five major incarnations of Bhagavan Siva:




Aghoresha and


  The Sadyojata incarnation of Bhagavan in white colour was to bless Lord Brahma to initiate the process of ‘Srishti’(Creation), looking Westward and the Invocation of relevance is: Sadyojatam prapadyaami Sadyojathaayavai namo namah/ bhavey bhaveynaati bhavebhasvamaam Bhavodbhavayanamah/ From the body of Sadyojata, four disciples were created viz. Sunad, Sunandan, Visvanandan, Upanandan. Greetings to Sadyojata Siva are: Vandeham Salalam kalankarahitam Sthonormukham paschimam.

The Vamadeva incarnation of Siva has red complexion, looks Northward in deep meditative posture and is along with four sons created from His physique viz. Viraj, Vivah, Vishok and Visvabhavan for blessing Lord Brahma to preserve and heal the objects of Creation.. Invocation to Him states: Vamadevaya namo Jyeshthaya namah Jyeshthayanamo Rudraya namah Kalaaya namah kalavikaranaya namo balavikaranaya namo balaaya namo balapramadhanaya namah Sarva bhuta damanaaya namo manonmanaaya namah. Greetings to Vamadeva are: Vandey Purna Sasaanka mandala nibham Vaktram Harasyottharam.

Siva’s incarnation of Aghoresha looks South and of blue complexion representing destructive/ regenerative energy and Invocation to Siva states: Aghorebhyo thagorebhyo ghora ghoratarebhyaha/ Sarvebhyassarva sarvebhyo namasthe astu Rudra rupebhyah. The sons of Aghora Siva are Krishna, Krishna Sikha, Krishna Mukha and Krishna Kantha dhari. Greetings to Aghora states: Vande Dakshina -meeswarasya kutila bhrubhanga Roudram Mukham.

is the Eastward incarnation of Maha Siva being of yellow complexion and of deluded or misled Purusha. Invocation to Tatpurusha states: Tat Purushaya vidmahe Maha Devaaya dhimahi tanno Rudrah Prachodayaath. Salutation to this aspect of Siva is: Vande Siddha Suraasurendra namitam Purva Mukham Sulinaha.

Finally, Easana facing South East is Sada Siva who is Eternal, Omni Potent and Omni Present. The Prayer to Him states: Esanassarva Vidyanam Eswarassarva Bhootanam Brahmadhi patir Brahmanodhi pathir Brahma Sivemo astuh Sada Sivom!  

While many Incarnations of Siva are cited, the most significant additions to the Pancha Mukhas or Five Faces of Siva are described as Ashta Murtis (Eight Idols) viz.  Sharva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, Pasupati, Isana, Maha Deva. Bhava, Rudra and Sharva represent the Five Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Ether, Sky as also Sun, Moon, and Kshetragya or the Supreme Soul. Bhagavan Siva is Sharva and omniscient. He is Bhava or the bestower and merciful.He is Rudra the corrector or punisher, if need be. He is spread out the whole Universe and is present ‘Bahyantara’ or inside-out of each being thus manifested as Ugra rupa. He who fulfils the wants of every animate or inanimate being and destroys all kinds of difficulties is called Bhima. To those who are unable to pull out themselves from their worldly chains of desires, relationships, senses of earthly belongings and so on, Bhagavan manifests as Pasutpati. That Siva who is noticeable in the most radiant form of Sun on the Skies and stands evidence to every being’s actions and sufferings is called Isana.  Siva who provides coolness and happiness to every being as manifested in Moon is known as Maha Deva.

The Ardhanariswar is another significant manifestation of Bhagavan. When Lord Brahma was faced with a major limitation in the context of Creation of various species including human beings and the process of creation was extremely slow, since Brahma had to exert and create the living beings mainly in a ‘Manasic’ way or from various parts of His body, a celestial voice was heard that He should perform Tapasya to Bhagavan Siva. Not too late, Siva manifested in half form as Purusha and half as Prakriti. He then provided a solution to Brahma as to how the process of creation could be rapidly sped up. Devi Prakriti bestowed the knowledge of the Secret of creation as also gave away the boons to men and women to procreate. This solution had indeed greatly facilitated Lord Brahma whose task was  lightened as only the guidelines of the beings to be born were still to be decided by way of fate lines and account-keeping of pluses and minuses and so on, but creation process became mechanical as the body parts of men and women came into existence eversince. Another interpretation of learned persons of course is that Paramatma is only one and has no age, time, Tatvas, Gunas or sex but is Unique and everlasing!

