The Rudras

Oye havan kund maston ka jhund..
 Sun saari raat ab
 aisi raat rakh dil pe haath hum saath saath
 Bolo kyaa karenge..
 Havan karenge.. havan karenge.. havan karengey..”

It’s a place to work hard, for group of joyed men..
Listen all night now
On such a night, keeping our hands on hearts, together
what shall we do, say..
We’ll perform a Yajna, we’ll perform a Yajna..

Oye jeev jantu sab so ray honge
Bhoot-pret sab ro ray honge
Aisi raat sun saari raat rakh dil pe haath
Hum sath sath bolo kya karenge
Havan karenge.. havan karenge.. havan karenge..
Havan karenge.. havan karenge.. havan karenge..

All the animals and living beings must be sleeping..
All the ghosts must be crying..
On such a night, keeping our hands on hearts, together
what shall we do, say..
We’ll perform a Yajna, we’ll perform a Yajna..

For Yajna see this post

Vedas, Brahmanas, Arayanakas, Upanishadas

Vedas, Brahmanas, Arayanakas, Upanishadas

Yes Rudras, the party Gods!

Rudras were the rambunctious, take no prisoners, handle every thing, no problem Gods. The atmosphere deities, they were the initial Hunting and Storm Gods before their “sons” Marutas soon became the Wind Gods leaving Rudras to handle more mundane matters. They also included the War Gods, a legacy where Son of Siva is the War God of Hinduism. The Rudranis are the Valkyries of the Scandinavian version.

The term Rudra itself means eliminator of sorrows. Sayana came up with ten etymologies of the name but the main thread is still as destroyer of Evil which is later associated to Siva. Rudra being the ferocious and Siva the calm aspect of the Rudras. Actually, Siva is first time referred to in Katha Arayanaka or Svetesvatara Upanishada while Rudra and Kapardi dominates Vedas.

In RigVeda, Vasu and Rudra together are दिवीश or Divisha. Aditya and Divisha together are Visvedeva. We will come back to these later in next part.

Rudras are associated with Archery and Arrows. Thereby the Warrior and Destroyer aspects of Rudras as well as the representative of the Force of the heaven come into the meaning of their names.

Initial Rig Veda numbered Rudras from 2 to 60. When we take away 49 of the Marutas, that leaves 11 Rudras. They are also at times Thirtythree or One Hundred and eighty, again three times the root eleven or Sixty as they produce sons who are equally powerful. They are associated with Vayu as well. So Vayu is always associated with Rudra and by extension Siva.

The creation saga of Rudras vary, Ramayana makes them sons of Aditi, Matsaya of Kasyapa and Surabhi, Mahabharata makes them sons of Dharma.

Even before the creation of the Prajapatis, Brahma had created Sanandana, Sanaka, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. These four were not desirous of mundane pleasures and were not prepared to beget children. They were great sages and scholars, of abstinence and without any discord and animosity. When these four showed no interest at all in the creation of the world, Brahma became angry to such an extent that he was prepared to destroy the three worlds.

At that time the whole of the three worlds shone in the radiance that emanated from the fire of the fury of Brahma. Then from his shining eyebrows which were curved with fury, a .figure of unbearable radiance like the mid-day sun came out. That figure was Rudra. Half of the fierce body of that Rudra who was very furious, was a woman and the other half was a man. Brahma meditated upon getting a child like himself and a child of blue complexion appeared on his lap. Brahma, saying, “Divide body” created the child. Instantly Rudra split himself into the figure of a man and the figure of a woman.

He ran here and there crying aloud. Brahma asked him “Why are you crying?” He replied: “I must be named.” Because he was crying (doing rodana) Brahma named him Rudra (He who cries). He cried seven times more. Brahma gave him seven more names. They were Bhava, Sarva, Lana, Pasupati, Bhima, Ugra and Mahadeva. Thus there were eight Rudras. To each of them, Brahma gave a position and wives and children. Their wives were Suvarcala, Usa, Vikesi, Sivaa, Svaha, Dishda, Diksa and Rohini. This world is filled by the sons and grandsons and so on of these wives. Their main sons respectively were Sanaiscara, Sukra, Lohitanga, Manojava, Skanda, Sarga, Santana and Budha.

