Avatars of Lord Shiva: 35 incarnations and 11 Rudra Avatars

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Lord Shiva is Supreme God.

Everything is made by them. They always do welfare of devotee.

Lord Shiva photo

Lord Shiva appear on earth in Saakar form.
Today I write about different avatars of Lord Shiva. Also I describe various forms of Shiva, list of Avatars and some rare stories with Rudra Avatar. It is from shatarudra Samhita of Shiv Mahapuran.

Here is all incarnations I will explain,

  • Brahmchari Avatar
  • Sunatnartaka avatar
  • Vishnubhakta Brahmin Avatar
  • Avatar of Nandi
  • Rudra Avatar – 11 forms
  • Jyotirlinga Avatars – 12 Shivlingam Avatars
  • Shree Hanuman: Known as 11th Rudra Avatar
  • Eight murthis Avatar – 8 form in Universe
  • Virabhadra Avatar
  • Incarnation of Avadhuteshwar
  • Sharabha Avatar
  • Durvasa Avatar
  • Ashwatthama Avatar
  • Ardhanarishwar Avatar
  • Sureshwar Avatar
  • Kirat Avatar
  • Bhairav Avatar
  • Piplaad avatar

Before we see Brahmchari Avatar, let’s first see why Lord Shiva need to take it…

Shiva Parvati Story and three Avatars

Parvati born in home of Himalay as second Avatar after Devi Sati.

Once Naarad come and tell Himalay about husband of Parvati in future. He say characteristics of them. By listening, Mena and Himalay become sad because they not know reality.
Mena and Himalaya interpret in wrong way, they think that future husband of Parvati stay in cremation, having ash on body, without patents.

But Parvati know, they are Lord Shiva. She know the real form of them.

Lord Shiva giving blessing photo

She want them as Husband and it is only her wish.

After she go to place where Lord Shiva meditate. 

Parvati serve to Shiva everyday, she bring flowers and worship them.

Once Parvati bring flowers. At that time, kamadeva appear and shoot arrow to Shiva. Lord Shiva know it, they become angry.

By their third eyes, kamadeva destroyed. His Rati request Shiva to get back her husband. They say that in Dwapar Yuga, he will born as son of Krishna who is “Pradumna”. At that time you will meet him.

After Shiva goes but Parvati not able to please them. So she decide to leave home and penance for Mahadev to please them.

Brahmcharya Avatar

After Devi Parvati do Tapascharya to get them her Husband. For testing devotion, Lord Shiva first send Saptarshi (seven sages). They say different things about God Shiva and tell that Shri Vishnu may be better option for her to marry.

But Devi Parvati has strong devotion toward Mahadev, she say no to Saptarshi. As Lord Shiva see her dedication, they further want to test.

So they take Avatar of Brahmchari, go to place of Parvati’s Tapascharya.

When Parvati see him, she give resepect and ask the reason to come.

Brahmchari says that he is Brahmin and stay in Forest.

He ask to Parvati, what is reason behind this tapascharya?

Parvati explain her wish to marry Lord Shiva.

Brahmchari describe Shiva’s imperfections/fault and say that he will not perfect for you.

Parvati become angry, she says, one should kill a person who insult Lord Shiva. If he is Brahmin then one should go away from place.

She further say to Brahmchari, You say that you know about Mahadev but in reality you don’t know anything. Mahadev is infinite who is reason for everything.

Parvati then say to her friends to go away from this place or else Brahmin may say something again.

As she going to leave, Lord Shiva appear in real form, A form in which Parvati remember them, because she pass in exam.

Mahadev accept her wish and become husband of her.

Parvati pray to Lord Shiva

For asking hand of Parvati, they took Avatar of Sunatnartaka.

Sunatnartaka Avatar

As Lord Shiva granted wish, they took this Avatar.

When Parvati go to palace, one time Lord Shiva come at Himalaya. They are Sunatnartaka means one who is great Dancer.

Lord Shiva dance in this Avatar toward Himalaya.

