Rudra (/ˈrʊdrə/; Sanskrit: रुद्र) is a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind or storm[1] and the hunt. One translation of the name is "the roarer".[2][3][4] In the Rigveda, Rudra has been praised as the "mightiest of the mighty".[5] Rudra is the personification of 'terror'. Depending up on the periodic situation, Rudra can be meant as the most severe roarer/howler (could be a hurricane or tempest) or the most frightening one.[6] The Shri Rudram hymn from the Yajurveda is dedicated to Rudra, and is important in the Saivism sect.[7][8]

The Roaring God
Rudra, from a 19th-century textbook on Hinduism
AffiliationDeva, Shiva
MantraSthirebhiraṅghaiḥ pururūpa ughro babhruḥ śukrebhiḥ pipiśehiraṇyaiḥ īśānādasya bhuvanasya bhūrerna vā u yoṣad rudrādasuryam
WeaponsBow and Arrow, Trishula
TextsShri Rudram

The Hindu god Shiva shares several features with the Rudra: the theonym Shiva originated as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva ("kind") being used euphemistically of Rudra, who also carries the epithet Aghora, Abhayankar ("extremely calm [sic] non terrifying").[3] Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), and the name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.


The etymology of the theonym Rudra is somewhat uncertain. It may come from the Tamil Word Uru means Roar.[9] It is usually derived from the root rud- (related to English "rude") which means "to cry, howl."[9][10] According to this etymology, the name Rudra has been translated as "the roarer".[11] A Rigvedic verse rukh draavayathi, iti rudraha where rukh means “sorrow/misery”, draavayathi means “drive out/eliminate” and iti means “that which” (or “the one who”) implies that Rudra is the eliminator of evil and usherer of peace. An alternative etymology suggested by Prof. Pischel derives Rudra as the “red one”, the “brilliant one” from a lost root rud-, “red”[12] or “ruddy”, or alternatively (according to Grassman) “shining”.[9]

Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means “wild”, i.e. of rude (untamed) nature, and translates the name Rudra as “the wild one” or “the fierce god”.[13] R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as “the terrible” in his glossary for the Shiva Sahasranama.[14] The commentator Sāyaṇa suggests six possible derivations for rudra.[15] However, another reference states that Sayana suggested ten derivations.[16]

The adjective shivam in the sense of “propitious” or “kind” is applied to the name Rudra in RV 10.92.9.[17]

Rudra is called “the archer” (Sanskrit: Śarva)[18] and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra.[19] 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.[20] The word is derived from the Sanskrit root śarv- which means "to injure" or "to kill"[18] and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name Śarva as "One who can kill the forces of darkness".[20] The names Dhanvin ("bowman")[21] and Bāṇahasta (“archer”, literally “Armed with a hand-full of arrows”)[21][22] also refer to archery.

In other contexts the word rudra can simply mean “the number eleven”.[23] The word rudraksha (Sanskrit: rudrākşa = rudra and 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.[23]

Rigvedic hymns

The earliest mentions of Rudra occur in the Rigveda, where three entire hymns are devoted to him.[24][25] There are about seventy-five references to Rudra in the Rigveda overall.[26]

Epithets of fierceness and fright

In the Rigveda Rudra's role as a frightening god is apparent in references to him as ghora ("extremely terrifying"), or simply as asau devam ("that god").[27] He is "fierce like a formidable wild beast" (RV 2.33.11).[28] 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."[29]

RV 1.114 is an appeal to Rudra for mercy, where he is referred to as "mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair."[30]

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 lightning.[31]

Rudra was believed to cure diseases, and when people recovered from them or were free of them, that too was attributed to the agency of Rudra.[31] 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). So he is described with an alternative name Vaidyanatha (Lord of Remedies).

Epithets of supreme rule

A verse from the Rig Veda (RV 2.33.9) calls Rudra "The Lord or Sovereign of the Universe" (īśānādasya bhuvanasya):

sthirebhiraṅghaiḥ pururūpa ughro babhruḥ śukrebhiḥ pipiśehiraṇyaiḥ
īśānādasya bhuvanasya bhūrerna vā u yoṣad rudrādasuryam (RV 2.33.9)

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.[32]

A verse of Śrī Rudram (= Yajurveda 16.18) speaks of Rudra as Lord of the Universe:

जगताम् पतये नमः ।

jagatăm pataye namaha
Homage to the Lord of the Universe.

