Though Shiva is believed to ‘Nirakar’ in Hindu dharma, there are several forms and aspects of Lord Shiva that everyone is accustomed to worldwide.
Here is the list of most famous aspects of Lord Shiva:
1. Panchanana Shiva
At some of the temples, Shiva is portrayed as having five faces. Each of these faces are assigned with a specific aspect and a name – Isana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vamadeva, and Sadjyota. Isana represents the Iswara aspect of Shiva, known as Sada Shiva or the Eternal Shiva, and it faces south-east. Tatpurusha represents the deluded Purusha or ego of Shiva, and it faces east. Aghora represents the destructive and regenerative aspect of Shiva that can devour life and prepare for the renewal, and faces south. Vamadeva represents the healer and preserver side of Shiva and it faces north. Sadyojata represents the creative side of Shiva, and it faces west.
This is the most peaceful or shall we say the milder aspect of the God of destruction Lord Shiva when he is with his devotees and his family.
Ugramurthy is also known by other names – Raudra, Bhairava, Kankala, or Samharamurthy. This is the most brutal and ferocious form of Shiva when he is angry. Each of the forms is associated with Shiva in his destructive form to kill the demons of the world. They are:
- Kankala-bhairava: He assumed this form when he cut off the fifth head of Brahma.
- Gajasura-vadha-murthy: He assumed this form when he killed the demon by the name of Nila
- Tripurantakmurthi: He assumed this form when he destroyed the cities of gold, silver, and iron built by three sons of Andhakasura
- Sarabhesamurthy: He assumed this formed when he fought and killed the incarnation of Vishnu – Narasimha
- Kalarimurthy: He assumed this form when he fought and killed Yama to save his devotee Markandeya
- Kamantakamurty: He assumed this form when he killed Manmaha – the god of lust – because Manmaha disturbed him during his penance
- Andhakasura-vadha-murthy: He assumed this form when he defeated Andhakasura, who later joined his force as his commander. Later, he became popular by the name of Bhringi
- Bhairavamurthy This is a popular form when Shiva connects with the secret cults of Tantrism, and it involves the worship of him in this form in the cremation grounds and graveyards
Shiva is also known to be the master of various dance forms. He is even labeled as the author of all dance forms. It is said that the classical Indian dance (which is comprised of 108 roots of forms) have all been originated from him, just like all the yogic postures having roots in the forms of Shiva. Each of the dance stances is a form of expression, and Shiva used it to relieve the tension in the world and to remove the sufferings of his followers. Scriptures talk about how he used his dance forms to entertain his wife and other gods too.
Among these dance moves, about nine forms of Shiva have been described, and among them, Nataraja is the most popular one. Nataraja is known to be the king of dance. However, Hindus tend to have Nataraja form at their homes, this form is rarely seen at the temples. Other dance forms of Shiva include Ananda-tandava-murthy, where he dances in a pleasant and cheerful mood, Uma-tandava-murthy, where he dances in the company of his consort Parvati, Tripura-tandava-murthy, where he dances while slaying Tripurasura, and Urdhva-tandava-murthy, where he dances in the air.
This form represents Shiva as the universal teacher who passes the secrets of yoga, tantra, yantra, alchemy, art, science, history, knowledge, magic to the sages and saints, and to the gods and goddesses who are qualified to possess the secrets. The name sticks because he passes this knowledge by standing at the top of snowy mountains of Himalaya, and faces towards the Indian subcontinent, at the southern direction. This image is depicted in a pleasant mood as seated on a high seat with one leg folded, while the other rests on the Apasmarapurusha, the deluded self. He holds the snake in one hand, and fire in the other. Here, the snake represents tantric knowledge, while the fire represents enlightenment. The other two are Abhayamudra, the posture of assurance, and Gnanamudra, the posture of presenting knowledge.
This is probably the most known form of Shiva, where he is represented by a Linga as the supreme self, and it is said to have no beginning or an end. There is a mythology where he reveals this infinity to Brahma and Vishnu in the form of a pillar of fire, and both Brahma and Vishnu couldn’t find the end of it. At the heart of the Linga, Shiva I seated with four arms, and the Brahma and Vishnu are seen from the two sides.
Bhikshatana-murthy represents Shiva in his ascetic form, where he is a nomad wandering from place to place with a begging bowl in the form of human skill and lost in his own thoughts and wisdom. In the modern era too, we can find sages roaming around the cities and jungles in this form. They even perform magic to attract attention or scare the children who follow them.
Also known as Harihara or Sankaranarayanan, this form of Shiva is depicted to show his reconciliation and friendship with Vishnu. The right half of the image is shown with the right half of Shiva, and the left half of the image is shown with the left half of Vishnu.
This is the combined form of Shiva and Parvati together, which represents the unity of Purusha and Prorate. In this form, the left half is the form of the feminine left half of Parvati, and it is fused with the right half of Shiva in his masculine form. And the image is such that it is one continuous form, rather than a summation of two. Sometimes, we can see this form with Nandi in the background, or sitting on the pedestal.