The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “five incarnations of the supreme brahman” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 1 - The five incarnations of the supreme Brahman

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

I bow to lord Śiva of great bliss and of endles divine sports, who is great and omnipresent, who is the beloved consort of Pārvatī, who is the progenitor of Kārttikeya and Gaṇeśa, and who is the primordial lord of the universe.

Śaunaka said:—

1. O Sūta, O great fortunate disciple of Vyāsa, O storehouse of wisdom and mercy; please narrate the incarnations of lord Śiva by means of which the lord enhanced the welfare of the good.

Sūta said:—

2. O sage Śaunaka, with great devotion I shall narrate the incarnations[1] of Śiva to you a sage. Listen to it with attention and control over the senses.

3. O sage, formerly, Nandin, a form of Śiva and of the good, when asked by Sanatkumāra, told him the narrative with devotion to Siva.

Nandīśvara said:—

4. The incarnations of the omnipresent lord Śiva are countless in the different aeons.[2] Yet I shall narrate them as far as I know.

5. The nineteenth Kalpa is known as Śvetalohita. The first incarnation is glorified as the incarnation of Sadyojāta.

6. In that Kalpa, Śvetalohita, endowed with a tuft, was born as the son of Brahmā as he meditated upon the supreme Brahman.

7. On seeing that Being in the form of Brahman and realising that to be Īśvara, Brahmā meditated on in his heart and saluted him with palms joined in reverence.

8. Knowing that Sadyojāta to be Śiva, Brahmā, the lord of the worlds became delighted. With pure intelligence he pondered over that great Being again and again.

9. As he thus meditated, sons white in colour and famous for valour, were born to him. They were of great wisdom and had the form of the Supreme Brahman.

10. They were Sunanda, Nandana, Viśvananda and Upanandana. They were the disciples of that noble soul. By them the Brahman was encircled.

11. The delighted great lord, the Sadyojāta incarnation of Śiva, lovingly bestowed on Brahmā the perfect wisdom and the power of creation.

12. The next Kalpa, the twentieth one is named and glorified as Rakta (red) wherein Brahmā assumed a great splendour red in hue.

13. As Brahmā desirous of sons meditated, a son appeared in front of him wearing red garments and garlands. His eyes were red and his ornaments too were red.

14. On seeing that noble-souled son, he resorting to meditation knew him as the Vāmadeva incarnation of Śiva and so bowed to him with palms joined in reverence.

15. Your sons wearing red garments were born of him Viz. Virajas, Vivāha, Viśoka and Viśvabhāvana.

16. The delighted Parameśvara, the Vāmadeva incarnation of Śiva bestowed on Brahmā lovingly, the power of cation and perfect wisdom.

17. The twenty-first Kalpa is said to be Pītavāsas wherein Brahmā of great achievement became yellow-robed.

18. As Brahmā desirous of sons meditated, a son born unto him mature, of great arms and great splendour and wearing yellow garments.

19-20. On seeing him engrossed in meditation and realising that Being as Śiva, the Creator bowed to him after performing the Japa of Śiva-Gāyatrī, who is the great goddess, bowed to by all the worlds. The great god was delighted with the mind in contemplation.

21. Then from his sides sons of divine features issued forth. All of them had yellow garments and they were the instigators of the Yogic path.

22. When that Kalpa of yellow colour of the self-born lord elapsed, another Kalpa set in and it was named Śiva.

23. After a thousand divine years had elapsed and the entire universe had become one vast ocean,[3] Brahmā desirous of creating subjects thought in sorrow.

24. That lord of great splendour saw a son coming into view. He was black in colour, possessed of great strength. He was shining in his own splendour.

25. He was clad in black clothes and a black turban. He wore a black sacred thread. He had a black coronet, black toilet and unguent articles.

26. On seeing that noble soul of terrible exploits, (named) Aghora (non-terrible), he worshipped him—the lord of god, of wonderful black and tawny colour.

27. Brahmā then contemplated on Aghora in the form of Brahman. He eulogised that unperishing Being favourably disposed towards his devotees, by means of pleasing words.

28. Then from his sides sprang up four noble-souled sons all of whom were black in colour and had black toilet and unguent articles.

