Namaste! Thank you for the wonderful note on Dvarapalas. Can I ask you for one more? Could you please give me info – texts, descriptions or images – of 11 forms of Rudra? I am artist, I need to draw and paint them, but I don’t know how they look. Thank you. Atma-Raga
Dear Atma-Raga, Welcome. Thank you for asking. This again is an interesting question ; and is a tough one to answer. It needs a rather lengthy explanation. But at the end, I fear, it might leave you a bit disappointed. There are various versions of the origin of Rudra, etymology of the term, types of Rudras, their names, attributes and their iconographic representations. It is virtually impossible to detail all the versions in a blog. One has therefore, by sheer necessity, to be very selective. That might not please all or answer all questions. Further, the descriptions of the features of the Rudras in various texts are not uniform. And, in many cases they are incomplete too.
In any case, please read on…
Rudra in Vedas
1.1. The earliest mentions of Rudra occur in the Rig Veda, where three entire hymns are devoted to him.
It is said that there are as many as seventy-five references to Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita. Most of those occur in the First and the Second and Books.
[For details please see Notes below@]
Rudra is a divinity of the mid-sphere
2.1. Rig Veda mentions a set of thirty-three deities. According to Yaska-charya, the thirty-three gods are divided equally in three different planes of existence namely the celestial plane (dyuloka) the intermediate region (antarikshaloka) and the terrestrial region (bhurloka) each plane having eleven gods.
There is however a slight variation among the different traditions in naming the thirty-three deities ( trayastrimsati koti ). According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, these thirty-three deities include eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Dyaus, and Prithvi. While, Yaska-charya mentions: eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas and two Asvinis.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad the Rishi Yajnavalkya at one stage says “The eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati are the thirty-three gods”.
2.2. In Rig Veda, Rudra is one of the intermediate level gods (antariksha devata). He is a divinity of the subtle world, the sphere of space, the mid sphere between the spheres of earth and the Sun (Rig Veda 5.3).
Rudra (the howling one) as a divinity associated with winds represents life-breath (prana-vayu). Rudra is thus the principles of life.
Rudra is the intermediary between physical elements and the intellect.
Rudra is thus a deity of the intermediate stage. He presides over the second ritual of sacrifice, the mid-day offering, the second period of man’s life (say from 24 to 50).
[ Another interesting feature is that in the hymns of the Rig-Veda specially devoted to Rudra (RV: 1.114;2.33; and 7.46) the proper name of Rudra never appears either in the beginning or at the end of the Pada ; but , it is always hidden in the middle , often suggested by its sound -hints.
For example; the hymn 2.33 contains fifteen instances of Rudra ( once in each stanza) ; but, none at the beginning or the end of the Pada (line). Let’s say, the first Pada of 2.33.1 commences with the address Pitar_Marutam (Father of Maruts). In the fourth Pada of the same stanza the name ‘Rudra’ is hidden between the noun Praja (Praja-yemathi Rudra Praja-bhih) meaning: ‘ we want to be reborn O Rudra in our children.’ Similarly, in stanza 2.033. 4a: ma tva Rudra cukrudhamanamobhir ma duÍeuta vaÍabha ma sahat (Let us not anger thee, O Rudra, with our improper praise …) is hidden in the middle. ]
3.1.Yajnavalkya, in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, queries : Katame rudra iti: “Who are the Rudras?” ; and , then goes on to explain “The ten senses and the mind make eleven. These are the Rudras.””When the senses and the mind leave the body, they make one cry in anguish.” While a person is alive, these eleven: the senses and the mind, subject the individual to their demands, and make him cry in agony if he violates their laws.
Dasame puruse prana atma-ekadashah te yadasmath sariram martyad utkranta-mantyatha rodhayanti tad yad rodhayanti tasmad Rudra iti – Br.Up: 3.9.4
Chandogya Upanishad also calls Rudra the howler or the red one as Prana , the cause of tears, because : ”verily, the vital breaths are the cause of the tears, for on departing they cause everyone to lament in tears” (Chandogya Upanishad 3.16.9).
Prana vava Rudra ete hidam sarvam rodayanti
4.1. The etymology of the word Rudra is interpreted variously; and at times it is rather confusing. Its etymology has led the scholars into all sorts of wild chase.
Rudra, in Rig-Veda, is a god of the storm, the wind, and the hunt. His distinctive characteristics are his fierce weapons and his medicinal powers. He is the ‘archer’ (sarva – sarv – which means ‘to injure’ or ‘to kill’), the ‘bowman’ (dhanvin) armed with fast-flying arrows (ashu – bana-hastha).
The name Rudra has been translated as ‘roarer’, ‘howler’, ‘wild one’, ‘the fierce god’ and ‘terrible’. The alternate etymology suggested as derived from the root rud is: ‘to be Red, Brilliant’, ‘to be ruddy’ or ‘to shine’. Rudra is sometimes identified with the god of fire-Agni.
Rudra is also used both as a name of Shiva, synonymous with Bhava, Sarva, Ugra and Mahadeva.
Rudra also means ‘Father of the Maruts’ (RV 2.33.1); and collectively “the Rudras” is used to mean ‘the sons of Rudra’ or the Maruts.
According to a commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama (ascribed to Sri Sankara?) , Rudra means ‘One who makes all beings cry at the time of cosmic dissolution’. Alternatively, Rudra means ‘One who gives speech’. Rudra also means ‘one who drives away sorrows’. And , finally Rudra relieves one of worldly woes (Kapardin)
There are also other sublime interpretations of the term Rudra. It is said:
– Rudra is one who dispels (Dravayati) illusions or maladies (Rujum) through his light (Ru).
– Rudra is one towards whom all the words of praise (Ru) are directed (Draghatau)
– Rudra is one who bestows (Rati dadati) knowledge (Rut) – Rut jnanam rati dadati iti Rudrah
In other contexts, Rudra can simply mean ‘the number eleven’.
C. Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita is a highly complex divine character
5.1. Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita is a highly complex divine character with contradictory qualities; and yet harmonizing within himself all contradictions.
