This article is the first in the series, Shiva the Supreme. The concept of Shiva cannot be explained in a nut shell and it needs a thorough and detailed study. Rudra, Shiva, Mahadeva, Sadhashiva, and Bhairava are the popular names of Shiva. There are various interpretations for Shiva. We will discuss all these aspects and try to understand Shiva, the Supreme. Let us first take up Rudra. Brahma the creator did penance with a desire to create. But nothing materialized for Brahma. He got angry and started crying. From his tears appeared deadly snakes. Brahma got upset on seeing these snakes and lost his senses and ultimately died. From the body of Brahma appeared 11 Rudras. They are called eka dasa (eleven) Rudras. The name Rudra is formed out of ru and dru. Ru means cry and dru means move. Therefore Rudra means roaming around crying. This explanation is given in puranas. But Upanishads give different interpretation. The eleven Rudras represent ten sensory organs in the human body and eleventh Rudra is mind says Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. This explanation seems to be logical. There is yet another explanation for Rudra which says he is the remover of misery. Dru also means dissolve or melt and ru also means fear. This meaning also appears to be appropriate. Rudran removes all miseries of men. This is the reason for performing eka dasa rudram. Eka dasa Rudram names 11 Rudras. They are – 1. Shivan, 2.Rudran, 3.Shankaran, 4. Neelalohithan, 5. Ishanan, 6.Vijayan, 7.Bhiman, 8.Devadevan, 9.Bavothbhavan, 10.Adhityamaka Rudran and 11. Sambha Parameshwaran. In Krishna Yajur Veda kanda (chapter) IV, chapter 5 anuvakas 1 to 11 praise Lord Rudra and this IV.5 is called Rudram. The recitation of Rudram 11 times is called eka dasa rudra parayana.
This chapter is also called namakam, because the word nama is used several times in Sri Rudram. The recitation of Rudram is very popular in India. Chanting of Rudram is supposed to prevent untimely death. In the middle of this kanda IV chapter 5 the famous mantra of Lord Shiva is placed. This mantra is called panchaksharam i.e pancha (five) + aksharam (letters) or five lettered mantra. Na + ma +shi + va +ya = namashivaya is the mantra. Rudra is said to supply force and energy for the creation of Brahma. Brahma is the lord of creation, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the destroyer. Destroyer is not the apt word to describe Rudra. Rudra does not like anybody acting against rules and regulations. If somebody does, Rudra does not hesitate to destroy them. It is wrong to say that He kills a person who unknowingly commits mistakes. He only destroys the thought and energy for committing mistakes. If he is the killer, nobody will recite Rudram, whereas it has become a ritual to chant eka dasa Rudram during birthdays of elderly persons. The chanting of Sri Rudram removes all evil energies. It is firmly believed that when chanted, the energy generated out of the words of Sri Rudram drives away the lord of death Yama. The exact interpretation for this is that a person may not have a premature death due to accidents or injury. However, every one of us has to ultimately die. There is one verse called mritunja mantram (mrityu means death) in Sri Rudram beginning with tryambagam the details of which will be discussed in our subsequent postings on this series.