1.  Bhikshatanar

Shlokam:
Smeared in white, with good omen in eyes, fingers with grass to the right, with shUla and kapAla in the left lands, nice wear (pAduka) in feet, with dangling red matted hair, moon on the head, deer (mR^igam) in the right hand, a vessel for alms in the left, with bulged belly, that God, on bhikshAtana, we pray.

Description of the deity :
bhikshAtanar : The mUrti who asks for alms 
The R^ishis in dArukAvanam forest, once thought that only the karma(deed, performing rituals) is supreme and it is not required to pray God at all. They stopped worshipping God. Whatever be the deeds, isn't there One Who provides the doer with the fruits ? How can the inanimate deeds automatically give fruit ? Not realizing these facts the R^iShis pursued their dogma of karma. To teach them the importance of worship Lord Shiva took the form of bhikshAtanar (begger) and mahA vishNu the form of mOhini (glamorous girl). In this form the Lord is naked and quite enchanting. So was the mohini. The Naked Lord came to the streets of the R^iShis to get alms. (Does the God, Who is the provider of all wealth, need to beg ? The playful Lord, while providing the supreme wealth for those who worship, went to beg as if He has nothing !) At the charm of the naked Lord Shiva the wives of the R^ishis lost their heart. They forgot what they were doing and started simply following the Naked God. Meanwhile the R^ishis also forgot the karma they were strongly advocating and followed the glamorous mOhini.

When they got to see their wives - the followers of karmic discipline, lost their virtue and following a Naked Beggar, they got angry with Lord Shiva and vishNu and started targeting their power of the karmas towards the Lord, by performing the abhichAra yAgam which will produce bad effects. They directed the snakes, demon, tiger, fire and drum that came out of the fire against the Lord. What can hurt the Supreme Who is the Source of everything. He coolly made them his ornaments! Now the R^iShis realized their stupidity and realized that God is the supreme and not the karma.
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2. kAm Ari ( The supreme destroyer of kama - Cuipd/Lust)

shlokam:
The body smeared with ash, moon on the head, ornated by gangA, snakes, axe and deer, Pure, sitting comfortably in vIrAsanam, with the left palm over the right, in the posture of a yOgi, wearing the skin of a tiger, burning the cupid with the fire emerging from the eye in the forehead, to You salutations.


Description of the deity:
kAma ari : one who is the enemy of cupid.(vIra mUrti)
When Shakthi became pArvati, daughter of the king of Himalayas, She was doing thapas for Lord Shiva. (1) At the same time the great sages, the four sons of Brahma, sanakar, sana.ndanar, sanAtanar, sanat kumArar came to Lord Shiva for enlightenment. The Lord gave them enlightenment in the form of Lord dakshiNA mUrti.(2) As the Duo, Who are the cause as well as the energy for the whole world are into yoga, the whole world got more inclined to yoga and life sustenance was in trouble. Meanwhile the dEvas, who were tortured by the sUrapadma and his brothers tAraka, simhamukha, knew that those demons can be killed only by the son of Lord Shiva and Shakthi. Disappointed that both God and Goddess were doing yoga instead of marrying, they asked the cupid to disturb the meditating Lord Shiva with his arrows in order to induce lust for pArvati. When desperation sets in, reasoning gets pushed down. Can the Supreme be induced with lust by anybody ? The cupid refused since he knew that it will be just fatal for him. But the other dEvAs threatened to curse him if he didn't obey. Saying that it is better to be killed by the God of gods than by the curses of dEvAs, he went with his wife, rati, to the abode of Shiva where He was in meditation.

kAmadahanar
The cupid shot the flower arrow on the Lord. The next moment the fire from the eye in the forehead of the Lord burnt the cupid. Undisturbed He continued His meditation. The cupid is of the reputation that his arrows never fail. But well, it can apply to others, can it be for the Almighty ? His arrows were useless in front of the Lord and he too became just a heap of ash ! Shocked by the death of cupid all the dEvAs realized their plots would not work out with God. They understood that only sincerity could get the showers of Its grace and any other pressure can just not mount over God. They surrendered themselves in front of the Lord and pleaded for mercy. The Lord forgave them and married pArvati and gave subrahmaNya for the destruction of the demons. On their request He also bring back to life kAma, however he would be visible only to his wife and not to others. Because of this reason kAmadeva is called ananga (one without limbs).
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                                                                  3. kAlAri

shlokam:
Red in color (sin^dhUram), Three eyed, shoulders like yugas (four shouldered), with hands holding up the sUlam , noose, axe in hands, with frightening teeth, nice face, with the left foot standing up over the chest of kAla (time - death), with cast down red matted hair, to that pashupati(Lord of creatures), kAlAn^taka I prostrate.

