Śiva / Rudrā across Vedās

Adi:yogi at Isha Institute of Inner Sciences, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

The very first hymn (sukta) to Rudra in Rig Vedā 1.43 is a declaration as to who He is. In a single hymn, it encompasses the entirety of Rudra – that He is a Divine Contradiction and a “conscious knower”. The hymns say He is “fierce/mighty”, then in contradiction they call him “pleasant with beneficent heart”. He is “the resort/lord to all hymns/songs”, He is “the resort/lord of all yajñá/sacrifice”, and “He is bliss”. In conclusion, the hymn addresses Rudras as the family of immortals possessing amṛta/soma and this soma is the home to Supreme Truth (ṛtasya). So, what is this Supreme Truth? As the hymn says, it is “ṛta“, meaning the entire cosmic principle/truth. This Supreme Truth of Immortality is explained in pristine detail in Śatarudrīya/Çatarudriya of Sukla Yajur Vedā. This is the first homage to Rudra-Soma sung by Maharśi Kaṇva Ghaura in Rig Vedā Mandala 1 Sukta 43. And as we go deeper, we will see the complete assimilation of Soma, Agni, Mitra-Varuna, and more.

tavyase = mighty/strong
Shamtamam Hruday = pleasant or beneficent heart
gātha-patim = resort to all hymns/songs
medha-patim = the resort of Yajñá/Sacrifice/Oblations
śam-yoḥ sumnam = bliss/ānandam
pra-jāḥ amṛtasya = immortals family possessing the elixir (amṛta)
parasmin dhāman ṛtasya = home to the highest truth (ṛtasya)
Please Note: Both terms “ṛtasya” and “amṛtasya” are synonymously used, soma is also used as its replacement occasionally.

Rig Vedā 1.43

 Thou, Oh Agni, art Rudra, the Asura of the mighty sky
Rudra, lord of the sacrifice

Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.3.14, 1.4.11

In this discussion let us talk about:
1. Darshanas (view points)
2. Rudras and Maruts of Vedas, their appearance, their association with immortality and liberation.
3. Why is Rudra a total contradiction? What is the difference between Rudra and Śiva of the Vedās?
4. Who are Soma, Uma, Rodasi, Agni, Mitra, and Varuna, and how are they associated with Rudra?
5. Who is the Dakshina Murti of Vedas?
6. The birth of Rudras and Gāyatrī. How many Rudrasare there? What is Ashtamurti?
7. Why is Rudra/Śiva defined as the un-manifest or “that which is not”?
8. What is Śrī Rudram, Rudra Prashana & Śatarudrīya/Çatarudriya?
9. What is Liṅga? Who is īśvara? Why is Śiva considered the father of all and The Destroyer?

Darshanas : View points to witness ṛta

The Vedic view (Darshana) foresees the entire Creation and its Cosmic Phenomenon (ṛta) through the process called Yajñá, hence Vedās are not commandments. Rather, they are illustrious homages and processes encapsulated in a poetic construct. On the other hand, the Vedāntic view is through the concept of inquisition explaining the metaphysical aspects of Vedās. Yoga, however, views the union of the self with ṛta using various mechanisms. Yogis seek practical tools and methods to remove the cloud of ignorance so that the Cosmic Phenomenon (ṛta) will automatically present itself. Sankhya foresees ṛta as a cosmic duality of Consciousness and Energy, which is Puruṣa & Prakṛti. Itihāsa is for us to find role-models and real-life situations so that we can use them as examples. Finally, the Puráńic view is the iconification of these Vedic concepts and surrendering oneself in their glory; this surrender is called Bhakti. Though there are more than a hundred schools of thought expounded in detail by Mādhavācārya, our discussion revolves around Veda, Vedanta, Yoga, and Itihāsa.


In summary, in the Vedantic and Yogic Darshana, from the infinite possibilities of Brahman arises a throbbing or vibration (Śakti), the concept of creation and its preservation emerges from this as a thought, this concept is titled Vishnu (Viṣṇu) – meaning that which is “all-pervasive” or that which “encompasses everything”. Hence Viṣṇu is an aspect of Cit Śakti (cit:śakti) and so the entirety of creation becomes Viśvām. In Sanskrit, “Viś” means that which enters or permeates. Sri Aurobindo famously calls Viṣṇu the space or canvas in which all inhabitants flourish, and the auspiciousness that constitutes as a natural occurrence untouched by reality is Śivam. Shiva is Su:Mangalam, and the force or innate indweller of all is Rudra. This statement is Satyam – knowing this, realizing this, is Sundaram (the ever blissful joy). Hence “Satyam Śivam Sundaram”. Let us elaborate with a question. That which pervades everything – is it ominous or auspicious? It is auspicious. This concept is called Śiva, and the encompassing nature is called Viṣṇu, the force that propels creation is Rudra, the vibration is called Śakti, the mind and the ruler of the individual’s psychology is Indra, the life-force is Vayu, the brilliance is Surya, the transmutation is Agni, speech is Sarasvatī, and variation/flavor/sweetness of Rudra is the immortal Soma. Now, let us elaborate each aspect of this summary in detail, with its origin in the Vedas.

The Viṣṇu of the Puráńas is an aggregated personification of Śakti, Indra, Brahmā and Surya (including many other Vedic Solar Deities called Adityas), whereas Śiva, thought to be associated with Rudra, Soma, Agni, Varuna, Mitra, Vayu, and Maruts in the Vedic realm, remains a total enigma. Across literature, we see various sages, Ṛṣi, Asuras, Devatas, Avataras and many prominent personalities establishing Liṅgas. Historical evidence like the Vrātya seals and Liṅga found in the Indus Valley have been unearthed across diverse lands. In this research let us not take the historic approach; rather, focus on the indications in literature.

Confining the aspect of Śiva to just a single concept is impossible; in short, the essence or “tatva” of Śiva is a paradox – we will see that soon. Śiva means “auspicious”, “foremost”, “un-manifested”, “raw”, “that which is not”; we will cover each of these aspects one by one, so the definition of Śiva/Rudra will evolve in this discussion. Śrī Śankaracharya, in Nirvana Shatakam, addresses Śiva as cit:ānanda:rūpa – meaning the essence of ānanda (supreme bliss) in Cit (Supreme Infinite Consciousness). If Śiva is cit:ānanda then His forever companion Uma is cit:Śakti. Unlike sukha (happiness), which has a polar opposite called dukha (sadness), ānanda has no polar opposite, meaning it is a forever-state devoid of any polarity, irrespective of cit:Śakti being in action or repose (rest). Hence Śiva says to Uma: “I am the sea and you the wave, You are Prakṛti, and I Puruṣa. This beautiful reference to Śiva/Śivā being both the wave and still water, both the hasty/active/rapid and yet calm and auspicious is described in Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.31. Hence, the Rishis ask Rudra to bestow that Anandam.

Now, in the Rig Vedā, the word “Śiva” occurs more than 30 times, and all these are not personified names (swarūpa), they are various aspects of auspiciousness and pleasantness. For example, the hymn “Be Śiva with me” meaning be gentle with me. The first homage to Rudra calls Him pleasant or peaceful, then all the synonymous titles follow – such as benevolent, caring, prosperous, glowing, gentle, knowledge & eloquence, love, bond, friendly, pure, generous, compassionate, pure/pious, and many more. In this way Śiva: the auspiciousness pervades forever, hence the title “Sadaa:Śivam”. As the famous Tamil Poet Thirumular, composer of Tirumurai says, Anbe Sivam (அன்பு சிவம்), meaning “Compassion/affection itself is Sivam”. In this, the all-pervasive entirety is Viṣṇu/Hari who manifests beyond kālá (time). Viṣṇu is the canvas for creation, whereas the creative idea is called Brahmā. In this creation manifest countless beings with a mind, this mind becomes the ruler – which is Indra. Sri Aurobindo says, “the invisible force that propels creation from the lowest to the highest state of Viṣṇu is called Rudra”. Eventually, everything dissolves or assimilates back to the forever state of bliss that is Śiva. Hence, all these concepts are beautifully iconified into the spectacular realm of Puráńas and Itihāsa.

Flow of this discussion

We will start with the Rig Vedā, and take various literary titles/concepts and co-relate them with both Yajur Vedās and Atharva Vedā. Using this lineage/link we will find the destination of this concept in the Upaniṣhads. We will not use the Puráńas as the basis, but we will see if these concepts do happen to land in them. Finally, we will use Itihāsa, both the Mahabharata and Vaśiṣṭha Ramayana to see if these Vedic titles and concepts are practically used. Please note, in Vedas, Rishis (Ṛṣi) use vocabulary in three variations based on the context of the hymn. These three variations are – first, the physical level, meaning the material plane of reality; second, the divinity in association to a Deva; and finally, the yogic level, meaning the union with consciousness (cit). Yoga has two layers – the inquisitive layer, like the Vedantic synopsis, and the mechanics, like the kiryas (actions) used for Sadhana (practice). These mechanics are found both in Śiva Tantras and Patanjali Yoga Sutras, but we will not go into the details of these two literary works.

Please Note: RV = Rig Vedā, KYV = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā, TS = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā, VS = Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā, TA = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Aranyaka, Atharva Veda = AV

Rudra / Marut

Let us start with the Maruts:

को वो॒ वर्षि॑ष्ठ॒ आ न॑रो दि॒वश्च॒ ग्मश्च॑ धूतयः ।1.37.6
Which of thy greatest (वर्षि॑ष्ठ॒ / varṣiṣṭhaḥ) among the masculine beings (न॑रो) among Divine lokas (दि॒वश्च॒) and of Earth (ग्मश्च॑) you are the envoy (धूतयः)
Note: varṣiṣṭhaḥ is a derivative of Sriṣṭhaḥ (foremost/pure). naraḥ here does not mean human (mānuṣaḥ referred in the very next sloka), it is a masculine representation of being. 

Rig Vedā 1.37.6

Now, let us take a look at Rudra from the Rig Vedā:

श्रेष्ठो जातस्य रुद्र श्रियासि तवस्तमस्तवसां वज्रबाहो ।पर्षि णः पारमंहसः स्वस्ति विश्वा अभीती रपसो युयोधि ॥2.33.3
Foremost/predominant/best (श्रेष्ठो ) Rudra (रुद्र ), caretaker/chief (श्रिया) of all beings, of all backgrounds (जातस्य ), the supreme/mightiest of the mighty (तवस्तमस्तवसां = तवः ऽतमः । तव-साम्), wielder/holder of thunder/lightning (वज्र-बाहो ) | none other than you (णः) is the best saviour (पर्षि ) from highest misfortune (पारम् +अंहसः) or attacks (अभीति), forever (विश्वा) bestow wellbeing (स्वस्ति), keep us away (युयोधि ) from calamities and ailments (रपसो ) 2.33.3

इमा रुद्राय सथिरधन्वने गिरः कषिप्रेषवे /क्षिप्रेषु देवाय सवधाव्ने | अषाळ्हाय सहमानाय वेधसे तिग्मायुधाय भरता शृ॒णोतु॑ -नः ||7.46.1
We sing to that/thy (इमा =ayám) Rudra (रुद्रा), holder of strong/firm bow (स्थिर +धन्व), with fast arrows (क्षिप्रेषु), that destroy/devour, oh Divine (देवाय) dependent on none/self reliant/by one’s own will (सव-धाव्ने). You are wise, none can overcome/conquer you (अषाळ्ह्) yet you are calm, patient and wise (सहमानाय), oh gracious and caring one (वे॒धसे॑) with precise/sharp weapons (तिग्मायुध), hear our plea (शृ॒णोतु॑) 7.46.1

स हि क्षये॑ण॒ क्षम्य॑स्य॒ जन्म॑नः॒ साम्रा॑ज्येन दि॒व्यस्य॒ चेत॑ति 7.46.2
Together/towards (स) come to us/bestow (हि) of firm/eternal owner (क्षये॑+ण॒) over Earthly realms (क्षम्य॑+स्य॒) and its beings (जन्मन्) and with universal/celestial sovereignty (साम्राज्य), oh heavenly divine (दिव्यसं) consciousness/inner heart/indweller (चेतस् ) 7.46.2

Please note: सहमाना is a versatile term that can mean calm, intelligent or victorious. अ-सहमान means impatient, because अ is a negation. It can also mean proud and confident. शृ॒णोतु॑ is pronounced as śrnótu and with the root words śru+na+tu meaning “hear us”. Some slokas also write it as सणोतु॑, which is not correct.हि is a root word that means “to come down to bestow” in a spiritual sense. For example हि+त to bestow wellbeing. चेत-ति/चेतस् pronounced as cétati, with root word cit meaning supreme consciousness; citta is individual consciousness.