Himalaya impressed so much that he say to ask anything from him.

Sunatnartaka ask Hand of Parvati.

King Himalaya become angry as he not know real form of dancer. He give order to make Dancer as prisnor.

At that time, he see various Devtas, Vishnu in Sunartaka and God Shiva disappeared.

By this event, Himalaya understand reality of Shiva and agree to give hand of Parvati to Shiva.

Vishnubhakta Brahmin Avatar

As Himalay see Lord Shiva’s reality, he become devotional. His devotion toward Shiva increase day by day. He do great Bhakti of Mahadev.

By devotion of him, Devtas worry.

Himalay have two form:

1. Steady form as a mountain
2. Human form as King

By true devotion of him, he may attain Moksha and Holy mountain go away from Earth.

So, Devtas ask Lord Shiva to solve Problem.

Lord Shiva take a form of Vishnu Bhakta Brahmin and go to palace of Himalay. Brahmin say bad qualities about Shiva, explain that Parvati is not perfect for Lord Shiva.

Himalay and his wife Mena confused by Brahmin’s words. 

After Mena becomes angry and denied to give Parvati. But by Sages explain her reality, and Mena agrees. After Marriage of Aadishakti Parvati and God Shiva auspiciously completed.

Now, let’s see about Nandi Avatar,


In every Shiva Temple, Nandi is worshipped. He is one Avatar of Shiva and Pooja may considered as incomplete if someone not worship Nandi.

Nandi in front of Shivling

History of Nandi’s birth is:

Shilad Rishi want a son who not born from womb which very difficult to get. He first do tapascharya of Indra. When Indra pleased, he ask boon for such son but Indra say that he doesn’t have power for it. Only Lord Shiva can give you Ayonij son.

After Sage Shilad do Tapascharya of Mahadev. When Lord Shiva pleased on him he ask boon for Ayonij son. Shiva fulfill his wish and on one day, Shiva appears as a Avatar of Nandi.

At first time, Nandi is like Mahadev, Snake on through, Moon on hair, Trishula on hand.

After they become baby. Shilad take care of him. Nandi forget memory that he is Avatar of Shiva.

Nandi is very intelligent. He learn all Vedas at small age. His knowledge is so great that his spiritual teachers also wonder on his abilities. Time passed.

One day Mitra and Varuna sage come. They says, Nandi have total lifespan of eight years.

Lord Shiva and Nandi

Shilad can’t believe that his son will die son. By listening it, he cry and become sad. He fall on Earth. People of neighborhood come and pray for him.

After knowing about age, Nandi do Parikrama of father and go for Tapascharya. He remembers Shiva as one who have three eyes, who have ten hand, who have five heads.

He always meditate Shiva and chant Rudradhyaya. By true devotion of him, Lord Shiva give darshana.

Lord Shiva say that they send those two Sage. You are my form. So you don’t need to worry about dieing.

After saying Shiva touch Nandi by hand.

Shiva give boon to Nandi that he become immortal and he never face old age problem. His father and friends are also become Akshaya. He become one Ganas of Lord Rudra.

Rudra Avatars – 11 form of Shiva

Once Devtas loss again demons, they need protection. So, they went to house of father Kashyap. Devtas describes situations and the problem of demons, request any solution.

Father Kashyap think:

One who solve this probem is only Lord Shiva, only they can protect my sons from attacks.

Therefore Sage Kashyap do hard Tapascharya of God Shiva.

When they pleased, Kashyap ask boon as Lord Shiva in form of his son. Lord Shiva granted wish. After some months, wife of Kashyap Surabhi give birth to 11 Rudra who are avatars of Lord Shiva. Names of them are:

Names of Rudra Avatars
Rudra Avatars name

Some images of Rudra Avatars. Click on photo to zoom.

Rudra Avatar

Rudra Avatar Image

Shiv Mahapuran say that Rudra Avatars are still on all place.

Heaven are protected by them and Devtas become fearlessness.

