Rudra (रुद्रः)

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Rudra (Samskrit: रुद्रः) is generally considered to be a form of Shiva. One of the Prajapatis, Rudra is said to be of tamasic guna and is known to be of fierce nature. The birth of Rudra is from Brahma. Like Vishnu, Rudra is not said to have taken many avataras. According to Bhagavatam, अयमेवान्ते संहारकर्त्ता इति। ayamevānte saṁhārakarttā iti। Rudra is the samharakarta, the master of destruction.

व्युत्पत्तिः || Etymology

Amarakosha gives many names to Shiva or Rudra, a few of which are Shambhu, Isha, Pashupati, Shuli, Pinaki, Sthanu, Bhutesha, Vamadeva, Gangadhara, Vyomakesha, Tripurantaka, Kaparthi among others.

शम्भुरीशः पशुपतिः शिवः शूली महेश्वरः ।। १.१.७२ ।। ईश्वरः शर्व ईशानः शंकरश्चन्द्रशेखरः ।। १.१.७३ ।। भूतेशः खण्डपरशुर्गिरीशो गिरिशो मृडः ।। १.१.७४ ।।

मृत्युञ्जयः कृत्तिवासाः पिनाकी प्रमथाधिपः ।। १.१.७५ ।। उग्रः कपर्दी श्रीकण्ठः शितिकण्ठः कपालभृत् ।। १.१.७६ ।। वामदेवो महादेवो विरूपाक्षस्त्रिलोचनः ।। १.१.७७ ।।

कृशानुरेताः सर्वज्ञो धूर्जटिर्नीललोहितः ।। १.१.७८ ।। हरः स्मरहरो भर्गस्त्र्यम्बकस्त्रिपुरान्तकः ।। १.१.७९ ।। गङ्गाधरोऽन्धकरिपुः क्रतुध्वंसी वृषध्वजः ।। १.१.८० ।।

व्योमकेशो भवो भीमः स्थाणू रुद्र उमापतिः ।। १.१.८१ ।। अहिर्बुध्न्योऽष्टमूर्तिश्च गजारिश्च महानटः ।। १.१.८२ ।। कपर्दोऽस्य जटाजूटः पिनाकोऽजगवं धनुः ।। १.१.८३ ।। (Amar. Kosh. 1.1.72-83)[1]

Shabdakalpadruma explains that the word Rudra (रुद्र) originates from the dhatu (root) रुद् । Rud in the meaning of रोदयतीति । rodayiti (making one cry).

Role of Rudra

Rudra and his more calmer form Shiva (in the later ages), have been revered from Vedic times for his role in creation. Shiva as one of the trimurthis is said to control death and pralaya (destruction of creation). Although a few mantras/suktas of the Rigveda are devoted to describing and praising Rudra, there is a whole section of Taittriya Samhita, the Rudraprasna dedicated to him. Some of the attributes of Rudra are summarized as follows

  • भिषक् ॥ Bhishak or Vaidya (वैद्या ॥ doctor) : Rudra is hailed as the bhishak (doctor) as are the Asvini Kumaras in the later ages.
  • लयकारः ॥ Layakara: Rudra is known for his role in the destructive process of creation from the early times of Rigveda.
  • मृत्युन्जयः ॥ Mrtyunjaya: Rudra or Shiva is one of the main deities worshipped to overcome death and attain immortality. For example Markandeya intensely performed tapas to propitiate Shiva for longevity.
  • भूतनाथः ॥ Bhutanath: He is regarded as the palaka or ruler of the bhutaganas (the being of rudraloka).
  • नटराजः ॥ Nataraja: Known for his cosmic dance, Rudra or Shiva represents the eternal dancer and hence called as Nataraja.
  • नीलकण्ठः ॥ Neelakantha: Rudra or Shiva came to be known as Neelakantha after he consumed the kalakuta poison which arose from samudra manthan.

