By Swami Harshananda
Rudra literally means ‘the terrible’.
Rudra is a Vedic deity. He has been eulogized in only three suktas of the Ṛgveda out of which two are more explicit. His name appears 75 times. He is also called ‘Śiva’ 18 times.
Definition of Rudra
The various definitions of the word Rudra are:
- One who roars or thunders
- One who makes his enemies weep
- One who destroys the sansāra of his devotees
- One who destroys ajñāna or nescience
Form of Rudra
Rudra’s beauteous form has been described in various mantras. It can be briefed as belows:
- He is strong with powerful arms.
- He has a long jaṭā or hair.
- He is very handsome.
- His body is decorated with many ornaments of gold, especially a matchless necklace, is brilliant.
- He is holding a vajrāyudha, a strong bow and arrows.
- When necessary he can also assume a fierce form.
- Riding on a chariot, he charges at our enemies if pray to him.
- Rudra is also full of mercy and a great protector of his votaries.
- Being closely associated with forests and mountains, he is also the king of medicines and hence a healer of all diseases.
- When supplicated, he destroys sins and grants happiness.
Works on Rudra
- The Rudrapraśna of the Taittiriya Samhitā gives a long and beautiful description of Rudra.
- The Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad describes him as the creator and ruler of the universe.
- The Mahābhārata and also quite a few purāṇas declare Rudra as the form of Siva who destroys the universe at the end of a cycle of creation.
- In Vedic literature, sometimes eleven Rudras are mentioned. They may be minor deities representing the ten prāṇas and the mind.
- In later literature, eight names of Rudra are mentioned, which are actually the eight aspects of Rudra-Śiva.
- The eight Rudras or eleven Rudras, when considered as aspects of Rudra-Śiva, are described in detail along with their garments and weapons in iconographical works like Rupamandana and Viśvakarmaśilpa.
Spouses of Rudras
All the Rudras have their female counterparts or consorts like:
- Rudrāṇī of Rudra
- Bhavānī of Bhava
- Sarvāṇī of Sarva
- Śivānī of Śiva
- Mahādevī of Mahādeva
Band of Rudras
Rudra is also regarded as having created:
- Bhutas - demons
- Pretas - disembodied spirits
- Piśācakas - goblins
- Kuṣmāṇdas - malignant imps
- Ṛgveda 1.114.1-11; 2.33.1-15
- Sansāra means transmigratory existence.
- Vajrāyudha means thunderbolt.
- Taittiriya Samhitā 4.5
- Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad 3.2
- Anuśāsanaparva chapter 14
- Prāṇas means vital- airs.
- Padmapurāṇa, Svargakhanda, chapter 8
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore