|The Roaring God
of Hunt and Storm
Rudra, from a 19th-century textbook on Hinduism
Sthirebhiraṅghaiḥ pururūpa ughro babhruḥ śukrebhiḥ pipiśehiraṇyaiḥīśānādasya bhuvanasya bhūrerna vā u yoṣad rudrādasuryam
|Weapons||Bow and Arrow, Trishula|
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Rudra (//; Sanskrit: रुद्र) is a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind or storm and the hunt. One translation of the name is "the roarer". In the Rigveda, Rudra has been praised as the "mightiest of the mighty". Rudra is the personification of 'terror'. Depending up on the poetic situation, Rudra can be meant as the most severe roarer/howler (could be a hurricane or tempest) or the most frightening one. The Shri Rudram hymn from the Yajurveda is dedicated to Rudra, and is important in the Saivism sect.
The Hindu god Shiva shares several features with the Rudra: the theonym Shiva originated as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva ("kind") being used euphemistically of Rudra, who also carries the epithet Aghora, Abhayankar ("extremely calm [sic] non terrifying"). Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), and the name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.
The etymology of the theonym Rudra is somewhat uncertain. It is usually derived from the root rud- which means "to cry, howl." According to this etymology, the name Rudra has been translated as "the roarer". A Rigvedic verse rukh draavayathi, iti rudraha where rukh means “sorrow/misery”, draavayathi means “drive out/eliminate” and iti means “that which” (or “the one who”) implies that Rudra is the eliminator of evil and usherer of peace. An alternative etymology suggested by Prof. Pischel derives Rudra as the “red one”, the “brilliant one” from a lost root rud-, “red” or “ruddy”, or alternatively (according to Grassman) “shining”.
Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means “wild”, i.e. of rude (untamed) nature, and translates the name Rudra as “the wild one” or “the fierce god”. R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as “the terrible” in his glossary for the Shiva Sahasranama. The commentator Sāyaṇa suggests six possible derivations for rudra. However, another reference states that Sayana suggested ten derivations.
The adjective shivam in the sense of “propitious” or “kind” is applied to the name Rudra in RV 10.92.9. According to Gavin Flood, Shiva used as a name or title (Sanskrit śiva, “the kindly/auspicious one”) occurs only in the late Vedic Katha Aranyaka, whereas Axel Michaels asserts that Rudra was called Shiva for the first time in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad.
Rudra is called “the archer” (Sanskrit: Śarva) and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra. This name appears in the Shiva Sahasranama, and R. K. Sharma notes that it is used as a name of Shiva often in later languages. The word is derived from the Sanskrit root śarv- which means "to injure" or "to kill" and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name Śarva as "One who can kill the forces of darkness". The names Dhanvin ("bowman") and Bāṇahasta (“archer”, literally “Armed with a hand-full of arrows”) also refer to archery.
In other contexts the word rudra can simply mean “the number eleven”. The word rudraksha (Sanskrit: rudrākşa = rudra and akşa “eye”), or “eye of Rudra”, is used as a name both for the berry of the Rudraksha tree, and a name for a string of the prayer beads made from those seeds.
In the Rigveda Rudra's role as a frightening god is apparent in references to him as ghora ("extremely terrifying"), or simply as asau devam ("that god"). He is "fierce like a formidable wild beast" (RV 2.33.11). Chakravarti sums up the perception of Rudra by saying: "Rudra is thus regarded with a kind of cringing fear, as a deity whose wrath is to be deprecated and whose favor curried."
RV 1.114 is an appeal to Rudra for mercy, where he is referred to as "mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair."
In RV 7.46, Rudra is described as armed with a bow and fast-flying arrows. As quoted by R. G. Bhandarkar, the hymn says Rudra discharges "brilliant shafts which run about the heaven and the earth" (RV 7.46.3), which may be a reference to lightning.
