I found most of our religious books speak about Lord Vishnu's avatars and there are much fewer books that I know of about Lord Shiva. If Lord Vishnu has 10 avatars then how many avatars do Lord Shiva has?

In one of my research I came across a Shiva avatar that I never knew. Sharaba was the name for the Avatar, other name is Gandaberunda, derived from the meaning of a half lion and half bird. sharaba incarnation of Lord Shiva is to tame Narasimha avatar of Lord Vishnu.

That is the only line of story I know about Sharaba avatar of Lord shiva. Does any one know beyond this?


If you want to learn about the incarnations of Shiva, you can read the Shatarudra Samhita of the Shiva Purana, which mentions numerous incarnations including the following: Vrishabha the bull, whom I discuss in this answer; Virabhadra, the demon created by Shiva to kill Daksha after the death of Shiva's first wife Shakti; Kalabhairava, the demon created by Shiva to cut off Brahma's fifth head; and Sharabha who is the focus of your question.

The story of Sharabha is told in this excerpt from the Shatarudra Samhita of the Shiva Purana. It says that after Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu and rescues Prahlada, his anger doesn't subside, so the gods, fearing that he will destroy the three worlds in his fury, ask Shiva for help. So Shiva sends his incarnation Virabhadra to subdue Narasimha. Virabhadra tries to reason with Narasimha, but Narasimha is committed to destroying the three worlds, so Virabhadra transforms into the half-lion half-bird creature Sharabha:

Then in a trice the form of Virabhadra became invisible.... Thereafter [the] middle [of Shiva's splendor] became clearly manifested in the form characteristic of Rudra of deformed shape.... He had a thousand heads and wore matted hair. His head was adorned by the cresecent moon. He appeared like a bird with wings and beak. His body was fierce and fully developed. His fangs were very sharp. Adamantine claws were his weapons. His neck was black in colour. He had huge arms and four legs. He was blazing like fire.... His three eyes were as wide and blazing as the fire of the evil spirit of great fury. His fangs and lips were clearly visible.

Sharabha grabs hold of Narasimha, taking him high up into the sky and then dropping him onto the ground. Narasimha then snaps out of his fury, acknowledges the power of Shiva, and then dies. The gods praise Sharabha, who tells them this:

It was Vishnu alone in the form of Man-lion, haughty and strong, engaged in the activity of annihilating the universe. He shall be prayed and bowed by my devotees aspiring achievements. He is the foremost of my devotees and the granter of boons.

After that Sharabha disappears and Virabhadra appears, tearing the hide off of Narasimha's body, which is said to be the hide that Shiva wears. And Narasimha's head becomes one of the skulls in Shiva's necklace.

Now the Shiva Purana's account ends with Sharabha simply disappearing after defeating Narasimha, but some versions of the story add a further incident, which is where Gandhaberunda comes into the picture: after Sharabha grabs hold of Narasimha, Narasimha in his fury creates a two-headed bird beast called Gandhaberunda which is even more powerful than Sharabha. Gandhaberunda defeats Sharabha in battle, and then Vishnu and Shiva finally call it a day.

enter image description here

Now Gandhaberunda is famous enough that he is depicted in the coat of arms of Karnataka, but I haven't yet found a scriptural basis for his story, which is why I asked this question. But in the mean time, you read the story of Gandhaberunda and Sharabha in this excerpt from the new Amar Chitra Katha comic "Divine Beings"; the above picture is taken from there.

  • excellent, Now I got the clear picture of Sharaba.. – GIRI Jul 31 '14 at 18:00
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    here I've a doubt, in fury if narasimha tries to destroy the three worlds then did he forget about Prahlada. I mean destroying three worlds eventually destroys Prahlada(whom he rescued) and his world right.. – GIRI Jul 31 '14 at 18:03
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    @GIRI Well, in the Shiva Purana excerpt it says that seeing Prahlada reduced his anger somewhat but didn't eliminate it: "[The gods] sent Prahlada near Vishnu in order to subside his anger. At the behest of all in a body Prahlada approached the man-lion. The man-lion, the storehouse of mercy, embraced him. The heart became cool, still the fame of fury did not subside." In the story Narasimha is too consumed by his lion-like fury to consider who he's destroying. When Virabhadra tries to reason with him, Narasimha says "I am Kala [Time], the cause of destroying worlds", echoing a Gita quote. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 31 '14 at 18:16
  • @@Keshav - Your answer is full of contradictions. One side you say, that Narasimha, hide was torn and worn by Siva and again you say that Siva vanished. Which is correct as per Shiva purana. Moreover, Siva purana episode you are quoting seem to very suspicious, because, Siva has all his worshippers to worship narasimha and then it says Veerabhadra comes for skinning activity. WOW, what a big time interpolation? – user808 Apr 16 '15 at 15:51
  • @Krishna "One side you say, that Narasimha, hide was torn and worn by Siva and again you say that Siva vanished. Which is correct as per Shiva purana." Well, it's not contradictory. The Shiva Purana says that Virabhadra turns into Sharabha, Sharabha defeats Narasimha and then Sharabha disappears and turns back into Virabhadra, who takes Narasimha's hide and gives it to Shiva. You can read the story here: gdurl.com/qTGn As far as it being an interpolation, it's possible, although it could just be that because it's a Tamasa Purana it's portraying Shiva as supreme. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 16 '15 at 16:19