purANa of the deity:
kAla ari : The enemy of kALa(vIra mUrti)
kAla is the dEva who is responsible for death. Taking the kAla as time it can be said kAlari represents the fact that God is beyond the limits of time (mR^ityuJNjayan).
The sage mR^ikaNDu did not have an offspring for quite a long time. He performed tapas to get the blessings of Lord shiva. God appeared in front of him. Now the sage had two choices - either a son indiscipline, cruel and dumb living for long or a son loving, intelligent and a gem of character living very short span of life. The sage chose the second one. His wife gave birth to a child mArkaNDEya, out of a boon from Lord Shiva, by which mArkaNDEya would be very intelligent but would live just for 16 years.

Young child mArkaNDEya grew up learning the great scriptures, caring and loving, devotional towards God. His parents were very pleased with him. When he became 16, he found his parents weeping. He came to know that he would die at 16 and that was the cause of the gloom. Intelligent mArkanDeya realized that none other than the God, Who is beyond all the scopes of time and hailed as mR^ityuNJjaya - who conquered the death, can save him from the strong clutches of death. Determined and devotional, he started doing Shiva pUja and surrendered himself completely to the Lord. The yamadUtAs who came to take his life away were scared away by the flame of this young boy's devotion. As the the attendants couldn't take away his life, kAla the god of death, himself came. Young mArkaNDEya did not loose his devotion even in the crisis moment. He embraced the shiva liN^gam. As kAla still tried to take away mArkaNDEya's life, the Lord appeared furious from the Shiva liN^gam and kicked kAla to death!! He blessed the sincere devotion of the young boy and made mArkaNDEya to be in 16 always - deathless !

All the gods pleaded to Lord to show mercy on kAla. On their request, God gave kAla life back and ordered him not to disturb His devotees.
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                                                        4. Kalyana Sundarar

Shlokam:
Red in color (si.ndhUram), Three eyed, shoulders like yugas (four shouldered), wearing necklace and bracelet, Colorful in divine wonderful dress, Shining in the wedding robe, ornated, with enchanting body, salutations to that mUrti who is in marriage posture, with a hand of dEvi in one lotus hand, with axe and deer in hands and ga.nga and moon on the wound-up hair.

purANa of the mUrti:
kalyANa su.ndarar : The beautiful (mUrti )in marriage(bhOga mUrti)
Shakthi was born as pArvati, the daughter of the king of Himalayas. As a young child, She was not interested in playing like the other children. She was more inclined towards meditating on Lord Shiva in the mountains. She desired to marry Lord shiva. For that she wanted to perform austerity in the snow covered himalayas. Her parents hesitated, but finally had to subdue to the determination of pArvati. pArvati performed austerity from an ashram. Lord Shiva who was happy with Her worship, came as an old devotee to her place. pArvati offered Her respect to the Old bhakta of Her Beloved Lord. Now, He tried to convince Her that She shouldn't waste Her youth doing tapas, but should enjoy life getting married ! He further suggested that She could get married to Him, instead of desiring for Lord shiva Who dances in the cemeteries and wears skulls and bones! pArvati, without knowing that He is God Himself, got very angry on hearing the Old man's words and told Him that She showed Him respect only because He seemed like a devotee and She would not want to hear any little blasphemy of God further. She asked the Old Man to leave the place immediately. The Lord, pleased with Her determination and devotion, revealed who He is. pArvati was surprised and begged the pardon of God. However God had accepted Her scolding as the most pleasant hailing. Didn't it come from a very deep love for God ?! He gave Her the boon She yearned for - getting married to Her.