(I) The magnificent verses composed by the Rishi Grisamada (RV. 2.33) hails the merciful (jalasa) Rudra as the ‘best of all the physicians (bheṣajebhiḥ, bheshaja shiromani ) –Vaidyanatha (RV 2.33.4). He is said to possesses healing remedies – jalasa-beshaja (RV 1.43.4); and, thousand medicines and strengthening balms (jálāṣabheṣajam) – (RV 7.46.3).
His gracious hand bestows health and comfort.
Prayers are submitted to Rudra : “Do thou with strengthening balms incite our heroes”. He is requested not to afflict children, men and cattle with disease (RV 7.46.2); and , to keep villages free of illness (RV 1.114.1).
Rishi Grisamada adores Rudra as the blissful god of all created beings, the mightiest of the mighty who rests in his own glory. In him, the sovereign (Isana) of this world; the power of divinity (Asurya) is inherent; and, from him that power never departs. The hymns beseech Rudra to ‘transport us over miseries to well-being’. He prays to Rudra: ‘As one who finds shade in blazing sun, may I , unharmed, win the grace of Rudra ‘ (RV.2.33.6)
Rudra is also Shiva the auspicious one who is easily pleased (Ashutosha) with simple adulation. He is also Prachetasa (exceedingly wise); Midustama (the highest of all); and Ishana (the overlord). Rudra is also Svayambhu (self-generated) – RV.7.84.4 – and Trayambaka (three eyed like the Sun or as having three mothers) – RV.7.59.19.
Rudra is known for his wealth. He is also associated with Aditya (sun) and Agni. He is addressed as the thousand-eyed one (saharaksha) holding thunderbolts. He is associated with the dramatic fierceness of the thunderstorm and lightening which strike at men and cattle, but which through the rain brings forth peace and plenty.
As for the fierce power of the Rudra , all the four hymns mention it; and pray to Rudra not to inflict his wrath upon the humans and the animals ; and , at other times requesting Rudra to ward off evil and to provide protection against wicked forces. . In a hymn (7.46), Rishi Vasistha admires the wise and compassionate Rudra wielding a firm bow and swift arrows to chasten the unrighteous. Thus, even while Rudra is ferocious, he acts as the upholder of the moral order ; and the protector of the good .
(II). And, Rudra is also “fierce like a formidable wild beast” (RV 2.33.11). He is associated with thunderstorm and lightening . He is fierce Goghana, Purushagna and Kasyad-vira – RV. 1.114.10 – (slayer of animals and men; and lord valiant heroes). He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. Rudra is thus regarded with a kind of cringing fear and respect . He punishes and at the same time he rescues his devotees from trouble. One appeals to “mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair (kapardin)” for mercy and protection (RV 1.114).
Rudras as a group
6.1. Rudra is not merely the proper name of a deity; but it also is one that refers to a collection of Rudras ( Rudra-gana) . And, the Rudra-s as a group also signified a powerful host (Gana) of destructive deities often associated with storms (Marut). The Rudra-s represented not only the awesome, destructive fury of the tempest but also the benevolence of fertility, healing and welfare.
6.2. The collective form , the Rudra-s , had two aspects; the fierce , terrible aspects(ugra) ; and the gentle , benevolent aspects (sowmya) – (dve tanu tasya devasya).
Thus, Rudra is a fierce deity of stormy winds, deafening thunderbolts, devastating floods and raging epidemics. Rudra is also benevolent; he is wealthy; he reassures the frightened ones and cures deceases.
D. The glory and splendor of the Rudra
7.1. The Rig Veda sings the glory and splendor of the Rudra. The Rig-Veda Samhita has four hymns (RV.1.43; 1.114; 2.33; and 7.46) comprising 39 verses dedicated to the Rudra.
In the hymns of the Rig-Veda, Rudra appears in innumerable forms and colors (puru-rupa). Rudra is depicted as the ever youthful, most powerful, malevolent and terrifying deity , Lord of thunderstorms and lightning, presiding over the entire existence. Rudra who is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body decorated with ornaments and having flowing golden hair is said to be brown or tawny (Bablusha) or blue (Neela) in complexion; shining like sun and glittering like gold is endowed with sturdy limbs (vajra-bahu), charming lips . And, he is adorned with beautiful ornaments such as necklaces (nishika) of dazzling brilliance; and is crowned with mop of braided locks of hair (Kaparin).
Rudra is described as fierce; armed with the mighty bow (pinaka), and a quiver holding unending array of arrows and missiles which are terrifyingly swift and penetrating. His fast-flying arrows, ‘brilliant shafts run about the heaven and the earth’ (RV 7.46.3).
Pinaka the powerful, sturdy bow with a wide span, bending along the course of the Sun , is said to be the symbol of Rudra, the Isana (Lord); and, his supremacy over all others. In the later texts, Pinaka is also known as Ajagava, the southern part of the Sun’s path. (Ajagava is also explained as a bow made of the horns of goats.)
Oh, the devoted to the devotees, always travelling in the chariot, ever young, fierce like the lion, vanquisher of the enemies, May the devotees pray to you. May you make us happy. May your armies fight against the enemies and be merciful towards us. There is none that matches him in strength. He is the Ishana the Master of the world; he is the father of worlds (Bhuvanasya pitaram).He commands men and entrusts tasks. He sets things in motion and makes flow like a river. He is medhavi, intelligent and the compassionate one. He is praised as midvah, for his generosity. As he is an auspicious one, he is called Shiva. (RV: 2-33-7; 6-49-10; 7-46-2)
Stomam vo adya rudraya shikvase I Kshaatadiraya namasa didistana…| Yebhih Shivah svavam yevayabhihi I Divaha sishakti svayasha nikamabhihi.|| (RV: 10-92-9)
7.2. The Rig Veda sings the glory and splendor of the Rudra:
Chief of all born art thou in glory, Rudra, armed with the thunder, mightiest of the mighty (2.33.03)
To him the strong, great, tawny (Bhabru Varna), fair-complexioned, I utter forth a mighty hymn of praises. We serve the brilliant God with adorations, we glorify, the splendid name of Rudra.(2.33.08)
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.(2.33.09)
Worthy, thou carry thy bow and arrows, worthy, thy many hued and honoured necklaces.
