Ekapada Shiva - The one legged Shiva
Ekapada Shiva, Someshwara temple Andhra Pradesh
Shiva, a common name around the house, yet an unknown icon when it comes to deep spiritualism. Considered to be the greatest in the Trinity, Shiva is still far from understood, leave alone being realized. Much as He is not half as well known as His counterpart Vishnu, His forms are equally obscure.
It would sound strange that Shiva came with more avataras than Vishnu, say 27 in all. It would be even stranger to say that He had "Lilamurthy" attributed to His name. Even more strange would be His close association with the Mother Goddess cult. This is a sea of knowledge itself and we have not even started talking about the essence of the Lingas that represent His aniconic Self.
What makes up Shiva, Who is He, and what is it that makes Him so remarkable that His presence in man's mind has lasted so many centuries through history. Is it all about faith? We definitely need a whole lot of faith to know Him, to understand Him, to experience Him but this enigmatic deity leaves a lot for us to figure out.
One of the few things which any art historian or archaeologist has still probably not been able to figure out is the rare iconographic representation of Shiva in the form of the Ekapadamurthy. Of course there seems to be an Ekapada Shiva or the one legged Shiva as well as an Ekapada Trimurthy, which makes it all too confusing.
Ekapada Shiva is a rarity in Indian Iconography, considered to be a Lilamurthy of Shiva and found in all of two places. One is found in Chaunsath Yogini temple is Orissa where he is more commonly known as Ajaikapada Bhairava and the other is found in Someshwara temple Andhra Pradesh. In both cases He is found in close association with the Mother Goddess cult, specially Chamunda. He seems to be very closely associated with the Tantrik cult, a probable influence of the Sakta cult originating in Bengal in close association with Tantrik practices.
The Tantrik cult had a very strong influence in Orissa and Andhra pradesh and a bit of it trickled into Tamil Nadu. There have been references to Ekapada Shiva found in Mahabalipuram but there is no visible proof to support that yet.
For now, this is what Ekapada shiva looks like:
Ekapada Shiva, Someshwara temple, AP. Depicted here with Chamunda dancing in a niche above Him.
Ekapada Shiva, Chaunsath Yogini temple. Also known as Ajaikapada Bhairava
Original photos ©2002 Michael D. Gunther, Glossary of Indian art.
Original photos: http://ganapati.free.fr/ Mukhalingam.