List of 12 Jyotirling avatars

Shiva and Parvati with 12 Jyotirlinga

Twelve Jyotirlingas are incarnation of Shiva which are remover of sins by remembering. In many situations Lord Shiva comes on earth to save devotees and fulfill wishes.

  1. Somnath
  2. Malikarjun
  3. Mahakaleshwar
  4. Omkareshwar and Mamaleshwaram
  5. Vedyanaath
  6. Bhim Shankar
  7. Rameshwar
  8. Nageshwar
  9. Vishweshwar
  10. Trayambakam
  11. Kedarnath
  12. Dhushmeshwar

In Dhushmeshwar Avatar, Shiva save their devotee dhusma from insult of village people and give her son back.
One who remember this 12 forms in morning and evening, he will free from all sins.

Also see: Qualities of Shiva

Lord Hanuman – 11th Rudra Avatar

As Shiv Puran says, Hanuman is considered as 11th Rudra Avatar of Mahadev. Bhagwan Hanuman born by Anjani.

Lord Hanuman is Brahmchari. Only goal of their life is Shri Ram. In their heart Sita and Ramchandra stay. They are great and dear to Rama.

One who pray to Shri Rama, are dear to Hanuman and they protect him from every problem or any dangers. Many temples of Lord Hanuman are in kaliyuga and they still worshipped by devotee. One who is devotee of Shiva, should worship them.

Eight murti of Shiva

Whole universe is one form of Shiva. God Shiva stay in air, fire by their idols. Everything made from eight fundamental things as per Vedas.

In first adhyaya of Shatarudra Samhita, Eight forms/idols are explained which is also considered as incarnation.
It is as follow:
God Shiva eight forms in world
Eight forms

It show form of following:

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Space
  • Kshetragya
  • Sun
  • Moon

Virabhadra Avatar –

Story of Goddess Sati, Sati’s disappearance from Earth and destroying Yagya of Daksha

Before we see this form, first let’s see story of Goddess Sati.

Once Sati Devi become wife of Shiva. After some time, Sati and Lord Shiva go into Forest. They see Shri Ram and Lakshamana where Shri Rama crying because Devi Sita kidnapped by Ravana.

Lord Shiva become very happy by seeing Prabhu Rama and bow to them.

Devi Sati surprised to see this. She says, You are God for all animals and Devtas. Why you bow to one person who cry?

Lord Shankar says, Shri Rama is one Avatar of Vishnu. I accept them as my God. They are here and all you see is divine play of them.

Devi Sati not satisfied still. She want to test Shri Ram. She take Avatar of Mother Sita and go near to Shri Ram.

Rama says, Mother, Why you come here? Where is Lord Shiva? What is reason to come in Forest?

Sati come in real form. She say Rama about whole story and reason to become Sita.

After Sati goes where Lord Shiva wait her. Shiva ask, What happen there?

But Devi Sati lie.

As Mahadev know everything, they know she lie. Mahadev reject Sati as wife mentally.

After Long time passed.

Daksha Prajapati organize Yagya. He invite all Devtas, Sages and everyone except Lord Shiva and Sati.

When Chandra and Rohini pass over Kailash, Sati ask them about place where they goes. They say Yagya of Daksha.

Sati thinks, why my father not invited me and Shiva? Maybe he forget? Or what is reason?

She ask Mahadev.

Shiva say event happened long time ago by which Daksha hates Shiva and say Sati to not go to Yagya.

But still Sati want to go there and after Shiva give permission.

Sati goes to there and meet her mother. She see big Yagya happen and all Devtas are there. She then ask her father about reason for not inviting.

But Daksha insult Lord Shiva.

Sati become angry because she can’t listen anything wrong about her God.

She leave her body, her body is only there but soul go away.

Everyone become sad, no one know why this happen. Mahadev also know about death and they angry on Daksha. Mahadev send Ganas, and create one of their Avatar by hair, the Virabhadra Avatar.

Virabhadra go at place of Daksha. Army of Ganas are with him.

He kill many people or cut parts of body who become part in insult of Shiva.

