From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

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.[1] His name appears 75 times. He is also called ‘Śiva’ 18 times.

Definition of Rudra[edit]

The various definitions of the word Rudra are:

  1. One who roars or thunders
  2. One who makes his enemies weep
  3. One who destroys the sansāra[2] of his devotees
  4. One who destroys ajñāna or nescience

Form of Rudra[edit]

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,[3] 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[edit]

  • The Rudrapraśna of the Taittiriya Samhitā[4] gives a long and beautiful description of Rudra.
  • The Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad[5] describes him as the creator and ruler of the universe.
  • The Mahābhārata[6] 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[7] and the mind.
  • In later literature,[8] 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[edit]

All the Rudras have their female counterparts or consorts like:

  1. Rudrāṇī of Rudra
  2. Bhavānī of Bhava
  3. Sarvāṇī of Sarva
  4. Śivānī of Śiva
  5. Mahādevī of Mahādeva
  6. Etc.

Band of Rudras[edit]

Rudra is also regarded as having created:

  1. Bhutas - demons
  2. Pretas - disembodied spirits
  3. Piśācakas - goblins
  4. Kuṣmāṇdas - malignant imps


  1. Ṛgveda 1.114.1-11; 2.33.1-15
  2. Sansāra means transmigratory existence.
  3. Vajrāyudha means thunderbolt.
  4. Taittiriya Samhitā 4.5
  5. Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad 3.2
  6. Anuśāsanaparva chapter 14
  7. Prāṇas means vital- airs.
  8. Padmapurāṇa, Svargakhanda, chapter 8
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore