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Vedas are revealed scriptures without authors. They contain revelations of many things. In the hymns of respective deities, various characters of that respective deities are revealed.

Regarding Lord Shiva, SataRudriya/ Sri Rudram hymn found in YajurVeda summarizes many attributes of Lord Shiva. But what are the characteristics and attributes of Lord revealed in the Rig Veda? What does RigVeda state about Lord Shiva?

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Various aspects of Lord Shiva are revealed under Rudra Suktas of RigVeda. They are like:

1) Revealing of Lord Rudra as One without Second:

Lord Rudra in Vedas has one peculiar characteristic ie. He is stated as the one without second. YajurVeda Taittariya Samhita 1.8.6 clearly states 'Eka Eva Rudro Na Dwitiya.' ie. 'Rudra yields noone to second.' Now a question arises whether this is just Arthavãda or has special significance. It is not Arthavãda because same verse is derived by Svetasvatara Upanishad in 3.1 and used as to glorify Brahman 'Eko hi Rudro Na Dwitiyaya... '. So, Lord Rudra is the one who is without second. Same thing is also revealed in Rudra Suktas of RigVeda:

न वा ओजीयो रुद्र त्वद् अस्ति
na vā ojīyo rudra tvad asti (RigVeda 2.33.10)

a mighter than you there is not Rudra.

अषाल्हाय सहमानाय वेधसे
aṣālhāya sahamānāya vedhase (RigVeda 7.46.1)

whom noone may overcome.

तवस्तमस् तवसा
tavastamas tavasā

Mightiest of the mighty. (R.V. 2.33.3)

2) Revealing form of Lord Rudra:

The form of Lord Rudra is well revealed in YajurVeda. For instance YajurVeda records Lord as blue-necked one, rider of bull, holder of Pinaka, wearer of animal hide etc.. but still RigVeda also reveals some aspects about form and aura of Lord:

त्रयम्बकं यजामहे
trayambakaṃ yajāmahe (RigVeda 7.59.12)

We worship the three eyed one.

कपर्दिने
kapardine (Rig Veda 1.114.1)

One who has matted hairs.

हिरण्यम् इव रोचते
hiraṇyam iva rocate (RigVeda 1.43.5)

Shining like the bright gold.

शुक्र इव सूर्यो
śukra iva sūryo (RigVeda 1.43.5)

Shines like the Sun

स्थीरेभिरंगै
sthīrebhiraṃgai (RigVeda 2.33.9)

who is with firm limbs.

3) Revealing LordShip aspect of Lord Rudra:

The Lordship aspect of Lord Rudra is well revealed in SataRudriya section of YajurVeda in the 2nd Anuvakam. RigVeda also states many verses which states about LordShip aspect of Lord Rudra:

ईशानादस्य भुवनस्य
īśānādasya bhuvanasya (RigVeda 2.33.9)

who is Lord of the Universe.

भुवनस्य पितरम्
bhuvanasya pitaram (RigVeda 6.49.10)

Father of the Universe.

न वा उ योषद् रुद्राद् असुरयम्
na vā u yoṣad rudrād asurayam (RigVeda 2.33.9)

The strength of Godhead never departs from Rudra.

सत्पतिं
satpatiṃ (RigVeda 2.33.12)

Lord of the Existence.

गाथपतिं
gāthapatiṃ (RigVeda 1.43.4)

Lord of the Hymns.

मेधपतिं
medhapatiṃ (RigVeda 1.43.4)

Lord of the sacrifice.

श्रेष्ठो देवानां वसुः
śreṣṭho devānāṃ vasuḥ (RigVeda 1.43.5)

Best among the Gods.

पुरुरुप
pururupa (RigVeda 2.33.9)

who has multiforms.

यजतं विश्वरुपम्
yajataṃ viśvarupam (RigVeda 2.33.10)

who has this whole universe as his form.

सुगन्धीम्
sugandhīm (RigVeda 7.59.12)

who is the essence (like sugandha is essence in flower).

पुष्टीवर्धनम्
puṣṭīvardhanam (RigVeda 7.59.12)

who is the cause of the growth of the Universe.

