Hymn of Rudra
Holy Rigveda II.33.1-15
O Father of Storms [Maruts], may Your favor flash upon us! Do not deprive us of the sight of the sun. May the Hero mounted on His charger spare us! Grant us, O Rudra, to live forth in our children.
Thanks to Your wholesome remedies, O Rudra, may I attain the span of a hundred winters! Drive far from us all hatreds and troubles; scatter to the four winds every sort of sickness.
O thunder-wielding God, You of all beings are most renowned and mightiest of the mighty. Conduct us to the further shore of sorrows in peace and frustrate all assaults of evil.
May we not anger You, O Rudra, in our worship by praise that is unworthy or by scanty tribute. Restore our warriors with Your medicaments. I know, O mightiest, You are the Best of Healers.
With invocation and offering I approach Him, eager to appease Rudra with my praises. May the God of Mercy, of dark, handsome looks, who is easy of entreaty, spare us His anger!
His Mightiness, escorted by the Storms [Maruts], has brought me strong comfort in distress. May I, unharmed, find shelter with Him as from glaring heat! May I secure the goodwill of God Rudra!
How I long, O God, for the gracious touch of Your hand which heals and brings refreshment, which softens all chastisements of the Gods. Regard me, O Mighty One, with an indulgent eye.
To the great One, the brown and whitish Bull, I offer a powerful hymn of praise. Adore His splendor with adorations! We glorify the mighty Name of God Rudra.
This God of firm limbs, of many forms, the brown One, the Mighty, has decked Himself with golden ornaments. The Power Divine of this sovereign God, the Ruler of the Universe, never dwindles.
Worthy are You of the bow and arrows, worthy of the many-colored, noble insignia; worthy are You to combat every horror, for none, O Rudra, is more powerful than You.
Praise to the youthful, far-famed God, enthroned on high, who slays like a wild beast! Have mercy on Your singer when he sings Your praises! May Your hosts spare us and cast down some other!
As a son salutes with reverence his father, so I bow down, O God, at Your approach. I praise You, mighty Lord, Rudra, Giver of treasures. Grant us Your medicines when we extol You.
Your remedies so pure, O powerful Storms [Maruts], afford us relief and bring us joy. Those which our father Manu chose I beg from the Lord for my own well-being.
May Rudra’s missile be deflected from us, may the anger of the blazing God overshoot us! Relax Your bow of wrath toward our well-wishers. Have pity on our sons and on their children!
O mighty Power, the God who never slumbers, be here attentive, O Lord Rudra; hear our cry. Not for You, O God, to be angry or destroy! May we speak, as men of valor, a strong word!
In the Vedas, Shiva is known as Rudra. The image of Rudra presented to us is that of a hunter, eager to release His arrow. Hymn after hymn eulogizing Rudra asks Him to lay down His bow, and take His gentler, calmer side. The Vedic sages give us an external image of an angry, feared God. On closer examination, however, He is not angry at all. In fact, within the Rudra form, Shiva’s true nature is brought out as gentle, peaceful and loving. If we read carefully, the anugraha (graceful) form comes through the ugra (fearful) form. The imagery of fear an indication of Rudra's unknowability, as humans fear that which is unknown. While Rudra is clearly known and depicted as an anugraha murti (form of Grace), there is yet an unknowable quality about Him, which is why He is painted in the color of fear.
From the above Rigvedic hymn, it is clear that despite the poetic verses that are meant to pacify Him, He is not be feared at all. Note that Rudra is praised as the “God of Mercy.” His gracious touch is said to bring healing and refreshment. The Rishi (Poet-Seer) of this hymn ends by saying, “Not for You, O God, to be angry or to destroy,” creating a clear contradiction between the angry portrayal of Rudra, and the benign, graceful vision of Shiva. The apparent contradiction in the portrayal of Rudra-Shiva in the Veda continues in later Shaivite theology and iconography. Shiva is depicted in the ugra (fearful) and anugraha (graceful) forms. His dual-nature represents a balance between the two sides. Truly, however, it may be concluded through Shaivite theology, that God Shiva encompasses both sets of opposite characteristics, and yet at the same time, He is beyond all pairs of opposites imaginable.
Another important contribution of the Vedic Rudra hymns to later Shaivite theology is the overt praise of Rudra as the sole Lord of the Universe. In the above hymn, Rudra is clearly eulogized as the Sovereign God, the Ruler of the Universe, and that there is none is more powerful than Him. He is called mightiest of the mighty, and the most-renowned of all. One can deduce from hymns such as these why a strong Rudra-Shiva centered theology and worship arose even in the early days. The doctrine of the Pashupatas, and early writings such as the Shvetasvatara Upanishad and the Shaiva Agamas likely have their written origins in Rudra hymns such as the one above.
© Agnideva, 2007