Worthy, thou cut here each fiend to pieces: a mightier than thou there is not, Rudra.(2.33. 10)
Praise him the chariot-borne, the young, the famous, fierce, slaying like a dread beast of the forest (2.33.11).
E. Father of the Maruts
8.1. Rudra is the father of Maruts the “storm gods”; hence they are called Rudriya. They are the deities who bring havoc, associated with the atmosphere The Maruts (immortals) are described as restless troops of flashy young men, transporting in space the hordes young warriors called martyus (mortals)
Maruts are war-minded close knit bunch of exuberant youth. “They have iron teeth, roam like lions, hold bows and arrows and round projectiles; they speed away in golden chariots drawn by tawny stallions. They dwell in the North.”(RV 1.153.6).
Riding on the whirlwinds, singing loudly, they direct the storms. Clad in rain, they spread rain, pushing away storm. When they move the mountains tremble and trees fall (RV 1.39.5; 5.53-54)
They are known for moral and heroic deeds. Often brutal, though usually good humoured, they are feared by everyone.
8.2. The number of Maruts varies. They are a group of gods, supposed to number usually either eleven or thirty-three. The Rig Veda speaks of them as twenty-one (RV 1.133.6) as twenty-seven or forty-nine (seven groups of seven each) or one hundred and eighty (three times sixty in RV 8.96.8.).
9.01. In Rig Veda, as it is often said, the term Shiva occurs eighteen times. And, each time it is used as an adjective, an epithet standing for “an auspicious one” (mangalakara) in the sense of being “propitious” or “kind” (10.92.9).Shiva, in Rig Veda, is not the name of any god. It is a quality found in many gods.
9.02. It is said, that Rudra’s identification with Shiva came much later; and for the first time in Svetavatara Upanishad and later in Yujurveda (Taittariya samhita, 4-5-1 – shatarudriya section). Vajaseniya samhita (3-63) also identified Shiva with Rudra (tam Shiva namasi). Shathapatha Brahmana too said Shiva was known as Bhava, Mahadeva, Sarva, Pashupathi, Ugra and Ishana. Panini (say 4th century BCE) in his Grammar -Astadhyayi (1-49; 3-53; 4-100; 5-3-99) mentions that Rudra was called variously: Mrida, Bhava, Sarva, Grisha, Mahadeva and Trayambaka.
Patanjali (in Mahabashya) also mentions icons of Shiva along with those of Skanda and Visakha. By Patanjali’s time (say 2nd or 3rd century BCE), I reckon, Shiva as god with his attributes was well established.
9.03. Thus , an interesting reversal had taken place. Rudra, who till then signified a deity, became an epithet or an aspect of Shiva ; while Siva which term till then meant a benevolent or gracious virtue became the name of a great deity.
By the time of the Puranas, the aspect of Rudra had merged with Shiva , one of the Grand Trinity ; and , Rudra represented Shiva’s terrific aspect as the destroyer. Not surprisingly, Rudra came to be closely associated with the god of death, Yama; with the god of fire, Agni; and with the magical drink, soma. At the same time, he was also an aspect of Shiva the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.
G. Legends of Rudra
10.01. The myths and legends that allege the origin of the Rudra abound. There are a variety of stories. I do not propose to discuss them here. Suffice it to say, all those legends have in common the Shiva, anger, howling or crying out loud.
10.02. Rudra who stands for all the intense feelings associated with the entire spectrum of surging emotions, ranging from piteous wail of the one weeping in excruciating pain to the terrifying thunder-clap emanating from clashing universes. It appears; Rudra had his origins in the pre-Vedic distant past lost in the antiquity. It is said; he forcibly entered into the Vedic fold . Since then he has been celebrated and as one the fundamental and Supreme deities of the Vedic lore. In the Agamas of the post Vedic period, we witness the metamorphosis of the Rudra into benevolent Shiva the auspicious; Mahadeva, the Great Lord; and Parameshwara, the Supreme Lord of all Universes.
H. Rudra Prashna
11.1. Apart from the 39 verses dedicated to Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita, the highly celebrated Rudra-adhyaya (the chapter on the Rudra) or the Shata-rudriya ( the hundred names of Rudra) , or the famous Namaka hymn of Rudra Prashna also appears in the Vajasaneyi Samhita of Shukla Yajurveda and as also in the Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda.
The version of Rudra-adhyaya as in the Vajasaneyi Samhita of Shukla Yajurveda (chapter 16) comprises 66 mantras (here known as kandikas). Many of these kandikas are drawn from Rig-Veda Samhita. The other version of Rudra-adhyaya appearing in the Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda (Kanda 4; Praparthaka 5) is more comprehensive having as many as 170 mantras, including the 66 kandikas of the Vajasaneyi Samhita.
11.2.The 170 Taittiriya Rudra mantras are grouped into eleven Anuvakas (sub –sections meant for recitation) in which all the splendorous aspects of and attributes of Rudra as the Vedic divinity have been elaborated magnificently. This highly charged, inspired piece of grand poetry is rendered with great gusto and devotion by the worshippers on all occasions. The style, diction, rhythm, word structure and itintesity of the Rudra-prasna are truly matchless. It truly is a grandest ode to the all-powerful Lord of the Universe, the Rudra.
Here, Rudra has been elevated to the height of a sublime Vedic divinity. He is equated with ancient Vedic gods such as Aditya (sun) and Indra (Sahasraksha); and is celebrated as the presiding deity of the forest of evergreen trees (kaksanam pati), as the architect of the universe (stapathi), as also as the commander-in – chief (Senani) of a large army of followers (ganas) possessing countless number of horses (Asvapathi) , the presiding lord (Sabapathi), the minister (mantri), the trader (vanija) and the sharp-shooter (krtsna-vit) and so on.
