Rudra and Shiva



In Hindu religion Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) represent the three primary aspects of the divine and are known as Trimurti (the trinity). However, the trinity of Brahma- Vishnu- Siva is not mentioned anywhere in the Vedas. A similar form of Shiva is portrayed in the hymns of Rig Veda as Rudra.


Rig Veda is the oldest known surviving text of Hinduism. The actual age of Rig Veda is still a controversy. Scholars put forward different ages varying from 4500 BC to 1500 BC. The Rig Veda consists of 10 books (mandalas), which contain 1028 hymns (suktas), consisting of 10522 verses (mantras). The entire text was kept alive for centuries in oral form recited and memorized from generation to generation until it was compiled and written down by Vedavyas.


In hymn 43 of book 1 of Rig Veda, Rudra appears for the first time. In this hymn the sage prays to Rudra for his grace to their children, people and domesticated animals. Rudra is detailed as lord of sacrifice, of hymn and of medicine. Shiva is also called lord of medicine, hence the name Vaidyanatha.


The second reference on Rudra can be found in hymn 114 of book 1 of Rig Veda. In this hymn Rudra is portrayed as lord of heroes with “braided hair”. The braided hair is still attributed to Shiva. In the hymn 114 of book 1, the sage prays for the well being of his children, people, and domesticated animals especially cattle. The prayers are deeper and stronger than the previous one. The sage pleads to Rudra not to “kill” any one of them, father, mother, children, adult, heroes, cattle and the like, with premeditation. In this prayer it is clear that Rudra is considered as the god of death and destruction, which is still attributed to Shiva too. Moreover, Rudra is praised as father of maruts.


The word rudra means the feared one. Rudra can be considered as an early form of Shiva. During the time when the epic of Ramayana was written, the name Rudra can be seen used synonymous with Shiva. The transformation of Rudra to Shiva may have taken hundreds of years. During this transformation, the ideas and beliefs of local and regional sects have amalgamated into the original Vedic concept. The origin of rudraksha beads, the tears of Shiva, proves the identity of Shiva and Rudra to be the same. In the eight fold concept of Shiva (Ashtamurti), Rudra is considered as one of his denominations as the giver of sorrow and sufferings.


A prototype of Shiva can be found in the archaeological evidences of Indus Valley Civilization, where he is worshipped as lord of animals (pashupathi). Terracotta seals representing a yogi icon seated in meditative posture surrounded by various animals obviously prove the pre- Vedic prototype of Shiva. It seems that the Vedic Aryan concept of Rudra might have been mixed up with the lord of the animals of the Indus Valley Civilization in the later times of Puranas and Epics to form the Shiva, as we know him today.


It is mentioned earlier that Shiva is depicted as god of death and destruction in the trinity of Hinduism. However, in Hindu religion death and destruction are not and end to existence. Death and destruction are the ends to one form and the beginning of another form. Each life form dies to be reborn as another life form. It is a cycle of birth and rebirth- a cycle of continues transformation.


Shiva’s body is believed to consists of five mantras (pancabrahmans), namely sadyojata, vamadeva, aghora, tatpurusha and isana. They are represented by five faces of Shiva and hence the name Panchanana Shiva. Each face directed towards a particular direction and represents a particular aspect of Shiva.


Sadyojata      -           west                -           creative power

Vamadeva    -           north              -           healer or preserver

Aghora          -           south              -           destructive and regenerative

Tatpurusha    -           east                 -           ego

Isana               -           north east      -           eternal


The number five seems to be sacred for Shiva. The mantra “namah shivaya”, which contains five syllables, is the most important among Shiva mantras.


Shiva is conceived many forms like, as the destroyer, an ascetic yogi, a perfect family man (as husband of Parvati and father of Skanda and Ganesha), god of dance (Nataraja), the one facing south as teacher of yoga and music (Dakshinamuti), conqueror of death (Mrutyunjaya), god who is half woman (Ardhanarishvara), the destroyer of tripura of asuras (Tripurantaka) and one with eight forms or murtis (Ashtamurti- Sarva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bheema, Pasupathi, Mahadeva and Eshana ).


Worshipping Shiva in the form of “Linga” is a common practice in India. The word linga in Sanskrit has many meanings, among which the most relevant to the subject are ‘mark or symbol’ and ‘male organ of reproduction’. Is linga the representation of Shiva or his phallus? So far no scholar could establish the exact relation between the anthropomorphic Shiva and his symbolized form as linga. The linga worship has been traced back to the Indus valley civilization. However, as Shiva is not mentioned anywhere in Veda as a god, the linga too has no reference in Veda.