In the Current Seventh Manvantara comprising Four Yugas each repeating twelve times cyclically, the Sveta Varaha Kalpa which is now ongoing has manifested various Avatars of Siva; during the current First Phase of Kali Yuga, nine entries were registered and the successive ‘dwars’ (segments) witnessed manifestations of Lord Siva, as Sveta, Sutra, Daman, Suhotra, Kanka, Lokakshi, Jaijisatya, Dadhivahan, and Rishabhadeva. Interestingly, Veda Vyas existed in all the nine segments as Satya, Bhargava, Angira, Savita, Mrityu, Indra, Vasishtha and Sarasvat. The most reputed disciples in the corresponding segments were Lord Brahma Himself, Dundubhi, Vishoka, Sumukh, Sanak, Sudhama, Sarswat, Kapil and Parashar.

Nandikeswar is a partial expansion of Lord Siva Himself. Sage Shailada meditated to Bhagavan for several years and secured a boon for a son of unprecedented Spiritual Knowledge and therafter in a Fire Sacrifice appeared a Child with four hands and three eyes who became a prodigy of Vedic comprehension within a short span of seven years. The Sage was extremely delighted and proud. But, two Brahmanas arrived at their abode and prophesied that the child was fated to die soon. As the Sage heard the tragic news, the son was not perturbed but performed high order of penance and Bhagavan Himself appeared and blessed the boy with eternal life. He took out a garland worn by Him to let Him imbibe His powers and sprinkled water from His locks as the water flowed as Panchanad or Five Rivers. He also appointed the boy as the Chief of Sivaganas. Devi Parvati brought him up as Her own son and gave Nandiswara full freedom in the Household. Nandi wedded Suyasha, the daughter of Marut.

Bhairav was created from Bhagavan Siva’s third eye as He decided to snip the fifth head of Brahma who annoyed the Lord for the sin of temptation with his own daughter. But the sin of removing a head of Brahma construed as ‘Brahma hatya’ (killing a Brahmana that too of the stature of Brahma) haunted Bhairava and he wished to atone the sin by begging alms in the skull of the dropped Head. He reached Vaikuntha and Lakshmi Devi gifted a Vidya or learning called ‘Manorath’ or fulfilment of one’s mental wishes. Lord Siva dropped oegrass (a plant in sea akin to elephant grass) in the skull-bowl and directed Bhairava to Kasi as this sin of Brahmahatya could not enter the Temple but he went to Patalaloka intead. As Bhairava dropped the skull, he got rid of the sin for-ever.The place where the skull fell is regarded as that of ‘Kapala Moksha’ or Salvation of the Skull.

Sharabheswar is another incarnation of Maha Deva, in the curious form of a giant bird which is part-lion and part-human [depicted as a figure in the Temples of South India]. When Lord Vishnu assumed the incarnation of Narasimha (Man-Lion) and devastated the Demon Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahlada- the die-hard devotee of Vishnu, Narasimha continued His fury for a long time and various efforts including Prahlad’s prayers and even Veerabhadra’s intervention in the form of a mighty fight proved futile. The Giant Bird was able to control Narasimha and flew the latter away held by its beak. On way, Lord Vishnu recovered His normalcy and praised Siva for averting a universal havoc. The body of Narasimha was destroyed and its Lion’s Head was worn in a garland of Sharabhevara or Lord Siva.

They had the constant grudge against the Devas and hence kept up the tempo of tormenting them frequenly. Devas complained to Brahma who took them to Siva but were referred to Vishnu instead. In a Yagna that Vishnu organised numerous Spirits with powerful weapons emerged from the Homa Kunda and they were all despatched to fight the Demon brothers but it became clear that they were indeed invincible as long as they hold themselves to virtues and religion and hence ways and means would have to be found when they ought to step into ways of argument and even vice. Thus Vishnu created a person named Arihan from His body who could produce discourses on action- oriented life based on reasoning as against the established Vedic Scriptures based on beliefs, faith and ‘Karmakanda’ ( approved rituals); in other words, it was  religion vs. skepticism. Thus the slow-poison type of atheism was gradually injected into the minds of the Demon Brothers and from them into the social fabric.Arihan congregated disciples- Rishi, Yati, Keerya and Upadhya- to spread out the non- belief principles in no time as the Demon Brothers temselves became victims of the so-called rationalism and thus the ground for the killings of the brothers was well prepared and the Deities beseeched Bhagavan to take the much awaited action of destroying the so called ‘Invincible’ Castles till Dharma was practised and kill the Brothers and followers. Siva prayed to Ganesha to destroy obstacles (‘Vighnas’) as an intial step, Viswakarma fabricated a Powerful Chariot, Devas gifted several armouries, and Lord Siva used His ‘Pasupatastra’ the Supreme Arrow, the unparalleled weapon.The Demon Brothers knowing fully of their fate, begged Siva to pardon them and the Most Merciful Bhagavan blessed the Brothers to join His army of ‘Sivaganas’ for the highly religious deeds and devotion that they performed in their lives in the past.