11.3. Rudra is also described through various other terms related to forest-dwellers, hunters and artisans. Rudra is the a steel–blue (Nilagriva) coloured mountain-dweller (Girisha); protector of hills (Girisanta); a blacksmith (Karmara) who crafts (taksa) bows and arrows(Dhanvakrt and Isukrt); a hunter (Mrgayu) with a fearful pack of hounds (Saravani); a bird-catcher (Punjista) ; and , a potter (Kulala) etc
11.4. Rudra is also addressed through several epithets that are not laudatory; and some of them are even derogatory. He is called lord of robbers (stayunam pathi), the chief of gang of thieves (taskaranam pathi), a cat-burglar (stenanam pathi), a marauding butcher (prakrnta) waiting in the dark shadows holding a deadly chopper, and such many other names.
11.5. Rudra ultimately is the Supreme entity encompassing all forms and colours (Visva-rupa) of the limitless space and harmonizing within him all the contradictions in whole of existence.
[ It is said; when the name Rudra is invoked in the Svetavatara Upanishad, it is NOT with the same sense as in the hymns of the Rig-Veda; rather, Rudra, here, represents the Supreme Being – both as the personal god (Deva) and as the Lord of all existence (Isha); and, above all, Rudra stands for the impersonal Absolute Brahman. The Rudra in the Svetavatara Upanishad is thus not limited or restricted to the sense a deity. And, Rudra as the Supreme Being manifests in countless forms and is called by multitude of names. In the Advaita outlook of the Svetavatara Upanishad everything emerges from Rudra (Brahman) , exists in it and merges back within it.]
11.6. The Sanat –kumara-samhita (7.7) aptly remarks that the ways of the Rudra who is endowed with inconceivable powers (achintya-bala) and valour are beyond comprehension (achintyan). The elusive power (Ajnanam) of his Maya cannot fathom either. Rudra is a beloved of his devotees (bhakthi-vatsalam) and is quickly pleased with devotion (Asuthosha)
Achintya–niyamo Rudro achintya-bala–purushah achintyan cha tad ajnanam na sakyam bhakthi-vatsalam
11.7. In the Shata-rudriya, or the hundred names of Rudra, or the famous Namaka hymn of Rudra Prashna found in the Vajasaneyi samhita of Yajurveda:
” Rudra is described as possessing many contradictory attributes; for example, he is a killer and destroyer; he is terrible, fierce ( ugra), inauspicious ; he is a deliverer and saviour; he causes happiness, and prevents disease ; he has a healing and auspicious body (siva tanuh); he is yellow-haired, brown- coloured, copper-coloured, ruddy, tall, dwarfish; he has braided locks (kapardin), wears the sacred thread, and is clothed in a skin ; he is blue-necked and thousand-eyed; he dwells in the mountains, and is the owner of troops (gana-pati) of servants who traverse the earth obeying his orders ; he is ruler and controller of a thousand Rudras who are described as fierce and ill-formed (virupa); he has a hundred bows and a thousand quivers; he is the general of vast armies; he is lord of ghosts, goblins, and spirits; of beasts, horses, and dogs; of trees, shrubs, and plants; he causes the fall of leaves ; he is lord of the Soma-juice; he is patron of thieves and robbers, and is himself present in a thief, robber, and deceiver; he presides over carpenters, chariot-makers, blacksmiths, architects, huntsmen; he is present in towns and houses, in rivers and lakes, in woods and roads, in clouds and rain, in sunshine and lightning, in wind and storm, in stones, dust, and earth.”
– -Monier-Williams (of the Boden Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford University)
11.8. Rudra is thus all pervading and present in every aspect of creation- moving and non-moving; conscient or sub-conscient. Rudra bestows upon us the magnificence of his nature.
[The Rudra-Prashna is usually recited along with another passage called ‘Chamakam’ (taken from the Yajurveda -TS 4.5, 4.7) which is composed with words ending with “Cha’ requesting Rudra to grant many, many things in life and beyond. The Chamakam (Just as the Rudra-Prashna) has also eleven sections (Anuvak); and, its each Anuvak corresponds to a force of each of eleven Rudras.
In the Anukak-s 1 to 10 of the Chamakam, the devotee prays for almost everything needed for human happiness. And in the 11th Anuvak of Chamakam the devotee prays for the desired things not specifically but in the sequence of numbers, first in terms of odd numbers from 1 to 33 and later in multiples of 4 from 4 to 48, as follows:
“Eka cha me, thisrascha may, pancha cha may, sapta cha may, Ekadasa cha may, trayodasa cha may, panchadasa cha may, saptadasa cha may, Navadasa cha may, ek trimshatis cha may, trayovimshatis cha may, Panchavimshatis cha may, saptavimshatis cha may, navavimshatis cha may, Ekatrimshatis cha may, trayatrimshatis cha may, panchatrimshatis cha may, Chatasras cha may, ashtou cha may, dwadasa cha may, shodasa cha may, Vimsatis cha may, chaturvimshatis cha may, ashtavimshatis cha may, Dwathrimashatis cha may, shatstrimshas cha may, chatvarimshas cha may, Chatuschatvarimshas cha may, ashtachatvarimshas cha may”
“Let these be granted to me. One, three, five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, seventeen, nineteen, twenty one, twenty three, twenty five, twenty seven, twenty nine, thirty one and thirty three as also four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty four, twenty eight, thirty two, thirty six, forty, forty four and forty eight – to ensure food and its production, its continuity, and the urge to enjoy, the origin of all productions, the sun, the heaven, the head of all, the infinite, the all-pervading like the sky, time and the like present at the end of total consummation exists at the end of it on the earth as universal form, the Antaryami the immortal, the inner ruler of everything, the Omni present and Omni potent”.
The sequence of odd and even numbers carry many interpretations.
Some have tried to present these numbers in graphic form. The entire square is divided in to 16 small squares and 64 triangles. If the entire square is folded in the Middle, both sides are symmetric; that is the place where the number 33 crossed the Middle of the square. Each small square is symmetric with crossed lines forming triangles.
Even Numbers are 4,8,12,16,20,24,28,32,36,40,44,and 48. Each number explains the number of cumulative triangles in each square.– http://chamakamgeometry.blogspot.in/
[For more please check
The recitation of eleven sections of Rudra-Prashna followed by eleven section of Chamakam is called Nyasam. This is the normal or the general mode of recitation of these passages.
There are other peculiar and complicated patterns of the recitation of Rudra-Prashna and the Chamakam.
:- Rudra-Ekadashi – the Rudra-Prashna is recited 11 times. At the end of each recitation one Anuvak of Chamakam is recited. (That is Rudram 11 times and Chamakam once)
:- Laghurudram – The Rudra -Ekadashi is repeated 11 times (that is the Rudra-prashna is recited 11×11 = 121 times ); and , Chamakam is recited 11 times
: – Maharudram – The Laghurudram is recited 11 times – that is, 11X11X11 = 1331 times ; and Chamakam is recited 11×11 = 121 times
: Then there is the Atirudram – 11 Maharudram-s are recited (that is, Rudram is recited 11X11X11X11 = 14641 times); and, Chamakam is recited 11X11X11 = 1331 times.]
I. The Rudras Eleven
12.1. The Rudras are said to be truly infinite (shatam anantam bhavati, asankhyakam). They are present everywhere, manifest in millions of forms in as many abodes; and influence every aspect of creation (sahasrani sahasrasho ye rudra adhi bhumyam…); and they are there even in the food we eat and drink we consume (ye anneshu vividhyanti prateshu pibato janan...). They are immanent within us. They are the protectors of the beings and the created world; the decay and destruction sets in when they refuse to support. Pray therefore to the Rudras for protection and benevolence; and to alleviate our troubles. (Shata rudriyam- Rudra prashna).
12.2. Sri Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita declares, among the eleven Rudras I am Lord Shiva.
The Rudras are however talked in terms of sets of eleven- Ekadasa Rudra, inasmuch as the term Rudra has virtually come to represent ‘the number eleven’. However, each tradition, each text has its own set of eleven Rudras, according to its priorities. Their names and attributes differ from one text to another. There is thus, virtually, a plethora of Rudras. But, each of them represents a certain aspect of Shiva or Rudra.
12.3. The following are some instances of the names of the eleven Rudras according to different authorities:
Shatarudriya hymns celebrates Rudra in his eleven forms as : Aghora (benevolent); Kapardi (with matted hair); Girisha (Lord of mountains) ; Bhima( terrible) ; Nilagriva (blue throated); Trayambaka (three eyed); Sabhapathi (master of the assembly); Ganapathi (leader of the hosts); Senani(commander of forces); Samkara(doer of good ); and Shambhu (appearing for the welfare of all).
Rudra Prasna (3.5): Bhava; Sharva; Pashupathi; Nilagriva; Shithikanta; Kapardina; Vyupta-kesha; Shasraksha; Shatadhanva; Girisha ; and Shipivista.
Rupa-mandana (a text of Shilpa sastra) : Isana; Tatpurusha; Aghora; Vamadeva; Sadyojatha; Mruthyunjaya; Kiranaksha;Srikanta;Abhirbhudhya;Bahurupa; and Tryamkaka.
Visvakarma Shilpa (a text of Shilpa sastra): Aja; Ekapat; Abhirbudhya; Virupaksha; Revata; Hara; Bahurupa; Tryambaka; Suresvara; Jayanta; and Aparajita.
Amsumad bheda agama ( a text of Shilpa sastra): Mahadeva; Siva; Rudra ;Sankara; Nilalohita; Isana; Vijaya; Bhima; Deva -Deva; Bhava ; and Kapali.
Padma Purana: Rta-dhvaja; Manu; Manyu; Ugra-retas; Mahan; Siva; Bhava; Kala; Mahinasa; Vamadeva; and Dhrta-vrata.
Mahabharata (Adi Parva): Mrigavyadha; Sarpa; Niriti; Ajaikapat ; Abhivardhana ; Pinaki ; Dahana ; Iswara ;Kapali ;Sthanu ;and Bharga.
Valmiki Ramayana (4.43): Aja; Ekapada; Abhirbhudya; Hara; Shambu: Tryambaka; Aparajita; Isana; Tribhuvana; Twasta; and Rudra.
Srimad Bhagavata (3.12.12):Manyu ; Manu; Mahinasa; Mahan; Siva; Rta-dhvaja; Ugra-reta; Bhava; Kala; Vamadeva; and Dhrta-vrata.
Agni Purana (Ch 18) :Aparajita; Hara; Bahurupa; Tryambaka; Vrsakapi; Shambu; Kapardina; Raivata; Mriga vyadha; Sarpa; and Kapali.
According to Jothish Sastras (Astrology ) : Kapali; Pingala; Bhima; Virupaksha;Vilohita; Shasta; Ajapada; Abhirbudhnya; Shambu; Chanda ;and Bhava.
These rule the eleven-division chart called Rudramsha, which indicates the struggles and strife’s of the horoscope. There are prayers to appease the specific Rudras.
12.4. Corresponding to eleven Rudras, there are eleven consorts for them. They are said to emanate from the feminine half of the Shiva’s body. For instance, Dhi; Vritti; Usana; Uma; Niyuta; Sarpi; Ila; Ambika; Iravathi; Sudha; and Diksha are the eleven Rudranis mentioned in Vishnu purana (1.7).
J. Iconography of the Rudras
13. 1. The Iconographic details of the Rudras as provided in the various texts are not uniform. And each text follows its own set of eleven Rudras. The treatment of the subject across the text is rather irregular. For instance, some texts (like Rupa mandana) provide details of the features of the Rudras, their ornaments and the weapons they carry. The Visvakarma Shilpa provides details of only the weapons. In most other texts the information provided is incomplete or is meagre.
13.2. But, as a rule, all Rudras are said to possess forms similar to Shiva. They weave their matted hair in the form of a crown, to which a crescent moon is stuck.
Vishnudharmottara, a text dated around 5-6th century, too states that the images of the Rudras should be made as in the form of Mahesvara (Part Three; Ch 72; verses 1-8).It gives elaborate description of how Mahadeva or Mahesvara should be depicted.
13.3. Rudra is described sometimes as tawny (bablusha) ruddy complexion. The term also means a bull (as in Bhabru-vahana). Rudra is therefore often depicted as riding a bull and carrying a trident or shooting arrows.