The himalayan king's family was delighted to see their beloved daughter's wedding. The region was decorated and shining with prosperity. The young beautiful pArvati was decorated with chosen best ornaments for the wedding. Now came the Groom - Lord shiva - to the wedding place - on an old bull, with skull and bone ornaments, with the skin of the tiger as the clothing, accompanied by the roar of the bUta gaNas !! The mother of pArvati mEnai fainted to see the groom in such a form for her sweet daughter, softer than the flowers. Now the Lord changed to the form, glittering in a beautiful wedding robe - with golden ornaments and splendid clothing! When mEnai woke up and saw the Groom she was thrilled to see such a beautiful form and was very pleased that He is "the suitable" groom for her daughter. The play of the Lord has no bounds ! mEnai saw only the external appearance of the Groom. Other than the great pArvati who knows the glory of that Groom ?! The enchanting Lord in the wedding robe got married to the Daughter of the mountains and this form of God is called kalyANa sundharar.
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   5. Rishabha ArUDhar (God Shiva on Bull )

Dhyana shlokam of rishabha AruDar :
Leaning with braceleted right hand holding a staff, residing on the mount of the Bull, with Graceful eyes, the blessing hands holding axe and deer, with an eye in forehead, blissful, three eyed, the hair wound as crown, with gauri to his left, Doing good to one who worships, to that God, R^ishabhArUDha (salutations).

purANa of Rishaba ArUDa mUrthi:
R^ishabha ArUDhar : deity sitting on the Bull(bhOga mUrti)

This is one of the very auspicious mUrtis, praised in periya purANam as blessing the devotees for their great deeds.

There are two bull vehicles associated with Lord shiva. They are the mahAviShNu bull and the bull of justice.

dharma dEvatA(divine of justice), in order to be immortal, worshipped God very ardently. God as an indication of the justness ever, took the dharma as the bull vehicle. Thus dharma attained endlessness.

During tripura samhAra(1) as soon as the God put Its leg on the chariot, which the divines proudly thought "they" made it for God, the chariot's axle broke off ! The divines realized the futility of their pride. In the meanwhile Lord viShNu took the form of a bull, on which Lord shiva sat. This is the viShNu bull vehicle of God.
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                                                       6. Chandrashekharar

shlokam:
With the hands in abhaya (protecting) and varada (boon giving) postures, with a pleasing and decorated expression, a blossomed face and eye, with the shadow created by moon on the crown, with an upright body, and feet in the same level, Coral like formed, holding the deer and axe, (He) stay in the lotus pedestal. (of my heart)

purANa of the deity :
chandra shEkharar : moon ornamented Lord (bhOga mUrti)
daksha had twenty seven stars as daughters. All of them were married to moon. But the moon had special attraction towards rOhiNi. So all the other wives complained it to the father dakasha that their husband moon is not treating them fairly. daksha got angry and cursed the moon to lose its luminance (kala) day by day. Everyday the moon started loosing one luminance part (kala) out of his 16 parts. Afraid and ashamed moon disappeared into the ocean. There are many herbs that require the light of the moon to grow. Without moon, they were harmed. Consequently there was suffering in the world. To end the problem the celestials advised moon to take refuge in the Great Divine, Lord shiva. Left with only one kalA, he took refuge in Lord Shiva. Being the graceful Almighty, He wore the moon crescent on His head, making him grow for 15 days and decay for 15 days periodically.
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7. umA mahEshvarar


shlokam:
Smeared in white, sitting in the sukhAsana posture, with young deer, axe, varda(boon giving) and abhaya (protecting) postures (of hand), pleasant, Supreme, holding the flower (lily), giver of boons, accompanied by umA, (I) salute, to that Source of all.

purANam of deity :
umA mahEshvarar : Great God with umA(bhOga mUrti)







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8. Natarajar


shlokam:
A face with four shoulders, three eyes, to the left destructive fire (in the hand), moon and leaves on the head, hand stretching downwards, the raised foot pointing down, to the right swastika earring, Damarukam (drum), ga.nga (in the head), and protection posture, salutations to that God of ceaseless dance whose matted hair is flowing, standing on the unconscious body (hyapasmAra dEham)

purANa of the deity :
naTa rAjar : king of dance (yOga mUrti)
Lord Shiva dances during the creation, protection and destruction of the worlds, though the kind of His dance varies with respect to the action. (san^dhyA tAnDava, Urdhva tANDava, rudra tANDava, samhAra tANDava etc.). The dance of the Lord takes place in every minute particle, for all of us to exist and act. That is the source of all the energy. His movement is shakti. Yogis hear and see the dance of the Lord by invoking the kuNDalinI shakti.

