All of us are quite well aware of different forms of Shiva, be it in the form of Pashupati from the Harappan times, or Rudra from the Vedic times or other forms like Mrityunjaya, Sadashiva, Maheswara, or Nataraja form. The ascetic form and the family form of Shiva or the Linga form of Shiva are all well known.
However, let me introduce a relatively unknown or lesser-known form of Shiva and probably a form whose motivation was more ‘political’, which I will come to later. It is the Sharabha form of Lord Shiva.
|Sharabha Deva killing Narasimha|
According to Shiva Purana, Sharabha was a fierce looking creature. It had the wings and beak of a bird, body of a lion, sharp teeth, many legs and huge arms. It had sharp claws and was blazing fire. Its voice was like thousands of thunders striking together and the three eyes were like raging fire.
The myth has its origins in the Narasimha avatar of Vishnu. Having achieved its purpose of killing the demon Hiranyakashipu, Lord Vishnu was supposed to go back to his original form. But Narasimha having tasted blood was in no hurry to return to his original form. There was a growing belief that Vishnu might not go back to his form, and so to tame it, Lord Shiva had to take a more dangerous form to subdue it. A battle ensued, where Narasimha tried to strike at Sharabha only to realise that Sharabha was invincible. On striking Sarabha, it was Vishnu who groaned in pain only to realise that it was none other than Lord Shiva, and thus was Narasimha subdued, who later sang praises of the Sharabha Deva!
This rationale of such a form of Shiva can be found in the conflict between the Shaivites and Vaishnavites. The Bhagvata Purana mentions Hiranyakashipu as a terror to mankind and to eliminate him, Lord Vishnu had to come to earth in the form of Narasimha. The Skanda Purana however, mentions Hiranyakashipu, as just an irritant on earth and not at all a terror. One must not forget here, that Hiranyakashipu was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, though the boon given to him was by Lord Brahma! The Shaivites believe in this form of Lord Shiva and find its rationale of taming a form of Vishnu, quite palatable, however, the Vaishnavites do not believe in Narasimha being defeated by Sharabha. Rather, they believe that Narasimha manifested itself into Sharabha after killing the demon and Sharabha even finds place in the 1000 names of Vishnu (Vishnu Sahasranama)!
Believing in Sharabha Deva is left to ones individual inclination. Sharabha Deva in due course stands for the Lord who destroys those who cross moral and ethical boundaries.