This sloka clearly mentions the destruction of both lord gandaberunda and lord narashimha by God Sharabha:

"Ganda Berunda Garva Banga Sharabha; Veera Narashimha Tharpa Vinasaga Sharabha!"

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    you should cite sources. – AADHinduism May 23 '16 at 14:02
  • I have removed your rant about ISKON. – Ankit Sharma May 25 '16 at 6:03

The Narashima was half man and half lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Narashima tore apart Hiranyakashipu’s belly with sharp nails. The claw is a part of the body that is both living and dead.

From The story of sharabha:

After he killed Hiranyakashipu, Narashima was still enraged! Brahma sent Prahalada to pray to Vishnu in hope that it would calm him down. Prahalada’s efforts were to no avail. Frightened, all of the gods went to Lord Shiva for help in calming Vishnu. Lord Shiva first sent two of his best earthly men, Bhairav and Veerbhadra, to calm Narashima. Narashima pounced on Veerbhadra when Veerbhadra asked Narashima to calm down nicely. To protect Veerbhadra, Shiva appeared in his most devastating form, Sharabha. It is said to be a giant, frightening, form with thousands of hands. His appearance resembled a huge cannibal bird. Sharabha scratched Narashima with his wings and carried him off into the distance. Vishnu became so scared that he fell unconscious. After he woke up, Vishnu eulogized Lord Shiva, which pleased Shiva.


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    You shouldn't give the story of Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu in such detail. That's irrelevant to the question. Pretty much the only part of your answer that's relevant to the question is the last paragraph. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 30 '14 at 7:56
  • @KeshavSrinivasan : thanks for the comment however a complete answer includes head to tail not just tail, however if OP wishes so then i'll edit the answer – Sid M Jul 30 '14 at 7:57
  • It's fine to give some context, like information about why Narasimha was angry. But stuff like Hiranyakashipu's boon and Hiranyaksha being killed by Varaha are things that don't provide any context to the story of Sharabha. All the reader really needs to know is that Narasimha was angry after killing Hiranyakshipu and saving Prahlada. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 30 '14 at 8:01
  • @KeshavSrinivasan : updated the answer, is it fine? – Sid M Jul 30 '14 at 8:05
  • @SidM, your answer seems like a bit extension to my question. I was asking beyond that. If Sharaba avatar was to calm down Narasimha avatar, then what happened to Sharaba avatar after calming Narasimha. – GIRI Jul 30 '14 at 8:07

This story from Siva purana is biased shaiva stories claiming that Sharabha killed Narasimha. (I am producing the details from http://narayanastra.blogspot.in/2012/03/keshi-suktam-and-sharabha-narasimha.html?m=1)

This story has no basis whatsoever because:

  1. Narasimha is Parabrahman and cannot be overcome by anybody.

This story goes against the meaning of the authoritative shAstra.

This story is only found in the tAmasa purAnas like shivapurAna, which are fit to be rejected and have been done so by all vedAntins.

This great Sarabha, Siva, is said to have been destroyed by Pratyingara devi, when Sarabha was overcome by pride and egogism and started destroying the universe.

One can clearly see through, the majestic interpolations in the tamasic and rajasic puranas which talks of Sarabha defeating Narasimha, Sarabha killed by pratyangira..

The idea of one deity progressively suppressing the other only evokes laughter and shows the inherent tAmasatva of these stories.

The truth regarding the Sharabha-Narasimha incident

The anger of Narasimha, which persisted after the destruction of Hiranyakasipu, frightened the devas, upon which they approached Shiva and sought his help. Shiva, being flattered by their praises, was overcome by tamOguNa. Although Shiva is a yOgi by nature who is always meditating on Sankarshana (and hence, Narasimha), this time, due to tamO guNa which is vishNu mAyA, his intellect became clouded and he was unable to recognise Narasimha as his own upAsya mUrthy. Thus, he appeared in the form of Sharabha to engage in battle with Bhagavan. Narasimha destroyed Sharabha in battle with his mere nails as he did in the case of Hiranyakasipu.