Many stories on the origin of linga and worship of linga can be found in various Puranas. These puranic stories detail the linga as the phallus of Shiva. But most of the stories have no similarities. Many scholars connect the origin of linga with the Yupa- Stambha used in Yajnas as detailed in Atharva Veda. They are of the opinion that the linga could be a rudimentary form of Yupa- Stambha. As stated before, the death and destruction in Hindu religion is not the end, but it is the transformation or regeneration. In that case, worship of Shiva in the form of linga could be attributed to the concept that Shiva as god of regeneration.


The half man- half woman concept (Ardhanarishvara) of Shiva, in fact, can be connected to the matter- energy relationship of modern science. The female half of Shiva is called Shakti, means power or energy. As a god of dance (Nataraja), ‘thandav’ is his great dance of destruction- the destruction of physical matter and the release of energy.


The attributes associated with Shiva represents his conceptual identity. Crescent, snake, trident, third eye, drum, ganges etc, each represent a concept of Shiva. Crescent represents Shiva as god of darkness; snake is the symbol of death and poison which means Shiva is the conqueror of death. Trident indicates the three qualities swatwa, thamass and rajass. With third eye Shiva burnt Kama (desires) to ashes, which means he is beyond the desires of physical world. Drum represents language, music and dance. Shiva is considered to be the originator of language, music and dance. Ganges is the representation of fertility.


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Comments 5 comments

Starglade profile image

Starglade 6 years ago from behind the Cheddar Curtain

For such a complex subject, this is very well presented.

V.M.Lal profile image

V.M.Lal 6 years ago Author

Thank you.

amakdivo 6 years ago

Where are the written documents about the Veda archived? And is there a good English translation of all that that one can access? The connections between Hindu myth and Vedic data, if one can use such a word, should not be too difficult to establish. I was Googling for esoteric info about the lingam simply because I lament the simplistic interpretation available to the common person that it is phallic and I think it goes beyond such simple chauvinistic sentiments...the base is representative of the yoni and as such its the entire creative process, fertility and all that jazz that is really the case. And, the thing about Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as the trinity is only for, again, the common person to fathom easily as the complex meaning relates to an almost mathematical universal energy equation of sorts - Vishnu being the preserver who can allow growth or destruction by fine tuning the other two..What I am also interested, if some one can help elucidate, is that supposedly in Sanskrit there are about a dozen or more words that describe the state of the human mind - transcedental meditation is a common commercialization that the Maharishi who did something in Switzerland sometime back as well as those popular stuff that the Beatles dabbled in to popularize...I would like to see those dozen or so Sanskrit words and their best English equivalents.. that would be interesting.

Sam 4 years ago

The linga worship of Shiva can be traced back to the times of Rishabha, the great ascetic. Once a great king, Rishabha renounced worldly pleasures and became a naked ascetic. He is mentioned in the Rigveda.

His followers were divided into two types:

the first type have tried to replicate his ascetic means of life aka sramanas ie Jains, Buddhist, Ajvikas, etc.

The second kind of followers venerated him as a god: Saivites. Since he was naked (digambar), the linga, a phallus, was used as his symbol.

For more info, do a google search on Rishabha and Shiva similarity

mystique sara 3 years ago


I suppose I start with lord Shiva as he has more temples in India than other gods.


Shiva is the destroyer god. He is the natraja who performs the cosmic dance. His wife name is parvathi. He has a fierce side called Rudra. Shivas symbol is the phallus. He is blue in colour.

Truth :

Shiva represents a star called Ardra (in tamil- Thiruvadirai and in english- Sirius). Each constellation has a lord and the lord of Sirius is Shiva. I hope you would have heard th word SIRIUS in many other places like Sirius is the brightest star visible to the naked eye, its the symbol of Freemasonary etc. And it also represents Shiva. I will tell You how! The star sirius belongs to the ORION constellation. Sirius gives away a bluish white light. that is why shiva is also blue in colour. The orion constellation has three stars in Sirius, in Canis Major, (Canis Major is one of Orion's two dogs, the other is Canis Minor) is the brightest star in the heavens. It is located along our celestial equator (which, like Orion's Belt, divides Orion in half at the waist) and has been visible to every civilization in the world. Many ancient myths and legends consider the Orion Constellation the center of the universe. It is the place, it has been said, where stars are born.

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