Birth and Family

According to Vishnupurana, Brahma at the beginning of the kalpa created Sanatkumara and his brothers (Sanaka, Sanandana and Sanatana). Being enlightened, these four rshis not desiring materialistic pleasures were not prepared to obtain progeny. Due to this Brahma became angry to such an extent that he was prepared to destroy the worlds. He became furious, and from his furrowed forehead and eyebrows emanated a figure, Rudra, shining with unbearable radiance like the mid-day sun.[2]

तस्य क्रोधात् समुदूभुतज्वालामालाविदीपितम् । ब्रह्मणोऽभूत् तदा सर्व्व त्रैलोक्यमखिलं मुने ।। ९ ।।

समुत्पन्नस्तदा रुद्रो मध्याह्रार्कसमप्रभः ।। १० ।।

अर्द्धनारीनरवपुः प्रचण्डोऽतिशरीखान् । विभजात्मानमित्युत्तवा तं ब्रह्मान्तर्दधे ततः ।। ११ ।।

तथोक्तोऽसौ द्रिधा स्त्रित्वं पुरुषत्वं तथाकरोत् । बिभेद पुरुषत्वं च दशधा चैकधा च पुनः ।। १२ ।। (Vish. Pura. 1.7.9-12)[3]

Rudra, having a body, half-male and half-female, was terrific, was instructed by Brahma to "divide yourself". Instantly Rudra split himself into a man and a woman. And then he divided the male into one and ten parts.[4] These eleven figures are the eleven Rudras. The names of the eleven Rudras are given differently in different Puranas. Vishnu Purana further explains in Adhyaya 8 of the same chapter about the creation of Rudra and his further role in creation.

रुदन् वै सुस्वरं सोऽथ द्रवंश्च द्रिजसत्तम । किं रोदिषीति तं ब्रह्मा रुदन्तं प्रत्युवाच ह ।। ३ ।।

नाम देहीति तं सोऽथ प्रत्युवाच प्रजापतिम् । रुद्रस्त्वं देव नाम्नासि मा रोदीर्धैर्य मावह ।। ४ ।। (Vish. Pura. 1.8.3-4)[5]

Brahma at the beginning of creation was thinking about a child resembling himself and then on his lap there appeared a child of blue complexion. When he was crying aloud, Brahma asked him "why are you crying"? He replied "I must be named", and because he was crying (rodana), Brahma named him "Rudra" (one who cries). He continued to cry further and since he cried so for seven more times Brahma gave him seven more names, described their forms, gave names of their wives and children.[6]

स्थानानि चैषामष्टानां पत्नीः पुत्रांश्च स प्रभुः । भवं सर्व्वमथेशानं तथा पशुपतिं द्विज ।। ६ ।। भीममुग्रं महादेवमुवाच स पितामहः ।

सूर्यो जलं मही वायुर्वह्निराकाशमेव च । दीक्षितो ब्राह्मणः सोम इत्येतास्तनवः क्रमात् ।। ७ ।। (Vish. Pura. 1.8.6-8)[5]

Pitamaha Brahma named them Bhava, Sarva, Ishana, Pasupati, Bhima, Ugra, and Mahadeva. They reside in Surya (Sun), Jala (water), Earth, Air, Fire, Space, Brahmana who took Diksha (in yajnas) and Soma (Moon) respectively.

Suvarchala, Usha, Sukeshi, Shivaa, Svaha, Disha, Diksha, and Rohini respectively are the names of the wives of the eight forms of Rudras named Surya and others. Their offsprings, sons and grandsons have filled the universe. Sanaischara, Suka, Lohitanga, Manojava, Skanda, Sarga, Santana, Budha are respectively the sons of the eight forms of Rudras (Vish. Pura. 1.8.9-12).

While Vishnupurana gives the origin of Rudras from Brahma, Brahmandapurana and Agnipurana mentions Kashyapa and Surabhi as the parents of the eleven Rudras along with Ajaikapat, Ahirbudhnya and Tvastr.

