One among the numerous forms of Shiva is Bhikshatan – mendicant or wandering ascetic or the beggar. There are two stories which narrate why Shiva took the form of Bhikshatan. The first story is associated with Shiva – Parvati marriage. The second story is associated with Shiva cutting the head of Brahma.
Goddess Parvati had performed intense penance to get Shiva as her husband. Shiva agreed finally. Shiva then in the form of a Bhikshatan with a dog asked Himavan for the hand of Parvati in marriage. It is said that Shiva appeared before the Himavan – father of Parvati – with an hour glass drum in hand. He began to dance to the rhythm of the drum. All the people assembled there were impressed by the dance of Shiva as Bhikshatan.
Himavan and his wife offered Him jewels and food but He rejected them. Instead He said that He want to marry Parvati.
Before Himavan and the assembled people could react, Bhikshatan disappeared.
Shiva took this form to fulfill the traditional rite of the groom asking the father of the bride for marriage permission.
Bhikshatan and Brahma
Shiva took the form of Bhairava and cut off the fifth head of Brahma for being arrogant about His creation. But soon Shiva felt remorse and for redemption of the sin, Brahma asked Shiva to become a wandering ascetic (Bhikshatan) and beg for food in a skull. He will only get redemption when Vishnu will advice him on how he could atone for his sin.
Shiva did not get permission to meet Vishnu at Vaikunta so He wandered all around the world. Finally Shiva got opportunity to enter Vaikunta and Vishnu advised him to go to Banaras (Kashi or
Varanasi) and do ritual bath in Ganges to be purified of the sin.