Virabhadra kill Dikpal named “Ishaan”. He cut both hands of Agni Deva and make tongue puter of mouth. He broke teeth of Pusha.

He cut throat of Daksha, head and other body become different part. After he put head of Daksha in fire and Prajapati Daksha have body except head.

At that time Brahma bow to him, request not to angry.

From prayer and request, Virabhadra become silent. After sometimes Lord Shiva comes there and give life to everyone who die. They put head of goat on Daksha’s body, everyone who loss part of body get it again.

Sati become Parvati in next birth and marry again with Lord Shiva.

Shiva and Parvati

Avadhuteshwar avatar

Indra’s ego increase day by day. To teach him lesson and protect him from harmful effect of ego, Shiva appears in this Avatar.

Sharabha Avatar – To realize Lord Nrisimha to original form

Once Hiranyakshipu try to kill Vishnu Bhakta Prahlad. He says, you can’t chant name of Vishnu. I am superior and great.

But still Prahlad pray with true heart. Devotion of him is such that any method of killing not work. Even if it snake, fire or fall from mountain. By Vishnu’s name he saved from all dangers.

One day Hiranyakshipu roped Prahlad to hot colomn. Prahlad have complete faith in God Vishnu. God care for him and they appear from hot column as Nrisimha Avatar.

Hiranyakshipu have boon such as he can’t die on day or night, he can’t die by man, Devtas or any animals, he can’t die by any type of Weapons.

But Nrisimha is not man or animal, they are made from half body of man and half of Lion. They appear in evening which is not a day or night. They break all boons which save Hiranyakshipu from death.

Bhagwan save their great devotee and kill Hiranyakshipu.

After killing demon, anger of Nrisimha stay. Brahma and other Gods pray but still they are angry.

Brahma and Devtas request Shiva to stop them. Shiva first send Virabhadra make them silent but they are so angry that can’t listen to Virabhadra

To save world from anger, Lord Shiva take Sharabha Avatar. They stop Nrisimha and realize them as they are Vishnu Avatar.

In Shiva Purana and Ling Purana, this story mentioned. It is say that Animal named “Sharabha” are still found in Himalaya.

Durvasa Avatar –

Story of testing great devotees

Once Sage Atri have no son. So they pray to Lord Shiva and do Tapascharya. By his devotion, all three God pleased, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. They give boon to Sage that they will born as a son of him.

Ansha of Brahma born as moon (Chandra).

Ansha of Vishnu born as Datatreya and ansha of Shiva is Durvasha.

Durvasa is sage who become angry to test devotee and to do welfare of world.

Once he test devotion of King Ambarish.

In Ekadashi, he come to palace of Ambarish. Because it is day of Ekadashi, Ambarish have fast. He have to drink water before next day. But Durvasa go to river for bath and to test him, not return from there. Time is passed. Ambarish worries because in Ekadashi he have to fulfill requirement of Vrata he can’t because Sage not return and time of this day will pass. To not break Vrata, he take small amount of Water.

Sage Durvasa also come after sometime. He knows that Ambarish drink water. So Rishi become angry.

At that time Sudarshana chakra appear, try to kill Durvasha. But as he is Avatar of Shiva, celestial announcement happen which say Ambarish to stop Sudarshana chakra, else it can be harmful for you.

Ambarish is great Vishnu Devotee, he pray to Vishnu.

Chakra stop. Ambarish pass in test of Durvasa and Sage give them blessing.

They also test Shri Ram in one situation.

When time pass and Shri Rama have time to move from Earth, Lord Yama come.

Yama is in form of Sage. He say Rama to discuss something in house and say that if anyone enter house then you must kill him. Shri Ram agree.

Rama make Lakshamana a guard and tell that no one should enter.

After they are in house and Lakshamana become Gatekeeper.

To test Shri Rama, Durvasa comes there. Sage say Lakshamana to enter him in house. But as he know promise, he say no. Rishi become angry. So he go into house and send message of Durvasa to Ramchandra.

As per promise, Rama leave his brother.