महादेवप्रसादेन तपसा भाविता सती । अजैकपादहिर्ब्रघ्नस्त्वष्टा रुद्राश्च सत्तम ॥ सुरभी कश्यपाद्रुद्रानेकादश विजज्ञुषी ॥१८.०४१ (Agni. Pura. 18.40-41)[7]

A few slokas further the same text, mentions that the eleven Rudras further pervade the creation entities in the worlds in the forms of hundreds and thousands of Rudras.[8]

Rudra - As form of Agni

Rigveda mentions Rudra as Agni "तमग्नेरुद्रो" while Atharvaveda proclaims तस्मै रुद्राय नमो अस्त्वग्नये। tasmai rudrāya namo astvagnaye। Another version of the eight forms of Rudra representing the earthly materials are as follows[9]

Forms of Rudra Represents
Rudra Agni
Sarva Jala (water)
Pashupati Medicinal herbs
Ugra Vayu (Air)
Ashani Vidyut (electricity)
Bhava Parjanya (Clouds)
Mahadeva Chandra (Moon)
Ishana Aditya (Sun)

In this way, Rudra represents Agni, which resides in every form of the creation, as well as the Agni tejas with which he shines forth.

Rudra in Vedas

Earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Vedas and he is praised for his valour and as a vaidya. He is described as one of the important but considered lesser than Indra, Agni etc deities in whose praise there are many suktas in Rigveda.[10]

Rigveda

While the highest number of suktas in Rigveda pertain to Indra, Rudra has been exclusively praised in three to five[11] suktas and mentioned about fifty times in context with other devatas. In Rigveda Rudra occupies a place of lesser importance, however in Yajurveda and Atharvaveda Rudra plays a prominent role.[9]

Rudra Sukta (1.43) of Rig Veda praises the qualities of Rudra that he is a Jnani (Knowledgeable), as one who gives good health and happiness along with longevity and as one who removes all the causes for ill-health. Along with Mitra, Varuna, Rudra aids in dispelling causes of diseases and ill-health.[12]

Rigveda (2.33.1) further describes Rudra as the father of Marutganas. He is extremely fierce in dealing with those on the wrong path, while he is very kind to his bhaktas.[13]

Rigveda (7.46) is a short sukta consisting of four rks, two of which are as follows

इमा रुद्राय स्थिरधन्वने गिर: क्षिप्रेषवे देवाय स्वधाव्ने । अषाळ्हाय सहमानाय वेधसे तिग्मायुधाय भरता शृणोतु नः ॥१॥

स हि क्षयेण क्षम्यस्य जन्मन: साम्राज्येन दिव्यस्य चेतति । अवन्नवन्तीरुप नो दुरश्चरानमीवो रुद्र जासु नो भव ॥२॥

Summary : This sukta in praise of Rudra describes Him as a protector (as one bearing a strong bow capable of shooting fast arrows), nourisher (providing anna or food), and provider of astras which makes His worshippers as winners. He is known as one who brings prosperity to both the beings of Prthvi (earth) and Svarga (heavens) and protects one who worships Him by dispelling diseases and granting many divine aushadhas (medicinal herbs). The sukta says - O Rudra! do not harm our children and their progeny, and let us not be part of those bound by your Krodha (anger). Do not kill us but do not leave us, please come for our yajnas and protect us.[14] Rigveda Sukta (7.59) also called as मृत्युविमोचनी ऋक्। mr̥tyuvimocanī r̥k। Mrtyuvimochani Rk emphasises the important quality for which Rudra is worshipped - as one who protects from the death (Mrtyunjaya - one who wins over Mrtyu in a sense attains Moksha).