Another verse (Yajurveda 16.46) locates Rudra in the heart of the gods, showing that he is the inner Self of all, even the gods.[33]

देवानां हृदयभ्यो नमो ।

devănăm hridayebhyo namo
Salutations to him who is in heart of the gods.

In a verse popularly known as the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, both Rig Veda (7.59.12) and Yajur Veda (3.60) recommend worshipping Rudra to attain moksha (liberation):

tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam

urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya mā'mṛtāt

We worship Tryambaka, sweet augmenter of prosperity. As from its stem a cucumber, may I be freed from the bonds of death, not reft of immortality.

In the Taittiriya Aranyaka of Yajur Veda(10.24.1)[34][35] Rudra is identified as the universal existent ("all this") and thus as the Purusha (Supreme Person or inner Self) of the Vedas:

sarvo vai rudrastasmai rudrāya namo astu

puruṣo vai rudraḥ sanmaho namo namaḥ
viśvaṃ bhūtaṃ bhuvanaṃ citraṃ bahudhā jātaṃ jāyamānaṃ ca yat
sarvo hyeṣa rudrastasmai rudrāya namo astu ॥ 1॥

All this verily is Rudra. To Rudra who is such we offer our salutation. We salute again and again that Being, Rudra, who alone is the Purusha and the Soul of creatures. The material universe, the created beings, and whatever there is manifoldly and profusely created, in the past and in the present, in the form of the world—all that is indeed this Rudra. Salutations be to Rudra who is such.

The Taittiriya Aranyaka of Yajur Veda[34] 1.10.1[35] identifies Rudra and Brihaspati as Sons of Bhumi (Earth) and Heaven:[36]

[The translations below need to be cleaned up; the transliteration standardized; the so-called "modern translation" should be removed, because it is not necessary or helpful. Do these lines constitute a single verse, or are they separate verses drawn from different places in the text? That needs to be made clear.]

SanskritModern translationEnglish translation
sahasravṛdiyaṃ bhữmiḥyam bhUmi: sahasravrtThis world is desired as a place of abode by thousands of JeevarAsis
paraṃ vyoma sahasravṛtparam vyOma: sahasravrtThe upper world is similarly desired by the thousands of devAs.
aśvinã bhujyữ nãsatyãbhujyU na asatyA viSvasya jagata: patI aSvinAThe earth and the heaven (Svarga lOkam) are like the twin gods, Asvini devAs, who banish diseases and bless us with bhOgams; Asvini devAs are the protectors of the universe and their sankalpam (volition) never fails.
viśvasya jagataspatỉ
jãyã bhữmiḥ patirvyomabhUmi: jAyA vyOma pati: taa mithunam aturyathu:BhU lOkam is the wife and the Heaven is the husband; they are united like a couple.
mithunantã aturyathuḥ
putro bṛhaspatỉ rudraḥputra: brhaspatI rudra:We have to consider Brhaspati and Rudran (aging here) as their sons
saramã iti strỉpumamsaramA itiThe raised platform for the Yaagam, Yaaga meDai (Yajn~a Vedi) should be considered as a lady.
iti strI pumamThus we are instructed about the male-female aspects of the Earth and the Heaven.
[Now comes the prayer to the abhimAna devatais for BhUmi and the upper world.]
śukraṃ vãmanyadyajataṃ vãmanyatvAm anyat Sukram vAm anyat yajatamAmong your forms, one is the day with white hue, the other is the night with dark hue.
viṣurữpe ahanỉ dyauriva sthaḥvishurUpe ahanI dyau iva stha:Both of You stay steady as the Sooryan in the sky with equal, unique and alternating forms.