Rama pass in exam, Durvasa impress on him and give blessing.

In one event, Draupadi help Durvasha. Sage give her a blessing from she received cloth in Mahabharat.

Also Rishi test devotion of Krishna. Lord Krishna pass on test where they take a place of horse in chariot.

Ashwatthama Avatar

Drauna get son as Ashwatthama after blessing from Shiva. By him true devotion toward Shiva, Lord Shiva appear in home of Drauna as Avatar.

Lord Shiva give blessing
Blessing of Shiva

Drauna get son as Ashwatthama after blessing from Shiva. By him true devotion toward Shiva, Lord Shiva appear in home of Drauna as Avatar.

Ashwatthama never die and they take part in battle of Mahabharata.

Ardhanarishwara Avatar

Lord Shiva take this Avatar as a form where Shiva and Shakti are one.

When Brahma can’t create world which progress automatically then Shiva appears in this form.

Ardhanarishwar give power to Brahma to make a world continue to grow. After Manu and Satarupa appear. Sons of them born as time pass and world grow.

Sureshwar Avatar – Upamanyu Devotion story

To test devotion of Upamanyu, Lord Shiva take Avatar of Indra which known as Sureshwar Avatar.

Once Upamanyu is child. He want milk but his family is too poor that mother can’t give milk. His mother give liquid of white color which seem as milk. When Upamanyu taste it, he know that it is different. He ask mother a reason.

Mother give answer as they are poor and have not money to buy anything.

Upamanyu ask solution to become rich. His mother says, Only Lord Shiva can give us richness. Only Shiva can fulfill your wishes. Mahadev is creator of world. So pray to them.

Upamanyu want to solve and he ask mother to give him permission for Tapascharya. She give permission.

Upamanyu go to Forest and pray Shiva with dedication. He meditate Shiva even it is winter, summer or monsoon.

Mahadev with family photo

Day and night are equal for him, he continues to pray Shiva. Devotion of him is so powerful that Lord Shiva and Parvati know about him from Kailasa and want to give Darshana. But before, they want to test him.

So, Lord Shiva become Indra as Sureshwar Avatar. Where Upamanyu do tapasya, they come. First Upamanyu bow to them. He ask, Who are you? What is reason to come here?

Sureshwar reply, I am Indra, King of heaven. I have all power but to whom you pray?

He says  I pray to Lord Shiva and do Yagya for them.

Indra says, You not need to pray Shiva. You should pray me as I have all power. I will fulfill your wishes.

Upamanyu become angry and say Indra to go away from there else he throw ash of yagya from anyone can die.

But still Indra continue to say bad thing of Shiva.

Upamanyu become very angry. He give last chance but still Indra continue. So he throw ash.

As he throw, Nandi catch it in between. Lord Shiva and Parvati appear there.

They give boon that he get enormous amount of wealth. He get sea of milk, fruits and butter. He become immortal. Geezerhood never come in life. He become famous and whatever he think will become true.

Devi Parvati accept him as Son and give important place in Ganas.

After in Dwapar Yuga, Krishna meet Upamanyu and make him a spiritual teacher. Lord Krishna do Tapascharya of 16 month of Shiva where Upamanyu teach them procedure of worship and give spiritual knowledge.

Kirat Avatar – Story of Arjuna and Shiva fight

Once Arjuna need Pasupashastra to win battle. 

Krishna give him advice to do Tapasya of Lord Shiva. He do Tapasya in Forest. He pray to Shiva so much that Shiva want to give him Darshana and weapon. To test him, they take Avatar of Kirat.

When Arjuna do Tapasya, Mook demon try to attack. Arjuna attack by arrow but at same time Kirat Avatar also attack. Demon die. Arjuna believe that he kill Demon.

Kitar come and say that Mook die is because of him. But Arjuna not agree. Arjun give him warning and tell to go away but Kirat stay there.

As conservation continue, they are going to fight. When Arjuna is about to start fight, he pray to God Shiva and close eyes. He see presence of Lord Shiva.