The main Rudra who is described above, married Sati the daughter of Prajapati Daksha and Siva legends started. The first eight Rudras are also the proto-Vasus.

Rudra again divided the body of the MAN into eleven parts. These eleven figures are the eleven Rudras.

Thus, Brahma created Rudra from his anger. He became the Siva. Then using that anger portion Siva took the Ardhanarishwar form and produced eleven Rudras from the Siva portion and 11 Rudranis from Nari portion.

Thus Siva produced 11 Rudras and their wives from Ardhanari form. So Rudras are always really twelve, Progenitor and 11 sons. Same way Panchalas are always Six, the central tribe and five surrounding them. This is a very important concept which through even religion our vedas and Puranas keep drilling into our heads. This concept without which Chand pe jaana mushkil thaa, Dharti aur chand ki doori ka andaza lagana mushkil tha.

YUP! Mr. Zero, Take a bow. The progenitor is Point 0 and Eleven rudras. Same for several such measurements. Dharma is 0 and 8 vasus. kasyapa is Zero and 12 Adityas. Together Thirty six, twice eighteen the number for Dharma! Counted as Thirty three. And you all read hopefully read the thirty three!

Back to Rudras

Brahma apportioned to the eleven Rudras the eleven positions of the heart, the five organs of senses and the organs of action and to Rudra the eight positions of life, ether, air, fire, water, earth, the sun and the moon. (In proto Vasu form remember!).

One of the sons of Kasyapa and Aditi was Tavstha who took the form of Visvakarma and also became Prajapati Kasyapa. Thus, he had five sons Aja, Ekapada, Ahirbudhanya, Tavsta and Rudra which were 5 of the Rudras reborn.

Tavshta Jr had sons Sannivesa, Viswarupa and Trisira who challenged Indra along with their ten brothers. All of whom were Rudras or portions of Rudras. So Tvastha and his eleven sons were Rudras. Of these Viswarupa had fourteen sons, 11 of them became Rudras. So Viswarupa and his eleven sons are Rudras This family thus produced 100 Rudras and eleven of them were the original powerful Rudras. Soon, they multiplied and eleven top Rudras are head of 100 Rudras each.

In another Kalpa, Tavastha was son of Dharma (the proto Vasu!) and his name was Sthanu and he was father of Eleven Rudras. So Eleven Rudras had many avatars but they are eleven main entities.

I went through 10 lists and found many names. Then it was the task of matching up names properly and identifying various versions of avatars to the eleven main names. This was real time consuming. I had to create a 110 by 10 grid and then collapse it as much as i can. I looked at legends to understand which is the original rudra and how he fits in each list.

Matsaya the oldest Purana gives the names as Nirriti, Shambhu, Aparajita, Mrigavyadha, Kapardi, Dahana, Khara, Ahirbradhnya, Kapali, Pingala, Senani.

(These eleven include Siva (Kapali), a Commander of Devas Senani, Two Lokpalas Nirriti and Mrgavyadha and A Sun Khara/khaga, ॐ खगाय नमः)

Mahabharata gives the following names and this is important for next post:

Mrgavyadha, Sarpa (Rtudhavaja or Hara), Nirriti, Ajaikapad, Ahi Budhnya, Pinakin, Dahana, Ishvara, Kapalin (Siva), Sthanu and Bhaga

Actually Tvashta the Rudra has eleven sons Vishvarupa, Ajaikapad, Ahi Budhnya, Virupaksa, Raivata, Hara, Bahurupa, Tryambaka, Savitra, Jayanta and Pinakin. (these are alternate names for Rudras). He also had atleast two daughters (there are more), first daughter gave birth to Three Manus and second to Vaivasta Manu, Yama, Revanta, Asvinikumaras and Yamuna.

Each of Rudras who is leader of hundred Rudras are named Ajaikapad, Ahi Budhnya, Pinakin, Rta, Pitrrupa, Tryamabaka, Maheshvara, Vrsakapi, Sambhu, Havana and Ishvara.

Havana is the commander of these Eleven commanders!

Eleven Rudras who work with Vishnu against Asuras are Kapali, Pingala, Bhima, Virupaksa, Vilohita, Ajesha, Shasana, Shasta, Shambhu, Chanda and Dhruva.