Rig Vedā 7.46.1/2

The Vedās sing about Rudras/Maruts as immortal, free-spirited, mountain-dwelling, fierce warriors and a hero clan. They hold most powerful weapons, tools, riches, unparalleled to any RV1.64,VS10.20. Hymns proclaim that there are none mightier than Rudras RV1.19,2.33,5.59,7.46 with infinite-strength “ananta-śuṣmāḥ” RV1.64.10. Rudras are the only Divinities in the Vedas to possess a multitude of precise and powerful weapons. The only other Divinity who comes close in possessing multiple weapons is Indra; He too has a weapon common to Rudra, which is the lightning. These hymns define Rudras and Maruts as Earth-shaking clans feared by all lokas as they could create fires, bring rain (nourishment and food), cause lightning and thunder RV1.38,2.33,5.58/59,KYV4.5.11, and make rain in deserts RV1.38.7. Hence the title Aśani given to Rudra in Brahmāṇa-1 of Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā Rudras are the only Divinities feared greatly by Rishis, and since the Vedās revolve around Yajñá, the aspect of fear is seen in the discipline and devotion of the Yajamana and Adhvaryu, meaning the one hosting and the one performing the Yajñá, else Rudra brings forth His wrath and consumes themTS1.6.7. At the same time, in contradiction, they are praised as a cheerful, benevolent, wise, protecting, caring, and helpful clan with various tools, medicines, riches, and vehicles like chariots, elephants, deer and horses. Rudras are called “the physician among physicians” and “dispeller of all sins/sorrows” RV2.33. They are prayed to for the protection of homes, cattle, farms, families and children, for gifts like medicines, knowledge and wealth, and for boons to bear children and find loving spouses VS3.57-59. They are described as fair complexioned, youthful, handsome, with knotted/braided locks of hair (kapardi), strong build, dazzling, wearing deerskin and ornaments RV1.43/114&2,5.42, VS16. While the earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Rig Vedā, the Saṃhitās of the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā describes each of these features in great detail. By the time of the Atharva Vedā, the complete assimilation of Agni with Rudra takes place. His Viṣvarūpam (omni-form) becomes pristine, leading to the pinnacle of His supremacy in the Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad. Coming back to the Rig Vedā, the hymns repeatedly call the Rudras immortal as they possess the amṛta RV10.93.4, and declare none to be young or elderly in their gana (group) RV2.33,5.58/59. In numerous hymns, Agni, Indra, Atithi, and others are urged to pass on their recommendations and pleas to Rudras/Maruts through Rudriya (hymns dedicated to Rudra). On many occasions, various Divinities request the help of Rudras/Maruts as their strength is invincible in battle RV1:87,167. Indra will not override the boons given by Maruts RV1:166. There is a story in the Puráńas of how Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu led Maruts to a battle. Viṣṇu is also called Evaya Marut, meaning the fastest Marut RV5.87. The twin Ashvins are also considered as Rudras – “उ॒त नो॑ रु॒द्रा चि॑न्मृळताम॒श्विना॒”, meaning the two Ashvins together are Rudras RV10.93.7 . As Sri Aurobindo famously says, if Viṣṇu is the all-encompassing space/canvas, and Brahma is the Creative Idea, Rudra is the invisible force that propels Creation forward to the highest state/stride of Viṣṇu and bestows bliss/nourishment RV1.114 in their journey. When we say natural forces, it can be the force of knowledge, health, wealth VS10.20, desire, devotion and joy; in contradiction, it is also the force of dissolution, the restructuring of things in the form of sickness, death, calamities, and destruction. Hence, sages feared Rudra the most and sang for nourishment and protection; at the same time, prayed not to harm the lives of their families and cattle RV1.43/114 – like the hymn that says “Oh Rudra, harm us not, and abandon us not”RV7.46.5. This is why Rudra/Śiva is a total contradiction and highly unpredictable. Now, let us explore each of these aspects of Rudras in detail.

Please note: the term Rudra is singular, Rudras (plural) and Rudrā denotes femininity. Rudriya means the songs dedicated to appease Rudras. The reason will soon be addressed in our upcoming sections.

How are Maruts different from Rudras? 

Rudra is the father of Maruts “idam pitre marutām” RV1.114,2.33,1.64. And Rudras are always surrounded by Maruts. These Maruts are, on occasions, said to be the children of Pṛśni “The Vedic Cow of Knowledge”. Hence, Maruts are addressed with three profound titles – as vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ “born in knowledge”, mahiṣāsaḥ māyinaḥ:citra-bhānavaḥ “the makers of māyā and of clear vision/light”, and pra-cetasaḥ viśva-vedasaḥ “conscious & omniscient” RV1.64.6-10. Now, these three titles are not to be taken lightly. In the realm of the Vedas both Soma and Pṛśni are two abstract concepts that secretly control the entirety of Vedic essence. Let us take a quick glance.

गौर्धयति मरुतां श्रवस्युर्माता मघोनाम् युक्ता वह्नी रथानाम् | यस्या देवा उपस्थे॑ व्रता विश्वे धारयन्ते सूर्यामासा दृशे कम् || 8.94.1-2
The Cow (Pṛśni is the cow of knowledge, and milk/Soma is wisdom/knowledge of immortality) (गौ + र्धयति dhā+yati), with Maruts (मरुतां) as sons of a mother who deserves our highest honor (श्रवस्यु + माता) and who is rich/abundant in knowledge and wisdom ( मघोनाम्  = मघ+वन्- म्), harnesses/yokes them (the vehicles) to move Creation forward (वह्नी – रथा-नाम्)|
In You/Pṛśni ( यस्या 3rd person), reside/dwell (उपस्थे) all Divinities/Vedic Devas (देवा) and have their eternal (विश्वे) virtuous function (व्रता) relied upon and borne by you (धारयन्ते); the Sun (सूर्या) and the Months/Moon (मासा) witness their (दृशे) role/actions (कम्)
Please note: In the Vedas (same as Śrīmad Bhagavādgita), the cow represents mother of knowledge, cow’s milk is wisdom and essence, the bull represents might and lordship, horses represent speed and momentum and energy, chariots/vehicles are the creation/body itself. वह्नी = वह् means vehicle and वह्नी -रथा means wagons attached to the chariot.

Rig Veda 8.94.1-2

Pṛśni is also a name of the wife of Prajāpati, which is also correct as Prajāpati is the Yajamana (the one performing the Yajñá). Pṛśni is also a name of a wife of Saptarishi (the 7 primordial divine sages). Maruts are also said to be the children of Rodasī (consort of Rudra) and the same hymn distinctly addresses Rudra as their father RV5.57. Rudra is not necessarily a single entity or a group because of the unique nature of Rudra to manifest across various concepts and divinities. Though Rodasī was mentioned, a single entity called Śiva as a single Rudra is yet to be introduces in our discussion. Since Rudra is the raw and un-manifested invisible force, with the knowledge and immortal wisdom came the Maruts as the individual forces of nature wielded by Rudra. These forces cause evolution of Creation. They can save us and, at the same time, cause destruction to restructure things in Creation. Hence, the Maruts are called the arrows/missiles of Rudra, which we will see in detail.

Gana / Ganapati / Brahmānaspathim

The Rig Vedā sings: “Oh Courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts RV5.58. गणं (gana) means group, and these groups and their professions are explained in detail in Śrī Rudram of Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā 4.5. The leader of these groups is called Ganapati (gana+pati), meaning lord/abode of all groups. The Rig Vedā also addresses the Maruts as vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ, meaning born in knowledge, and brahmānaspathim, meaning lord/abode of knowledge RV1.38.13. Brahmānaspathim is a very unique title in the Vedās assigned to a separate class of Divinities. Sri Aurobindo defines brahmāna as the Vedic Aksharas (word) and among all Aksharas अ/a” is considered the foremost, hence AUM begins with . In Śrīmad Bhagavādgita Śrī Kṛṣṇa says “Among words I am the word . Panini, the author of Sanskrit Grammar says, Maruts are akshara of Varnamala (eternal string of sounds), and Sukla Yajur Vedā Śatarudrīya explains how Rudra and Gayatri Akshara emerged from Yagna. Sri Aurobindo includes both Brihaspati and Brahmā as brahmānaspathim. T.V. Kapali Sastry, renowned student of Sri Aurobindo and Vedic commentator, says Ganapati – “Lord of all Ganas/Maruts” – is that brahmānaspati. Interestingly, the Rig Vedā titles Viṣṇu as Evaya Marut RV5.87, meaning the “fastest Marut” who leads the Maruts into battle. This is a very interesting linkage of titles, like puzzles that fit together.

Is there such a reference where Ganas are attributed to Maruts?

तम उ नूनं तविषीमन्तम एषां सतुषे गणम मारुतं नव्यसीनाम |य आश्वश्वा अमवद वहन्त उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य सवराजः ||
तवेषं गणं तवसं खादिहस्तं धुनिव्रतम मायिनं दातिवारम |मयोभुवो ये अमिता महित्वा वन्दस्व विप्र तुविराधसो नॄन ||

Indeed we praise (एषां) thy mighty (तविषी) gang (गण) of Maruts today (नव्यसी)| Oh fierce (अमवद) racers of horses and chariots (आश्वश्वा) like the wind (वहन्त), bringing your containers filled with elixir of immortality (उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य), you are dependent on none, self ruling (सवराजः)||
Oh courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts, adorned with bracelets/rings (खादिहस्तं), cometh with roaring sounds (धुनिव्रतम) of victory, bestower (दातिवारम) of all magical gifts (मायिनं) |
We sing to the brilliance, like fire (मयोभुवो) adorned with infinite might (अमिता महित्वा). We praise and worship (वन्दस्व), oh ever willing and passionate ones (विप्र) with roaring sounds (तुविराधसो). We follow you, oh leader (नॄन).

Rig Vedā 5.58

Appearance of Rudrā

Changu Narayana in Viṣvarūpam, Temple Dedicated to Viṣṇu, Śiva and Pāraśakti, Katmandu, Nepal

Ṛṣis of the Vedās were very explicit about the appearance of Rudra and the commonality with that of Śiva. While the first declaration to Rudra is seen in the Rig Vedā, the Saṃhitās of Atharva & Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedās give utmost detail on His features and nature. To start with, Rig Vedā 1.43 – which is the first declaration to Rudra – says in hymn 5: “He is brilliant like the sun, dazzling like gold, and the best of the divine and of Vasu”. Across the Vedās, His form is Viṣvarūpam, meaning the cosmic form or the all encompassing omni-form RV2.33.10,TS4.5.4,TA10.23.1, or Pururūpam, meaning multiform/multihued, with trayambakam, meaning three-eyes RV 7.59,TS4.5.4,AV11.2.2. At the same time, the Atharva Veda calls him “the thousand-eyed”AV4.28.3. On multiple occasions, He is referred as the one with Virūpākṣa, meaning the one with odd eyes TA10.23.1 or thousands of eyes VS16.8. Please note that the term trayambakam, with regard to appearance, means three eyes. With regard to nature, ambaka means Ritu (season) and Ambikā represents Autumn or harvest season. Amba+ka also means mother and sister. Both Śrī Rudram and Śatarudrīya describe a furious form emerging out of Prajapati. This anger is called Manyu, the ferocious aspect of Rudra with a hundred head, a thousand eyes and thousands of weapons. This all-encompassing form of Rudra was very difficult to iconify into sculpture or painting, hence after Nārāyaṇa Sukta and Śrīmad Bhagavādgita, Viṣṇu’s Viṣvarūpam took high prominence in its depiction. Alongside Rudra, Soma and Prajapati shared the title of Viṣvarūpam, but Varuna is also addressed in a similar way RV7.34. When it comes to hue or color, He is Kṛṣṇapingala, meaning with tawny or orangish-yellow skin RV2.33, with arms shining like gold, नीलग्रीव/शितिकण्ठ blue/white neck VS16.28 and bluish belly AV15.1,VS 16.7,KYV4.5. In contradiction, He is also addressed as शुक्र, meaning clear/white/opaque RV2.33 – hence the name śukreśvara linga of Varanasi. But how does one justify so many hues/colors? He is called Multihued and Pururūpam. His hair is called kapardi, meaning knotted/braided locks of hair RV1.114,AV 2.27. Rudra, in the Vedās, is associated in deep conjunction with Soma KYV 7.1,VS16 and Agni as one of his natures or epithets, and in several occasions with Surya. Similar to trayambakam or Virūpākṣa, there is a celebrated title “Somasuryagni Lochanaya“, meaning the one with Soma, Surya and Agni as his three eyes. Atharva Vedā 15th Kanda 18th Prayāya, famously known as Vrātyas Suktam, says “oh Vrātya, as for this right eye is the distant Sun/Āditya, so for the left eye is the Moon/Soma”. But what about the Agni of the 3rd eye which burnt Kamadeva? There is no direct declaration attributing the 3rd eye as Agni. However, Śrī Rudram of the YajurVedā urges Rudra’s missiles not to hit us. The same Vedā urges Agni – heat of those missiles – not to harm us, but be auspicious for us TS 4.61. Since we have described various contradictory features, attributes and forms, how can one visualize an image of the one who is called Viṣvarūpam/all-encompassing omni-form – who is but an enigma – especially when Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.44 says “homage to the one who is in tempest, storms, in the hearts (Sun), in whirlpools, in deep wells and in the very abysses”? The first declaration of Rudra in the Rig Vedā, then the details in the Yajur Vedā and the Atharva Vedā, gave rise to Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad (one among the 18 primary Upaniṣhads), which says in Chap 3, sloka 11:

सर्वानन शिरोग्रीवः सर्वभूतगुहाशयः । सर्वव्यापी स भगवांस्तस्मात् सर्वगतः शिवः ॥ ११॥
All (सर्वा) heads, necks/faces (शिरो + ग्रीव) are you, as you are dwelling in all (सर्व) beings and their cores/hearts (सर्वभूतगुहाशय)| You are omnipresent/all-pervasive (सर्वव्यापी) in all divine forms (भगवांस्तस्मात्), all-encompassing in all (सर्व+गतः)
Please note: शिर+स्तस्  means forms of heads, and भगवां+स्तस् means divine forms.

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.11

Immortality / Liberation in Vedās

The term amṛta means immortality – not of physicality but of endless existence – which is the state of consciousness and eternal bliss/truth. Sri Aurobindo explains it profoundly as:

amṛta : The truth, satya, of endless existence and eternal consciousness evident in the highest world of Heaven, sat-cit-tapas, and latent here, in worlds of the Earth. It can be ours due to change of the Law of works (vrata) of the Earth in the course of its divine transformation.

Soma: is the lord of the immortalising nectar, he is the god of Ananda, the divine bliss which belongs to the Amrita or divine nature of Sacchidananda and is its foundation. The most high seat of the truth, Mahas, the pure ideal principle which links the kingdom of Immortality to our mortal worlds, is peopled with the children of Immortality — we recall at once the phrase of the Upanishad, visve amritasya putrāh, all ye children of immortality — and the lord of Ananda is to take them into his being through knowledge, the head, through enjoyment, the navel. By Ritam, the ideal Truth, the Rishi ascends through the gates of Ananda, divine beatitude, out of this death into the kingdom of Immortality, “mrityum tīrtwā amritam asnute”.

