Based on lots of requests for English translation, Shri Karthik Sundaram (email@example.com) had done a fantastic translation work.
Sri Rudra worship ranks amongst the foremost modes of worship practiced in Hinduism since ancient times. Lord Siva is referred to as “Sri Rudra” in Vedas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and itihasas. He is also addressed as “Maha Rudra” as he is the head of the Rudra’s army (Rudra Sena). Even though “Rudra” refers to Siva paramatma, it is also to be understood that this term is also used to refer to many individuals and groups.
In Saiva agamas and traditions, the five great Gods – Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheswara and Sadasiva evolved from the Parasiva. These five Gods respectively perform the duties of creation, preservation, destruction, blessing and hiding as elucidated in the Saiva Siddanta texts. Moreover, it is understood from Saiva tantras that this universe originated from “Kalagni Rudra” and in the end attains its dissolution in Him.
Is He One..? Eleven..? Many..?
It is mentioned in the Sivapuranas that Lord Siva created the Rudras from Brahma’s forehead to help Brahma in his Creation duties. These eleven rudras are referred to as “Ekadasa Rudras”. They have been potrayed as Mahasakthi’s Guardian deities in the Sakta tantra texts. In this manner, descriptions of countless Rudras as the sentries of Sri Lalitha Tripurasundari’s “Sri Chintamani graha” can be found.
The portion of the Vedas that praise Rudras is known as ShataRudreeyam. In addition, it is understood that even humans can become part of the Rudra ganas through their power of penance. Since many groups were prevalent amongst them, they were also called as “Rudrapalganatthar” (“Rudras of many groups”).
Is Rudra a Tamil word Or a Sanskrit word? – This by itself is a topic of heavy research.
In Tamil, “Ru” means “Higher” and “diram” means “path”. Hence “Rudra” means “one who tries to walk the high path”. It was believed that for such practitioners, their third eye of wisdom would open. This third eye was referred to as “Rudra’s eye” (Rudrakkan)”. Such men came to be known “One with Rudra’s eyes” (“Rudrakkannar”). It is believed that there once existed a land called “Lemuria”, inhabited by Tamils and later consumed by the sea. Few researchers opine that many of the Tamils that lived here possessed the third eye and these were the “Rudras”. “Rudra” in Sanskrit means “one who makes you cry”. To the question “Who is made to cry?” they respond with “Bad ones”. In addition, they also refer to Rudra as the one who drives out sorrow. This meaning can be found in a couplet from the “Kandapurana”.
Once upon a time Brahma became incapable of performing the Creation activity. When He fell down dead from exhaustion, his body split and arose in eleven forms through the grace of Lord Rudra. These eleven forms are the “Ekadasa Rudras” as per Mathysa Purana.
This story is found in other texts with some variations. On Brahma’s request, Siva created the eleven Rudras from Brahma’s forehead. On seeing them, Brahma fainted and these Rudras took up the Creation activity thereafter. Each Rudra created One Crore similar Rudras. After Brahma woke up from this stupor, he sighted Eleven Crore Rudras, became angry and cried and petitioned Siva.
Hence, Lord Siva ordered the Rudras to stop the Creation activity. He created a separate world for the Rudras and asked them to go and live there. The Linga that the Rudras worshipped is known as “Rudrakoteeswara”.
It is mentioned that these Rudras reside even beyond their world in Soldiers that fight, their Weapons of war and in their Anger.
These Rudras are not worshipped in the Idol form. Though they are typically worshipped in the form of Eleven Lingas, in the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple, idols of Ekadasa Rudras can be found.
The names of these Eleven Rudras are Mahadeva, Hara, Rudra, Sankara, Neelalohita, Esana, Vijaya, Bhimadeva, Bhavodbhava, Kapali and Sowmya.
It is also understood that in their Lingas the following weapons would be engraved respectively – “Thomaram”(??), “Kodi”(Flag), “Val”(sword), “Vajram”(Thunderbolt), “Ambu”(Arrow), “Ankusa”(??), “Mani”(Bell), “Tamarai”(Lotus), “Thandu”( Stem), “Vil”(Bow) and “Mazhu”(??)
In the Srimad Bhagavatha too, the history of Rudras is mentioned slightly differently. Their names are Aja, Ekapada, Agniputra, Virupaksha, Raivata, Hara, Padarupa, Tryambaka, Asuresa, Savitra and Sayanta.
Thirunavukkarasa has sung in praise of Kanchi Ekambara where he refers to Ekadasa Rudras worshipping the Lord Ekambara.
“Shatam” means Hundred. In this way, for the eight directions, Heaven and Underworld there are ten Rudras for each direction and these Hundred Rudras are known as “Shata Rudras”. The names of these 100 Rudras are also mentioned in many texts. The Vedas too extol them. They are mentioned as capable of flying over the Sea and Sky, bear the “Deer” and “Mazhu (??)”, and are similar to Siva in appearance.