4) Revealing of grace seeking verses from Lord Rudra:

RigVeda reveals many verses which sing to Lord Rudra so that the sages can receive grace of Lord Rudra:

कद् रुद्राय प्रचेतसे मीड्हुष्टमाय तव्यसे। वोचेम शंतमं हृदे ।।
kad rudrāya pracetase mīḍhuṣṭamāya tavyase। vocema śaṃtamaṃ hṛde
(RigVeda 1.43.1)

What shall we sing to Rudra, strong, most bounteous, excellently wise, That shall be dearest to his heart?

क्व से ते रुद्र मृडयाकुर हस्तो
kva se te rudra mṛḍayākura hasto (RigVeda 2.33.7)

where is that gracious Hand of thine?

गीर्भिराभि रुद्रं दिवा वर्धया रुद्रमक्तौ
gīrbhirābhi rudraṃ divā vardhayā rudramaktau (RigVeda 6.49.10)

Rudra by day Rudra in night we honour with these songs.

महो महि सुष्टुतिम् ईरयामी
maho mahi suṣṭutim īrayāmī (RigVeda 2.33.8)

I utter forth mighty hymn of praises.

गृणीमसि त्वेषं रुद्रस्य नामः
gṛṇīmasi tveṣaṃ rudrasya nāmaḥ (RigVeda 2.33.8)

We sing the splendid name of Rudra.

कुमारश् चित् पितरं वन्दमानम् प्रति नानाम रुद्रोपयन्तम्
kumāraś cit pitaraṃ vandamānam prati nānāma rudropayantam (RigVeda 2.33.12)

I have surrendered myself to you as a boy to the respected father approaching.

5) Revealing of grace showing verses of Lord Rudra:

RigVeda also narrates many verses which shows how Lord Rudra graces to the devotees:

भिषक्तमं त्वा भिषजां शृणोमी
bhiṣaktamaṃ tvā bhiṣajāṃ śṛṇomī (RigVeda 2.33.4)

I hear you as the most curing among all curing.

हस्ते विभ्रद् भेषजा
haste vibhrad bheṣajā (RigVeda 1.114.5)

whose hand filled of sovran medicines.

वार्याणी शर्म वर्म छर्दिर
vāryāṇī śarma varma chardira (RigVeda 1.114.5)

grant us refugee, protection and shelter.

अपभर्ता रपसो दैव्यस्याभी
apabhartā rapaso daivyasyābhī (RigVeda 2.33.7)

Deliverer from defect of the Gods.

बृहन्तमृष्वमजरं
bṛhantamṛṣvamajaraṃ (RigVeda 6.49.10)

Great Blissfull and Immortal.

भूरेर् दातारं
bhūrer dātāraṃ (RigVeda 2.33.12)

The giver of many.

मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात्
mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtā (RigVeda 7.59.12)

who provides immortality through Moksha.

6) Revealing of Desire of Rudra Consciousness:

RigVeda also reveals about state which sages seek where perfect thoughts of Lord Rudra comes to their mind. ie. Wishing of full mind devotion to Lord Rudra:

आ ते पितर मरुतां सुम्नम् एतु
ā te pitara marutāṃ sumnam etu (RigVeda 2.33.1)

May your perfect thought come to us Oh father of Maruts.

आ विवासेयं रुद्रस्य सुम्नम्
ā vivāseyaṃ rudrasya sumnam (RigVeda 2.33.6)

May perfect thought of Rudra comes in mind.

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  • Nice and meticulous compilation. Part of those mantras are also known as Rg Veda Rudram by some. – Vidyarthi Jan 14 '20 at 6:58
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The very first hymn (sukta) to Rudra in Rig Vedā 1.43 is a declaration as to who He is. In a single hymn, it encompasses the entirety of Rudra – that He is a Divine Contradiction and a “conscious knower”. The hymns say He is “fierce/mighty”, then in contradiction they call him “pleasant with beneficent heart”. He is “the resort/lord to all hymns/songs”, He is “the resort/lord of all yajñá/sacrifice”, and “He is bliss”. In conclusion, the hymn addresses Rudras as the family of immortals possessing amṛta/soma and this soma is the home to Supreme Truth (ṛtasya). So, what is this Supreme Truth? As the hymn says, it is “ṛta“, meaning the entire cosmic principle/truth. This Supreme Truth of Immortality is explained in pristine detail in Śatarudrīya/Çatarudriya of Sukla Yajur Vedā. This is the first homage to Rudra-Soma sung by Maharśi Kaṇva Ghaura in Rig Vedā Mandala 1 Sukta 43. And as we go deeper, we will see the complete assimilation of Soma, Agni, Mitra-Varuna, and more.