Relation to other deities

Rudra is used both as a name of Shiva and collectively ("the Rudras") as the name for the Maruts.[37] Maruts are "storm gods", associated with the atmosphere.[38] They are a group of gods, whose number varies from two to sixty, sometimes also rendered as eleven, thirty-three[39] or a hundred and eighty in number (i. e. three times sixty, see RV 8.96.8.).

The Rudras are sometimes referred to as "the sons of Rudra",[40] whereas Rudra is referred to as "Father of the Maruts" (RV 2.33.1).[41]

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:

One scholiast interpretation of the Sanskrit word vayāḥ, meaning "ramifications" or "branches", is that all other deities are, as it were branches of Vishnu,[43] 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.[44]

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).[7][45]

Sri Rudram

The President of the Ramakrishna Mission, at Chennai, in commentating on the foreword to Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and Purushasuktam, stated that "Rudra to whom these prayers are addressed is not a sectarian deity, but the Supreme Being who is omnipresent and manifests Himself in a myriad forms for the sake of the diverse spiritual aspirants." Sri Rudram occurs in the fourth Kanda of the Taittirya Samhita in the Yajur Veda. It is a preeminent Vedic hymn to Lord Shiva as the God of dissolution, chanted daily in Shiva temples throughout India."[46]

The prayer depicts the diverse aspects of the Almighty. The Shri Rudram hymn is unique in that it shows the presence of divinity throughout the entire universe. We cannot confine the qualities of the divine to those that are favorable to us. The Lord is both garden and graveyard, the slayer and the most benevolent one. The Almighty is impartial and ubiquitous.[47]

In it Rudra is described as the most dreaded terroriser (frightening).Sri Rudram describes Rudra the vedic deity as the personification of 'terror'. Rudra comes from 'Ru' meaning '"Roar or Howl" (the words 'dreaded' or 'fearsome' could only be used as adjectives to Rudra and not as Rudra, because Rudra is the personification of terror); 'dra' is a superlative meaning 'the most'. So Rudra, depending on the poetic situation, can be meant as 'the most severe roarer/howler' - could be a hurricane or tempest - or 'the most frightening one'.[48][49]

Rudra and Shiva

Shiva as we know him today shares many features with Rudra,[50] and Shiva and Rudra are viewed as the same personality in Hindu scriptures. The two names are used synonymously. Rudra, the god of the roaring storm, is usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents as a fierce, destructive deity.[51]

The oldest surviving text of Hinduism is the Rig Veda, which is dated to between 1700 and 1100 BC based on linguistic and philological evidence.[52] A god named Rudra is mentioned in the Rig Veda. The name Rudra is still used as a name for Shiva. In RV 2.33, he is described as the "Father of the Rudras", a group of storm gods.[53]

The hymn 10.92 of the Rigveda states that deity Rudra has two natures, one wild and cruel (rudra), another that is kind and tranquil (shiva).[54] The Vedic texts do not mention bull or any animal as the transport vehicle (vahana) of Rudra or other deities. However, post-Vedic texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas state the Nandi bull, the Indian zebu, in particular, as the vehicle of Rudra and of Shiva, thereby unmistakably linking them as same.[55]

