Incarnations as Pancha Mukhaas or the Five Faces are: Sadyojaata in white complexion looking west ward blessing Brahma to initiate the process of Creation; Vamadeva in red complexion looking northward in deep meditative posture; Aghoresha in blue complexion looking southward representing destructive as also regenerating energy with Roudra Mukham; Tatpurusha in yellow complexion looking Eastward as a deluding or misleading Purusha Swarupa and Ishaana facing South East being copmlexion-less Sada-Shiva who is Eternal, Omni Present- Omni Scient and Omni-Potent!
The Ashta Murtis or Eight Swarupas of Shiva are Sharva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana and Maha Deva; these Swarupas represent Pancha Bhutas or Five Elements of Earth-Water-Radiance- Ether and Sky , besides Sun-Moon-and Kshetragjna. Sharva is All-Knowing, Bhava is the Bestower and All- Merciful, Rudra is the Punisher and the Corrector, Ugra or the Destroyer , Bhima the remover of all kinds of difficulties, Pashupati the Liberator of Samsara or the Earthly-bondages or chains, Ishana the Supreme Witness of Actions and Sufferings and Shiva the ever-provider of coolness and fulfillment also manifested in Moon as Maha Deva.
The Ekadasha Rudras are Kapali, Pingala, Bheema, Virupaksha, Vilohita, Shastra, Ajapaada, Ahirbudhya, Shamshu, Chand and Bhava who are the regular and constant destroyers of Evil Forces and the ever generating demonaic Shaktis in the Universe.
The corresponding Dasha Shakti Swarupas or the Counter-Part Maha Vidyas are: Maha Kaal-Kaali, Tar- Tara, Bhuveneshwar-Bhuvaneshwari, Shodasha-Shodashi or Shri Vidyesha-Shri Vidyeshi, Bhairava-Bharavi, Chhinna mastak-Chhinnamasta, Dhumavan-Dhumavati, BhagalaMukha-Bhagala Mukhi, Matanga-Matangi and Kamal-Kamala.
Arthanaareshwara is a significant and Composite Form of Purusha and Prakriti. As Brahma felt a major limitation of not being able to procreate freely and immensely, a Celestial voice was conveyed to him that he should perform Tapasya to Bhagavan Shiva sincerely. Shiva manifested him self as Arthanaareshwara and provided guidelineds to create male and female beings and thus expedite the process of procreation.
Tri- Sishu Murtis were the Triplets born to Atri-Anasuya couples. Sage Atri was the Manasa Putra or the the mind born son of Lord Brahma; the couple performed a powerful penance to Maha Deva and the severity of the Sacrifice was such that extreme heat from the fire-pit radiated all over the world and Devas approached Brahma who along with Vishnu conferred with Shiva and appeared before Atri and Anasuya and desired to test her chastity in the forms of Munis who demanded that they should serve food to them naked! She donned tree leaves and served food. Three boys were born: Chandra with Brahma’s Amsha, Dattatreya with Vishnu’s Amsha and Durvasa with Shiva’s Amsha. Devi Anasuya (literally meaning as the person without jealousy) was thus the unique woman with Tri Murtis as her kids!
Durvasa: Being of the Amsha of Maha Deva, Maharshi Durvasa was stated to be of extremely short temper. An interesting happening was narrated by Sage Suta to the congregation of Rishis about Maharshi Durvasa: King Ambarisha was highly virtuous and pious who was in the habit of observing fasts and worship to Bhagavan on every Ekadasi (eleventh) day of a month and on the next day of Dwadasi (twelfth) day, he would break the fast only after a Brahmana or more would commence their food. It was on a Dwadasi day that along with several of his disciples, Durvasa made a sudden appearance, agreed to join for mid day meals and took away all his Sishyas for taking bath in a river nearby. Just at the nick of time when Dwadasi was nearing its end, Durvasa and disciples did not return; the King had to cut-short the fast and took one sip of water and precisely at that split second Durvasa and others arrived. Durvasa became furious that the King did not wait for him but had a sip of water already; he pulled out a lock of hair which became a flame and would have turned the King into ash but for the instantaneous appearance of ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ (since the King was a very high devotee of Lord Vishnu) which not only put off the fire but chased the Sage. A celestial voice was heard not to hurt the Sage as he was of part embodiment of Bhagavan Siva and that he was only testing Ambarisha.The King beseeched Durvasa’s sincere pardon and so did Sudarshan Chakra too. There were many other instances when Sage Durvasa used to test the real characteristsics of illustrious personalities- apparently to enlighten the posterity – like Sri Rama who was once ordered not to be disturbed by anyone but Lakshmana had to do so since Durvasa arrived and as an atonement discarded even Lakshmana for his wrong action; when Durvasa was taking bath in Ganga naked by intention or mistake, Draupadi tore a part of her sari to cover the Sage, and he blessed her that at the time of ‘Vastrapaharanam’ ( Draupadi’s disrobing) in an open Court, the piece of cloth would come to her rescue as Dussasana tried to disrobe her; and finally saved another great embarrassment to Pandavas and Draupadi by the sudden arrival of Durvasa with many disciples while she was unable to cook so much of food for all of them, but Lord Krishna arrived and suppressed the hunger of all of them as a morsel of rice remained in the utensil and that turned to be plentiful to Durvasa and disciples!