Sri Aurobindo, Lexicon of Rig Veda

This amṛta significantly applies to Soma, later to Agni and the Maruts; but in a few instances, it applies to Mitra-Varuna as they are the deliverers of Soma. Again and again, the hymns call the Maruts/Rudras immortal as they possess the amṛtaRV10.93.4, and they specifically declare that there are no young or elderly in their gana (group) RV2.33,5.58/59. We have also seen that the Maruts are addressed as the children of Pṛśni (Vedic cow of knowledge). Three profound titles describe them as vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ (born in knowledge), mahiṣāsaḥ māyinaḥ:citra-bhānavaḥ (the makers of māyā and of clear vision/light), and pra-cetasaḥ viśva-vedasaḥ (conscious and omniscient) RV1.64.6-10. What about Rudra? Rudra is the “Lord of Soma KYV5.4“. A much clearer description is given in Brahmana 1 of Sukla Yajur Vedā Chapter 3, called Śatarudrīya, which mentions Drāpa (the remover/dispeller). So, who is this dispeller? It is Andhasah, meaning Soma, and Rudra is Andhasaspati, meaning the “Lord of Soma”. Hence, in the Itihasa and Puráńic realm, Śiva is iconified as Somnath – with a crescent moon on the forehead dripping amṛta. Many derivatives then emerged – like Somashekhara, Somadeva, Somaskanda, and even Somavāra (a day of Śiva). Vedic hymns of Rudra are called Rudriya –like Śatarudrīya, meaning 100 hymns to Rudra – and these hymns are sung by Aditi, Prajapati, Rishis, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and others. For example:

In what way (कथा ) can one chant/speak (ब्रवीति) about the magnificence of Rudriya (महे । रुद्रियाय), How can one directly understand (कद्राये चिकितुषे =कत् + रयेण +चिकितुषे) our supporter (भगाय) | Maybe by rivers (आप:), medicinal herbs (ओषधीः), or (उत) in between (नः । अवन्तु) the sky (द्यौ) or forests (वना) or mountains (गिरयः) and their trees/plants (वृक्ष) RV 5.41.11
Please note: Rudriya are the hymns dedicated to Rudra, which is a cumulative of Rudra’s entire essence. Bhaga here represents Aditya, which is the sustainer of life on Earth and its sky. Since the Puruṣa (consciousness) is not in our experience, we seek that magnificence through Creation/Prakṛti

To the one with joyful/peaceful heart, we want to declare to Rudra, to the conscious knower, the most bountiful, the mightiest, in order that Aditi would hold/sing (and bring forth) Rudriya on our behalf and on behalf of all creatures, in order that knowledge (cow), that Mitra-Varuna and that Rudra would wake us all to awareness; to this we all agree/conclude.

Rig Veda 5.41.11, 1.43.2

But there is a unique hymn that defines the word immortal on a different plane, the “Path of Yama“, and the home to the Supreme Truth (ṛta). Liberation is not an act or a goal, it is to realize the true nature of the self that is superimposed with a cloud of misinformation called Avidya. Andhasah is the “remover/dispeller of A:vid” through knowledge (Vid). But knowledge of what? It is the knowledge of the true nature of the self.

यद्यू॒यं पृ॑श्निमातरो॒ मर्ता॑सः॒ स्यात॑न ।स्तो॒ता वो॑ अ॒मृतः॑ स्यात् ॥ 1.38.4
Though you (यद्यू॒यं), who were born to Prishni (पृ॑श्नि :मातरो॒ = cow of knowledge), are mortal (मर्ता॑सः॒), those who sing your hymns become immortal (not physical immortality, but a state of eternal consciousness: satyam. This hymn is explained in detail in Satarudriya Yagna later in Sukla Yajur Veda)

मा वो॑ मृ॒गो न यव॑से जरि॒ता भू॒दजो॑ष्यः । प॒था य॒मस्य॑ गा॒दुप॑ ॥1.38.5
For you (वो॑) one will not (मा ) become (भू॒द) negligible (अजो॑ष्यः) like a wild beast (मृ॒गो) or a pasturage cattle (यव॑से) Those who invoke you (जरि॒ता) attain (गा॒दु) the path (प॒था) of Yama (य॒मस्य॑).
Note: Yama here is not the Puráńic identity of physical death, but the guardian of highest truth

pra-jāḥ amrtasya = immortals possessing the elixir (amṛta); parasmin dhāman ṛtasya = home to the highest truth || 1.43

एवा बभ्रो वृषभ चेकितान यथा देव न हृणीषे न हंसि । हवनश्रुन्नो रुद्रेह बोधि बृहद्वदेम विदथे सुवीराः ॥
Certainly (एवा ), oh mighty chief/overlord (वृषभ ) with tawny/reddish hue (बभ्रो ), henceforth we proclaim (यथा ) the all-knowing/omniscient Divine (चेकितान देव) , forgive us/not punish us (न हृणी), be not angry (न हंसि ), hear our oblation (हवनश्रुन्न) and direct us on this occasion (विदथ), oh powerful (बृहद्व) Rudra of perfect wisdom/speech (बोधि), bless us with noble and heroic successors (सुवीरा) || 2.33.15

Rig Vedā 1.38/43, 2.33

Is there any reference to Rudra and Yama other than the Rig Vedā? Yes, Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.33 says “Homage to the one allied to Yama”. Further, Mahābhāratam Itihasa, Drona Parva – Narayanastra-mokshana Parva Section 203 calls Rudra “You are Yama”. Now that we know the Path-of-Yama (of Truth) and the abode of the Supreme Truth (Rudra), how does one ask Rudra for liberation? Well, the hymn present in both Rig Vedā 7.56 and Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.8, famously known as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, is not about protecting us from just physical death, but about liberation beyond the cycle of birth and death and into the forever state of immortals’ truth – amṛta. Please note the word “Sugandhim”, which usually means fragrance, but here it means the nostalgia one feels upon experiencing a certain sound or fragrance or taste. It is this nostalgia that surfaces during the final moments before death, and it is in these moments that one’s core compulsions – rooted deep into the conditioned mind – arise, and it is this nostalgia and thoughts that define the next life (upadhi). Through the path of Yoga, one has to condition their mind towards Ishwara or remove the cloud of Avidya, and through detachment from compulsions (Vairāgya), one’s true self can come forth. One must note the title “Trayambakam“, which we discussed earlier, is also found in Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Śrī Rudram 4.5, and in Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā Kanda 3.56

त्र्यंबकं यजामहे सुगंधिं पुष्टिवर्धनं । उर्वारुकमिव बंधनान्मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥ 7.59.12
Oh Triambaka (3 eyes/seasons), we offer our oblation (यजाम), nourish us (पुष्टि) and bestow us (वर्ध) into the trance of fragrance (सुगंधिं) | May you untie our bonds (बंधना) like a ripened gourd fruit (उर्वारु) unties itself from the stem, and take us beyond death (न्मृत्यो) and deplete (क्षीय) our compulsions (र्मु) and take us (मा) into the immortal state (अ॒मृत॑)
Please note: सुगंधिं does not mean physical perfume, but the nostalgia one feels upon experiencing a certain sound or fragrance or taste. So it means to bestow us into the sweetness of imagining Thy Divinity during the transcendental states of dhyana/dharana.
र्क्षीय: means to deplete, and र्मुक्षीय means to deplete our moha/compulsions arising out of Avidya.

Rig Vedā 7.59

Similarly, Śrī Adi Śankaracharya said:

अन्नपूर्णे सदापूर्णे शङ्करप्राणवल्लभे । ज्ञानवैराग्यसिद्ध्यर्थं भिक्षां देहि च पार्वति ॥ ११॥
Devi Annapurnae, you are forever whole/full, oh beloved eternal companion of Sankara. Bestow upon me as alms the Jnana (wisdom/core essence) that leads to the meaningful outcome of Vairāgya (detachment from desires and compulsions), oh daughter of mountains, Pārvatī.

Annapurāstakam by Śrī Adi Śankaracharya

The Unconditional Father to All

Rudras being addressed as स्वयश, meaning self-majestic RV1.129.3, or स्वधाव्ने (self supreme) RV7.46 and स्वतवसोself-mighty” RV1.166.2, independent Divinity holding the elixir of immortality RV5.58,TS4.5, a creator of Creation, and a ruler of all kinds of beings and groups TS4.5, made many western scholars consider Rudra to be an independent outsider. However, as we progress deeper into the relation with other Vedic divinities like Agni, Soma and Varuna, much clarity dawns. This independent sovereignty of Rudra is in line with His unique nature of being benevolent towards both nefarious and pious beings TS4.5 – like chthonic (beings of crude levels of consciousness) and Vrātyas RV3.26,5.53,AV15, and nomadic sages or wanderers, and many more, collectively addressed as bhuta-ganas, meaning various groups of beings belonging to different backgrounds, geographic locations, skills, age-groups, genders, physical attributes, both learned and immature, famous and unknown, rich and poor, of all professions, clans, and lineages, and not limited to those liked by the Devas, esp. Indra (Solar Deities). Hence the word Rudras refers to various groups or “ganas” who have the common leader īśhana or the father Rudra. The details of this fascinating multitude of groups are elaborated on both in Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5 and Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16. By the time of the Atharva Vedā the stature of Vrātyas reached that of Brahman in the 15th kanda/chapter called Vrātya Suktam. Then comes the title “Asura”, which is used to describe a group of primordial beings alongside the Devas, with whom the Devas compete for Soma (amṛta) RV1.108. On many occasions, this word is used as a title to describe the strength and ferocious side of the Devas’ wrath, often associated with Mitra, Varuna, and Indra. Varuna, on many occasions, shares similarities with Rudra, but Rudra is called “The Asura of Mighty Heavens” RV2.1, and Maruts are addressed as the “Lord of Asuras” RV1.108/122. There is also the title Manyu SY10.20 and the title Ugra RV2.33,9.11, meaning a ferocious one. So, this Rudra who is ferocious, makes us weep, whose children (Rudras) are rustic, mountain dwellers, destroyers, who associates with Asuras and nefarious beings, is Ghora (terrible), Manyu (wrath), Vrātya (nomadic), Ugra (threatening); in total contradiction is Śiva (The Auspicious), He is bliss/ānandam, pure, generous, has a compassionate hand and a beneficent heart, is pious, and is the very bestower of bliss.

Śiva = the auspicious RV10.92 , Mayaḥ = bestower of ananda/bliss RV1.114, Śreṣṭhaḥ = the foremost & pure RV1.43, Mīḍhvaḥ = generous RV1.114 , Mṛḷayākuḥ Hastaḥ = a compassionate hand, Shamtamam Hruday = pleasant or beneficent heart RV1.43, Sumna = pious/pure/forgiving RV2.33.7, śam-yoḥ sumnam = bliss/ānandamRV1.43.

Both sages and commoners feared the wrath of Rudras, but they knew well that Rudras were not malicious. They understood the compassionate hand of Rudras, hence they reached out to Rudras for protection, medicines, health, boons to bear children, boons to get a loving spouse, for wealth and prosperity VS3.57-59. Hence, He is a divine contradiction and a father to all. Both, Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā 4.5 & 7 and Sukla Yajur Vedā10.20 primes this conclusion with its unique and Supreme nature converged in its Śrī Rudram and Śatarudrāya, but let us start with Rig Vedā 6.49.10:

भुवनस्य पितरं गीर्भिराभी रुद्रं दिवा वर्धया रुद्रमक्तौ ।बृहंतमृष्वमजरं सुषुम्नमृधग्घुवेम कविनेषितासः ॥
Of all dimensions/celestial mansions (भुवन) are your progeny (गर्भिन्) and you the father/source (पित), oh Rudra (रुद्र), by day/dawn (दिवा) and by dusk/night ( रुद्रमक्तौ ) you encompass (वर्ध) | Oh great and honorable and timeless/ageless (बृहंतमृ + ऋष्व + जरं), most gracious(सु-सुम्न), unconditional one, we/rishis sing our poetic hymns (कविने) to the Supreme (इषितासः/iṣitāsaḥ). RV6.49.10

सथिरेभिरङगैः पुरुरूप उग्रो बभ्रुः शुक्रेभिः पिपिशेहिरण्यैः |ईशानादस्य भुवनस्य भूरेर्न वा उ योषद रुद्रादसुर्यम ||

You are well/completely (अङ्ग) established/sustainer (स्थिरेभिः) with multiple/diverse forms (पुरुऽरूपः), You are fierce (उग्रः), yet pure and luminous (शुक्र+भिः), with reddish brown and tawny hue (बभ्रु), all-encompassing (पिपि+श) brilliance (हिरण्यैः) | You are the sovereign authority (ईशानात्) of all realms/worlds (भुवनस्य), oh Great one (भूरि), You Rudra (रुद्रा +त्) the Divine spiritual head(सुर्यम्) RV 2.33.9
Please note: अङ्ग here is not hands or fingers but is a stressing adjective refers to Confirmation or solicitation. शुक्र means clear/white/opaque, hence the name śukreśvara linga of Varanasi.सुर्यम् means Godhead

Rig Vedā 2.33.9/6.49.10

Oh Prajāpati, none other than thee to comprehend all that is created and its forms, to fulfill our heart’s desire; I offer my oblations to thee, your father and your sire is thy?
Praise to that Rudra, the abode/lord of all riches, most vital supreme of names, I offer my oblations to thee!

Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 10.20

The above gave rise to sloka 4, Chap 3 in the Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad (one of the 18 primary Upaniṣhads):

यो देवानां प्रभवश्चोद्भवश्च विश्वाधिपो रुद्रो महर्षिः।हिरण्यगर्भं जनयामास पूर्वं स नो बुद्ध्या शुभया संयुनक्तु॥
He is (यो) the creator/source (प्रभव) of the emergence (उद्भवः) of all Deva’s/Divinity (देवा+नां) and the highest of Rishis (महर्षिः) and the supreme owner over entirety ( विश्व+धिपो ). He is the cause of time (जनया+अमस) to the brilliant/golden womb/the source of creation (हिरण्यगर्भं), prior (पूर्वं) to celestial heavens and us (स – नो) and the one only (शुभया) to bestow/endow (संयुनक्त+ उ) knowledge and intelligence (बुद्ध्या)

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.2

Much clear evidence will be seen soon when we discuss the essence of Uma and Daksha Yajñá in the upcoming sections. As the great scholar Kalidas said:

वागर्थाविव संपृक्तौ वागर्थप्रतिपत्तये । जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ ।।
“I bow to the mother and the father of the world, Pārvatī and Parameśvara (Ṥiva), who are inseparably conjoined, just like a word and its meaning are inseparably conjoined for the purpose of comprehension.”

Raghuvansham by Kalidas

Similarly, Śrī Adi Śankaracharya said:

माता च पार्वती देवी पिता देवो महेश्वरः बान्धवाः शिवभक्ताश्च स्वदेशो भुवनत्रयम्
My mother is Devi Parvati, my father is the divine Maheśvaram (the supreme authority); all who worship the ever auspiciousness (Śiva) are my relatives, in this land and all the three worlds.

Annapurāstakam by Śrī Adi Śankaracharya

Dakshina Murthi

Let us understand the title Dakshina Murthi. Many interpret the word dakshina as “South”. In Sanskrit, dahkshina means “to be on the right side” or “correct/highest position”, another meaning is “that which is linked through Yajñá (sacrificial process)”. Hence, the word Pra:dakshina, meaning to circle around the deity towards our right, signifies the stature of the deity. Since He (Śiva) is medha-patim “the resort of Yajñá/Sacrifice” RV1.43 TS1.3.14 and is seated at the top (pinnacle) of the Himalayan mountains with His consort Pārvatī (daughter of the mountains), He overlooks everything below. Hence the title Dakshina Murthi. The term Highest Position doesn’t mean just North or limited to one specific direction, because He is “dishām ca patayeTS4.5.2,VS16.17, meaning the abode/lord of all Celestial Quarters (directions). While Indra, Surya, Visnu, and other solar deities are associated with East, Śatapatha Brahmāṇa extensively associates Rudra, Soma, Varuna and Mitras with the Northern quarter of the Yajñá Vedi AV3.7 TS2.6.6, or the topmost position. But a top position of what? This can be found when Maruts, the children of Rudra, are addressed with the three titles vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ (born in knowledge), mahiṣāsaḥ māyinaḥ:citra-bhānavaḥ (the makers of māyā and of clear vision/light) and pra-cetasaḥ viśva-vedasaḥ (conscious & omniscient) RV1.64.6-10Sukla Yajur Vedā Kanda 7.2 Brahmāṇa 1 narrates the story of the dual divinities Soma-Rudra who are the dispellers of darkness because Soma is Andhaḥ, meaning remover/dispeller RV1.122,2.33.7 and Rudra becomes Andhasaspati (the lord of Soma). They destroyed the asura Svarbhānu, who created darkness by obstructing the Sun. Similarly, they dispel the darkness in people and allow the brilliance to shine forth. Now, let us look at how Rig Vedā sings:

ईळे अग्निं सववसं नमोभिर इह परसत्तो वि चयत कर्तं नः |रथैर इव पर भरे वाजयद्भिः परदक्षिणिन मरुतां सतोमम रध्याम || 5.60
īḷe aghniṃ svavasaṃ namobhir iha prasatto vi cayat kṛtaṃ naḥ |rathair iva pra bhare vājayadbhiḥ par-dakṣiṇin marutāṃ stomam ṛdhyām || 5.60
We send (ईळे) our oblations through Agni (अग्निं) as you are the transmitter of Yajñá (कर्तं नः), accept our praise (नमो) now (इह) oh Agni as we hand over our oblations (परसत्तो)| o those rides of Chariots (रथैर), supreme in battels (पर भरे), we urge to you (वाजयद्भिः) who is on the furthermost(पर) rightward/prestigious position as a councilor/teacher (दक्षिणिन), oh Maruts, you are equally supreme of our praise and songs (रध्याम).

अच्छा॑ वदा॒ तना॑ गि॒रा ज॒रायै॒ ब्रह्म॑ण॒स्पतिं॑ ।अ॒ग्निं मि॒त्रं न द॑र्श॒तं ॥ 1.38.13
To the voice (अच्छा॑ वदा॒) of this hymn my thy embody/manifest (तना॑), and by these words (गि॒रा) of invocation (ज॒रायै॒) of the Lord/resort of Wisdom (ब्रह्म॑ण॒स्पतिं॑) || May Agni (अ॒ग्निं) show us that friend (मि॒त्रं) with your brilliance.

Rig Vedā 5.60, 1.38.13

In the climax of a Yajñá the remaining water he (Adhvaryu) offers to Agnidhra Fire. This residual water is excess and Agnidhra is excess. The Havis are combusted in Garhapatya Fire and the oblations are made in the Ahavaniya Fire. This Agnidhra is receiving what is declared in excess. That is why this is offered to the Divine Rudra, and this northern quarter where the Agnidhra resides is the quarter of the God. He offers saying “Oh Rudra! that name of yours is effective in inflicting pain to the evil/enemies and which is Supreme, to that name we offer this water!”

Sukla Yajur Vedā Kanda7.3.3.4 Brahmāṇa 2


Soma is a unique concept in the Vedās addressed with many variations. As we have discussed in the beginning, the Vedic concepts and titles used by Rishis are of 3 categories, the material, the divine and the Yogic plane. Sometimes Soma is a Deva and a king, sometimes it is the home of ṛta RV1.43, sometimes it is the juice of a plant used in Yagna as a substitute for Amṛta as this herb is the foremost and pure AV11.6.15 and is the divine energy of all flora/vegetation AV5.24.7. At times, Soma is the celestial Moon described in Atharva Veda 11.6.9 which clearly emphasizes “Soma whom the learned men call Chandrama the Moon making all delight” and Atharva Veda Chapter 10 specifies that “The Supreme Being keeps making Soma, the eternal delight” which is empirical to the expression of amṛta dripping from the crescent moon on Śiva’s head. Sometimes Soma is the full moon belonging to the Tiṣya/Pusya month, on which day Rudra is given oblations. Monday is called Somavara and is the day of Śiva TS2.2.10. Similar to Rudra, the concept of Soma enters into various aspects of the Yajñá (Yagna). In this way, Soma enters into the offering of the Soma juice, into clarified butter called ghee used in Yagna, or the full moon, into medicines, into amṛta, and is the very ṛta. Many dualities are paired among various divine concepts in the Vedas. Among them, Rudra and Soma are paired together as a dual divinity and are treated as one across the Vedas. In other places, Somapavamana,meaning the purified/clarified/refined version of Soma, gave rise to both Indra and Viṣṇu during Yajñá RV9.96.5. This does not mean Viṣṇu takes physical birth because various divine concepts (Devas) emerge during various states of Yajñá performed by Prajapati. Soma is also addressed as an additive to milk or ghee used during Medha or Yajñá. Soma is also used as a synonym for amṛta and it is this Soma that the Devas compete RV1.108 for – Indra more than others, as his strength comes from the divine Soma through which He and other Devas conquered all the worlds RV8.92. It is this Soma that gives them health, immortality, and strength to fight off Vṛtra, allowing room for ṛta. To this, the Maruts provide their support. The aspects of Soma in terms of amṛta, medicines, knowledge, health are the same as Rudra; they become conceptually one entity in many hymns. This is why the very first homage to Rudra is conjoined with Soma RV1.43, but this duality soon becomes one in Rig Vedā 6.74, and by the time of Śrī Rudram of Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Anuvakam 7, it dawns even more clearly with its primary declaration nama somāya ca rudrāya ca KYV 7.1 and “Lord of Soma KYV5.4” and “Soma & Rudra, the giver of medicines TS1.8.22“. But the final conclusion is given in Brahmana 1 of Sukla Yajur Vedā Chapter 3, which explains the instructions of Śatarudrīya in an Anuvākam given to Drāpa “the remover/dispeller”, wherein Andhaḥ/Andhasah is SomaRV1.122 and Rudra becomes Andhasaspati, meaning the “Lord of Soma”. Hence the titles Somnath, Somashekara, Somadeva, Somaskanda, and even Somavāra (a day of Śiva). There are various names given to the three-eyed Siva, like trayambakam and Virūpākṣa, but there exists a celebrated title “Soma:suragni Lochana”, meaning the one with Soma, Surya and Agni as His three eyes. This reference can be found in Atharva Vedā 15th Kanda 18th Prayāya, famously known as Vrātyas Suktam, which says “oh Vrātya, as for this right eye is the distant Sun/Āditaya, so for the left eye is the Moon/Soma”. But what about the Agni of the 3rd eye which burnt Kamadeva? There is no direct declaration in the Vedas, but Śrī Rudram of the YajurVedā urges Rudra’s missiles not to hit us, the same Vedā urges Agni – heat of those missiles – not to harm us, but to be auspicious for us TS 4.61. Finally, there also exists a unique aspect wherein Soma is described as a conjoined expression that is called bahuvrihi in Sanskrit grammar. “Soma” = “sa” (along with) + “uma” (Parvati). This is not by accident or oversight; many Vedic gurus and acharyas concurred with this aspect. “Sa” means to come along or to accompany, and the divinity that accompanies Rudra is Soma. Ganas also accompany Rudra, but they are clearly stated as children. One reference can be found in Sukla Yajur Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 4.20-36, wherein Soma is addressed as the Mother and as the Goddess to Gods and says “Rudra to return safely with Soma as your companion”. Hence Soma is also addressed as Rudrā (emphasis on the ā denotes feminine spouse, similar to Śivā, Ādityā and Chandrā).

Soma: is the lord of the immortalising nectar, he is the god of Ananda, the divine bliss which belongs to the Amrita or divine nature of Sacchidananda and is its foundation. The most high seat of the truth, Mahas, the pure ideal principle which links the kingdom of Immortality to our mortal worlds, is peopled with the children of Immortality — we recall at once the phrase of the Upanishad, visve amritasya putrāh, all ye children of immortality — and the lord of Ananda is to take them into his being through knowledge, the head, through enjoyment, the navel. By Ritam, the ideal Truth, the Rishi ascends through the gates of Ananda, divine beatitude, out of this death into the kingdom of Immortality, “mrityum tīrtwā amritam asnute”.

Sri Aurobindo, Lexicon of Rig Veda

Mitra ~Varuna

Mitra-Varuna are the celestial duo to which we have been referring all along. Like Rudra and Maruts, they are Immortal – not of the physical body but by the liberation from avidya (ignorance of the true self). They possess amṛta and medicines – especially Varuna, who is addressed as the Physician, just like Rudra is called the Divine PhysicianVS16.5. They are also addressed as those with knowledge and intelligence KYV4.4.1,5.3.6 – like the Maruts, who are born in knowledge, and brahmāspati, lord of wisdomRV1.38.13. They are the Asuras of Heavens and are ugrā (terrible/fierce), yet benignant and benevolent. Marutu are the winds and the bringers of rain (nourishment and food) and lightning-thunder KYV4.5.11, so is Varuna (the rains). They are the heroes and guardians of Heavens and Earth, the makers of Maya, and the guardians of ṛta (cosmic phenomenon). The cumulative spiritual nature of this cosmic duo is but a total impression of Rudra, but does such similarity justify them as Rudra RV 5.61-72? Yes, because Rudra enters into various aspects of a Yajñá. For example, water is placed in vessels called Kalashas during a Yajñá and Adityas and Rudra enter them. We have seen multiple times how Rudra enters into various aspects – like in medicines, into Soma, into Winds which are their arrows, into Vedic syllables, water, and so forth. Following hymns of Varuna-Mitra from Rig Vedā Mandala 5 will clarify without ambiguity.

ता वां सम्यगद्रुह्वाणेषमश्याम धायसे । वयं ते रुद्रा स्याम ॥ 5.70.2 tāǀvāmǀsamyakǀadruhvāṇāǀiṣamǀaśyāmaǀdhāyaseǀvayamǀteǀrudrāǀsyāma ǁ
May you, oh benevolent divine, nourish and provide food for our living (through rains and generous winds) . Oh Rudra may we also become such.
पातं नो रुद्रा पायुभिरुत त्रायेथां सुत्रात्रा । तुर्याम दस्यूंतनूभिः ॥ 5.70.3
pātamǀnaḥǀrudrāǀpāyu-bhiḥǀutaǀtrāyethāmǀsu-trātrāǀturyāmaǀdasyūnǀtanūbhiḥ ǁ
Save us oh Rudras, guard us (पायु) with superior strength (तुर्याम) that can well protect us (सुत्रात्र) so that we can face the Dasyus (दस्यूं) on our own (तनू)

Rig Vedā 5.70


Agni becomes Rudra, not as a personification but the concept Rudra. Rig Vedā 4.2/4.3 is a perfect example where Agni is called Rudra. In simple words, Agni is everything, and so is Rudra. But before we go to Rudra’s omniscience let us take a look at Agni.

Agni is the divine omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Will, kavikratu, Seer-Will. Being Will, inseparable from Consciousness and Force, without which there is not any existence, he is universal god, Vaishavanara, presents in all worlds and in all that is in them. He fills both firmaments and mid-word, RV1.73.8; I proclaim three-headed seven-rayed whole Agni sitting within two parents (Earth and Heaven), him filling all bright planes of Heaven, RV 1.146.1. He is a head of upper Heaven, RV 3.2.14; he is satyaḥ, true (i.e. of highest Truth of existence sat), RV 1.1.5, 3.26.1, making true (satyā) all works, RV 1.70.8; he holds the ecstasy in highest degree, RV 1.1.1; sitting in Waters, knowing Svar, RV 3.3.5. Still, the gods have established him, the universal god, in Earth within human creatures like Svar, RV 1.148.1, 3.3.5. So Agni “has two homes” – as in worlds of Heaven so in world of Earth, he “is born” in two places, janitrī, (an original sense of popular now phrase “twice-born”), therefore he is named jātavedas, knowing births of gods and of men, and having two Mothers dvi-mātā, and it is this makes him Envoy, dūta, Traveller between Heaven and Earth, it is due to his double birth he is Hotar, hotṛ, and brings here, in Earth, the other gods and brings to them human’s offering, havyavāhana, and it is because of it the say, that other gods “are sleeping” before Dawn, whereas Agni is wakeful even in night of our Earth and shines in its darkness, Lord of the Nights, kṣapāvat, kṣapo rājan, it is why a man approaches to him the first.