Bhagavan Siva’s annihilating of Demon Jalandhar was the legend further described by Lord Brahma to Devarshi Narada. A child was born at the terminating point of River Ganges and the Ocean, known as Gangasagar. As the child was crying loud incessantly, the attention of Deities and Sages was drawn to Lord Brahma, who appeared on the spot and prophesied that he was destined to become a King of Demons known for his ferocity and could be killed only by Bhagavan Siva. The Lord named the child as Jalandhar since he had so much of energy that he hurt the neck of Brahma and the latter had tears in His eyes! The Lord entrusted the child’s upbringing to the care of the Sea. Jalandhar grew and married Vrinda the daughter of Kalanemi the Demon King and eventually became the King himself. In course of time, Jalandhar occupied Indra’s seat in a battle and the latter and the Devas approached Vishnu who nodoubt subdued Jalandhar but Lakshmi Devi requested Vishnu to not only spare the Demon as She considered the latter as Her brother since both of them were associated with Samudra Deva (the Sea) but even allow Jalandhar to stay in ‘Kshirasagara’ along with Her! Devas were hurt but had to suffer.
Meanwhile Narada created a problem to Jalandhar that his riches and powers were not at all comparable to Lord Siva who was not only the mightiest but His Consort Parvati was the most attractive in the entire World. The Demon was tempted and asked Rahu to mediate for his possession of Parvati. Bhagavan became furious and threw out Rahu as he was only an emissary. Jalandhar was unable to overcome his obsession for Parvati and approached Her with the proposal of marrying Her. She became motionless with such a ghastly proposal and informed of this incident to Vishnu. The latter pacified Parvati by saying that He would apply the same method of approaching Jalandhar’s wife Vrinda as a Brahmana and she would be also stunned in the same manner as Parvati when Jalandhar approached Her. Sometime later Vishnu impersonated like Jalandhar and pretended as her husband and on learning of the truth she ended her life while cursing Vishnu that His wife would also face a similar situation. [Indeed this did happen likewise when Ravana abducted Sita and Rama was searching for Her all over!] Jalandhar provoked the Demon Brothers Sumbh and Nisumbh to challenge Siva who reataliated almost killing them and warned them that not long later Bhagavati Herself kept the task of destroying them. Jalandhar himself entered the battle field with Bhagavan and He slit the Demon’s head with a fiery ‘chakra’ produced from His toe! The Deities hailed Bhagavan for this memorable action and prayed to Him in great relief and gratitude. While Devas were delighted at the termination of Jalandhar, Lord Vishnu was suffering a guilt complex about the self immolation executed by Vrinda, the wife of Jalandhar. He applied the ashes of her burnt body all over His body and started performing penance. The Devas were concerned about His condition and approached Maha Siva, who in turn asked Parvati to rally the support of Lakshmi and Sarasvati in this context. The three Devis gave the seeds of three trees viz. Amla, Tulsi and Malati to the Deities and spray the seeds at the place where Vrinda immolated.The seeds manifested as plants which were forwarded to Vishnuloka as tokens of blessings to Vrinda’s soul at Vaikuntha.