When the Vedas refer to Indra and other devas, the “Nama:” is mentioned after their names. However, the same Vedas mention the “Nama:” before Rudra respectfully. The Vaidika Saivities firmly believe that these Vedic portions refer only to the Maha Rudra shining as the Parama Siva.
Lord Siva granted the Pasupathastra to Arjuna. The great weapon that He gave Shanmukha is known as “Rudra Pasupathastram” as mentioned in the Kandapuranam.
Sri Rudram and Sri Rudra Japa
Trayee Vidya refers to Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas and Yajur Veda is the central portion. This is branched into Shukla and Krishna Yajur vedas. In the Krishna Yajur Veda, there are Seven Cantos(parts) in the Taittireeya samhita of which Sri Rudram is the Fifth “Prasna” (chapter) of the Fourth canto.
There are Eleven “Anuvakas” (Paragraphs) in Sri Rudram. This is referred to variedly as Sri Rudram, Maha Rudram, Shata Rudreeyam and Namakam. It is a wonder of wonders that Siva Nama is embedded in the center of the Sri Rudram.
Chanting Sri Rudram standing in water is supposed to bring in the rains. This is used without fail during Siva linga Abhisheka and Siva Puja.
Many have translated Sri Rudram into Tamil and tried to give it a poetic form in Tamil. Sri Rudram is considered as a main authoritative text for Saivites.
Thirunavukkarasa Nayanar’s “Thirutthandagam” is praised as the Tamil version of Sri Rudram.
With respect to Sri Rudra chanting, Sri Ekadasarudreeyam, Rudra ekadasi, Maharudram and Atirudram are the group worship modes practiced amongst the vaidik Saivites.
Nowadays, in temples like Chidambaram, Ekadarudra homa has become very popular. As a result of these, immediate grace of Lord Siva is said to be obtained. In the Periapurana, “Rudra pasupathy Nayanar” is counted amongst the 63 Nayanars. He is one who chanted the Sri Rudram. He is not referred to as having performed any other type of worship or service to Siva Bhaktas. Hence, to highlight the benefits of chanting Sri Rudram alone, his history is said to be included in the Periapurana.
Rudraveena, Rudraprayag, Rudraparvat, RudraRishi Durvasa, Chaturdasi Rudravrata, Rudrapatta, Rudragni, Rudradeepa are to be thought of as related to Sri Rudra.
To have temples for Ruda Murti is very rare. RudraMaanikkuli BhimaRudra temple is one such popular temple. Near Kadalur, in ThiruMaanikkuli, there is the temple of “Ambujakshi” sameta “Vamanapureeswara”.
Here, in front of the Sanctum, on a Blue cloth curtain, the form of Bhimasankar is woven with Red threads. This form is done with great workmanship and is seen with Flames of fire (“Agnijwala”) and eight hands. All the pujas performed during the four times of the day are only for this deity etched in the curtain. Post the puja, only the Camphor Deeparadhana is performed for the Shivalinga in the Sanctum. The background behind this unique practice is found in the many sthala purana stories associated with this temple.
Similarly, in the Naganathaswamy temple in Kumbakonam, pujas are performed for the Pralayakaala Rudra.
In Thiruvenkadu, there is a beautiful huge form of Aghora Rudra.
In Thiruvannamalai, there is a sannidhi for KalagniRudra. But this murti is worshipped as Bhairava.
On similar lines, figures of the Ashta Rudras – Bhava, Sarva, Esana, Pasupathy, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, and Mahadeva have been identified by researchers on the temple perimeter walls in Thirukadayur. But the names of the Ashta vasus have been framed over the above in what could be a case of mistaken identity.
It is said that Lord Siva performs the Rudratandavam (Rudra dance) in the “Mayanam” (Tamil: burial ground).
Here “Maya” means “Creation” and “Ayanam” means “following the way”. Some seniors opine that it is wrong to say that the word “Mayanam” is derived from the Sanksrit “Smasanam”(Sanskrit: burial ground). Hence, it is understood that the Rudra worshippers and Pasupathas called their way as “Maayaanam”.
The five Mayanams of Kacchhi Mayanam, Thirukadavoor Mayanam, Veezhi Mayanam, Kaazhi Mayanam and Naaloor Mayanam are shown to be of significance to Siva worshippers.
Though, at present there is no evidence of Rudra worshop in Eelam(Ceylon), in places like Naguleswaram, Munneswaram, Thirukketheeswaram there are Rudra Mayanams nearby and temple tanks in the vicinity. These highlight the possibility of Rudra worship having been performed in such places.
In a place called Avarankaal in Yaazhpanam, very close to the burial ground, the presence of a big Siva temple with Rajagopuras facing the burial ground links it to Rudra worship. It could also be inferred that in later times, this Siva worship merged with Bhairava worship.
To conclude, particulars of Rudra worship are scarce. There are many opinions and researches to identify and differentiate Rudra worship with Siva worship. Hence research on Rudra and Sri Rudram should intensify. Past researches should be popularized. By this, Tamil Saivite scholars should create more clarity on Rudra.