Sri Aurobindo, Lexicon of Rig Veda

न॒हि दे॒वो न मर्त्यो॑ म॒हस्तव॒ क्रतुं॑ प॒रः । म॒रुद्भि॑रग्न॒ आ ग॑हि ॥ 1.19.2
Neither (न॒हि) Devas (दे॒वो), nor (न) Mortals are higher (म॒ह) than You (प॒रः) | Bring with (आ) you the Maruts, oh Agni ||

ये म॒हो रज॑सो वि॒दुर्विश्वे॑ दे॒वासो॑ अ॒द्रुहः॑ ।म॒रुद्भि॑रग्न॒ आ ग॑हि ॥1.19.3
Those who (ये) know (वि॒दु) the highest/great (म॒हो) vital consciousness (रज॑सो), entirety (र्विश्वे॑) of Devas (दे॒वासो॑), and are harmless (अ॒द्रुहः॑) | Bring with (आ) you those Maruts, oh Agni ||
Note: रज॑सो : does not refer to the Guṇa of Prakṛti

Rig Veda 1.19.2/3

Like Rudra, He too is a polar contradiction, he is of the Asura nature described in both the Rig Vedā and the Yajur Vedā RV4.2,TS 1.6,4.1. Agni disintegrates everything, from Yajñá to a corpse – which is His aghora (fierce) side – but He remains unblemished, so He is Śiva (Forever Auspicious) and Mīḍhvaḥ (gracious) RV 3.16,7.34,4.6. But Taittirīya Saṃhitā, esp. Śatarudrāya, goes much deeper and clearer than this, by addressing His aghora tanūr (fierce body) as Rudra and the auspicious body as ŚivaTS 2.2, 5.7.3. Agni is the first cook in all homes, and he is the fundamental element that digests our food and disintegrates our bodies at the end. The vocabulary used to describe Rudra and Agni are identical to the Mitra-Varuna duo. Agni is the celestial priest, the transmitter of medha (Sacrifice of Yajñá) RV1.38,5.60, and the deliverer of Soma. Then who is the lord of Medha and lord of Soma? It is Rudra, as He is medha-patim and brahmānaspatim, the lord of knowledge RV1.38.13. Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā also describes the title Pashunapati as the “Lord of Sacrifice of Cattle”; here Sacrifice of Cattle means to donate cattle as Dakshina during Yajñás like Rājasuya. Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā Brahmāṇa 1.2 describes 5 types of Paśūs sought by Prajāpati – man, horse, bull, ram and goat. The Brahmāṇa of Taittirīya Saṃhitā Śatarudrāya states in its opening hymns that Agni is Rudra when the sacrifice is submitted into the Yajñá – meaning, based on the cause and event, Agni becomes Rudra. Agni is the one who transmutes and causes change. Sri Aurobindo said, who both destroys and restructures Creation and propels Creation forward? It is the Rudras, this is why the third eye of trayambaka-Rudra is called Agni. The Śrī Rudram of the YajurVedā, again and again, urges Rudra’s missiles not to hit us; the same Vedā urges Agni – heat of those missiles – not to harm us, but to be auspicious for us TS 4.61. The aspect of Rudra synonymous with weeping/roaring comes from the event in Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.5.1 wherein all the knowledge and thoughts and riches were placed in Agni by the Devas in anticipation of a confrontation with the Asuras. Later, to recover their knowledge and thoughts, they harassed Agni – who wept and roared in anguish. Hence Agni becomes Rudra. As Agni restored this knowledge back to the Devas, Prajāpati, Manu and many cosmic phenomena like metals and seasons came into being. Further prosperity was bestowed upon all when the fire of Agni was re-established, hence Rudra is called “The Intelligence”; similarly, Adityas are called “The Brilliance” KYV4.4.1,5.3.6. In this way, the concept of Rudra enters Agni and, at times, Agni becomes Rudra. We keep seeing the contradictions of Rudra. He is the one who makes us weep with His roar, which is his feared aspect. In contradiction, all three profound commentators Sāyaṇācārya, Bhattabhaskara and Abhinavasankara defined Rudra asरुदं द्रावयतीति इति रुद्र, meaning the one who removes the cause of our grief is Rudra.

The fire/Agni is Rudra; He is born when the Agni:Homa is completely piled up with sacrifice; just as a calf desires its mothers teat on birth, so He (Rudra) seeks His portion; if he were not to offer a libation to Him, He would consume the Adhvaryu (performer of Homa) and the sacrificer. He offers the Çatarudriya (oblation); verily he appeases Him with his own portion; neither Adhvaryu nor sacrificer goes to ruin. TS 5.4.3
To Rudra in the Agni, to Him who dwells in waters and floods, to Rudra who hath entered into herbs and plants, to Him who formed and fashioned all these worlds, to Him this Rudra, yea, to Agni, reverence be paid! AV 7.87
To Rudra in the fire, in the waters, in the plants, the Rudra that hath entered all beings, to that Rudra be homage paid. TS 5.5.9
“One should fill the Agni:Homa with sacrifice.” The fire is Rudra, and it is as if one stirs up a sleeping lion. TS 5.4.10
The fire is Rudra, His are three missiles, one that comes straight on, one that strikes transversely, and one that follows up. To them he is cut off who piles the fire; having piled the fire he should give a bow with three arrows to a Brahman, unasked; verily to them he pays homage, and also he ransoms himself from them. Agni is Rudra; just as a tiger stands in anger, so He also stands; when piled with these he reverences him; verily with homage he soothes him. TS 5.5.7

Atharva Vedā 7.87 & YajurVedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 5.4.3/10,5.5.7/9

The birth of Rudra and Gāyatrī

Now, let us look at a metaphysical event of Prajāpati’s Yajñá from Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā Brahmāṇa 3:
In the beginning, Prajāpati was alone. He desired “may I multiply”. Upon His practicing austerity, there emerged fumes called Tapo:dhuma, from which came water. Water wished to flourish, upon austerity came foam; foam wished to flourish and upon austerity came clay. In this way each desired to be more and so performed austerity in the following order: water > foam > clay > sand > pebbles > stone > metal ore > gold > Akṣarā (imperishable syllables/sounds). Since this flowed in eight-folds the 8-meter Gāyatrī emerged. All these became the foundation for Bhumi, which spread out (prath), hence became Pṛthvī. All continued their austerity for a Sāṃvatsara, meaning one year, and upon its dawn (Uṣas/Auṣasī) arose a child, meaning the union of Sāṃvatsara and Uṣas gave birth to a child. Upon birth, this child cried (arodīt); Prajāpati held this child and said “my son you are Rudra” (the first roar/sound). This is why Rudra is the primordial roar. This boy could not be contained and wished to encompass everything and so said, “with my name I have to become greater” and asked for another name.
Prajāpati said “you are Sarva” and so the water became him, the boy grew in greatness and kept asking for more names.
He was named Paśūpati, from him emerged flora/fauna.
He was named Ugra (the fierce one), Vayu became him.
He was named Aśani, lightning became him and so did thunder.
He was named Bhava, the rain became him and the Divinity of rain is Parjanya.
He was named Mahādeva, the highest Divinity, and the moon (Soma) became him; hence He, Mahādeva with a moon on his head.
He was named īśhana (the authority/the ruler), the Sun became him.

In the context of the Yajñá, which was performed for one full year (Sāṃvatsara) and at the end of which arose new dawn (Uṣas), from this fire-altar/Agni came all 8 forms of Rudra. These 8 forms are called the Astamurti Tatva. Together, the Agni/fire-altar, the boy and the 8 forms of Rudra are the 3-fold state of Agni:homa. These 8 forms are the eight syllables of Gāyatrī. Now we continue into the next chapter, Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā Brahmāṇa 1. Since the child became free (Swa) and became all (roar/sound, water, wind, living beings, lightning, rain, Soma/moon & Sun), his father the Prajāpati searched for him in Agni and in Paśūs (Puruṣa, horse, bull, ram, he-goat) but the boy was Apaśyat (not found). There was only Agni, so Prajāpati realized that everything was Agnihotra. This event of the Yajñá explains the raw, unmanifested nature of Rudra who can exist in all, the innate self of all. His three eyes are Soma, Agni, and Surya and He wears a crescent moon on His head. He is “Maha” of Devas and He is īśha (the authority) and He is Swa (free/sovereign); hence He is Maheśwara (Maha + īśha + Swa), the highest of names (paranama VS10.2).

May that (प्र) reddish brown, tawny one (बभ्रु + वे), mighty chief (वृषभ), white & pure (श्वितीचि) one with highest (महो) greatness (महीं) receive our (ईरया) highest praise (सुष्टुति).
I surrender my homage (नमस्या) to that splendid glow (कल्मलीकि), I offer my oblation and glorify (गृणीम) Rudra’s (रुद्रस्य) brilliant/illustrious (त्वेष) name (नाम) RV 2.33.8
Note: Cow in Vedas symbolizes knowledge and Bull symbolizes strength and leadership.

Oh Prajāpati, none other than thee to comprehend all that is created and its forms, fulfill out hearts desire, I offer my oblations to thee, your father and your sire is thy?
Praise to that Rudra, the abode/lord of all riches, most vital supreme of names, I offer my oblations to thee VS 10.20

Rig Veda 2.33.8 / Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 10.20

How many Rudras?
Rudra is Un-Manifested / Raw / “That which is Not”

The diversity in counting Rudras is taken into consideration during the Yajñá in discussion. For example, Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.4.11 states “three and thirty in troops”; at the same time it says “eleven are seated on waters”. When Vedic meter is considered, Rudras are associated with Triṣṭubh which has 11 syllables multiplied by 4 steps, hence Śrī Rudram of the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā describes 11 homages to Rudra. Similarly, Śatarudriya of the Sukla Yajur Vedā mentions 6 Rudras with Triṣṭubh and gives 6 X 11 = 66 homages to 100 Rudras. The same Śatarudriya 16.54 states that Rudra manifests in all and so there are innumerable thousands of Rudras. Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5 talks about 1000 Rudras covering the Earth with 100 bows and 100 arrows. Yoga of Ṛṣi Vaśiṣṭha describes 100 Rudras. When the delivery of sacrifice is in discussion Atharva Veda 15.5 talks about 7 delivering intermediator spaces of each direction, Bhāva to the Eastern, Śarvā to Southern, Paśūpati to Western, Ugra/Aghora to Northern, Rudra towards nadir or below regions, Mahādeva to the upper regions of the sky/zenith and īśhana towards all other intermediator regions. When associated with the human body, Sharva (Śarvā) is associated with the kidneys, Bhāva with the liver, Rudra with the blood and the liver, Paśūpati and Agni with the heart, Mahadeva with the intestines and Ugra/Aghora with the stomach/gut TS1.4.36. Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā of the Sukla Yajur Vedā describes 6 aspects – Bhāva, Rudra, Śarvā, Paśūpati, Nilagriva and Śitikaṇṭha. When Rudra is associated with Liṅga then five aspects are described – Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and īśhana. So, here is the key: depending on the cause and the event, the concept of Rudra manifests. This is the reason why He is called Viṣvarūpam or Pururūpam (the universal or cosmic form with multiple flavors) RV 2.33.10/TA 10.23.1. Śrī Rudrām and Śatarudriya present a totality of Rudra’s omnipresence – especially Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.8.6, which says “one Rudra without a second”. This, in turn, gave a foundation to the Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad (one among the 18 primary Upaniṣhads), which says in Chap 3, sloka 2:

एको हि रुद्रो न द्वितीयाय तस्थुर्य इमांल्लोकानीशत ईशनीभिः। प्रत्यङ्जनांस्तिष्ठति सञ्चुकोचान्तकाले संसृज्य विश्वा भुवनानि गोपाः॥
There is (हि) The One (एको ) Rudrā (रुद्रो) and none (न) other than He, none can make Him second (द्विती) in being (याय) that is in existence (तस्थु:र्य) among the worlds( इमां:ल्लोका), He is the authority (ईशते) by His own authority (ईशनीभिः)| In all worlds/dimensions (भुवनानि) is His convolution and projection and guardians (संसृज् + ज्य + गोपाः) in entirety (विश्वा), He is established (तिष्ठति) in all beings (हे जनाः) as the indweller (प्रत्यङ्); and all beings (भूत्वा), at the time of final dissolution (अन्त:काले), become/withdraw into Him (सञ्चुकोच)

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.2

Though Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad is an absolute synopsis of Rudra, in this exploration we will take the path of Vedic Samhitas, Brahmans and Aranyakars but use Upaniṣhad as a contrast to our analysis. According to the hymns of the Rig Vedā – as Sri Aurobindo states – Rudra is the invisible force, and His arrows and Maruts are individual forces/phenomena that can save us but also cause destruction to reorder creation. He manifests in the skies and in the sunlight, in the clouds and in rain, in lightning and in thunder, in tempest (violent storm) and pleasant weather. He manifests in waves and rapids and also in still waters. He is here and beyond and in all directions, He is of all paths and mansions. He operates from near and from far, He manifests in animate and inanimate, He manifests in terror and in pleasantness, in fortune and in destitution. He is Ugra (the terrible), yet is the source of happiness and the source of delight. He manifests in all forms and in all beings and in all groups without reservation or preference, He manifests in the learned and in the immature, He manifests in all ages and genders and physical attributes and professions. He manifests in those who inflict yet he is also the healer and the foremost doctor/physician, He is the Ruler and lord of multitude diversities TS4.5,VS16. We have seen above that Agni becomes Rudra, and the same Agni becomes Siva. Rudra enters into various aspects of Yajñá based on the cause, He manifests in waters placed in vessels called Kalasha. Rudra manifests into various aspects like in medicines, into Soma, into Winds (Vayu) as prāṇa, into Vedic syllables (Triṣṭubh), and so forth. The following is a perfect example as to how Rudra manifests into various Divinities. In this case Rudra manifests within Vastospati and so within Agni.