Rudra was believed to cure diseases, and when people recovered from them or were free of them, that too was attributed to the agency of Rudra. He is asked not to afflict children with disease (RV 7.46.2) and to keep villages free of illness (RV 1.114.1). He is said to have healing remedies (RV 1.43.4), as the best physician of physicians (RV 2.33.4), and as possessed of a thousand medicines (RV 7.46.3). This is described in Shiva's alternative name Vaidyanatha (Lord of Remedies).
A verse from the Rig Veda (RV 2.33.9) calls Rudra "The Lord or Sovereign of the Universe" (īśānādasya bhuvanasya):
sthirebhiraṅghaiḥ pururūpa ughro babhruḥ śukrebhiḥ pipiśehiraṇyaiḥ
īśānādasya bhuvanasya bhūrerna vā u yoṣad rudrādasuryam (RV 2.33.9)
With firm limbs, multiform, the strong, the tawny adorns himself with bright gold decorations:
The strength of Godhead never departs from Rudra, him who is Sovereign of this world, the mighty.
A verse of Śrī Rudram (= Yajurveda 16.18) speaks of Rudra as Lord of the Universe:
जगताम् पतये नमः ।
jagatăm pataye namaha ।
Homage to the Lord of the Universe.
Another verse (Yajurveda 16.46) locates Rudra in the heart of the gods, showing that he is the inner Self of all, even the gods.
देवानां हृदयभ्यो नमो ।
devănăm hridayebhyo namo
Salutations to him who is in heart of the gods.
In a verse popularly known as the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, both Rig Veda (7.59.12) and Yajur Veda (3.60) recommend worshipping Rudra to attain moksha (liberation):
tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam
urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya mā'mṛtāt
We worship Tryambaka, sweet augmenter of prosperity. As from its stem a cucumber, may I be freed from the bonds of death, not reft of immortality.
sarvo vai rudrastasmai rudrāya namo astu
puruṣo vai rudraḥ sanmaho namo namaḥ
viśvaṃ bhūtaṃ bhuvanaṃ citraṃ bahudhā jātaṃ jāyamānaṃ ca yat
sarvo hyeṣa rudrastasmai rudrāya namo astu ॥ 1॥
All this verily is Rudra. To Rudra who is such we offer our salutation. We salute again and again that Being, Rudra, who alone is the Purusha and the Soul of creatures. The material universe, the created beings, and whatever there is manifoldly and profusely created, in the past and in the present, in the form of the world—all that is indeed this Rudra. Salutations be to Rudra who is such.
[The translations below need to be cleaned up; the transliteration standardized; the so-called "modern translation" should be removed, because it is not necessary or helpful. Do these lines constitute a single verse, or are they separate verses drawn from different places in the text? That needs to be made clear.]
|Sanskrit||Modern translation||English translation|
|sahasravṛdiyaṃ bhữmiḥ||yam bhUmi: sahasravrt||This world is desired as a place of abode by thousands of JeevarAsis|
|paraṃ vyoma sahasravṛt||param vyOma: sahasravrt||The upper world is similarly desired by the thousands of devAs.|
|aśvinã bhujyữ nãsatyã||bhujyU na asatyA viSvasya jagata: patI aSvinA||The earth and the heaven (Svarga lOkam) are like the twin gods, Asvini devAs, who banish diseases and bless us with bhOgams; Asvini devAs are the protectors of the universe and their sankalpam (volition) never fails.|
|jãyã bhữmiḥ patirvyoma||bhUmi: jAyA vyOma pati: taa mithunam aturyathu:||BhU lOkam is the wife and the Heaven is the husband; they are united like a couple.|
|putro bṛhaspatỉ rudraḥ||putra: brhaspatI rudra:||We have to consider Brhaspati and Rudran (aging here) as their sons|
|saramã iti strỉpumam||saramA iti||The raised platform for the Yaagam, Yaaga meDai (Yajn~a Vedi) should be considered as a lady.|
|iti strI pumam||Thus we are instructed about the male-female aspects of the Earth and the Heaven.|
|[Now comes the prayer to the abhimAna devatais for BhUmi and the upper world.]|
|śukraṃ vãmanyadyajataṃ vãmanyat||vAm anyat Sukram vAm anyat yajatam||Among your forms, one is the day with white hue, the other is the night with dark hue.|
|viṣurữpe ahanỉ dyauriva sthaḥ||vishurUpe ahanI dyau iva stha:||Both of You stay steady as the Sooryan in the sky with equal, unique and alternating forms.|
Rudra is used both as a name of Shiva and collectively ("the Rudras") as the name for the Maruts. Maruts are "storm gods", associated with the atmosphere. They are a group of gods, whose number varies from two to sixty, sometimes also rendered as eleven, thirty-three or a hundred and eighty in number (i. e. three times sixty, see RV 8.96.8.).