tavyase = mighty/strong Shamtamam Hruday = pleasant or beneficent heart gātha-patim = resort to all hymns/songs medha-patim = the resort of Yajñá/Sacrifice/Oblations śam-yoḥ sumnam = bliss/ānandam pra-jāḥ amṛtasya = immortals family possessing the elixir (amṛta) parasmin dhāman ṛtasya = home to the highest truth (ṛtasya) Please Note: Both terms “ṛtasya” and “amṛtasya” are synonymously used, soma is also used as its replacement occasionally. ~Rig Vedā 1.43

श्रेष्ठो जातस्य रुद्र श्रियासि तवस्तमस्तवसां वज्रबाहो ।पर्षि णः पारमंहसः स्वस्ति विश्वा अभीती रपसो युयोधि ॥2.33.3 Foremost/predominant/best (श्रेष्ठो ) Rudra (रुद्र ), caretaker/chief (श्रिया) of all beings, of all backgrounds (जातस्य ), the supreme/mightiest of the mighty (तवस्तमस्तवसां = तवः ऽतमः । तव-साम्), wielder/holder of thunder/lightning (वज्र-बाहो ) | none other than you (णः) is the best saviour (पर्षि ) from highest misfortune (पारम् +अंहसः) or attacks (अभीति), forever (विश्वा) bestow wellbeing (स्वस्ति), keep us away (युयोधि ) from calamities and ailments (रपसो ) 2.33.3

इमा रुद्राय सथिरधन्वने गिरः कषिप्रेषवे /क्षिप्रेषु देवाय सवधाव्ने | अषाळ्हाय सहमानाय वेधसे तिग्मायुधाय भरता शृ॒णोतु॑ -नः ||7.46.1 We sing to that/thy (इमा =ayám) Rudra (रुद्रा), holder of strong/firm bow (स्थिर +धन्व), with fast arrows (क्षिप्रेषु), that destroy/devour, oh Divine (देवाय) dependent on none/self reliant/by one’s own will (सव-धाव्ने). You are wise, none can overcome/conquer you (अषाळ्ह्) yet you are calm, patient and wise (सहमानाय), oh gracious and caring one (वे॒धसे॑) with precise/sharp weapons (तिग्मायुध), hear our plea (शृ॒णोतु॑) 7.46.1

स हि क्षये॑ण॒ क्षम्य॑स्य॒ जन्म॑नः॒ साम्रा॑ज्येन दि॒व्यस्य॒ चेत॑ति 7.46.2 Together/towards (स) come to us/bestow (हि) of firm/eternal owner (क्षये॑+ण॒) over Earthly realms (क्षम्य॑+स्य॒) and its beings (जन्मन्) and with universal/celestial sovereignty (साम्राज्य), oh heavenly divine (दिव्यसं) consciousness/inner heart/indweller (चेतस् ) 7.46.2

Please note: सहमाना is a versatile term that can mean calm, intelligent or victorious. अ-सहमान means impatient, because अ is a negation. It can also mean proud and confident. शृ॒णोतु॑ is pronounced as śrnótu and with the root words śru+na+tu meaning “hear us”. Some slokas also write it as सणोतु॑, which is not correct.हि is a root word that means “to come down to bestow” in a spiritual sense. For example हि+त to bestow wellbeing. चेत-ति/चेतस् pronounced as cétati, with root word cit meaning supreme consciousness; citta is individual consciousness. ~Rig Vedā 7.46.1/2