He offers ten in the same place; the Viraj has ten syllables; verily having obtained the Viraj, he makes it into a brick and piles it up; verily in the Viraj he obtains the sacrifice; the piling up must be repeated by him. Therefore that is the place of sacrifice where he advances having spent ten (nights); not suitable is the place where (he spends) less time than that, Now Vastospati is Rudra. If he were to go on without offering to Vastospati, the fire becoming Rudra would leap after him and slay him; he offers to Vastospati; verily with his own share he appeases him; the sacrificer does not come to ruin.

YajurVedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 3.4.10

One other Divinity who shares similar attributes, including physical attributes, and who is addressed as the Asura of Devas, and a few very specific titles – like Rudra – is Indra. The Atharva Veda points to Indra’s role as the supreme ruler in terms of administration of Creation and Yajñá, but there is no clear reference of him being addressed as one of the Rudras. Many scholars recognized Vayu, to some extent, as Rudra due to the distinct ability to be able to give birth to Maruts and a few acknowledge similarities to īśana (Rudra) RV 1.134. It is because of this ability of manifesting into various divinities, especially in the most fierce aspects of divinities, that Rudra is greatly feared by Adhvaryu, sages, Ṛṣi and other Devatas during the meticulous process of Yajñá. On the other hand, the commoners fear Rudra for their cattle, their families, children, offspring, homes and farms. But, as we discussed, Rudra becomes a polar contradiction, wherein the same sages, Ṛṣi and commoners sing to Rudra and Maruts for their protection, their wellbeing, their health, for knowledge and for liberation from death. This fierce Rudra is also gentle, auspicious, friendly, a doctor who heals with medicines, gives immortality, deliverer to Yama (the path of Truth), the abode of Truth (rta), provider of wealth VS10.20,3.57, the three-eyed liberator(Triambaka), and protector of descendants, making him the most diverse, independent, foremost (Sriṣṭhaḥ) and contradictory Divinity – who is WHOLE, and not dependent on anyone, but self-supreme (Svadhanva) father to all.

All these aspects match well with the Puráńas that define Śiva and the Ganas that surround Him in thousands and thousands of groups and leagues KYV4.5,VS16.6. They describe him as the one residing on mountains, seated on the highest position, fair in complexion, with locks of hair, wearing deer skin, handsome and muscular, with three eyes and a blue neck, holding a spear (Tri:Shula). We see the divine contradiction that He is both fierce and benevolent/adorable KYV4.5.10, ferocious yet gentle, supreme yet reachable, nourisher yet destroyer, a father to both pious and nefarious, a calm ascetic and a supreme dancer, simple yet dazzling. He is the wave and the calm sea, and many more immeasurable contradictions. As we enter into the Yajur Vedā, especially into Śrī Rudram and Śatarudrīya, aspects of Rudra, Śiva and Soma become crystal clear. The question always remains, why is Rudra of the Vedās addressed as Śiva in the Puráńas? Based on our discussion so far, the answer is quite simple. Whereas the Vedās focused on the cosmic phenomenon called Rta and revolved around Yajñá, the Puráńas and Itihāsa focused on the benevolent side of Rudra – his nourishing, healing, protecting, unconditional and blissful nature – and Śiva (the Auspiciousness One) was most suited.

Śrī Rudram ~ Rudra Prashna ~ Śatarudriya 

Vedam is one, meaning it is one knowledge of one truth. It is called Apauruṣeyā, meaning that which is not composed or authored. Vedas are compilations of homages given by many Ṛṣis in their transcendental states of meditation (Dhyana/Samadhi). Vedam has 4 divisions called Zākhā (Zaakhaa) – Rig/Rk, Yajur, Sāma, Atharva. Since Yajur has two shades, KṛṣṇaYajur and Sukla Yajur, some scholars consider a total of 5 Zākhās. At the center of these 5 Zākhās stands the KṛṣṇaYajur (Black Yajur). But what places KṛṣṇaYajur after Sukla Yajur? That we will see soon. In KṛṣṇaYajur there are 7 kandas (cantos), making the 4th kanda its center. This 4th kanda has 9 Prapathaka/Prayāya (chapters/Prashnas), making the 5th chapter its center. This 5th chapter with 11 homages is called the Rudra Prashna or Śrī Rudram. This makes Rudra Prashna the kernel/core of Vedam. Many renowned scholars like Śrī Chaganti call Rudra Prashna the heart and well-guarded nucleus. Śatarudrīya/Çatarudriya, on the other hand, comes from the Rudrādhyāyas Sukla Yajur Saṃhitā (White Yajur) belonging to 16th Kanda. It contains 6×11 = 66 homages with 425 oblations given to One Hundred aspects of Rudra – hence Śata, meaning hundred. This 425 is divided into three sets – 360 formulas represent 30 phases of the moon multipled by 12 months/masa in a year, 30 formulas correspond to the nights of each month, and 35 formulas representing the 13th month called Adhika Masa are dedicated to the SELF (the divine spark Agni and Prajāpati). Why 35? The Self on the physical level is represented with 30 limbs + 2 feet + 2 vital prāṇa + 1 head/mind totaling 35. Coming back to the question, what proves Kṛṣṇa Yajur as the successor to Sukla Yajur? Because Śatarudrīya is mentioned in KṛṣṇaYajur 5.4, making it the successor Zākhā. Apart from the Vedas, Śatarudrīya is extensively described in the Mahabharata Itihāsa across many parvas (chapters). Śatarudrīya is the summit to all that is Rudra, it provides in full detail the concepts of Omnipotence, Sovereignty (īśvaratva), Omniscience (Mahakaal), and Omnipresence (the indweller in all), and is the pinnacle of microcosm-macrocosm analogy.

Fundamental Vocabulary: Śata = hundred, Sahasra = thousand/countless, Homa/Agnihotram/Śaṇḍila = fire altar, Cātvāla = hole in the center of the fire, Svāhākāra = presenting of oblations into the fire altar, Anuvākam = verse used in making oblation, Māsa = month, Samvatsaram = year, Ṛtu = seasons, Yajamāna = the host of the ceremony, Adhvaryu = the one making oblations, Namaha = to prostrate oneself as the sacrifice. Yājuṣmatī/Pariśrit = ceremonial stones around the fire altar, Lokampṛṇa = bricks used in building the fire-altar, Mantra = Anuvākam chanted based on its meter to invoke certain resonance/vibration/Deva, Sāmans = soothing and appeasing hymns, Yajñá = the entire ceremonial process of mantras as Svāhākāra given into the fire-altar, Vedi = the location of the Yajñá, āgnidhra = the brahmin/priests supporting the process of the Yajñá, Nirṛti = Southwest direction of the Yajñá .

From Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā let us move on to its Brahmāṇa portion located in the 11th Kanda, 3rd Prayāya, Brahman 1-2 of the Sukla Yajur Vedā, which explains the instructions of Śatarudrīya Yajñá in utmost detail. The chapters of Veda-Samhitas addressing Rudra are called Rudrādhyāyas. The instruction and details of presenting these 425 oblations to Hundred forms of Rudra are given in its Brahmāṇa portion, wherein the completed fire-altar becomes Rudra. The Devas confer that he is the ṛtāvṛdha: supreme form of truth and immortality”. Here immortality is not of the body but realization of ṛta (the supreme truth).

1. Why is Śatarudrīya needed? Prajāpati is the subtle body of consciousness and upon austerity/Yajñá all Devas arise from his exhaustion. Devas are the phenomenon of ṛta. The final aspect that remains in Prajāpati is furious essence, this anger is called Manyu. It is also explained in the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā that the final stage of the fire-altar becomes Rudra, also the remnant of Yajñá  becomes whole and so restarts the Yajñá itself. Prajāpati’s tears of anguish cover the wrath of Manyu. This Manyu is the hundred-headed Rudra with a thousand eyes and thousands of weapons. The remaining three Vedas speak of this multifaceted form of Rudra as Viṣvarūpam, meaning the cosmic form or the all-encompassing omni-form RV 2.33.10/TS 4.5.4/TA 10.23.1. These tears of anguish cover all dhuvanas (lokas) in countless numbers, and they are all called Rudras. Since this form originated from anguish/cry (ruditāt), He is called Rudra. So, the word Rudra has many meanings based on the process involved, this is why Rudra is the Divinity of many contradictions. This incomprehensible fierce form frightened all the Devas, so they asked Prajāpati to pacify him. They gathered calming oblations/offerings called Śāntadevatyam; this calming oblation to Rudra is called Śāntarudriya. These offerings include Sesamum seeds, Gavedhuka and Arka offered over ceremonial stones around the fire-altar called Pariśrit. Since it is to appease the hundred-headed Rudra, it is called Śataśirsarudra-śamaniyam

2. How can one offer oblations to the Lord who encompasses all? What can one offer to Him that is not His? These Svāhākāra (oblations) in the form of Gaveduka were offered in the Northern region of the Agnihotram (fire-altar) because this is the region of Rudra (hence the title dakṣiṇin marutāṃRV5.60, and so a Gaveduka plant grew at that palace, and Prajapati said “we satisficed him with his own share with his own essence”. Similarly, leaves of Arka were offered and an Arka plant grew at that place and again Prajapati said “we satisficed him with his own share with his own essence”. 

 3. Svāhākāras offered from the height of the knees are received by Rudras encompassing Earth and below realms; similarly, oblations given from the navel region are received by all Rudras of the aerial region called antariksha; then oblations given from the mouth region are received by those from the upper celestial regions. Finally, oblation was surrendered to the hundred-headed manifestation of Rudra; this form is titled Kṣatra, meaning the chief/head/owner. From the tears of Kṣatra came Viś, and Viś became Creation itself and they its beings, they became people or commoners. These Viś gave the first oblations/anuvākam of Śataśirsarudra to Ekadevataya (the One Divinity), who is Kṣatra. This very concept gave way to Eka-Vrātya or Eko-He-Rudra, meaning “there is none that is not Rudra”. And Viś became the root word for Viśvam. Hence Prajāpati says “we satisficed him with his own share with his own essence”. The same conclusion is found later in the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā1.8.6. The same thought can be found both in Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad and Chandogya Upaniṣhad (two among the 18 primary Upaniṣhad).

There is (हि) The One (एको ) Rudrā (रुद्रो) and none (न) other than He, none can make Him second (द्विती) in being (याय), that is in existence (तस्थु:र्य) among worlds( इमां:ल्लोका), He is the authority (ईशते) by His own authority (ईशनीभिः)| In all worlds/dimensions (भुवनानि), is his convolution and projection and guardians (संसृज् + ज्य + गोपाः) in entirety (विश्वा), He is established (तिष्ठति) in all beings (हे जनाः) as the indweller (प्रत्यङ्); and all beings (भूत्वा), at the time of final dissolution (अन्त:काले), become/withdraw into Him (सञ्चुकोच)

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.2

“from a single ball of clay, we can know every form made of clay, the difference in form is but the name (nama-rūpa). In the beginning was one being, without a second, or non-being, without a second; and from that various beings came to be. Just like bees make one honey from nectars of various flowers, yet the nectars do not know from which tree or flower, in the same way, all beings begotten from One Being do not know their source”

Chandogya Upaniṣhad 6.1/6.2

4. So who is this Prajāpati, from whom came forth the all-encompassing Rudra? There are 13 māsa/months in a year/samvatsaram and the dawn is Prajapati. In other words, there are 14 Yajus (mantras), one for each month and the 14th mantra is Prajapati, the very Agnihotram or fire-altar is also Prajāpati. Great is Agni, the transmitter of oblations that were given to him by saying “Namo Namaha“, wherein Namaha is the sacrifice of self. This Brahmāṇa is a perfect match with Kanda 8, Prayāya 1, Brahmāṇa 3, which also describes the birth of Rudrā and Gāyatrī.

5. Being the lord of all quarters, Rudra has the title “dishām ca patayeTS4.5.2,VS16.17 and the famous title digambara. He is the one with golden arms, the commander (Kṣatra), the principle (Mahā), and the authority (īśha). The lord of all creators (Paśūpati) receives this sacrifice as Kṣatra, since Kṣatra is the foremost head. So, He (Kṣatra) takes all oblation on behalf of countless Rudras. When the multitude-form of Rudra receives this sacrifice, countless Rudras enter all dimensions of reality, various beings with a multitude of aspects are pleased as they are born.

Please note: Digambara means Digeva:ambaram:asya, meaning the one who is clad/clothed with space and all directions. Even Durga, after dissolution of Creation, is Digambar – meaning, not wearing Creation and space that holds Creation.

6. In this way each Anuvākam is given to one of many aspects of Rudras; for example, the eightieth Anuvākam is given to Avatāna, meaning the unstringing of the bow, and to the arrows. The Rudras of celestial regions hold arrows of rain, those of the aerial region hold arrows of wind and those of Earthly realms hold arrows of food and medicine. Another celebrated Anuvākam is “Namo vah Kirikebhyah”, meaning the brilliant and sparkling abode like the Sun. Another is in recognition of Agni, Vāyu, and all Ādityas, who are the heart of all Devatas/Divinities. Another to Drāpa “the remover/dispeller”, so he is titled “Andhasah”, which is Soma; and Rudra becomes Andhasaspati, meaning the Lord of Soma. In this way, various Anuvākam with their respective meters/syllables make up the mantra, using which various manifestations of Rudras are appeased in Yajñá. For example, Virād meter is of 10 syllables used to give oblation in 10 directions to 10 prāṇas which provide full life called āyus; similarly, different meters are used in coordination with months, seasons, worlds, prāṇa, yojanas (distance in leagues), wind, rain, food, medicines, various parts of the human body, trees, herbs, and more.