त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् । उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥१२॥ (Rig. Veda. 7.59.12)

Scholars[11] opine that from the Rigvedic times, the mantras of the five Rudra Suktas have been used in the daily worship of people, a practice seen even in the present day. These suktas are known famously as the Pancha Rudra Suktas. They include mantras in suktas 1.43.9 (Kanva), 1.114.11 (Kutsa Angirasa), 2.33.15 (Ghrtsamada), 6.74.4 (Bharadvaja), and 7.46.4 (Maitravaruna Vasishta). Some others include the rks 4.3.1 and 5.42.11 also for the worship of Rudra.

Yajurveda

Rudradhyaya present in both Krishna Yajurveda (Taittriya samhita, Kanda 4, Prapathakas 5 and 7) and Shukla Yajurveda Samhita (Adhyaya 16) is a very important part dedicated to Rudra describing his qualities and a prayer to win His favour. Rudra or Shiva are worshipped in the form of Linga, with the recitation of these mantras along with the Mahamrtyunjaya mantra. The Shiva Panchakshari mantra is also a part of the Rudraprashna.

Sri Rudram

Sri Rudram comprises of mantras of the kanda four called as Namakam (in prapathaka five, 11 mantras) and Chamakam (of the seventh prapathaka) are preeminent Vedic mantras addressed to Rudra, the fearful aspect of Shiva and are recited daily throughout Bharatavarsha both in the households as part of devatarchana and in Shiva temples.

Panchakshari Mantra

नमः शम्भवे च मयोभवे च नमः शंकराय च मयस्कराय च नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च । (Yaju. Samh. 4.5.8.1)[15]

The sacred Panchakshari mantra is in the Namakam (kanda 4, prapathaka five) part of the Sri Rudram.

Atharvaveda

The 11th Kanda, sukta 2 of Atharvaveda pertains to praising the form of Rudra. It mentions his fearful aspect, role in destruction and making people cry, as pashupati, as a powerful protector, and dispeller of diseases such as fevers and grants longevity.[16]

He is described as the deity of the Antariksha mandala.

Number of Rudras

Many texts depict the origin of Rudras, and describe eleven of them. Agnipurana mentions that these eleven Rudra forms gave rise to lakhs of progeny thus the creation is pervaded by rudra amshas.

Text Slokas Names of Eleven Rudras
Mahabharata Danadharma Parva of Anushasana Parva (13 Chapter) अजैकपादहिर्बुध्न्यस्त्र्यम्बकश्च महातपाः। वृषाकपिश्च शम्भुश्च कपाली रैवतस्तथा॥ हरश्च बहुरूपश्च उग्र उग्रोऽथ वीर्यवान्।

तस्य चैवात्मजः श्रीमान्विश्वरूपो महायशाः।। (Maha. Anush. Parv. 13.118.5-6)

Ajaikapat, Ahirbudhnya, Trayambaka, Vrshakapi, Shambhu, Kapali, Raivata, Hara, Bahurupa, Ugraugra, Veeryavaan
Garuda Purana (Acharakanda Adhyaya 6)[17] हरश्च बहुरूपश्च त्र्यम्बकश्चापराजितः ।। वृषाकपिश्च शम्भुश्च कपर्दी रैवतस्तथा ।। 6.38 ।। मृगव्याधश्च शर्वश्च कपाली च महामुने ! ।।

एकादशैते कथिता रुद्रास्त्रिभुवनेश्वराः ।। 6.39 ।।

Hara, Bahurupa, Trayambak, Aparajita, Vrshakapi, Shambu, Kapardi, Raivata, Mrgavyadha, Sarva, Kapali
Matsya Purana (Adhyaya 5)[18] अजैकपादहिर्बुध्न्य विरूपाक्षोऽथ रैवतः।

हरश्च बहुरूपश्च त्र्यम्बकश्च सुरेश्वरः।। ५.२९ ।। सावित्रश्च जयन्तश्च पिनाकी चापराजितः। एते रुद्राः समाख्याता एकादश गणेश्वराः।। ५.३० ।।