There were two ardent sages vyAgrapAda and patanjali who were worshipping God to see Its blissful dance that energizes the worlds. vyAgrapAda out of his devotion asked for the eyes and legs of the tiger, so that he could go very early in the dawn, even before the bees wake up, to pluck the flowers very fresh - not even touched by the bees to offer to God ! That is why he was called vyAgrapAda. The other sage was the serpent AdiseSha on which mahA viShNu reside, desired to see the glorious Dance of God. They were performing austerity at the holy place called thillai .

At the same time bhadrakAli (1), the fierce form of goddess asked for a competition with God in dance. God and mahAkAli came to the thillai, where the sages were performing austerity to see His dance and there began the competition between kAli and Lord shiva. The Lord, Who keeps dancing creating, protecting, destroying, hiding and blessing, won the play by acting the Urdva tANDava, raising His Feet to His Head. The gracious dance of the God filled the hearts of the sages and those who ardently seek Him.

Lord Shiva danced in the five ambalams during various occasions. Out of them chithambaram is very much renowned. Lord danced here to fulfill the worship of patanjali and vyAghra pAda mahaR^ishis.
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9. tripurA.ntakar

shlokam:
Smeared in red (blood), a full-moon face, with the deer, and the bow to the left (in His hand), in the right hand an arrow and axe, wearing ga.nga and crescent moon, always worshipped by vishNu and brahma, burnt the three cities by His smile, to that God of three worlds, the enemy of pura (purAri), pray.

purANa of the deity :
tri pura a.ntakar : destroyer of three cities (vIra mUrti)
The tripurA signify the three components(impurities) of bondage (pAsam) namely aham (ego), karma(deeds and their effects), mAya (illusion). When God shows His grace all these impurities are burnt, bliss remains and Lord Shiva dances there. (padhi aNukiR pachu pAcha n^illAvE - thirumUlar)

Three demons kamalAkshan, tArukAkshan, vidhunmAli got a boon from the Lord that they can not be destroyed unless all three of them come together, and attacked by a single arrow. Then they created forts in different areas and ruled the world. dEvAs who were disturbed by them complained it to the Lord. But Lord Shiva said as long as the three demons pray Him He won't destroy them. So mahA vishNu took the form of a sage, and taught the three demons mAyAvAtham, resulting them to stop praying the Lord, praising themselves and torturing dEvAs. Since all the good qualities of them were lost the Lord came for the destruction of the purAs. The three demons came together to fight against the Lord forgetting their boon.

The earth became the chariot for the Lord, brahma the charioteer, vishNu the arrow, sun and moon the wheels, the mountain mEru as the bow and the serpent vAsuki as the string in the bow. Thus all the gods were present in some form in that chariot. But the fire and god of death were in the wheel instead of the arrow. vinAyaka broke the wheel to put them in the arrow. Finally when everything was ready dEvAs were proud that only with their help God is going to destroy the tripuras. But Lord Shiva didn't use any of them. He smiled and in that smile the three purAs were burnt down.(The rudhrAksha appeared from the three eyes of Lord Shiva during tripurasaMhAra) The thought of dEvAs that without their help the Lord wont be able to destroy the tripuras proved foolish.

The purpose of destruction by Lord is only for purification. Lord gave life to the three demons. Though they went wrong they initially were devotees. They repented for their mistake. The Lord forgave them and gave one of them the great work of fanning Him with chAmaram, and the rest two as His security in His abode. (mUvAr puraN^kaL eriththa anRu mUvarkku aruL cheydhAn - thiru nyAna chamban^dhar)

thiru adhikai is the temple associated with the burning of thripurA. Below is a depiction of this in this temple.
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10. jala.ndharAri

Shlokam:
Smeared in red (blood), moving fierce, with three nice eyes, Protection posture, axe, deer, bow decorating the hands, cutting the head of jala.ndhara who is trying to hold the disc (chakra) of earth (ground), I pray, the destroyer of jala.ndhara.