Other manifestations of Maha Deva: Bhagavan Shiva assumed innumerable other forms. He appeared as Yakshewara to humble Devas as they became arrogant as they secured ‘Amrit’ after churning Ocean and asked them to cut pieces of grass and they were so mighty but they failed and realised that He was Maha Deva Himself; He incarnated as Hanuman when Lord Siva was infatuated with Mohini, Saptarishis carried His semen to Anjana Devi through Vayu Deva, as a child swallowed Sun God to release him only after Deities requested the child when Sun agreed to be Hanuman’s teacher, joined Lord Rama as His devotee, assisted Rama to locate Sita as also destroyed Ravana along with his clan and had became immortal eversince; He assumed the form of Mahesha along with Girija since Bhairava, the door keeper of Kailasa, made Parvati unhappy causing Her to curse as mortal named Vetal who performed penance of such intensity that pleased Siva and Parvati; He embodied as Vrishabha (Appearance of an Ox) to enter the lower lokas (nether worlds) with the aim of punishing Vishnu’s wicked sons but when they were destroyed Vishnu fought with Vrishabha not knowing the Ox-like form was of Siva’s; when Vishnu prayed to Siva the latter presented Sudarsan Chakra to Vishnu. Lord Siva disguised as a Yatinath to test the depth of devotion by a Bhil couple named Ahuk and Ahuka and sought resting place overnight but even while Ahuk said that their hut was just enough for two persons, Ahuka agreed to sleep outside to let the guest sleep inside the hut, while a wild animal killed Ahuk yet Ahuka quietly tried to jump in the husband’s funeral pyre when Lord Siva manifested and blessed that the couple to become Nala and Damayanti in the next birth as the Lord would appear as a ‘Hamsa’ (Swan) to unite them; Siva disguised as a beggar to another poor woman who was hesitating to look after an orphan boy as she had her own child too, yet advised the woman to bring up both the kids, since the orphan boy was the son of King Satyarath who was killed by enemies while the Queen went to forest along with the just born child but was killed by a crocodile in a river thus prevailing on the poor woman not to abandon the orphan and eventually found a pot of gold to her surprise; Lord Siva appeared as Sureshwara in the guise of Indra when child Upamanyu performed concentrated penance to Bhagavan to become rich as he did not have enough money to buy milk when his poor mother said that Siva could only provide money but as a result of his penance Indra appeared and not Siva which disapponted Upamanu to resume the Tapasya with far higher devotion and Siva Himself appeared; and Bhagavan’s Incarnation as Kirat (hunter) when a forest bound boar (actually a Demon Mookasura sent by Duryodhana) killed by Arjuna and Kirata simultaneously was claimed by both ending up in a mutual fight and finally a victorious Siva was impressed by Arjuna’s valour and gifted ‘Pasupatastra’, the most potent arrow of the World!
Nandikeshwara: As regards Nandikeshwara, the origin was that Sage Shailada secured a boon from Maha Deva that a son of extraordinary Spiritual Knowledge would be born with four hands and three eyes but would be short lived for seven years only. The boy was born was a prodigy of Vedas. But realising that the lad would be short-lived, the Sage took to severe Tapasya again to Maha Deva who blessed the boy to live for ever! He instructed the Sage that a garland worn by Shiva himself should imbibe His powers and sprinkled water from His locks as the water flowed as ‘Panchanadi’or five rivers. Shiva then appointed the boy as the Chief of Shivaganaas. Devi Parvati brought up the boy as her own and gave Nandeswara full freedom in their house-hold! Any prayer to Shiva should be through him only!
Bhairava: 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.
Sharabheshwara: 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.