13.4. Vishnudharmottara states that Mahadeva should be have a moon like complexion and seated on a bull. Sadyojata (earth), Vamadeva (water), Aghora (fire) and Tatpurusha (wind) should be shown as his four faces; and Isana (sky) should be his fifth face. His four faces should all be looking placid and the fifth one facing south should be fierce wearing a garland of skulls. All four faces with the exception of the north face (Vamadeva two eyed) should be three –eyed. On the crest of the matted locks of the north face should be the crescent moon, and on top of it should be the fifth face .A serpent should serve as his sacred thread. He should be provided ten arms. His right hands carrying rosary, a trident, an arrow, a staff and a lotus. In his left hands a citron, a bow, a mirror, a water-pot and skin roll.
13.5. The Shilpa text Karanagama prescribes that Rudra should be represented as white complexioned (kailasabha), five- faced, three-eyed, and four-armed carrying rosary and water pot and gesturing boons and protection. He is clad in tiger skin and is decorated with snake ornaments. He wears matted hair with crescent moon in it.
13.6. Another text Amsumad-bheda-agama states that all Rudras are to be represented as standing in a well balanced posture (samapada-sthanaka) on a lotus pedestal, bedecked with ornaments and flowers; four armed and three eyed; with matted hair done as a crown. They are to be shown as fair complexioned; draped in white garments. They carry in their upper hands battle axes (parashu) in one and black antelope (krshna mriga) in the other. The lower right hand gestures protection (abhaya) and the left bestowing the boon (varada).
13.7. Another Shilpa text –Sanathkumara Samhita (shiva-175-178) provides slightly different iconographic details of Rudra: as having a pearl, moon or jasmine like soothing–bright complexion; four arms; three eyes glowing like embers; and having a coiled mop of hair (jata-makuta) decorated with crescent moon. He is clad in tiger skin and garlands of Arka flowers and snakes. His front two hands bestow blessing (varada) and assurance or protection (abhaya).His upper two hands hold battle axe (parashu) and deer.
The text prescribes that Rudra could be depicted in seated (aasana) or standing (sthanaka) posture. When Rudra is seated he should be made to face East or West. A standing Rudra could however face any direction. The text also cautions that Rudra should never be depicted in lying down (shayana) posture.
13.8. Rupa-mandana, Karanagama and other Shipa texts provide totally different iconographic details of the Rudras. For instance:
Isana (sun): Five faced; ten armed. Crystal white complexion; matted hair done like a crown with a crescent moon in it; ten arms carrying rosary, trident, skull-cup, goad and gesturing assurance (on the right);gesture of protection;. Skull-cup, book, rope and damaru drum.-(karanagama).
Tatpurusha: Yellow garments; two arms; three eyed; the right holding rosary and the left carrying a fruit (maatulinga)-(Rupamandana)
Aghora: Complexion resembling blue-lotus; reddish eyebrows; three eyes of yellow tinge; fierce face with sharp tusks; all ornaments including sacred-thread made of snakes; garland of scorpions; band of skulls (kapala mala) round the matted hair yellow in colour done like a crown; eight arms –the hands on the right holding trident, battle axe, sword and cudgel; while the left hands hold khatvanga, skull cup, shield and noose.—(Rupamandana)
Vamadeva : the body, eyes, garments, ornaments and sacred thread – all done in red; three eyes; broad face; long nose; two arms carrying sword and shield.—(Rupamandana)
Sadyojatha: the body, garments, garlands etc are all done in white like jasmine flower, moon or conch. He is joyous and of handsome appearance. He is three eyed and two armed; the hands gesturing protection and boons; and carrying a book and a rosary. His crest is adorned by crescent moon.
Bahurupi Sadashiva: Five faced each with three eyes; endowed with eighteen arms holding various weapons-axe, bow, arrow, khatvanga etc; skull-cup, book, rosary, water-pot, lotus, and gesturing assurance and benediction. His five faces glow with crystal like luster; Vamadeva face has yellow tinge; Aghora face in blue with sharp fierce tusks; Tatpurusha face is red like lotus with divine grace; Isana face is dark and handsome; and Sadyojatha is clear and bright like a crystal.- (Rupamandana and Kalika purana).
Mrutyunjaya : fair complexion; tiger-skin garment; garland of skulls; six arms; two hands held on the lap in yoga posture; other hands carrying trident and rosary (right) and skull-cup and water-pot (kamandalau) in the left.
Kiranaksha: fair complexion; dressed in white; four arms –two gesturing protection and boon and the other holding rosary and a book.
Srikanta: garments of variegated colour; well decorated with ornaments; handsome face; four arms carrying bow, arrows; sword and shield.
Virupaksha: has expanded eyes, a bright face, hairs erect, two hands and a yellow beard. His limbs are reddish –dark in colour; he wears dark garments; holds a majestic staff (death) and is richly ornamented .He rides a camel representing delusion.
Bhima: is shown having a garland of skulls and carrying a khatvanga (skull –staff). He is jackal faced with terrible fangs and looking angry. He has deep red complexion.
Aja , Ekapada, Revata, Hara, Trayambaka, Suresvara, Jayanta and Aparajita are described with sixteen arms. They hold, in various combinations, the instruments such as: shula, ankusha, kapala, damaru, sarpa, mrudanga, akshamala, chakra, bana, dhanus, ketaka, gadha, khatvanga, pattisa, ghanta, shakthi, parashu, kamandalu, tomarara and pattika etc.
[The descriptions given in other texts vary from the above considerably.]
13.9. The other texts like Kalika purana, Padma purana, Vishvakarma samhita, Aparajita puccha, Shilpa rathna, Shiva agama etc too carry their own descriptions of the Rudras. They vary from each other in regard to details such as the number of faces, arms, postures, colour and countenance of the faces. It is virtually not possible to list out and illustrate each of those interpretations. But, all depictions are based in Shiva and his attributes; and are made in the form of Shiva.
