Perhaps one of the least known stories about Shiva is his fight with Narasimha avatara of Lord Vishnu in the form of Sharabha. One version says he killed Narasimha! Another says Vishnu assumed another superhuman form Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha.
The mythical creature Sharabha shown here is part-bird and part-lion. Shiva Purana describes Sharabha as thousand-armed, lion-faced and with matted hair, wings and eight feet. In his clutches is Lord Narasimha, whom Sharabha slays!
First, Vishnu assumed the form of Narasimha to slay Hiranyakashipu, an asura (demon) king, who was terrorizing the universe and devotee of Shiva.The Shiva Purana mentions: After slaying Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha’s wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what he might do. The Devas (the gods) requested Shiva to tackle Narasimha. Initially, Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that failed, Shiva manifested as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. Shiva then assumed the Sharabha form. Sharabha then attacked Narasimha and seized him up until he was immobilized. He thus quelled Narasimha’s terrifying rage. Narasimha became a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. Sharabha then decapitated and de-skinned Narasimha so Shiva could wear the hide and lion-head as a garment. The Linga Purana and Sharabha Upanishad also mention this mutilation and murder of Narasimha. After the mutilation, Vishnu assumed his normal form and retired to his abode, after duly praising Shiva. It was from here on that Shiva came to be known as “Sharabeshamurti” or “Simhagnamurti”.
This myth is particularly interesting because it brings to forth the past rivalries between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
The Vaishnavites have a similar story of Vishnu transforming into Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha, in yet another bird form: a 2 headed eagle.