Sankhachooda was a powerful Demon dreaded by Devas. In his earlier birth, he was Sudama, the Chief Attendant of Lord Krishna’s Rasa Mandali and a ‘Jatismara’ ( a person who knew about his earlier birth), cursed by Devi Radha to become a Demon in the ensuing birth.  Sudama he fell in love with Devi Tulasi (also a Jatismara) who was also cursed by Devi Radha for an indiscretion; happily Sankhachooda and Tulasi were united in the current birth again. Already fortified with ‘Narayana Kavacha’ even from his earlier life, Sankhachooda practised penance of a high order and secured boons of invincibility from Lord Brahma. He defeated Devas in fierce battles and dislodged Indra and Devas from thier thrones. Devas went into hiding and later on approached Lords Brahma, Vishnu and finally to Maha Deva with their woes. Siva despatched a Messenger Pushpadanta to warn the Demon who had the audacity inviting Siva Himself. Sivaganas were sent in the lead but to no impact. Bhadrakali was asked to battle along with Her army but again to no avail! All the Devas were involved in the fierce battle with Kartikeya and Ganesha in the lead; Mahendra was pitted against Vrishaparva, Bhaskara against Viprachitti, Agni Deva against the Demon Gokarna, Kubera against Kalakeya, Yama to Samhara, Sanesvara against Raktadhara, Eleven Rudras against Eleven Bhayankaras and so on. The Illustrious Sons of Maheswara were controlled by Maya. Lord Brahma utilised ‘Brahmastra’ the Powerful Arrow whose usage is executed only under exceptional circumstances and that too paled away. Lord Vishnu spread out a cover of Illusion (Maya) and approached Sankhachooda in the form of a Brahmana and asked the ‘Narayana Kavacha’, the most potent spiritual armoury from his body, as charity and the Demon gave it away under the influence of Maya. Vishnu also advised Lord Siva against utilising the ‘Pasupatastra’ for fear of collosal destruction of the Universe but gifted to Eswara a ‘Trisula’ (Trident) with which Siva finally devastated the dreadful Demon Sankachooda. Even as the army of the Demon ran helter-skelter in fright and self-defence, the blanket of ‘Maya’ of Lord Vishnu was still in operation as He assumed the Form of the Demon who entered the Interior Chamber of Devi Tulasi who was immensely pleased that her husband returned with Victory from the battle field. Though initially rejoiced, Tulsi came to learn of Vishnu’s unforgivable deceit and disguise, but Her chastity was spoilt by that time already! Not only she lost her husband but even her chastity and thus she sacrificed her life, while cursing Vishnu to turn as a Stone! Vishnu blessed Tulsi to welcome her to Vishnu loka and accepted her as one of His Consorts as also become immortal as Tulasi Tree worthy of daily worship along with ‘Salagramas’ or Lord Vishnu’s manifestation- the Stones- as cursed by Tulasi! The spiritual and even medicinal uses of Devi Tulasi’s leaves are immense and popular; the contemporary belief is that if a dying person is administered a leaf of Tulsi, preferably with Ganga water has access to Vishnu loka!

Lord Brahma also narrated the account of another Demon Andhakasura to Narada. When Devi Parvati was playful with Maha Deva by closing His eyes tightly, the latter perspired on His forehead and a boy of muscular strength was created whom Parvati named as Andhaka. She nurtured the boy with affection under Her personal care. As the Demon Hiranyaksha meditated for several years to seek longevity and unconquerability, Lord Siva gave the boons and also gifted Andhaka to assist the Demon as his son. Together, both Hiranaksha and Andhaka conquered the Three Worlds- the Heaven, Earth and the Nether world. Lord Vishnu had to take the form of a Boar as ‘Varahavatara’ to save Vedas by plunging the Scriptures into the deep Seas, destroyed Hiranyaksha and crowned Andhaka as a the King of the Nether World. In course of time, Andhaka made Tapasya to Brahma and secured a boon that none excepting his father Siva could destroy him. Empowered with the boon, he tormented Devas and became arrogant even ignoring Devi Parvati and Maha Deva Himself, let alone Vedas and Sages.