The great sri Vaishnava AchAryan, srIkUrEsha, reiterates this in his work, “srIathimAnushastava” as follows:

kreeDaavidhE: parikaras tava yaa tu maayaasaa mOhinee na katam asya tu hanta! jantO:!Hi! Martya simha vapus tavat tEjasOmsESambhur bhavan hi sarabha: salabhO babhoova // (~SrI AthimAnusha Stava)

Meaning: Oh bhagavAn (sriman nArAyaNa)! Your mAya indeed benumbs the intellect of all living beings. Did not Shiva who took the form of a strange and mighty animal (supposed to have eight legs and wings) called Sharabha get burnt down in just one small spark of your rage like a moth that perishes in the blaze of fire??

A great scholar, Sri Srinivasacharya swami quotes an ancient SlOka on these lines:

namOstu narasimhaaya lakshmee sthiti jitakudE /yad krOdaagnou puraa roudra: Sarabha: salabhaayatE //

Meaning: Salutations to Narasimha, who is situated in Lakshmi, and plays (?). By whose fire of anger, the body of the ferocious Sharabha was burnt to ashes like a moth perishing in a blaze. The AchAryan here is alluding to the destruction of Sharabha being an effortless act of Narasimha, who is sarvasakta, and tavasastavIya (stronger than the strongest). Here, the quality of agatitagaTanA sAmarthyam (reconciling contradictions) is also seen in BhagavAn Narasimha. While normally a Sharabha is stronger than a Lion, this was a case where a Sharabha was killed by a Lion. This was indeed an astonishing leela of bhagavAn!

The incident of Narasimha killing Sharabha is justified by the sAttvika purAnas, which alone are authority and faithful to shruti. Here are the pramAnams quoted by both sri Vaishnava AchAryas and mAdhvas (slokas culled from rAmAnuja and mAdhva discussion groups):

hantum abyaagatam roudram sarabham narakEsaree /Nakhair vidaarayaamaasa hiraNyakasipum yathaa // (~varAha purAna)

Meaning: The half-man, half-lion (Narasimha) killed the violent Sharabha who had approached him (for battle) by lacerating Sharabha with his nails in a similar manner as in the case of Hiranyakasipu.

tau yudhyamAnau cha chiraM vegena balavattamau |na samaM jagmaturdevau nR^isiMhasharabhAkR ^itI ||tataH kR^iddho mahAkAyo nR^isiMho bhImavikramaH |sahasrakarajAnatra tasya gAtre nyaveshayat. h ||patitaM bhImamatyugraM nR^isiMhaH sharabhaM ruShA |jaghAna nishitaistIxNaiH nakhairnakhavarAyud haH || sharabhe tasmin.h raudre madhuniShUdanam. h |tuShTuvuH puNDarIkAxaM devA devarShayastathA || (~Padma Purana)

Meaning: The two powerful devas - Narasimha and Sharabha, who have no equal in the Universe, fought a prolonged, fierce and violent battle. As a result of that altercation, the large bodied Narasimha (and thus superior in prowess), who possesses terrific valor that controls the asurAs and prevents anything from going against his will (bhIma vikramaH), whose limbs appeared to have a thousand nails (ie, limitless power in his nails) was angered. Being in (that state of) rage, Narasimha, who is terrible to the adharmIs (bhIma) and becomes extremely formidable when the adharmIs continue to remain bent on adharma (ugra), killed Sharabha using his sharp and fierce nails. Sharabha had incited the Slayer of Madhu to wrath and so, the lotus eyed one (pundarIkAksha) was appeased by (the prayers) of the devas and devarishis. “madhusUdhana” – “madhu” refers to rAjO guNa which in turn is the cause for desire, that leads to anger that is tamO guNa. Just as the Lord killed the asura madhu, so did he kill Sharabha who possessed anger born of tamO guNa. “pundarIkAksha” – Since he has lotus like eyes that are reddish due to always looking at the golden complexion of the compassionate srI mahAlakshmi, the Lord is easily assuaged and made peaceful due to the mediatorship of lakshmi. He resurrected Shiva back to life upon the prayers of the devas.

nikR^itya bAhUrushirA vajrakalpamukhairna khaiH |merupR^iShThe nR^isiMhena sharabhashchAtha so.apatat.h || (~vAmana purAna)