13.10. In the popular depictions of the Rudras all Rudras are made to look like the central figure of Shiva. But, one cannot make out which are those Rudras, their names or special attributes, because all are made to look alike. That surely is easier but lacks authenticity.
K. At the end:
14.1 There is no standard set of Rudras. Each school, text or authority identifies its own set of eleven Rudras according to their priorities. The details of iconography of Rudras vary greatly across the texts and traditions. There is a considerable flexibility in the choice of the attributes, the physical forms, the postures and the ornaments/weapons.
14.2. It appears, you too may have to select your team of the Rudras Eleven from across the spectrum of Rudras in each category, according to your preferences. Or you may select a particular text and follow its tradition of depiction.
For that purpose , you might take the aid of books like Siva Kosa (two volumes) and Indian Iconography (three volumes) authored by Prof SK Ramachandra Rao ; or similar other books , to explore the subject. In case it is possible, you may even consult Shilpa texts such as; Rupasampada, Karanagama, Shilpa ratna, Vishvakarma Samhita or Aparajita puccha etc. These texts do provide interesting iconographic details and, at times, illustrations too. I reckon many of the major libraries in the continent have books on ancient Indian sculpture.
14.3. Else, you may treat this blog as a hint or a place to commence your pursuit; and to improvise your creations based on the few details given here and in the resources I referred to.
14.4. I am not sure I have been of much help to you. If you have read up to here, I admire your patience.
Thank you for asking. Writing this article has been a sort of education to me. Kindly let me know if I can be of any assistance. God Bless you.
[ Notes @ :
It is said that there are as many as seventy-five references to Rudra in the Rig-Veda Samhita. Most of those occur in the First and the Second and Books; and some in the Seventh Book. The following are some instances
RV 1.43 Rishi: kaṇva ghaura; Devatā: Rudra, 3 Rudra, Mitrāvaruṇā , 7-9, Soma; Chandas: Gāyatrī, 9 Anuṣṭup
: – What could we sing to Rudra, strong, most bounteous, excellently wise, that shall be dearest to his heart? – kád rudrā ya prácetase mīḷhúṣṭamāya távyase vocéma śáṃtamaṃ hṛdé– ( RV 1.043.01)
:- May that Aditi may grant the grace of Rudra to our folk, our kin, our cattle and our progeny – yáthā no áditiḥ kárat páśve , nŕ̥bhyo yáthā gáve yáthā tokā ya rudríyam – (RV 1.043.02 )
:- May that Mitra , that Varuna,and that Rudra remember us- yáthā no mitró váruṇo yáthā rudráś cíketati yáthā víśve sajóṣasaḥ– (RV 1.043.03)
:- To Rudra Lord of sacrifice, of hymns and balmy medicines, we pray for joy , health and strength- gāthápatim medhápatiṃ rudráṃ jálāṣabheṣajam tác chaṃyóḥ sumnám īmahe – (RV 1.043.04)
:- He (Rudra) shines in splendour like the Sun, refulgent as bright gold . he is the best among the gods – yáḥ śukrá iva sū riyo híraṇyam iva rócate śréṣṭho devānãṃ vásuḥ – ( RV1.043.05)
:- May He (Rudra) grant health to our steeds; well-being to our rams and ewes; as also to our men, women, and to youngones – śáṃ naḥ karati árvate sugám meṣā ya meṣíye nŕ̥bhyo nā ribhiyo gáve – (RV 1.043.06)
RV 1.114 Rishi: kutsa āṅgirasa; Devatā: Rudra; Chandas: Jagatī, 10-11 Triṣṭup
: – To him, the mighty Rudra, the Lord of heroes , adorned with with the braided hair , we submit our songs of praise- imā́ rudrā́ ya taváse kapardíne kṣayádvīrāya prá bharāmahe matī́ ḥ yáthā śám ásad dvipáde cátuṣpade víśvam puṣṭáṃ grā́me asmínn anāturám – ( RV 1.114.01)
: – Be gracious unto us, O Rudra, bring us joy: May we enjoy that O Rudra, under you leadership – mṛḻā́ no rudra utá no máyas kr̥dhi; kṣayádvīrāya námasā vidhema te yác cháṃ ca yóś ca mánur āyejé pitā́ ; tád aśyāma táva rudra práṇītiṣu –(RV 1.114.02)
: – O Bounteous One, O Rudra, Ruler of valiant men., come to our families, bless them bliss: aśyā́ma te sumatíṃ devayajyáyā kṣayádvīrasya táva rudra mīVhuvaḥ (RV 1.114.03 )
:- Rudra, of Flaming Power, May he throw far away from us, the wrath of gods. what we seek of him is sublime thoughts- vayáṃ rudaráṃ yajñasā́ dhaṃ vaṅkúṃ kavím ávase ní hvayāmahe – (RV 1.114.04)
:- Father of Maruts, the sweetest of all; O Immortal, Amṛta, grant us the mortal enjoyment ; be soft to us; to our offspring and our future generations, – idám pitré marútām ucyate vácaḥ svādóḥ svā́ dīyo rudarā́ ya várdhanam – (RV 1.114.06)
: – O Rudra, harm not , either great or small of us, harm not the growing boy, harm not the full−grown man. Slay not a sire among us, slay no mother here, and to our own dear bodies, Rudra, do not harm – mā́ no mahā́ ntam utá mā́ no arbhakám mā́ na úkṣantam utá mā́ na ukṣitám – ( 1.114.07)
: – Harm us not, Rudra, harm not our progeny; harm us not in the living, nor in cows or steeds, Slay not our heroes in the fury of thy wrath. Bringing oblations evermore we call to thee – mā́ nas toké tánaye mā́ na āyaú mā́ no góṣu mā́ no áśveṣu rīriṣaḥ– (RV 1.114.08)