Shiva appears in original form, give Darshana in real form to him.

Mahadev give him Pashupatashtra and blessings by he win fight again major warriors.

Bhairav Avatar – Lingodbhav Story and Shiva-Vishnu relationship

Once for some reason, there is controversy between Vishnu and Brahma. They are going to fight with each. At the moment, Shivlingam appear which seem to infinite at both ends, for upper end and lower. Brahma and Vishnu see this column of fire and they ask each other that what is this? Why it appears? Where is end of fire column?
To find end, Brahma go to upper side and Vishnu go to downside. 
After thousands of years, they can’t find end. Vishnu return and say “Neti Neti” means it have no end.
Brahma also can’t find upper side from column start but he see flower of Ketaki fall down. He ask to Ketaki, From when you fall and where is this fire column start? 
Ketaki says, I fall from too long time but it seem no starting.
Brahma want to return but without finding starting, they feel insult against Vishnu. So they ask Ketaki to witness in lie when they say Vishnu that they find starting. Ketaki agree. After both return.
Vishnu say truth that they can’t find downside. But Brahma lie and say that they find end and for witness they say Ketaki saw me. Ketaki also lie and say that Brahma speak truth.
As here harm of Dharma, Mahadev appears.

They create Bhairav who is also one Avatar of them.

Brahma have five heads. One head who speak lie is cutted by Bhairav.
Lord Shiva say that because Brahma lie, they never worshipped.
Brahma pray and request forgiveness, so Shiva say that there is one Temple where they worshipped.
Shiva also say Ketaki that he will never worshipped in Shiva Temple. I deny you.
Ketaki say that If you can’t accept me then my life fail. Please give me forgiveness.
By prayer Lord Shankar pleased and say, I will accept you when Parvati give Ketaki to Shivlingam on day of Kevadatrija. You will worshipped on one day of year.
Bhairav have sin of Brahmahatya by cutting fifth head. One women appear who is Brahmahatya and follow them. Bhairav go almost everywhere but he can’t get rid of her. When Bhairav reach Kashi, suddenly she disappeared. After Bhairav stay in Kashi and fulfill wishes of devotee.
After giving forgiveness to Ketaki, Shiva says, Vishnu you are great. You speak truth and follow Dharma. Even at time of Bhairav cut head, you save him from cutting further more heads. You have great quality. I impressed on you and you are equal to me. 
Lord Shiva not satisfied by making them equal and say that I accept you as God. You are my God.
And as per Shiva Purana, Shiva accept Vishnu as their God from that time.
Lord Shiva says, There is no difference between me and Vishnu. Devotee who insult Vishnu will fall in hell.
Lord Vishnu also says, My devotee who insult God Shiva will go to hell. Devotee who pray to Shiva are also dear to me.

So, never think wrong about Shri Vishnu because they are great devotee of Shiva.

After Lord Shiva worship to Vishnu. Vishnu is God of Shiva and Shiva is God of Vishnu. They both are same and one can’t differentiate them.

Piplaad Avatar – Deat of Dadhichi and birth of Piplaad avatar

Dadhichi Muni have bone of Vajra. Once Devtas can’t win Demons by any other weapons. They Go to Dadhichi and ask for their bone. Sage Dadhichi give it and disappeared from Earth.

Wife of Dadhichi want to go with husband. She try to kill herself but one Rishi stop her. Rishi says, “You have son in womb. So as per Veda’s order, you can’t die now.”

But still she want to die. She go to Sacred fig. In Sanskrit, Sacred fig is called as Pipal tree. She cut her womb and one baby born and it is one Avatar of Shiva. Because he born under tree of Pipal, his name is “Piplaad”.


Lord Shiva have countless avatars which not possible to describe by anyone. There is many more avatars which Mahadev have taken, and as name of one samhita of Shiva Purana suggest “Kotirudra Samhita” which shows that there is crores of Rudra, Shiva. It is not possible to explain, but by knowing little can purify us, and helps to connect with Supreme Mahadev.

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