Earlier to this, Danava Guru, Sukracharya noticed that the strength of Danava Army was fast dwindling as each time a powerful Danava made attempts to occupy the Indraloka by virtue of  severe ‘Tapasya’or Sacrifice by pleasing Brahma or Siva, Indra and Vishnu commenced maneuverings; in the process of the big Danavas getting killed, thousands of supporting and  less powerful Danavas perished, but the strength of Devas on the other hand had been intact as they had the advantage of ‘Amrit’ that made Devas live for ever! Therefore Sukracharya made exterme Tapasya to Lord Siva for thousand years to Lord Siva to give the boon of ‘Mrita Sanjivani’ Mantra (Providing the dead to come alive) to such lesser valued demons who were fodder to the Deva’s Astras. Highly gladdened by the persistent penance, Lord Siva not only gave away the Mantra but also provided a berth in the Planetary Region as an Entity-the Sukra Graha or the Planet of Venus.As Andhaka’s arrogance was turned into unbridled ambition and occupied the Devalokas, Maha Deva sent His Sivaganas to reprimand Andhaka. The Demon’s companion called Vidhas swallowed several Deities engaged in the fight and simultaneously Sukracharya brought back to life the dead Danavas. A fiery Siva Himself appeared and devoured Sukracharya for the betrayal and misuse of His boon of Mrita Sanjivini Vidya. The Danava Guru who kept on reciting Om Namah Sivaya Mantra as a gesture of his regret, Siva released the Danava Guru from His semen. Then Siva applied His Trident to kill Andhaka but for each drop of blood, there was another Andhaka born; Maha Deva ordered Devi Chandika to suck each drop of blood and expanded her tongue for till the Demon’s body was drenched out of blood. Later on Siva lifted the bloodless body of Andhaka, but the Demon prayed to Siva to admit him among the Sivaganas after death.
Lord Brahma narrated the tale of Gajasura too to Narada Muni. As Durga Devi destroyed Mahishasura, his son Gajasura did incredible penance to the Creator Brahma and received the advantage that none excepting a ‘Jitendriya’ (Controller of Senses) could kill him. He took advantage of the boon and created havoc in the Three Worlds, especially by distressing Deities, Maharshis, and Brahmanas. He coerced that he should be worshipped and none else. The climax came when the Demon forced the devotees at Kasi to worship him and Maha Deva appeared and terminated Gajasura. While being killed the Demon realised his sins and as a death wish entreated Siva to wear his skin on His body. As He obliged the asura, Maha Deva is praised as Gajambaradhari. The Lord ordered that at the spot of the Demon’s end there must be a Siva Linga with His manifestation as Krittiveseshvar.

When Hiranaksha was killed, Diti was deeply grieved and Nirhad Daitya, the maternal uncle of Prahlada, decided that the root cause of all the tribulations for the Daityas were Vedas and Mantras. As Brahmanas were the performers of Yagnas and the Vedic Rites, the Demon took the form of a tiger in a forest nearby and during the course of a Yagna at Kasi which is the Center of Vedic activities, he used to kill as many Brahmanas as possible in the nights and after the success of this experiment, more Daityas followed suit.But, when several Brahmanas assembled worshipping a Siva Linga on a Sivaratri, a tiger appeared and Lord Himself gave a powerful blow and terminated the Daitya in the form of another tiger.

Yet another incident described by Brahma to Narada related to the death of two Demons named Vidal and Utpal. They too performed penance to Lord Brahma and after obtaining boons harassed the virtuous and the learned. The Deities complained to Brahma and He confirmed that the the terminl stage of theirs was closeby. The demons took the form of Sivaganas when Siva and Parvati were engrossed in a ball game. Siva indicated to Parvati about the Demons in the form of Sivaganas and the ball with which the Super Gods were playing hit hard the Demons to instant death and the ball took the shape of a Holy Sivalinga.

 [Such Leelas or Playful acts by Bhagavan, as narrated by Brahma to His ‘Manasa Putra’ Narada, were several, each of which vindicating victory of Virtue over Evil, faith over non-belief and truth over illusion. Interestingly, there had been a pattern in the happenings as the demoniac tendency of the Evil-doers was camouflaged with superficial penance and sacrifice, only with the end-objective of executing evil deeds with deliberation and design. As soon as boons are granted, the Devils tend to become arrogant, egoistic and berserk without fear or restraint. At the end, all such happenings end up as triumphs of Inner Beauty versus inherent beastliness. Another facet of the narrations is a common phenomenon of Danavas seeking boons for wrong objectives and the boon-granters like Brahma or Siva were indeed not unaware of the consequent run-up of blatant acts of injustice being perpetrated by the evil persons. But apparently the narrations are designed to teach lessons and alert the generations of posterity that despite initial results, the long run realities would assert themselves bringing out the basic fact of ‘Satyameva Jayatey’ or Truth Triumphs in the Long Run!]

Shiva Purana Home Damaru Next:Lord Sivas ten incarnations corresponding to those of Shakti

Back to the News Page