Rudra is mentioned along with a litany of other deities in RV 7.40.5. Here is the reference to Rudra, whose name appears as one of many gods who are called upon:
|“||This Varuṇa, the leader of the rite, and the royal Mitra and Aryaman, uphold my acts, and the divine unopposed Aditi, earnestly invoked: may they convey us safe beyond evil. I propitiate with oblations the ramifications (vayāḥ) of that divine attainable Viṣṇu, the showerer of benefits. Rudra, bestow upon us the magnificence of his nature. The Aśvins have come down to our dwelling abounding with (sacrificial) food.||”|
One scholiast[clarification needed] interpretation of the Sanskrit word vayāḥ, meaning "ramifications" or "branches", is that all other deities are, as it were branches of Vishnu, but Ralph T. H. Griffith cites Ludwig as saying "This [...] gives no satisfactory interpretation" and cites other views which suggest that the text is corrupt at that point.
In the various recensions of the Yajurveda is included a litany of stanzas praising Rudra: (Maitrāyaṇī-Saṃhitā 2.9.2, Kāṭhaka-Saṃhitā 17.11, Taittirīya-Saṃhitā 4.5.1, and Vājasaneyi-Saṃhitā 16.1–14). This litany is subsequently referred to variously as the Śatarudriyam, the Namakam (because many of the verses commence with the word namaḥ [`homage`]), or simply the Rudram. This litany was recited during the Agnicayana ritual ("the piling of Agni"), and it later became a standard element in Rudra liturgy.
A selection of these stanzas, augmented with others, is included in the Paippalāda-Saṃhitā of the Atharvaveda (PS 14.3—4). This selection, with further PS additions at the end, circulated more widely as the Nīlarudram (or Nīlarudra Upaniṣad).
The President of the Ramakrishna Mission, at Chennai, in commentating on the foreword to Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and Purushasuktam, stated that "Rudra to whom these prayers are addressed is not a sectarian deity, but the Supreme Being who is omnipresent and manifests Himself in a myriad forms for the sake of the diverse spiritual aspirants." Sri Rudram occurs in the fourth Kanda of the Taittirya Samhita in the Yajur Veda. It is a preeminent Vedic hymn to Lord Shiva as the God of dissolution, chanted daily in Shiva temples throughout India."
The prayer depicts the diverse aspects of the Almighty. The Shri Rudram hymn is unique in that it shows the presence of divinity throughout the entire universe. We cannot confine the qualities of the divine to those that are favorable to us. The Lord is both garden and graveyard, the slayer and the most benevolent one. The Almighty is impartial and ubiquitous.
In it Rudra is described as the most dreaded terroriser (frightening).Sri Rudram describes Rudra the vedic deity as the personification of 'terror'. Rudra comes from 'Ru' meaning '"Roar or Howl" (the words 'dreaded' or 'fearsome' could only be used as adjectives to Rudra and not as Rudra, because Rudra is the personification of terror); 'dra' is a superlative meaning 'the most'. So Rudra, depending on the poetic situation, can be meant as 'the most severe roarer/howler' - could be a hurricane or tempest - or 'the most frightening one'.
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