Don’t be!!!

Other than Vishnu Purana, Rudras and their avatars are referred to in Amsumadhbheda Agama Text. As I mentioned, the sectarian violence vitiated and destroyed many Puranas and it is in non-vedic Agama texts that we still encounter the Gods of yore especially Rudras. Uttara Karangam text which is probably the basis for current Linga Purana also describes them in more formidable way. I have not read Linga completely but looks like it uses UttaraKarangam as basis. (or vice versa)

The Rudras are;

  1. Manyu or Aja married to Dhi. This is God Krodha. Anger. He is also Ajesh and Dahana as well as Bahurupa. He was also born as one of the sons of Drona or Drauni. Dahana may be separate Rudra.
  2. Manu or Ekpada or Aja Ekpada or Ajaikapada married to Vrtii. Calm heart. He is sometimes a triple god meaning he is Brahma, Vishnu, Siva in unity. There he might be Trikagrikala.

He is sometimes Agni, sometimes Sun (Khara/Khaga), sometimes twin Aja and Ekpada or a triple with Ahirbudhanya, or a twin with Ahirbudhanya. He is a unified icon, an inspiration of Lord Jagannath or inspired by him. He is also God of Gold and the pillar at center of universe. He is pretty big and powerful God in his own right and has his own cult still extant all over India. In Dakshinatya Mahabharata Kumbhakonam edition, he is Bhuri, son of Somadatta. And in Oriya legends, his son is also son-in-law to Draupadi. This Rudra is also celebrated as Khageshwara and Ahamkratu Gods.

  1. Mahmasa or Ahirbudhnya married to Ushana. Ahibudhanya literally means the serpent of the Great Ocean. He is the original Naga god and also celestial waters god, he is twinned with Ajaikpada in many adventures. He is also called Sarpa and Sharva and maybe Pinaki.

In Mahabharata time, he was born as Somadatta. Somadatta’s sister(s) are married to Vasudeva. His nephew is Balarama. As there are multiple Kripas, One Kripa is Ahirbudhanya and while another Kripa is Marudgana.

Like in case of Tvashta and Viswarupa, lot of sons and sons-in-laws of Somadatta are also Ahirbudhanya Rudras. The count is not complete but logically it would be Somadatta and eleven of his extended progeny or more maybe even Hundred.

The Mithila script Sanskrit edition as well as Nepali script as well as some Devanagari editions when measuring progeny mention that there was a Janamejaya with eighty sons, but Dhritrashtra, Bhima, Bahalika, Prativindhya, Dwaita Matsaya, Neepa, Rajarishi Gaya, Veera, Ira, Nagasena, Haihaya, Brahmadatta (father of Samkhya philosopher), Rishi Palash, Visvamitra and Ikshvaku all had century of sons, Shashabindu had thousands, more than all of these combined.

Majority of these Rudras are killed on 12th day by the Draupadeyas Prativindhya, Srutasana and Srutakarmma. On 12th day, lot of text is missing. The Vyas describes the beginning of the battles but then chapter changes. Only in Karna Parva, detailing the lists of dead, do we know that Pandava warriors won those duels killing the Kaurava warriors.

His sons Bhurisrvas and Sala also inherit the Ahirbudhanya Avatar. His sons-in-law include Sahadeva Pandava also inherit the avesha. Somadatta’s daughter is blessed by Durga and is mother to Virupaksha Pandava who also as it goes with Rudra family has the Avatar. Virupaksha is present in Dakshinatya and his presence in there in mountain Mahabharatas and very fleetingly in Vaishampayana. He is the person in charge of monitoring and imprisoning Kaurava warriors who had fled after the war. He is not same as Virupaksha Rudra who is a different entity. Yet another Ahirbudhanya Avatar is Vrishkambha, son of Satyaki who is the great-grandson of Somadatta. Here we get the relationship between Bhurisrvas and Satyaki on the lines of Father In Law and Son In Law. I will talk about it separately in Satyaki article. I have been reading the Puranas and discovered some interesting Satyaki facts. I always was confused why Vyas never named the father of Satyaki and when you read in Puranas and go back to the Epic and see the slokas and terms used in Slokas, it was right there all along. Hopefully whetted your appetite for the preview.

