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Rudra (Devanagari: रुद्र) is a Rigvedic God, associated with wind or storm,[1] and the hunt. The name has been translated as "The Roarer",[2][3] or "The Howler".[4]

The theonym Shiva originates as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva "kind" being used euphemistically of the god who in the Rigveda also carries the epithet ghora "terrible".[5] Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym and by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), the name Rudra is taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.


The etymology of the theonym Rudra is somewhat uncertain.[6] It is usually derived from the root rud- which means "to cry, howl."[7][8] According to this etymology, the name Rudra has been translated as "the Roarer".[9] An alternate etymology suggested by Prof. Pischel derives Rudra ("the Red, the Brilliant") from a lost root rud-, "to be red"[3] or "to be ruddy",[10] or according to Grassman, "to shine".[11] Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means wild, of rudra nature, and translates the name Rudra as "the Wild One" or "the Fierce God".[12] R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as "Terrible" in his glossary for the Shiva Sahasranama.[13]

The commentator Sāyaṇa suggests six possible derivations for rudra.[14] However, another reference states that Sayana suggested ten derivations.[15]

The adjective shivam in the sense of "propitious" or "kind" is applied to the name Rudra in RV 10.92.9.[16][17] 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[18] Axel Michaels says Rudra was called Shiva for the first time in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad.[19]

Rudra is called "The Archer" (Sanskrit: Śarva)[20] and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra.[21] 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.[22] The word is derived from the Sanskrit root śarv- which means "to injure" or "to kill"[23] and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name Śarva as "One who can kill the forces of darkness".[22] The names Dhanvin ("Bowman")[24] and Bāṇahasta ("Archer", literally "Armed with arrows in his hands")[24][25] also refer to archery.

In other contexts the word rudra can simply mean "the number eleven".[26]

The word "rudraksha" (Sanskrit: rudrākşa = rudra + 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.[27]

Rigvedic hymns

The earliest mentions of Rudra occur in the Rigveda, where three entire hymns are devoted to him.[28][29] There are about seventy-five references to Rudra in the Rigveda overall.[30][31]

Epithets as fierce or frightening

In the Rigveda Rudra's role as a frightening god is apparent in references to him as ghora ("terrible"), or simply as asau devam ("that god").[32] He is "fierce like a formidable wild beast" (RV 2.33.11).[33] 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.[34]

RV 1.114 is an appeal to Rudra for mercy, where he is referred to as "mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair."[35]

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 the destructive power of lightning.[36]

Rudra was believed to cause disease, and when people recovered from them or were free of them, that too was attributed to the agency of Rudra.[37] 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).

Epithets of supreme rule

The verse RV 6.49.10 calls Rudra as " The Father of the Universe" (bhuvanasya pitaraṃ)

bhuvanasya pitaraṃ ghīrbhirābhī rudraṃ divā vardhayā rudramaktau

bṛhantaṃ ṛṣvamajaraṃ suṣumnaṃ ṛdhagh ghuvema kavineṣitāsaḥ (RV 6 :49:10 ) [38]


Rudra by day, Rudra at night we honour with these our songs, the Universe's Father.

Him great and lofty, blissful, undecaying let us call specially as the Sage impels us ( RV 6.49.10)[39]

The verse RV 2.33.9 calls Rudra as "The Lord or Sovereign of the Universe" (īśānādasya bhuvanasya)

sthirebhiraṅghaiḥ pururūpa ughro babhruḥ śukrebhiḥ pipiśehiraṇyaiḥ

īśānādasya bhuvanasya bhūrerna vā u yoṣad rudrādasuryam ( Rig veda 2:33:9 )[40]


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.[41]

Relation to other deities

Rudra is used both as a name of Shiva and collectively ("the Rudras") as the name for the Maruts.[42] Gavin Flood characterizes the Maruts as "storm gods", associated with the atmosphere.[43] They are a group of gods, supposed to be either eleven, thirty-three or a hundred and eighty[44] in number. The number of Maruts varies from two to sixty (three times sixty in RV 8.96.8.).

The Rudras are sometimes referred to as "the sons of Rudra".[45] Rudra is referred to as "Father of the Maruts" in RV 2.33.1.[46][47][48]

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.[49]

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,[50] 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.[51]

Post-Rigvedic hymns

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).[52][53]

In Sikhism

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh describes the incarnation of Lord Shiva in his book the Dasam Granth, the canto is titled Rudra Avatar