purANa of the deity:
jala.ndhara ari : enemy of jala.ndhara (vIrA mUrti)
jalandhara was a demon king. After doing harsh austerities he got lots of boons. By the power he got out of those boons, he captured and ruled the worlds. He went to the dEvAs to fight against. Since nobody was ready to fight against such a powerful enemy, everybody subdued to him without much resistance. He then proceeded to more powerful worlds of satyalOka and vaikuNTha. There too nobody was ready to fight against him. But he was told that only Lord Shiva can fight against him. Stupid jalandhara not realizing what he is doing, went to KailAsa, the abode of Lord shiva, to fight with the God! Lord Shiva took the form of an old man and stood on his way. He asked jalandhara where he was going. jalandhara replied that he was going to fight against Lord Shiva. Smiling the Old Man marked a disc (chakra) on the ground. He said, "Before fighting with the powerful Lord shiva, check your strength by lifting this disc above your head." jalandhara laughed at the Old man that he did not realize jalandhara's strength. He decided to show off his strength by lifting that disc. As he started lifting jala.ndhara realized that it was not an easy job. He took that disc with great difficulty and placed on his head. The disc cut his head off cutting him into pieces!
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11. mAtaN^gAri


shlokam:
Standing on the head of the elephant with the right leg, with the hands ripping open the skin (of the elephant) and covering Himself with it, holding dreadful trident and sharungam, axe, and deer, boon giving posture in hands, with a frightening face, lit by the crescent, with the scared faced (pArvati) to the left, with a pointing hand, to that hara (salutations).

purANa of the deity :
mAtaN^ga ari : enemy of the elephant (vIra mUrti)
There was a demon gajAsura in the form of an elephant. He did severe penance and got lots of powerful boons. His wicked mind did not try to use all those powers for the constructive things, but rather started to disturb, kill and loot others. The power he had got out of the penance made even the divines afraid of him. His crooked mind also brought him to the death trap, when he started to attack the devotees who were completely focused on the worship of God at the holy abode kAshi. His ego and mad rage made him not realize whom he is attacking. The Supreme Powerful God, the Protector of the devotees destroyed the demon ripping its body. The daemon screamed loud and lost the life.

Considered to be a very furious form of Lord Shiva, with the shakti Herself frightened by the act of the Lord. (However the Lord is in all smiles !)
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12. karALar (vIrabhadrar)

shlokam:
With four shoulders, three eyed, with the matted hair wound as a crown, sword and arrow in His right hand, bow and mace in His left, with projecting teeth, with a frightening face, powerful, with a terrible roar, accompanied by bhadrakALi, (I) think of that karALa.

purANa of the deity
karAlar: dreadful one (vIra mUrthi)
shakti as dAkshAyaNi appeared as the daughter of daksha, who was the son of brahmA. She prayed Lord Shiva to get married to Him. The Lord accepted dAshAyaNi ignoring the ostentation of daksha. daksha felt insulted as the Lord did not get married to his daughter with his pompous arrangements. He did a yAga in which he worshipped all gods and purposefully ignored the God, Shiva. All other dEvAs out of their fear attended the yAga and accepted the offering. A great sage dadhIchi advised dakshA not to do such things and warned him it will be fatal for him. Ignoring his advice, dakshA continued his yAga. dAkshAyaNi came to the yAga to advise Her father to do offering to the Lord of gods, Shiva. But he ignored Her advice and accused Her and Lord Shiva. She got angry and prayed the Lord to teach dakshA a lesson, left the form of dAkshAyaNi by getting into the yAga fire and appeared as the daughter of king of Himalayas (see kaLyANa su.ndarar).

The Lord created vIra bhadrar(also called karALar) and bhadra kALi. (karALar is the only deity in the 25 mAhEshwara mUrtis, who is not Lord Shiva Himself, but is a power of Lord Shiva). Lord asked them to destroy the yAga of dakshA. They stormed into the yAga and mutilated the dEvAs who took part in the yAga. He cut the head of dakshA. Nobody could stop Him. (A more detailed description can be found in daksha kAnDam of kan^da purANam (1). thiruvun^dhiyAr(2) in thiruvAcakam sings this victory. thakkayAgap paraNi (3) is a literature dedicated to this storming by the valorous vIrabhadra). Lord viShNu came for a fight, but in vain. All the dEvAs surrendered to Lord Shiva and pleaded for mercy. The Giver of refuge, forgave them and on their request gave dakshA also life by putting the head of a goat in place of his cut head. dakshA repented for his sin. thirup paRiyalUr is the temple associated with the destruction of daksha yAgam
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