7. As we head into Brahmāṇa 2, the fire-altar is built in the shape of a flying bird, and Prajāpati releases water and ceremonial stones in the Nirṛti quarter as a sign of releasing all his offences, fear, pain and suffering. There are may other detailed events like breaking the pot, naming one’s enemies, naming the objects of desire. Various offerings are performed in their respective directions using items like milk, ghee, honey, lotus flowers, bamboo grass and more. The bricks that build this altar are given oblations and called upon as they are the building-blocks of Creation, they are the seasons, they are night and day, they are the names and titles of the Devatas being invited to the ceremony. Certain bricks are turned away and are not named, these bricks are called Lokampṛṇa, hence they are titled Virāj; this became the source/egg for a secondary Creation mentioned in other Vedās. Lokampṛṇa literally means that which fills all worlds. Similar to Hiranyagarbha and Skambha, Virāj is another concept discussed in the Vedās in respect to Puruṣa.

8. Near the end of the Yajñá, Prajāpati sings Sāmans like Gāyatra using the Gāyatri meter. He does so while circling around the altar three times (pradakṣiṇa) with the altar being on his right, indicating its highest stature. Various Sāmans are sung from each quarter of the fire altar on behalf of Creation, like Rathantara for Earth, Bṛhad for Sky, Vāmadevya for prāṇa, Yajñāyajñīya for Moon, and so on. Finally, Prajāpati sings the Sāmans representing one’s own heart – which is nothing but the Sun – and asks for prajās (meaning progeny). So, prajā are people or beings and Prajā+pati is their creator. The entire fire-altar becomes the source of Creation and all beings emerge out of it. Many entities arise from the oblations given to Rudra, like animals, amphibious creatures like frogs, plants like Vetasa (bamboo grass), flowers like Avākkās (lotus). By doing so, all prāṇas get revitalized and so regain āyus, meaning full life and heal from the exhaustion. Upon meditation, the highest form of immortality is bestowed. This immortality is beyond prāṇas and beyond physicality. Thus concludes the Śatarudrīya Yajñá where Prajāpati says “this immortality the highest in this whole Creation”. This highest immortality is ṛtāvṛdha: supreme form of truth.

If this entire process is witnessed through Prajāpati, then Prajāpati is both the Yajamāna (the one performing the Yajñá) and the fire-altar itself. The entire fire-altar is Creation and all the worlds, and the water sprinkled into it as oblations are the oceans. He is the 14th Yajus mantra and so He is the dawn of a Sāṃvatsaram; finally, He is the subtle body of beings, making him the Self.

If witnessed through Agni, then Agni is the Great Source, Agni is Rudra, Agni is Yajñá and the āgnidhra (the brahmin priest) and the transmitter of oblations, he transmutes Creation and is also the destroyer. He is both the beginning and the end. He is the Self, he is prāṇa and the energy of the physical body.

If witnessed as Yajñá, it is not just a physical act or a ritual. All of Creation is Yajñá; the process that propels Creation is Yajñá. This process is both on the micro level and the macro level. The Yajñá-Vedi is the Earth and the planets, all Devatas emerge from Yajñá, a human body is Yajñá, the very life process is Yajñá. Yajñá is the source and the destination. The words of Sri Aurobino, in regard to the Yajñá of Rudra Prashna, match the essence of this Yajñá and the statements of Prajāpati:

“This is a special type of Yoga called here as the Vedic Yoga, whose essence is the inner Yajñá. Taittirīya Saṃhitā mentions in many places that this Yajñá is a journey. A common synonym of Yajñá is adhvara which means journey (adhva=path, ra=movement). The aim of Vedic Yoga is to establish an all-sided perfection in both the individual and society. The focus here is on the development of the inner potential, i.e., that connected with inner physical body, with the prāṇa energy, those connected with our mental and supramental energies. This upward journey involves seven steps or stages, each Prapathaka is one step of this journey. Who journeys? It’s the jiva/soul of the seeker with all the associated prāṇa energies and the subtle bodies which travels to the world of light (svar). In the Veda the standard symbol of jiva/soul is a bird (shyena, hawk) that goes to heaven/svar-ga (celestial realms of light or enlightened state of consciousness), perfects all its energies and organs and returns to Earth in its divinized condition. The anuvakam 4.1.1 quotes Rig Vedā 10.13.1 to stress that each one of us is a child of immortality. Attaining that divine perfection is our birthright”

Yajur Veda: Sir Aurobindo Kapali Shastra Institute of Vedic Culture.(n.d)

When witnessed as Rudra, then Rudra is not a name or a person anymore. Rudra is the raw concept that manifests in all, the energy that propels Creation forward to the highest stride of Viś:nu. Rudras encompass all planes of reality. There is nothing that is not Rudra, He is the cause and the consequence. Rudra becomes Manyu, Vrātya, Kṣatra, Drāpa, Andhasaspati and Viś. Viś becomes the root word for Viśvam (entirety) and Viśvam is Viśnu. Rudra expands into all quarters/directions and so becomes the owner of all quarters, hence the title “dishām ca patayeTS4.5.2,VS16.17 . Rudra enters everything, into Soma, into Agni, into Vayu, into plants, water, metal. Rudra is prāṇa, He is the body and self, He is the owner and servant, He is the Chief and the subject, He is the ruler and the commoner, the giver and the taker, He heals and destroys, He protects and terrorizes, He creates and destroys. His name is the highest of all names. Everything is Rudra, there are no two entities. Hence, as Prajāpati says, “we satisficed him with his own share with his own essence”.

As Kṣatra He is the head of all beings, as Paśūpati He is the abode of all creators, as medha-pati He is the lord/abode of all sacrifice, as brahmānaspatim He is the lord/abode of all knowledge, as gātha-patim He is the abode of all hymns and songs. This matches the first homage given for Rudra-Soma in the Rig Vedā,

He is tavyase (mighty/strong), yet He has Shamtamam Hruday (pleasant or beneficent heart)
gātha-patim = resort of all hymns/songs
medha-patim = the resort of Yajñá/sacrifice/oblations
śam-yoḥ sumnam = bliss/ānandam
pra-jāḥ amṛtasya = immortals family possessing the elixir (amṛta)
parasmin dhāman ṛtasya = home to the highest truth (ṛtasya)
Please Note: Both terms “ṛtasya” and “amṛtasya” are synonymously used; at times, Soma is also used as its replacement.

Rig Vedā 1.43

 Thou, O Agni, art Rudra, the asura of the mighty sky
Rudra, lord of the sacrifice

Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.3.14, 1.4.11

Finally, let us come to Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Itihasa or Mahābhāratam. Drona Parva, Narayanastra-mokshana Parva, Section 203 summarizes every aspect we have seen in the Vedās. It says:

Veda Vyāsa says: The foremost one of all Devas/Gods, that destroyer of Daksha’s Yajñá, that divine lord having a bull as His sign, became gratified with the Devas. He is Rudra, He is Śiva, He is Agni, He is everything, and He hath knowledge of everything. He is Indra, He is the wind/Vayu, He is the twin Ashvins, He is the lightning. He is Bhava, He is Parjanya, He is Mahādeva, He is sinless (untouched by karma-cause-and-effect). He is the Moon/Soma, He is īśhana, He is Surya, He is Varuna. He is Kāla, He is Antaka, He is Mrityu, He is Yama. He is the day, He is the night. He is the fortnight, He is the month, He is the season. He is morning and night and twilight, He is the year/Sāṃvatsara. He is Dhātri, He is Vidhātri, He is the soul of the Viśvam. Though Himself without body, He it is who is the embodied celestials. He is one, He is many, He is hundred thousand. Brahmanas versed in Vedas say that He hath two forms. These are the terrible and auspicious. These two forms are again multifarious. His terrible forms are Agni, Viśnu and Surya. His auspicious forms are the water, light and the Moon. Whatever is highly mysterious in the several branches of Vedās, in the Upaniṣhads, in the Puráńas, and in those sciences/Śāstra that deal with the soul/jiva-ātmān, is that God, viz., Maheswara. That God is again without birth. All the attributes of that God could not be enumerated by me, Oh son of Pandu, even if I were to recite them continuously for a thousand years. He is Maheswara and is the lord of even the supreme ones. In many forms of many kinds He prevadeth the Viśvam. He always dwells in the crematoriums. Men worship that Supreme Lord in that place where none but the courageous can go. Many are the names, of truthful import, of this deity in all worlds; those names are founded upon His Supremacy, His omnipotence and His acts. In the Vedā, the excellent hymn called Śatarudrīya hath been sung in honor of that great God called the infinite Rudra.

Mahābhāratam, Drona Parva – Narayanastra-mokshana Parva Section 203

sudeva says to Yudhishthira: I shall recite to you the good that I have acquired and the fame that I have won through the grace of the high-souled one. Verily, I shall discourse to you on this topic, after I have bowed unto Kaparddin. O King, listen to me as I recite to you that Śatarudrīya which I repeat, with restrained senses, every morning after rising from bed. The great lord of all creatures, viz., the Grandsire Brahman himself, endued with wealth of penances, composed those mantras, after having observed special penances for some time. O sire, it is Śankcara who created all the creatures in the universe, mobile and immobile. There is no being that is higher, O monarch, than Mahādeva.

Mahābhāratam Anuśāsanica Parva Section 160

Rudraṣṭakam, a magnificent composition by Ṛṣi Lomash, enclosed within Rama Charita Maānas by devout poet Tulsidas addresses Him as “Vedā Swarūpa”:

Namaam-Iisham-Iishaana Nirvaanna-Ruupam
Vibhum Vyaapakam Brahma-Veda-Svaruupam |
Nijam Nirgunnam Nirvikalpam Niriiham
Cidaakaasham-Aakaasha-Vaasam Bhaje-[A]ham ||1||


Uma ~ Devi Pārvatī ~ Sati

So, where is Uma or Devi Pārvatī described in the Vedā?

त इदुग्राः शवसा धर्ष्णुषेणा उभे युजन्त रोदसी सुमेके |अध समैषु रोदसी सवशोचिरामवत्सु तस्थौ न रोकः ||

We praise (इदु) the mighty/strong (शवसा) who stood to break (उभे) the impertinence/disrespect (धार्ष्ट्), stood for the moment (चिरा – मवत्सु) with their mighty weapons surrounding (समैषु) the Divine Supreme (सवशो) Rodasī (रोदसी) of Earth and Heaven; under (अध ) Her command they stood steady (चिरा – मवत्सु) in Her assistance (तस्थौ), as She stood shining with the splendor (रोकः) of Her innate brilliance.

Rig Vedā 6.66

She is addressed as Rodasī RV 5&6 the mother of Maruts. The definition of Rodasī is the Divine Mother of all (both of Heavens and Earth). Rodasī means Rud:ā:suni (consort of Rudra, or the duality of Rudra) but Rodasī is not specifically described as a personification on the material level, similar to Rudra. In the Puráńas, She is addressed with the same title as Śiva, because She is never different or separate from Śiva; hence it is said “without Śakti, Śiva is shava”, meaning Śiva becomes inert or un-manifest like the dark space without Śakti. When it is Śiva, She is called Śivā; to Rudra, She is Rudrāni/Rodasī; to Bhava She is Bhavani; to Sharva She is Sharvani; to Vīra:Bhadra She is Bhadrakali. In all of His 8 forms described in the Yajur Veda, She is his equal companion. Even during the dissolution of Creation, She is the only witness; hence the title MahāPralaya Sakshini. Coming back to Rodasī, She is described as the gift bearer of the mountains, who is always accompanied/surrounded by the mighty Maruts, like the Ganas who always surround the Divine Mother Pārvatī (Pārvata Raja Putri) RV 5.56 6.66. The hymn describes how magnificently She stood in brilliance surrounded by the mighty Maruts RV 6.66, which reminds us of how She (Sati) stood in front of Daksha Yajñá surrounded by mighty Ganas and how they were led by fierce Vīrabhadra to decimate Daksha’s Nir:īśvara:Yajñá (a Yajñá without īśvara). One has to raise the question, how can the Rudra who is the resort of Yajñá/sacrifice (medha-patimRV1.43 TS1.3.14) be excluded from Yajñá? This is what Prajāpati Daksha tried to do and suffered the wrath of Pāraśakti (Sati), which led to his beheading and, later, mutation with a goat head as an example for times to come. Now, is this reference only of the Mahabharata Itihāsam 12.274 and Siva Maha Puráńas or does it have any reference to the Vedas? The account can be found both in Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 2.6.8/5.4.3 as well as Aitareya Brahmāṇa (3,34) of the Rig Vedā .

