By Swami Harshananda
Rudra literally means ‘the terrible’.
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:
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