Meaning: Chopping off many heads (of Sharabha) with his nails that were equal to adamantine (vajra), Narasimha who towered like Meru (mountain), also (in addition to hiranyakasipu) Killed Sharabha.

a chaJNchupaJNchAnana maShTapAdaM paxadvayADhyaM ghananIlagAtram. h |sphuranmahAtIvrasah asrahastaM sahasrashastraM sharabhasvarUpam. h ||karadAdaya pratyekaM mukhaM chaJNchupuTadvayam. h |vidArya cha nR^isiMhastaM hiraNyakashipuM yathA | (~kUrma purAna)

Meaning:The form of Sharabha had a beak, the face of a lion, with 8 feet and limbs which were a dense black color. It was throbbing with the intensity (of anger), had bloodied hands, with a thousand weapons. Narasimha, acting mercilessly as in the case of hiranyakasipu tore apart with his hands (ie, nails), the beaks on every single one of Sharabha’s faces at their folds.

tataH kshaNena sharabho nAdapUritadiN^ .hmukhaH |abhyAshamagamadviSh Norvyanadadbhair avasv anam.h ||sa tamabhyAgataM dR^iShTvA nR^isiMhaH sharabhaM ruShA |nakhairvidArayAmAsa hiraNyakashipuM yathA || (~Agni Purana)

Meaning: Thereupon, in a moment, the sound from Sharabha’s mouth intensified in all directions, approaching vishNu (the all-pervading one) with a terrible roar. Narasimha, having seen that arrival of Sharabha with that (sound), became furious and tore apart Sharabha and disposed it with his nails as he did in the case of Hiranyakasipu.

All these clearly shows that Narasimha destroyed Sharabha.

The purAnas state further that when Narasimha was appeased by PrahlAda, he resurrected Shiva back to life upon the prayers of pArvati.

Therefore, the supremacy of Narasimha alone is seen in this incident.

  • Good answer. I didn't know about all these Puranas that describe Narasimha killing Sharabha. By the way, do you know if Gandhaberunda, the two-headed bird beast created by Narasimha, has any basis in Hindu scripture? I asked a question about him here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/191/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 16 '15 at 16:33
  • @@Keshav- Gambherunberunda form of Narasimha is worshipped in Yadagiri gutta, the famous Narasimha temple in Telangana, part of erstwhile, Andhra pradesh. – user808 Apr 16 '15 at 16:37
  • Yeah, and he's even depicted in the coat of arms of Karnataka. But I just want to know if the story of Gandaberunda is mentioned in any Hindu scripture. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 16 '15 at 16:51
  • @@Keshav - I am not sure, which text refer to gandabherunda. But, Vishnu kosha, book written by S K Ramachandra Rao, published by Kalpatharu research academy, provides the Gandabherunda Narasimha mantra. But, the author doesnt provide the reference. – user808 Apr 16 '15 at 16:58
  • By the way, have you seen my question here about Yamunacharya's Agama Pramanya? hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/6912/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 16 '15 at 17:03

Shiva assumed the form of devastating sharabha for calming down narsimha murthy. When sharabha tried to destroy narsimha, narsimha became even more angry,his fury reached peaks, he created a mystical, ferocious,most powerful God named "gandabherunda"..gandabherunda tore sharabha & shoolini devi(parvati) into parts. Then a new form of goddess lakshmi "pratyangira devi" was able to calm down narsimha.


Everyone is answering wrong. I know the actual story of Shiva's avatar Sharabha. When Lord Vishnu's avatar Narasimha who was half man and half lion had killed evil Hiranyakshyap,he became too much angry and he was trying to destroy the world. All Gods and Gods were so much worried about the condition. Lord Shiva took the form of his avatar Sharabha who was half lion and half bird was appeared in front of Narasimha. Then the fight between Lord Narasimha and Lord Sharabha begins. Lord Indra was very worried because he was thinking if something happens to his heaven,the whole world will destroy. Lord Narasimha was defeated by Sharabha and then Sharabha said ''Oh Lord Narayan! Please come back to your original form! You took this Narasimha form for killing Hiranyakashyap and now you have killed him. So,please come back Narayan!''. Then Lord Narasimha had became very calm and he was transformed back into his original form Vishnu. Lord Sharabha too was also transformed back into his original form Shiva. Vishnu told Shiva that his Sharabha avatar will also called 'Sharabheshwara'. Then all Gods and Goddesses were so much happy and gave respect to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

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    you should cite source. – Bhavin Patel Nov 10 '15 at 8:31

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