: – We, seeking help, have spoken and adored him. May Rudra, hear our prayers – ávocāma námo asmā avasyávaḥ śr̥ṇótu no hávaṃ rudró marútvān – (RV 1.114.11)
RV 2. 33. Rishi: Gṛishmada (Aṅgirasa Saunahotra paścād) , Bhārgava śaunaka; Devatā: Rudra; Chandas: Triṣṭup; Anuvāka IV
: – Father of Maruts , let thy bliss approach us – ā ́ te pitar marutāṃ sumnám etu , prá jāyemahi rudara prajā́ bhiḥ – (RV 2.033.01)
: – O Rudra, with your most benignant means of healing, may I enjoy hundred winters – tvādattebhiḥ śaṃtamebhiḥ bheṣajebhiḥ,], śatam himā āśīya – (RV 2.033.02)
: – You are, O Rudra, the best in glory, the best of all who are born here in the body, you are the strongest – śréṣṭho jātásya rudara śriyā́ si tavástamas tavásāṃ vajrabāho párṣi ṇaḥ pārám áṃhasaḥ suastí víśvā abhī́ tī rápaso yuyodhi – (2.033.03)
:- Let us not anger thee, O Rudra, with our improper praise; the strongest among gods let’s not displease you with mingled invocations. You are indeed the best of the physicians . Heal our heroes – mā́ tvā rudra cukrudhāmā námobhirhih, mā́ dúṣṭutī , vṛṣabha, mā́ sáhūtī ún no vīrā́m̐ arpaya bheṣajébhir bhiṣáktamaṃ tvā bhiṣájāṃ śṛṇomi – (RV 2.033.04)
:- May I with my invocations win that Rudra’s favour who is adorned with gifts and invocations. hávīmabhir hávate yó havírbhir áva stómebhī rudaráṃ diṣīya – 2.033.05
:- As he who finds a shade in hot sun may I, uninjured, win the protection and bliss of Rudra- ā vivāseyam rudrasya sumnam, ; ghṛṇīva chāyām arapā aśīya (RV 2.033.06)
:- Where is that compassionate hand of yours, O Rudra, which heals, delights; showers benifits and dispels sins ; have mercy upon me – yo asti bheṣajo jalāṣaḥ? kúva syá te rudara mr̥̄ḷayā́ kur hásto yó ásti bheṣajó jálāṣaḥ – (RV 2.033.07)
: – To him the strong, great, the cherisher (of all), tawny, fair−complexioned, I utter forth a mighty hymn of praises. The Flaming One we sing your glorious name and pray earnestly- prá babhráve vr̥ṣabhā́ ya śvitīcé mahó mahī́ṃ suṣṭutím īrayāmi namasyā́ kalmalīkínaṃ námobhir gṛṇīmási tveṣáṃ rudrásya nā́ma (RV 2.033.08)
:- the , the Supreme Ruler , the strong-limbed lord of this world , the One with infinite forms, of fierce golden red complexion who has decorated himself with bright gold ornaments – sthirébhir áṅgaiḥ pururū́ pa ugró babhrúḥ śukrébhiḥ pipiśe híraṇyaiḥ ī ́ śānād asyá bhúvanasya bhū́ rer ná vā́ u yoṣad rudarā́ d asuryàm- (RV 2.033.09)
: – Nothing is stronger than you, , O Rudra- ná vā́ ójīyo rudara tvád asti (RV2.033.10)
:- O Rudra, praised, be gracious to the singer. Let thy hosts spare us and smite down another. mr̥̄ḷā́ jaritré rudara stávāno anyáṃ te asmán ní vapantu sénāḥ (RV 2.033.11)
:- To you Rudra I have surrendered myself, just as a boy approaches his respected father . The Lord of all existence, I beseech you ! Please bestow upon us the cure to our ills– kumāráś cit pitáraṃ vándamānam práti nānāma rudaropayántam bhū́ rer dātā́ raṃ sátpatiṃ gr̥ṇīṣe stutás tuvám bheṣajā́ rāsi asmé – (RV2.033.12)
:- I crave from Rudra his pure and luminous curing powers , for our gain and welfare – yā́ vo bheṣajā́ marutaḥ śúcīni yā́ śáṃtamā vŕ̥ṣaṇo yā́ mayobhú yā́ ni mánur ávr̥ṇītā pitā́ nas tā́ śáṃ ca yóś ca rudarásya vaśmi – (RV2.033.13)
: – May the flaming darts of Rudra be diverted away from us- pari ṇo hetī rudrasya vṛjyāḥ! pári ṇo hetī́ rudarásya vr̥jyāḥ – (RV 2.033.14)
: – Rudra, listen to our invocation. Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly- havanaśrún no rudarehá bodhi br̥hád vadema vidáthe suvī́ rāḥ (RV 2.033.15)
RV.7.46 Riṣi: vasiṣṭha maitrāvaruṇi; Devatā: viṣṇu; Chandas: triṣṭup
:-We sing to the glory of Rudra the sovereign Lord wielding a firm and strong bow discharging swiftly-flying shafts – mā rudrāya sthiradhanvane ghiraḥ kṣipreṣav e devāya svadhāvne (RV 7.46.1)
:-The Wise, the Conqueror whom none may overcome, armed with sharp-pointed weapons: may he hear our call – aṣāḷhāya sahamānāya vedhase tighmāyudhāya bharatā śṛṇotu naḥ ( RV.7.46.2)
:-O Rudra, Come willingly to our doors that gladly welcome thee, and heal all sickness, Rudra., in our family – avannavantīrupa no duraścarānamīvo rudra jāsu no bhava – (RV .7.46.4)
:-Thou, very gracious God, hast thousand medicines: inflict no evil on our sons or progeny – sahasraṃ te svapivāta bheṣajā mā nastokeṣutanayeṣu rīriṣah (RV 7.46.6)
:-Slay us not, nor abandon us, O Rudra, let not thy noose, when thou art angry, seize us – mā no vadhī rudra mā parā dā mā te bhūma prasitau hīḷitasya – (RV.7.46.7)
:-Give us trimmed grass and fame among the living. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessing – ā no bhaja barhiṣi jīvaśaṃse yūyaṃ pāta (RV.7.4.8)
References and sources
I gratefully acknowledge the painting by Acharya Shri S Rajam
And the line drawings by Dr. G Gnanananda from his wonderful book Rupa Lakshana sangraha
And other pictures from the internet
Shiva Kosa by Prof. SK Ramachandra Rao