Thursday, November 22, 2007


Eight Stanzas on Rudra
~ by Goswami Tulsidas

Salutations to You, O Ishana, whose very form is liberation,
To the all-pervasive, mighty Lord, Brahman of the Vedas.
I worship Him who shines in His own self-glory, free of physical qualities,
The changeless, desireless One who resides in the space of consciousness. (1)

Salutations to You, O formless One, the very root of Omkara (Aum),
To Him who transcends all states, beyond speech and comprehension;
To the Lord of the Mountains, the Devourer of death itself,
The compassionate One, whose abode is beyond the universe. (2)

I worship Him, whose form is white as pure snow,
Who radiates with the luster of a million Kamadevas,
From whose head issues forth the river Ganga,
Whose forehead is adorned by the crescent moon,
And whose neck is garlanded by serpents. (3)

I worship Him, who wears shimmering earrings,
The compassionate One who is large-eyed and happy-faced,
Whose throat is blue, and body draped in lion skins and skull garlands.
O beloved Shankara, O Lord of all, I worship You. (4)

I worship the Lord of Bhavani, the fierce, luminous, indivisible One
Who radiates with the luster of a million suns.
The Wielder of the Trident, the One who uproots the three-fold suffering,
Who is accessible only through divine Love. (5)

O indivisible, ever-auspicious One, the Dissolver of great cycles,
O Tripurari, You are the very source of delight to those pure at heart,
O Dispeller of delusion, the personification of consciousness and bliss,
Be propitious, be propitious, Lord, Destroyer of Kamadeva. (6)

Those who worship not the lotus feet of the Lord of Uma,
Find no happiness, peace or freedom from suffering,
Be it in this world or the worlds here-after;
O Lord who dwells in the hearts of all beings, be propitious. (7)

I know not yoga, nor japa nor puja, O Lord,
But continuously and always I bow to You, O Shambhu!
Afflicted as I am by old-age, birth and other miseries,
Lord, protect me! O Shambhu, I bow to You. (8)


The Rudrashtakam hymn comes to us from a famous Vaishnava devotional text called the Ramacharitamanas, the Avadhi language rendering of the Ramayana epic composed by Goswami Tulsidas (16th century CE). It may come as a bit of a surprise that a hymn glorifying Shiva in the highest of terms should be found in a Vaishnava devotional text. But, the fact of the matter is that Tulsidas repeatedly glorifies Shiva throughout his work, even though in most cases he does so using Vaishnava framework. The reason behind Tulsidas' repeated eulogy to Shiva is likely due to the fact that he composed his work in Kashi (Varanasi), Shiva's holy city. The central temple in Varanasi is the Jyotirlingam Shrine of Vishvanath, and Tulsidas felt that he was able to compose his work only due to Lord Vishvanath's grace. Regardless of Tulsidas' intentions, the Rudrashtakam is a well-known and oft-recited hymn of Shiva owing to the immense popularity of the Ramacharitamanas.

As is typical of post-Vedic hymns, we find in the Rudrashtakam a blending of philosophical concepts and Puranic legends. The hymn begins with high philosophy, identifying Shiva as the changeless, desireless, formless Brahman of the Vedas. He resides in the space of consciousness; He is beyond all understanding and description. Next, Shiva's personal form is eulogized, as it is known in popular imagination and Puranic legends. He is kind, compassionate, pure as snow, garlanded with skulls, clad in lion-skins, has a blue hue about Him, and brighter than a million suns. Then, a devotional element is added. Shiva is the personification of consciouness and bliss, there is no happiness without submitting to Him. The reciter has now become the a devotee asking the Lord to be propitious unto him. He knows not the complexities of yoga or japa or puja, he simply takes refuge in the Lord, and submits with the prayer, "Lord, protect me! O Shambhu, I bow to You."

Aum Namah Shivaya.

For printable version, click here (Sanskrit text, transliteration and translation).

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

Take a listen:


Stolichnaya said...

Brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing such material.

I recently purchased a CD by Madhu Balakrishnan called Sivakavacham in which this is one of the pieces. It brings me immense peace and happiness to know what was being sung. Thank you once again.

Anonymous said...

Superb. I found so much solace and peace after listening to the track. I bow Almighty for having guided me into listening to this piece.

Thank you once again

Om Nama Shivaya

Anonymous said...

Congradulations..As like many others, I was also looking for better translation of Rudrashtakam.Now I can understand what I am listening and enjoy the beauty of this lyrics. Thank you

Agnideva said...

You are very welcome. I am happy that you were able to enjoy the translation of the Rudrashtakam. Though it is a beautiful prayer even without understanding Sanskrit, once we understand the lyrics, it becomes even more meaningful.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Balaji said...

Simply excellent.. What a blending of impersonalism and personalism, and then advaita and dvaita! I first thought that this hymn was written by Adi Shankaracharya, then thought that it occurs in Valmiki Ramayana, as it ends as "Ithi Shrimad Ramayane", but thanks for informing that it was written by Tulasidas and yes, it appears in another Valmiki Ramayana, as Goswami Tulasidas is considered as a rebirth of Valmiki Maharishi!
Sivoham.. Sivoham.. Sivoham!!

Anonymous said...

Due shaivites prefer the valmiki ramayana or the tursidas ramacharitmanas? Which one is better for Shaivites

Agnideva said...

There is no preference among Shaivites for which Ramayana is better. Ramayana is the story of Rama, and Valmiki's original is more authoritative in that sense, and also more famous. However, the divinity of Rama is more emphasized and established in the later versions -- Adhyatma Ramayana (of the Brahmanda Purana) and the Ramacharitmanas of Tulsidas. Both of which could be properly considered Vaishnava texts.

In terms of Shaivite legends, one finds more of them incorporated in the Adhyatma Ramayana and the Ramacharitmanas, including the episode of Rameshwara Linga. Also, in the Ramacharitmanas, one finds Shiva eulogized as the highest on high (as in the above example) on occasion, but other times in typical Vaishnava fashion as Rama's highest servant.

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