See also

External links


  1. For Rudra as the Storm God, see: Basham (1989), p. 15.
  2. Zimmer (172), p. 181. Majumdar, p. 162.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Griffith, p. 75, note 1.
  4. Zimmer (1972), p. 181.
  5. For Rudra as a Vedic form of Shiva, see: Zimmer (1972), p. 181.
  6. For etymology of rudra being uncertain, see: Chakravarti, p. 4.
  7. For the usual derivation from root rud- meaning "to cry" see: Chakravarti, p. 4.
  8. For rud- meaning "cry, howl" as a traditional etymology see: Kramrisch, p. 5.
  9. For root rud- as the basis of translation of the name Rudra as "the Roarer" see: Majumdar, p. 162.
  10. For the Pischel etymology as "ruddy" see: Chakravarti, p. 4.
  11. For Grassman's hypothetical rud- meaning "to shine" see: Chakravarti, p. 4.
  12. Citation to M. Mayrhofer, Concise Etymological Sanskrit Dictionary, s.v. "rudra", is provided in: Kramrisch, p. 5.
  13. Sharma, p. 301.
  14. For Sāyaṇa suggesting six possible derivations see: Chakravarti, p. 5.
  15. see: Sri Rudram and Purushasukram,by Swami Amiritananda, pgs. 9-10, Sri Ramakrishna Math .
  16. Kramrisch, p. 7.
  17. For text of RV 10.92.9 see: Arya and Joshi, volume 4, p. 432.
  18. Flood (2003), p. 73.
  19. Michaels, p. 217.
  20. For Śarva as a name of Shiva see: Apte, p. 910.
  21. For archer and arrow associations see Kramrisch, Chapter 2, and for the arrow as an "essential attribute" see: Kramrisch, p. 32.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Sharma, p. 306.
  23. For root śarv- see: Apte, p. 910.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Chidbhavananda, p. 33.
  25. For translation of Bāṇahasta as "Armed with arrows in his hands") see: Sharma, p. 294.
  26. Apte, p. 804
  27. For compound rudra + akşa and two meanings of the compound term, see: Apte, p. 804.
  28. For three RV hymns devoted to Rudra, see: Chakravarti, p. 1.
  29. For citation of the four Rigvedic hymns (1.43, 1.114, 2.33, and 7.46) see: Michaels, p. 216 and p. 364, note 50.
  30. For seventy-five RV mentions, see: Chakravarti, p. 1.
  31. E.g., Rudra is included in a litany given in RV 7.40.5.
  32. Flood (2003), p, 73.
  33. For translation of RV 2.33.11 as "fierce like a formidable wild beast" see: Arya and Joshi, vol. 2, p. 81.
  34. Chakravarti, p. 8.
  35. Doniger, pp. 224-225
  36. For RV 7.46.3 as symbolic of lightning, see: Bhandarkar, p. 146.
  37. For association between Rudra and disease, with Rigvedic references, see: Bhandarkar, p. 146.
  38. The Rig Veda, trans. Ralph T.H. Griffith [1896][1]
  39. The Rig Veda, Ralph T.H. Griffith, Translator [1896] [2]
  40. The Rig Veda, Ralph T.H. Griffith, Translator [1896][3]
  41. The Rig Veda, Ralph T.H. Griffith, Translator [1896][4]
  42. For the terms "Maruts" and "Rudras" as equivalent, see: Flood (1996), p. 46.
  43. Flood (1996), pp. 45-46.
  44. For the number of Maruts as either 11 or 33 see: Macdonell, p. 256.
  45. Flood (1996), p. 46.
  46. For "Father of the Maruts" in RV 2.33.1 see: Arya and Joshi, vol. 2, p. 78.
  47. For Shiva as the head or father of the group see: Apte, p. 804.
  48. For Rudra as the head of a host of "storm spirits, the Maruts" see: Basham (1989), p. 14.
  49. RV 7.40.4 - 7.40.5 as translated in Arya and Joshi, pp. 243-244.
  50. For the scholiast interpretation of vayāḥ as "ramifications" or "branches" see: Arya and Joshi, p. 244.
  51. See: "This, Ludwid remarks, gives no satisfactory interpretation; but I am unable to offer anything better at present. Grassman alters vayāḥ into vayāma: 'we with our offering approach the banquet of this swift-moving God, the bounteous Viṣṇu; i.e. come to offer him sacrificial food.'" in: Griffith, p. 356, note 5.
  52. See Lubin 2007
  53. For an overview of the Śatarudriya see: Kramrisch, pp. 71-74.


  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965). The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-0567-4.  (fourth revised & enlarged edition).
  • Arya, Ravi Prakash; Joshi, K. L. (2001). Ṛgveda Saṃhitā: Sanskrit Text, English Translation, Notes & Index of Verses. Parimal Sanskrit Series No. 45. Delhi: Parimal Publications. ISBN 81-7110-138-7.  Second revised edition. Set of four volumes (2003 reprint). This revised edition updates H. H. Wilson's translation by replacing obsolete English forms with more modern equivalents, giving the English translation along with the original Sanskrit text in Devanagari script, along with a critical apparatus.
  • Basham, A. L.; Zysk, Kenneth (Editor) (1989). The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507349-5. 
  • Bhandarkar, Ramakrishna Gopal (1913). Vaisnavism, Śaivism, and Minor Religious Systems. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-0122-X.  Third AES reprint edition, 1995.
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  • Griffith, Ralph T. H. (1973). the Hymns of the Ṛgveda. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0046-X.  New Revised Edition
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  • Lubin, Timothy (2007). “The Nīlarudropaniṣad and the Paippalādasaṃhitā: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Upaniṣad and Nārāyaṇa's Dīpikā,” in: The Atharvaveda and its Paippalāda Śākhā: Historical and Philological Papers on a Vedic Tradition, ed. A. Griffiths and A. Schmiedchen, pp. 81–139. (Indologica Halensis 11). Aachen: Shaker Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8322-6255-6
  • Macdonell, Arthur Anthony (1996). A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. ISBN 81-215-0715-4. 
  • Majumdar, R. C. (general editor) (1951). The History and Culture of the Indian People: (Volume 1) The Vedic Age. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.. 
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  • Sharma, Ram Karan (1996). Śivasahasranāmāṣṭakam: Eight Collections of Hymns Containing One Thousand and Eight Names of Śiva. With Introduction and Śivasahasranāmākoṣa (A Dictionary of Names).. Delhi: Nag Publishers. ISBN 81-7081-350-6.  This work compares eight versions of the Śivasahasranāmāstotra. The Preface and Introduction (in English) by Ram Karan Sharma provide an analysis of how the eight versions compare with one another. The text of the eight versions is given in Sanskrit.
  • Zimmer, Heinrich (1972). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01778-6.