Ajaikapada, Ahirbudhnya, Virupaksha, Raivata, Hara, Bahurupa, Trayambaka, Savitra, Jayanta, Pinaki, Aparajita
Agni Purana[7] हरश्च बहुरूपश्च त्र्यम्बकश्चापराजितः ॥१८.०४३ वृषाकपिश्च शम्भुश्च कपर्दी रैवतस्तथा । मृगव्याधस्य सर्पश्च कपाली दश चैककः । Hara, Bahurupa, Trayambaka, Aparajita, Vrshakapi, Shambhu, Kapardi, Raivata, Mrgavyadha, Sarpa and Kapali[8]

Bhutanatha

In the Puranas, Rudra is acknowledged as the chief of Bhutas. That is why Rudra is known by such names as Bhutanayaka, Gananayaka, Rudranucara etc. But since the common name Rudra is used for the ruler (king) of all the Bhutas, Vamana Purana declares that Rudra is not an individual.

Both Vamanapurana and Matsyapurana represent Virabhadra and Nandikesvara as two Rudras who are the masters of Bhutas. (Matsyapurana 181, 2; Vamanapurana 4, 17).

In Vamana Purana, the number of Bhutas is given as 11 crores. Skanda, Sakha, Bhairava are the chief among them. Under them are innumerable Bhutas. (Vamana Purana 67, 1-23).

References 

  1. Amarakosha (Kanda 1)
  2. Gupta, Munilal. Sri Sri Vishnupurana (Slokas and Hindi Translation) Gorakhpur: Gita Press. (Pages 37-38)
  3. Vishnu Purana (Amsha 1 Adhyaya 7)
  4. Vettam. Mani (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass. (Pages 654-655)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Vishnu Purana (Amsha 1 Adhyaya 8)
  6. Gupta, Munilal. Sri Sri Vishnupurana (Slokas and Hindi Translation) Gorakhpur: Gita Press. (Pages 40-41)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Agni Purana (Adhyaya 18)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Shastri, J. L., Bhatt, G. P., and Gangadharan, N., (1954) The Agni Purana, Part 1. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (Pages 44-45)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gopal Reddy, Mudiganti and Sujata Reddy, Mudiganti (1997) Sanskrita Saahitya Charitra (Vaidika Vangmayam - Loukika Vangamayam, A critical approach) Hyderabad : P. S. Telugu University. (Pages 119-125)
  10. Gopal Reddy, Mudiganti and Sujata Reddy, Mudiganti (1997) Sanskrita Saahitya Charitra (Vaidika Vangmayam - Loukika Vangamayam, A critical approach) Hyderabad : P. S. Telugu University (Page 7)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Pt. Suryanarayana Sastry Malladi. (1982) Samskruta Vangmaya Charitra, Volume 1, Vaidika Vangmayam. Hyderabad : Andhra Sarasvata Parishat (Page 134-137)
  12. Pt. Sripada Damodar Satvalekar (1985) Rigved ka Subodh Bhashya, Volume 1 (Mandala 1). Parady : Svadhyaya Mandal (Pages 102-104)
  13. Raghunathacharya, S. B. (1982) Arshavijnana Sarvasvamu, Volume 1 : Vedasamhitalu (Telugu) Tirupati : Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (Page 53)
  14. Pt. Ramgovind Trivedi. (1954) Hindi Rigveda. Prayaga:Bharat's Press Ltd (Pages 828-829)
  15. Yajurveda Samhita (Krishna Yajurveda Shaka Kanda 4 Prapathaka 5)
  16. Pt. Shriram Sharma Acharya. (2002) Atharvaveda Samhita, Part 2 (Kanda 11 to 20) With Hindi Commentary. Haridwar : Brahmavachas (Pages 7-10)
  17. Garuda Purana (Achara Kanda Adhyaya 6)
  18. Matsya Purana (Adhyaya 5)