29. These brilliant beings in the form of Śiva had the clear names Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇaśikḥa, Kṛṣṇāsya and Kṛṣṇakaṇṭha-dhṛk.

30. The noble-souled beings of this nature initiated the great and wonderful Yoga called Ghora for the purpose of Brahmā’s creation.

31. O great sages, then another extremely wonderful Kalpa of Brahmā, named Viśvarūpa began to function.

32. As Brahmā, desirous of sons, meditated on Śiva mentally, Sarasvatī (Goddess of speech) of great sound manifested herself. She was Viśvarūpā (Universe-formed).

33. Īśāna of such renowned features, supreme lord of crystal-like pure brilliance and bedecked in all ornaments manifested himself.

34. On seeing Īśāna the unborn lord, all pervading, all-bestowing, the all-in-all, of good forms as well as formless, Brahmā bowed to him.

35. Lord Īśāna after instructing the path of the [good] to Brahmā, created four auspicious sons in collaboration with his Energy.

36. There were born Jaṭin, Muṇḍin, Sikhaṇḍin [Śikhaṇḍin?] and Ardhamuṇḍa. By means of Yoga they imparted good virtue and attained the goal of Yoga.

37. Thus I have succinctly narrated the origin of Sadyojāta and others, O Sanatkumāra, O omniscient one, being desirous of the welfare of all the worlds.

38. Then, O intelligent one, their dealings are beneficial to the three worlds and everything that is existent in the universe.

39. The five famous forms of Maheśa are thus named Īśāna, Puruṣa, Aghora, Vāma and Brahman. (also see Appendix on the five faces of Śiva)

40. Īśāna form of Śiva is the first and the principal one. It directly occupies and presides over the individual soul, the enjoyer of Prakṛti.

41. Tatpuruṣa form of Śiva is the second. It occupies and presides over every object of enjoyment, the support of the attributes.

42. The third form of Śiva is Aghora that stands within, occupies.and presides over the principle of intelligence with all its ramifications for the sake of Dharma.

43. The fourth form of Śiva is Vāmadeva who presides over the ego and is engaged in many incessant activities.

44. The Īśāna form of Śiva is the permanent lord of the organ of hearing, speech and the all-pervading sky.

45. Intelligent and wise persons call Tatpuruṣa as the lord of Tvac (organ of touch perception), hand, sense of touch and the wind element.

46. Intelligent persons call the form Aghora, the support of the physical body, the sense of taste, of colour and of fire as well.

47. Vāmadeva form of Śiva is remembered as the lord of the organ of taste, of the organ of excretion, of taste itself and of waters as well.

48. They know the form of Sadyojāta as the lord of the organ of smell, of smell itself, of the earth and of the generative organ.

49. These forms of Śiva, the source of all glory shall be honoured and bowed to strenuously by those who seek glory.

50. He who reads and listens to the origin of Sadyojāta and others, enjoys all desires and attains the ultimate goal.

Footnotes and references:


The concept of Rudrasrṣṭi can be traced as far back as the Vedic Literature. According to Yv 16.4 one Rudra created many Rudras out of his own body. The Purāṇas too have recorded the tradition of many Rudras evolved out of a single Rudra. The present Saṃhitā describes one hundred incarnations of Śiva and is therefore called Śatarudra.

But according to Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa (, Śatarudriya means a single hundred-headed Śiva (śataśīrṣāṇaṃ rudraṃ śatarudriyamityācakṣate). This statement of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa abrogates the concept of many Rudras evolved out of a single Rudra. But it is not corroborated by the evidence of the present Saṃhitā which enumerates the countless forms of Rudra.


A kalpa is a day of Brahmā or one thousand yugas equal to a period of four hundred thirty two million years of mortals. Each kalpa is presided over by a particular form of Rudra. For instance, the Śvetalohita kalpa has Sadyojāta as the presiding deity, Rakta has Vāmadeva, Pītavāsas has Tatpuruṣa, Śiva has Aghora and Viśvarūpa has Īśāna.


Ekārṇava symbolises the state of the universe during the period of dissolution when the divided units are drawn together forming a single watery mass. For details see Matsya-purāṇa (‘A Study’ by V. S. Agrawal)—A Study Pp 9-10.

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