The Vedās sing about Rudras/Maruts as immortal, free-spirited, mountain-dwelling, fierce warriors and a hero clan. They hold most powerful weapons, tools, riches, unparalleled to any RV1.64,VS10.20. Hymns proclaim that there are none mightier than Rudras RV1.19,2.33,5.59,7.46 with infinite-strength “ananta-śuṣmāḥ” RV1.64.10. Rudras are the only Divinities in the Vedas to possess a multitude of precise and powerful weapons. The only other Divinity who comes close in possessing multiple weapons is Indra; He too has a weapon common to Rudra, which is the lightning. These hymns define Rudras and Maruts as Earth-shaking clans feared by all lokas as they could create fires, bring rain (nourishment and food), cause lightning and thunder RV1.38,2.33,5.58/59,KYV4.5.11, and make rain in deserts RV1.38.7. Hence the title Aśani given to Rudra in Brahmāṇa-1 of Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 8.1.3.6. Rudras are the only Divinities feared greatly by Rishis, and since the Vedās revolve around Yajñá, the aspect of fear is seen in the discipline and devotion of the Yajamana and Adhvaryu, meaning the one hosting and the one performing the Yajñá, else Rudra brings forth His wrath and consumes themTS1.6.7. At the same time, in contradiction, they are praised as a cheerful, benevolent, wise, protecting, caring, and helpful clan with various tools, medicines, riches, and vehicles like chariots, elephants, deer and horses. Rudras are called “the physician among physicians” and “dispeller of all sins/sorrows” RV2.33. They are prayed to for the protection of homes, cattle, farms, families and children, for gifts like medicines, knowledge and wealth, and for boons to bear children and find loving spouses VS3.57-59. They are described as fair complexioned, youthful, handsome, with knotted/braided locks of hair (kapardi), strong build, dazzling, wearing deerskin and ornaments RV1.43/114&2,5.42, VS16. While the earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Rig Vedā, the Saṃhitās of the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā describes each of these features in great detail. By the time of the Atharva Vedā, the complete assimilation of Agni with Rudra takes place. His Viṣvarūpam (omni-form) becomes pristine, leading to the pinnacle of His supremacy in the Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad. Coming back to the Rig Vedā, the hymns repeatedly call the Rudras immortal as they possess the amṛta RV10.93.4, and declare none to be young or elderly in their gana (group) RV2.33,5.58/59. In numerous hymns, Agni, Indra, Atithi, and others are urged to pass on their recommendations and pleas to Rudras/Maruts through Rudriya (hymns dedicated to Rudra). On many occasions, various Divinities request the help of Rudras/Maruts as their strength is invincible in battle RV1:87,167. Indra will not overwrite the boons given by Maruts RV1:166. There is a story in the Puráńas of how Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu led Maruts to a battle. Viṣṇu is also called Evaya Marut, meaning the fastest Marut RV5.87. The twin Ashvins are also considered as Rudras – “उ॒त नो॑ रु॒द्रा चि॑न्मृळताम॒श्विना॒”, meaning the two Ashvins together are Rudras RV10.93.7 . As Sri Aurobindo famously says, if Viṣṇu is the all-encompassing space/canvas, and Brahma is the Creative Idea, Rudra is the invisible force that propels Creation forward to the highest state/stride of Viṣṇu and bestows bliss/nourishment RV1.114 in their journey. When we say natural forces, it can be the force of knowledge, health, wealth VS10.20, desire, devotion and joy; in contradiction, it is also the force of dissolution, the restructuring of things in the form of sickness, death, calamities, and destruction. Hence, sages feared Rudra the most and sang for nourishment and protection; at the same time, prayed not to harm the lives of their families and cattle RV1.43/114 – like the hymn that says “Oh Rudra, harm us not, and abandon us not”~RV7.46.5. This is why Rudra/Śiva is a total contradiction and highly unpredictable. Now, let us explore each of these aspects of Rudras in detail.

Please note: the term Rudra is singular, Rudras (plural) and Rudrā denotes femininity. Rudriya means the songs dedicated to appeasing Rudras. The reason will soon be addressed in our upcoming sections. "Sanatanadhara Rudra" has much more details on versatile aspects of Rudra.

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