  1. Mahan or Tvashta married to Niyuta. Tvashta is the Viswakarma. He is father in law of Sun. We have already met him in Adityas. He is a great god who at one point was among the top 5 (indications are we had a panchamurti before we had trimurti) or top three before his followers lost the sectarian battles. Not only that, in earliest times, He, his family and Indra clashed repeatedly before Indra won out.

He is the Neptune or Pluto of the Romans and is the Hades of Greeks (original word was actually close to Rudra in pronunciation). The Poseidon of Greeks is Aditya Surya who is father to Twins.

At one point of time, not only we had Vaishanava, Saivite, Shakta (or Brahma) Puranas but also Tvasthra Puranas. Unfortunately, we only know that they had existed. His followers lost the sectarian wars completely. He is also in that form the father of Rudras. Tvashta is also called Sthanu, Senani and Pitrarupa.

In Mahabharata times, He is also born as Pandya King Veersena Malayadhwaja (from blessing of Dharmaraja) of Manipur. In his family, he can have only one Kshatriya child viz Chitrangada and his other children are shown as children of the daughter of Vidura and are called Khattis. He is grandfather to Babhruvahana. The legend of other children is probably later addition to explain the presence of certain families.

  1. Siva or Rudra married to Uma. He is Devon ke dev, the main man. The Siva!. He is also Kapali and Maheshavara. Siva as Rudra is born in Mahabharata as
  • Sukacharya, son of Veda Vyasa.
  • Jaigeesha (Guru to Jambavati) who blesses the birth of Samba and is Guru to Balarama. Gives him Raudra bow that passes to Abhimanyu in the war.
  • Drauni (one of sons of Drona), this son of Drona had his own teaching establishment and focused on the arts and debate as well. Panchasikha Parasarya was his Guru. He gave Raudra bow to Prativindhya, the oldest UpaPandava, ruler of Sakaladwipa. With this bow, Prativindhya killed many fellow Rudra avatars.
  • Vyadha (as Bhrgu is born as avatar of Rudra, his avatar is Vyadh who shoots Krishna). In Jain legends, he becomes Jara Vyadh son of Vasudev.
  • Durvasa: Durvasa’s wife sister to Jabali died and he later married Ekanava or Ekansa, sister to Krishna and the original lady in middle of Jagannatha statue. (padma and Brahmavaiavarta)
  1. Rtudhvaja or Hara married to Sarpis; He is also associated with Vayu. He is also Nirrti the Lokpala and Raivata Rudra. Nirrti is born as Ghatotkacha, son of Bhima. He is Lokpala for South West.
  2. Ugraretas or Shambhu married to Ila. He is also called Girisha and Savitra. He is a Rudra who is an Aditya who was both a Rudra and a Vasu. At one point, Savitra may have been among the Panchmurti or an initial Trimurti but lost rank over time as sectarian battles intensified.

It is reflected in Dakshinatya Mahabharata that Savitra is born as Bhanu or Aswa, eldest son to Sri Krishna and son-in-law to Dharmaraja marrying daughter Suthanu. So, literally, he is the eldest son and eldest son-in-law but is hardly mentioned. Pradyumana, Samba etc. gain attention. Similarly, Savitra who is the amalgam of all gods and all godly powers is remembered only in Gayatri Mantra.

His son Vajranabha (Vajra) is the king after the War, the modern Bhati rajputs, Mongols, and many tribes are descended from him. Either as Bhanu or in Rudra form, Girisha is Guru to Shrutashana, the son of Sahadeva and Draupadi. He gives him the Girisha Bow which is used to kill Shala, the Ahirabudhanya Rudra avatar in battle field and other Rudras. This oft repeated story of intercine Rudra warfare in the Saivite Puranas need further study and understanding. Rudras gave weapons to kill other Rudra avatars.