In Sikhism

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

See also


  1. Basham (1989), p. 15.
  2. Majumdar (1951), p. 162.
  3. Zimmer (1972), p. 181
  4. Griffith (1973), p. 75, Note 1.
  5. AB Keith. "Yajur Veda". All Four Vedas. Islamic Books. p. 45. GGKEY:K8CQJCCR1AX.
  6. Archived 19 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. For an overview of the Śatarudriya see: Kramrisch, pp. 71-74.
  8. For a full translation of the complete hymn see Sivaramamurti (1976).
  9. Chakravarti, p. 4.
  10. Kramrisch, p. 5.
  11. Majumdar, p. 162.
  12. Griffith (1973), p. 75, note 1.
  13. Kramrisch, p. 5. cites M. Mayrhofer, Concise Etymological Sanskrit Dictionary, s.v. “rudra”.
  14. Sharma, p. 301.
  15. Chakravarti, p. 5.
  16. Sri Rudram and Purushasukram, by Swami Amiritananda, pp. 9-10, Sri Ramakrishna Math.
  17. Kramrisch, p. 7. For the text of RV 10.92.9, see: Arya and Joshi, vol. 4, p. 432.
  18. Apte, p. 910.
  19. For archer and arrow associations, see: Kramrisch, chapter 2; for the arrow as an "essential attribute" of Rudra's, see: Kramrisch, p. 32.
  20. Sharma, p. 306.
  21. Chidbhavananda, p. 33.
  22. For translation of Bāṇahasta as “Armed with arrows in his hands”, see: Sharma, p. 294.
  23. Apte, p. 804.
  24. For the three Rigvedic hymns devoted to Rudra, see: Chakravarti, p. 1.
  25. 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.
  26. E.g., Rudra is included in a litany given in RV 7.40.5.
  27. Flood (2003), p. 73.
  28. Arya and Joshi, vol. 2, p. 81.
  29. Chakravarti, p. 8.
  30. Doniger, pp. 224-225.
  31. Bhandarkar, Ramkrishna Gopal (1995). Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems. India: Asian Educational Services. p. 146. ISBN 9788120601222.
  32. The Hymns of the Rig Veda, trans. Ralph T. H. Griffith (1896)
  33. "The Texts of the White Yajurveda, tr. Ralph T.H. Griffith, [1899]"
  34. Taittiriya Aranyaka, Subramania Sarma:
  36. SriHayagrivan – AruNa praSnam, vol. 2
  37. For the terms "Maruts" and "Rudras" as equivalent, see: Flood (1996), p. 46.
  38. Flood (1996), pp. 45-46.
  39. Macdonell, p. 256.
  40. Flood (1996), p. 46.
  41. Arya and Joshi, vol. 2, p. 78. For Shiva as the head or father of the group see: Apte, p. 804. For Rudra as the head of a host of "storm spirits, the Maruts" see: Basham (1989), p. 14.
  42. RV 7.40.4–5 as translated in Arya and Joshi, pp. 243-244.
  43. For the scholiast interpretation of vayāḥ as "ramifications" or "branches" see: Arya and Joshi, p. 244.
  44. The citation continues as follows: "This, Ludwig 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.
  45. See Lubin 2007
  46. Karthik Satchitanandam (9 July 2011). "SHRI RUDRAM FROM YAJURVEDA (Full)" via YouTube.
  47. Vasudev R (1 January 2012). "Sri Rudram" via YouTube.
  48. "Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publication Trust".
  49. "Sanskrit Dictionary".
  50. Michaels, p. 316.
  51. Flood (2003), p. 73.
  52. For dating based on "cumulative evidence" see: Oberlies, p. 158.
  53. Doniger, pp. 221–223.
  54. Stella Kramrisch (1993). The Presence of Siva. Princeton University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-691-01930-4.
  55. Stella Kramrisch (1993). The Presence of Siva. Princeton University Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-691-01930-4.


  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965). The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (fourth revised & enlarged ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-0567-4.
  • Arya, Ravi Prakash; Joshi, K. L. (2001). Ṛgveda Saṃhitā: Sanskrit Text, English Translation, Notes & Index of Verses (four volumes (2003 reprint))|format= requires |url= (help). Parimal Sanskrit Series No. 45 (Second revised ed.). Delhi: Parimal Publications. ISBN 81-7110-138-7. 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. — "Rgveda-Samhita". Parimal Publications. 2004. Archived from the original on 1 November 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  • Basham, A. L. (1989). Zysk, Kenneth (ed.). The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507349-5.
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  • Chakravarti, Mahadev (1994). The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through The Ages. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0053-2. (Second Revised Edition; Reprint, Delhi, 2002).
  • Chidbhavananda, Swami (1997). Siva Sahasranama Stotram: With Navavali, Introduction, and English Rendering. Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam. ISBN 81-208-0567-4. (Third edition). The version provided by Chidbhavananda is from chapter 17 of the Anuśāsana Parva of the Mahābharata.
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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.
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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.
  • Rudra-sampradaya; Vaniquotes (His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda's compiled teachings)
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