Rudra (Sanskrit: रुद्रः) is a Rigvedic god of the storm, the wind, and the hunt. The name has been translated as "Roarer", "Howler", "Wild One", and "Terrible". Rudra is "thought" to be an early form of Shiva. By the time that the Ramayana was written, the name Rudra is taken as a synonym for Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.


The etymology of the word rudra is somewhat uncertain. The commentator suggests six possible derivations for the word. However, another reference states that Sayana suggested ten derivations.

Rudra is a mutation of the German word Ruth which means red. Similar to the Tamil root word of Siva which means red.

In Tamil, Shiva literally means "the supreme one". Tamil "Siva" means Red.

The Sanskrit name Rudra is usually derived from the root rud- which means "to cry, howl. According to this etymology, the name Rudra has been translated as "the Roarer". An alternate etymology suggested by Prof. Pischel derives Rudra ("the Red, the Brilliant") from a lost root rud-, "to be red or "to be ruddy", or according to Grassman, "to shine". 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". R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as "Terrible" in his glossary for the Shiva Sahasranama.

The adjective shiva in the sense of "propitious" or "kind" is applied to the name Rudra in Rig Veda 10.92.9. According to Gavin Flood, Shiva used as a name or title (Sanskrit , "the kindly/auspicious one") occurs only in the late Vedic Katha Aranyaka Axel Michaels says Rudra was called Shiva for the first time in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad.

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

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

The word "rudraksha" (Sanskrit: = rudra + "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.

The Maruts

Rudra is used both as a name of Shiva and collectively ("the Rudras") as the name for the Maruts. Gavin Flood characterizes the Maruts as "storm gods", associated with the atmosphere. They are a group of gods, supposed to be either eleven or thirty-three 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". Rudra is referred to as "Father of the Maruts" in RV 2.33.1.

Rig Veda

The earliest mentions of Rudra occur in the Rig Veda, where three entire hymns are devoted to him. There are about seventy-five references to Rudra in the Rig Veda overall. In the Rig Veda Rudra's role as a frightening god is apparent in references to him as ghora ("terrible"), or simply as asau devam ("that god"). He is "fierce like a formidable wild beast" (RV 2.33.11). Chakravarti sums up the perception of Rudra by saying:

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

In Rig Veda 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.

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. 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).

Rig Veda 7.40.5

Rudra is mentioned along with a litany of other deities in Rig Veda 7.40.5. Here is the reference to Rudra, whose name appears as one of many gods who are called upon:

This , 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 of that divine attainable , the showerer of benefits. Rudra, bestow upon us the magnificence of his nature. The have come down to our dwelling abounding with (sacrificial) food.

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

Rudra hymns

Besides the few passages to Rudra in the Rig Veda, there are important hymns in the collections of the Atharva Veda. In the various recensions of the Yajur Veda 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 Atharva Veda (PS 14.3—4). This selection, with further PS additions at the end, circulated more widely as the Nīlarudram (or Nīlarudra Upaniṣad).

Dasam Granth

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

A possible Hellenic equivalent to Rudra

In the 2nd verse of Ṛc Veda 1:114, along with Rudra is mentioned Manu : this /MANu/ may be the etymological equivalent to the /MANēs/ who is described by Hērodotos as the grandfather, and by Dionusios of Halikarnassos as the great-grandfather, of Ludos. If so, then /LUDos/ would be the Hellenic etymological equivalent to /RUDra/. (The Indo-european phoneme /L/ is regularly changed to /R/ in the Samskṛta language.) The name of the goddess /ADIti/, mentioned with Rudra in the 2nd verse of Ṛc Veda 1:43, may be compared with the name /ADIēs/ of the uncle of Ludos according to Dionusios of Halikarnassos. According to the Golden Rosary of Padma-Sambhava, at the birth of Rudra there appeared 18 inauspicious signs along with famine : this matches the 18 years of famine (according to Hērodotos : Kliōi 94) in the reign of Atus the father of Ludos.

In modern fiction

  • Rudra appears alongside Agni in Devil May Cry 3 as a pair of twin swords with Rudra possessing the element of wind and Agni possessing the element of fire. The two demonic swords frequently speak to each other, much to the annoyance of the character Dante.



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