Agni is Rudra; He is born then when the Agni:Homa is completely piled up with sacrifice; just as a calf desires its mothers teat on birth, so He (Rudra) seeks His portion; if he were not to offer a libation to Him, He would consume the Adhvaryu and the sacrificer. He offers the Çatarudriya (oblation); verily he appeases Him with his own portion; neither Adhvaryu nor sacrificer goes to ruin. TS 5.4.3
 “When one should not pile the Agni:Homa with sacrifice”. The fire is Rudra, and it is as if one stirs up a sleeping lion. TS 5.4.10

Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 2.6.8/5.4.3,10

After Sati left Her manifestation, it was not Śiva who was furious. Rarely do we see Śiva being furious; it is always His Rudras. So when Maruts (ganas) came to Him to share the story of Sati, Śiva created Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali. By the time of the Rig Veda, Rudras have been receiving homage but there is an issue – chapter by chapter, in the Rig Vedā RV7.46, they keep describing Rudras as independent (self-ruling and self-supreme), unparalleled in power, and these hymns seem to indicate that they are not aligned with the Vedic Pantheon order. They were referred to as solo/independent clans with no real relation with the Devas (Indra or Solar deities like Viṣṇu or Surya). In many cases, Viṣṇu and Indra took their assistance in various battles. There are many hymns in Rig Vedā Mandala 5, where Indra is urged by Maharśi not to be averse towards Rudras, and Indra never overrides the boons bestowed by Rudras. Also, Rudras are the lords of amṛta (Soma), the elixir of immortality (similar to sanjeevani given by Śiva to Maharśi Guru Śukracharya as mentioned in Mahabharata Itihāsa). This was an issue for the Devatas ruled by Devendra and for others. Rudras were immortal of their own accord even before the kṣīrasāgara maṃthana, but the word “amṛta” was used in the early Rig Vedic period in hymns for Rudras. However, it is very difficult to date events like kṣīrasāgara maṃthana in Vedic chronology, so let us not take that too literally. Ironically, when Halahala (kālákuta = anti-creation element) emerged during the manthan, all the Devas sought Śiva, who then drank it to save them. Coming back, there was some divide between the Devas and the Rudras (two separate groups). This would have caused an issue with Prajapati Daksha when his daughter wed Rudra. So, he disowned Her and insulted Her, then came Rudra and decimated his Yajñá. That means, since the Rig Vedā, homages were paid to Rudras, but after Sati went to Rudra, Daksha’s hate drove him to a new Yajñá called Nir:īśvara:Yajñá (Yajñá without īśvara). It was not just him, many other Rishis (Ṛṣi) and Vedic deities sided with Daksha and encouraged him to disregard Rudras due to their independence. One important note that many misunderstand – it was never Surya who was insulted by Rudras during the destruction of this Yajñá, it was Pūṣaṇ (one of the other solar deities). This explains why Tantric literature is so vast and has its own accord from the Vedic, but in due time they both merged. Also, we will look into the concepts of “Isha” and “īśvara” soon.


Pashupatinath Linga Katmandu

Manifestation begins by the union of cit:śakti and cit:ānanda. This union is called “Liṅga” or an ellipsoid (representing a perpetual motion in the shape of an egg). From this, all manifestation/change goes into a loop of perpetual motion. Liṅga is a arūparūpi (a:rūpa:rūpi), meaning a contradiction having a form (rūpa) and, at the same time, not confined to any specific form (a:rūpa). Since this union of cit:śakti and cit:ānanda is the first act, a Liṅga denotes a sign or first signal/act, the first union āliṅgana – which is called sandhi/yoga. Further, Liṅga is the first duality, a duality of gender (pu:liṅga, stri:linga), the innate Brahman ātmaliṅga, a phallus (male organ holding tejas, or union of species) and origin. Some scholars also consider Liṅga as an iconification of the pineal gland due to its association with metaphysical potential. Please note, when we say phallus, we should not limit it to a human reproductive organ. That would be like saying that the Supreme Brahman, before creation of realities, first thought of a human reproductive organ. How is that sensible? Sages noticed the pattern of this union in everything, from the cosmic union to the union of beings on Earth, and realized the phallus in the same sense, without the notion of embarrassment/shyness or apprehension. Many temples (consecrated spaces) were also built to exhibit this sacred union without reluctance or insecurity. Everything in Creation – from the largest to the tiniest – is forever in a perpetual motion (Śakti) of manifestation (Viṣṇu) and dissolution/implosion back into source (Śiva). From this ellipsoid emerges a pulse in the form of a roar, this roar is called Rudra – which is very similar to the concept of Sabda:Brahman of Yoga and the Upaniṣhads. Across the Vedās, Rudra always encompasses a dual and contradictory role. The word Rudra also means to weep, as Sāyaṇācārya, the magnificent commentator of the Vedās says, “the one who makes our enemies weep”, or the very affirmation of Him being auspicious (Śiva) RV 10.92. We will explore this side of Rudra soon.

Nakṣatra : Lunar mansions

The following is the list of celestial regions of the sky (antariksha) and their respective Divinities called Adhistanam in reference to the moon’s position, explained in Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.4.10:
Ārdrā Nakṣatra = Rudra, Krttika = Agni, Rohini = Prajapati, Mrgashirsa = Soma, Punarvasus = Aditi, Tisya = Brhaspati, Phalgunis = Aryaman & Bhaga, Hasta = Savitr, Citra = Indra, Svati = Vayu, Vishakhas = Indra & Agni, Anuradha = Mitra, Rohini = Indra, Shravana = Visnu, Sravistha =Vasus, Shatabhisaj = Indra, Revati = Pusan, Ashviyujs = Ashvin, and Apabharanis = Yama.

Ishwara / īśvara / īśhana

One of the first references of the word īśha/īśhana can we found in Rig:Vedā 1.164/168 in homage to Maruts/Rudra and the meaning of īśhana is authority or ownership. This root word īśha gave rise to many titles like īśvara, Maheswara, Sarveshwara, Pārameswara, and more. The word īśvara is a combination of two words “īśha” (authority) and “svara” (sovereign). This is why Rudra/Maruts are said to be immortal, self-born, self-powerful, operating of their own accord, and supremely auspicious RV 5:52,1.168. It is a common error to consider īśha a ruler or master, but the word for ruler is Adhipa, Shasaka, Vibhu, Prabhu and Kṣayat, hence Rishis call Rudra “kṣayat-vīrāya“, meaning the ruler and master of all heroes RV 1:114,VS16.48. The authoritative aspect towards Brahmāṇḍa is titled Ishwara (Iśvara), who is the Supreme Principle beyond kālá (time/space) like the titles “Sarveshwara” found in the Suktas/hymns of the Rig:Vedā and Śrī Rudram of the Yajur:Vedā.

Now that we have understood īśvara let us understand the famous word Uma-Maheswara. Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad (one among the 18 primary Upaniṣhads) says in Chap 4, sloka 10:

मायां तु प्रकृतिं विद्यान्मायिनं च महेश्वरम्‌। तस्यावयवभूतैस्तु व्याप्तं सर्वमिदं जगत्‌॥
māyāṁ tu prakṛtiṁ vidyānmāyinaṁ ca maheśvaram | tasyāvayavabhūtaistu vyāptaṁ sarvamidaṁ jagat ||

Uma-Maheswara in keli:vilasa

Meaning, Cit:Śakti (Vibration/energy/momentum/resonance) is the source of all that comes to be. Māyā is its nature manifesting as Prakṛti. This māyā creates countless illusory realities called Jagat. The sensory aspect of Prakṛti is called Prapancha (creation perceived by five senses and five elements). Mahat means “the highest principle”, and the authority over the Highest Principle and māyā is titled Maheśwara. Uma means companion or friend who is always tranquil and bright. So, Uma always accompanies the supreme īśvara.

What constitutes “The Supreme Principle” (Maheśwara)? This can be found in Śrīmad Bhagavād Gita (The Auspicious Divine Song in Mahabharata), which describes Maheśwara in Chapter 13, Sloka 23 as:

उपद्रष्टाऽनुमन्ता च भर्ता भोक्ता महेश्वरः। परमात्मेति चाप्युक्तो देहेऽस्मिन्पुरुषः परः।।13.23।।
In this (body), dwells the One who is the principle authority (महेश्वरः), witness to all, the very basis of support, and the enjoyer of everything there is.

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

The magnificence of Maheśwara is beautifully explained by Vedā Vyāsa in Drona Vadha Parva, and was spectacularly explained by Bhisma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa in both Shanti Parva and Anushasika Parva of Mahabharata Itihāsam.

Is Śiva a Destroyer?

Śiva is often translated as the destroyer, this is a linguistic error during translation. Destruction means to damage or eliminate the composition of an object, resulting in remnants which usually get dispersed; hence destruction always has a byproduct or a leftover. This is very similar to the conservation of Quantum Information. Say an apple is destroyed beyond visible recognition; whatever information that consists of, the quantum properties that make up the apple are never destroyed. Hence, the word “destroyer” creates a vague interpretation as an attacker or an assailant. In fact, Śiva is Pralaya Karaka. In the case of Pralaya (the closest word is dissolution), the object merges into the source as one (the concept of laya). This is done in 3 ways (complete article on laya): Swalpakalika Laya, Aatyantica Laya, pra:laya / mahapra:laya. At the highest level, the throbbing within the Singularity just subsides. (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993, TED-Ed Quantum Information. 2019)

In creation, everything from the largest to the tiniest aspect is cyclic (perpetual) in nature and each cycle has both manifestation and dissolution. Hence, in Nirvana Shatakam, Śrī Śankaracharya addresses Śiva as “Cidanandata Rupa” (Cit:Anandat:Rūpa) – meaning, the essence of Ananda (Supreme bliss) in Cit (Supreme Infinite Consciousness). Similarly, the Kshetra/temple in South India “Chitambaram”, where “Cit” means Supreme Consciousness and “Ambaram” to wear as a garment. On the other hand, Viṣṇu is Jagannatha (Jagat+Natha), meaning He is the only destiny (Natha) to be reached in Jagat. As Jagadguru Shri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvatī said “Sarvam Viṣṇu:mayam jagat”, meaning when one realizes that Jagat itself is Viṣṇu, then the one realizing this ceases to exist as a Jīva and becomes Ekam (Singularity); this state of ekam is Śivam (Supreme state of Bliss), hence “Sarvam Viṣṇu:mayam jagath: Śivam”. That is why the hymn from Nārāyaṇa Sukta (Mahanarayana Upaniṣhad) of Yajur:veda says one should meditate upon Viṣṇu (the all-pervasiveness) as the means of realizing the self, which is Nārāyaṇa. Since Viṣṇu is the only thing to achieve, a Ḍharma:patni (wife) addresses her husband as Pati or Natha or Swami. In the ceremony of Vivaha (weddings) the groom is treated as Viṣṇu and the bride is treated as Lakṣmī. This very Viśvām is nothing but Viṣṇu. To depict this, we have the story of Kṣīrāsagara manthana – in which the cosmic ocean was churned and both prosperity (Lakṣmī) and anti-creation (Halāhala) emerged. Whereas Lakṣmī went to the all-pervasive preserver Viṣṇu as his consort, the Halāhala was devoured by PāramaŚiva. Hence the profound quote, “we grow as we dissolve” (no reference found for this quote).

As explained by Rishi Vaśiṣṭha to Śrī Rama during the narration of Prahalada’s events:

“Lord Viṣṇu is the self of all and whatever notion arises in him materializes immediately. His manifestation is uncaused, but it has the sole purpose of creating the infinite creatures in this universe. By the attainment of self-knowledge, lord Visnu is realized; and by the adoration of lord Viṣṇu, self-realization is attained”

(Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

Since Śiva is Cit:Ananda, His consort is Cit:Śakti. Through Cit:Śakti, creation unfolds or propagates as Prakriti. Śiva is not a being with a specific existence or basis, as Śiva is all-inherent auspiciousness. Śiva is not a name with an origin; hence, Svayambho (self-evident auspiciousness of Cit:ananda), and “Nirguṇa Pārabrahmā Swarūpa” (meaning an abstract representation of the formless or un-manifested aspect of Pārabrahmā). Hence, the mantra from Niralamb Upaniṣhad widely recited during Yogic Kriyas as Guru Smarana:

oṃ namaḥ śivāya gurave| satccidānanda mūrtaye
niṣprapañcāya śantāya| nirālambāya tejase

 (Nishprapanchaya. 2019)
 (Nishprapanchaya. 2019)

Meaning, my salutation to my Guru who is ever auspicious. “Oṃ namaḥ śivāya” is a hymn from the Yajur:Vedā Taittirīya SaṃhitāŚrī Rudram. He is Cit:ananda – the joyous state – and peace beyond creation and the sensory world, who is unmanifested and illuminates beyond any source. (Nishprapanchaya. 2019)

Similarly Rudraṣṭakam, a magnificent composition by Rishi Lomash, enclosed within Rama Charita Maānas of devout poet Tulsidas says:

Namaam-Iisham-Iishaana Nirvaanna-Ruupam
Vibhum Vyaapakam Brahma-Veda-Svaruupam |
Nijam Nirgunnam Nirvikalpam Niriiham
Cidaakaasham-Aakaasha-Vaasam Bhaje-[A]ham ||1||

Kalaatiita-Kalyaanna Kalpa-Anta-Kaarii
Sadaa Sajjana-[A]ananda-Daataa Pura-Arii |
Cid-Aananda-Samdoha Moha-Apahaarii
Prasiida Prasiida Prabho Manmatha-Arii ||6||

(Green Message Rudrastakam. n.d.)

The only witness to Śiva is Śakti (śakti); hence, She is called “Maha Pralaya Sakshini”, meaning the only witness to His Pralaya (dissolution). One should never interpret the above message to designate supremacy among various concepts of Brahman. These classifications (Iśvara, Cit:Śakti, Visnu, Siva, Devi, Brahmā) are only for our interpretation and not to draw conclusions as to who is superior. Such adamant conclusions are childish and immature, and arising out of vasana and lack of Sanskara. One, with self-effort, has to explore scriptures and view Cit:Ananda and Cit:Śakti as a duality of Brahman; while Cit:Śakti creates and preserves (sustains or expands), Cit:Ananda dissolves it back to Ekam (involution or redemption). The cycle of expansion and dissolution are ever in play (keli or lila). (Bho Shambho, Shiva Shambho. 2010, Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh said:

“The Vedantin speaks of Nirupadhika Brahman (Pure Nirguna Brahman without Maya) and Sopadhika Brahman (with Upadhi or Maya) or Saguna Brahman. It is all the same. Names only are different. It is a play of words or Sabda Jalam. People fight on word only, carry on lingual warfare, hair-splitting, logical chopping and intellectual gymnastics. In reality the essence is one. Clay is the truth. All the modifications such as pot, etc., are in name only. In Nirguna Brahman, Sakti is potential, whereas in Saguna Brahman, it is kinetic or dynamic.”

Swami Sivananda of the Divine life Society


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Agni https://www.aurobindo.ru/workings/matherials/rigveda/lexicon/0001/00036.htm