  1. Bhava or Tryambaka married to Ambika. He is also called Pingal and is also the Bhaga Aditya. He is also a Visvedeva. He is also Ocean God. He is also King of Yakshas. Like his fellow Rudras, Tvashta, Shambhu/Ugraretas, Ajaikpada, He was a very powerful god in his own right who eventually subsumed into Siva. That he is a Varuna, Yaksharaja, Visvedeva, Aditya and Rudra seems to indicate the change of status over time for Trayambaka. Too powerful God to be ignored, too powerful to allow his votaries to worship him.
  2. Kama or Aparajita married to Iravati. He is also called Sarpa. If Ahirbudanya is Pinaki then Aparajita is Sarpa else if Ahirbudanya is Sarpa then Aparajita is Pinaki. He is also born as Drauni too but I could not find the name of the Avatar, only Rudra names are given. He gave the Kauverya bow to Shrutkarmma, the son of Arjuna and Draupadi. Several sons of drona are identified in Epic and Puranas. The amalgamation of many of these into Asvwathamma is reflected by amalgamation of Rudras into Siva.
  3. Vamadeva or Isana married to Sudha. The God of North east direction, Lokpala, He is also God of Alternate religions. He is God of irreverence and humor. He also was the commander of Deva forces in Tarkamaya Devasura Sangrama against Chandra. He is Lokpala of the North east direction opposite to Nritti.

He is more famous as Mrigavyadha, Guru to Parasurama who taught him archery and warfare. He is a famous seer and wrote the fourth Mandala of Rigveda. He manifests as Bhima for work to be done for Vishnu avatara. The Axe of Parasurama was given to Parasurama by Mrigavyadha. Parasurama gave it to Drona who returned it to Bhima. This was the question in another discussion. As Bhima the Rudra form of Vamadeva, Bhima killed the asura Gajasura for Vishnu/Krishna. Isana is also Jayant the Aditya when needed and he is the rambunctious cheeky leader of the Rudra Vaishnava armies as Rudra Havana. (Havana karenge! Havana Karenge!! Havana Karenge!!!)

  1. Dhrtavrta or Tribhuvana married to Diksa. If Nirrti is Raivata then Dhrtavrta is Hara and vice-versa. He is the Hara to Vishnu’s Hari. His local place is Kurukshetra. (Hariyana takes its name from his name.) Three pairs of Rudras are thus closely associated. He is also Virabhadra, created by Siva to destroy Daksha Yagna.
  2. Kapardi or Isvara is the 11th Rudra. Remember the progenitor and Eleven, that always makes twelve. Kapardi is famous in Rigveda and his role is taken by Isvara later on. Isha, Ishana and Ishvara are three different Rudras. Kapardi is called Ishvara, Vamadeva is Isana but I don’t know which one is exactly Isha. (One of Adityas who is also a Rudra??)
  3. Visvarupa was Rudra for short time and was killed by Indra. Eleven of his fourteen sons are Rudras.
  4. Virupaksha and Vrsakapi are two more prominent Rudras. Virupaksha was an independent God with his own following and cult eventually merged with Siva same with several of the Rudras. He may be even inspiration for Purandhara or Khandoba. Vrsakapi is most likely Nandi as Rudra.
  5. Adishesha Naga takes form as Rudra called Sankarshana which is also a moorti of Vasudeva. Sankarshana, Ajaikapada et all are attempts in sectarian times to reunite the Siva and Vishnu streams to mainstream Sanatana by creating unified gods or existed as unified streams earlier and were later divided up. Depends on age of the literature.
  6. Other than Virupaksa, Shambhu, Bhima, Pingala, Kapali, Ajesha, Vishnu has five more Rudras as helpers, Shasana, Shasta, Chanda, Dhruva (different Dhruva most likely), Vilohita. These may be different persons or different names for the existing 12 main Rudras.

These eleven Rudras took the 11 positions of heart, 5 sensory organs, 5 organs of action and Mind as their demesne.

Names of Rudras in Sanskrit

  • ईश Iza m. rudra
  • त्रिकाग्निकाल trikAgnikAla m. rudra
  • अहिब्रध्न ahibradhna m. one of the rudras
  • ईश्वर Izvara m. one of the rudras
  • ईशान IzAna m. one of the rudras
  • गिरीश girIza m. one of the 11 rudras
  • महिनस mahinasa m. form of ziva or rudra
  • पिनाकिन् pinAkin m. name of one of the 11 rudras

In next part, I will discuss the folklore and sivarudra samhita of Rudras in Mahabahrata.

by Pranshu B. Saxena

Post Author: Mahabharata World

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