Sri Rudra-prashna (Rudram chapter) occurs in the middle of Krishna Yajurveda in its 4th Kanda (out of 7 Kandas).  It is a magnificent prayer of praise to Lord Shiva. It is the holy of holies of all Vedic hymns.  In all Pujas and Havans aimed at propitiating Lord Shiva  and also in birthday celebrations in households, it is invariably recited, very often, more than once, -- to be precise,  11 ,or 121  or even 1331 times --  as the occasion demands and permits. In public functions where the welfare of the whole community is the objective, it is traditional to get its recitation done by a whole team of pundits for 14641 times counting according to the multiplicity of pundits reciting it.  It consists of 11 anuvakas (=sections or paragraphs).  When recited in chorus by the pundits it creates an unforgettable  stirring and elevating spiritual experience.  The benefits of such recitals are innumerable - from the warding off of all evils, from curing of diseases, showering pleasant benefits to the environment and the whole world, - in fact, whatever  you may want to happen for you personally and for the community in general.    This is only an opening for you  of  the ocean of vedic bliss contained  in the hymn.  It is up to us to learn the proper recital of Rudram from knowledgeable pundits  and then soar higher to learn also its full meaning and vedantic significance. 

The ‘Shiva’ name is said to be the ‘Gem of all Life’ (JIva-ratnaM). Literally ‘Shiva’ means auspicious. The Lord is so full of Love that Love itself is said to be Shiva. ‘anbe Shivam’ says the Tamil scriptures. Just the two letters Shi and va when vocalized removes all sins. The five-lettered mantra Om namah-ShivAya has been extolled as representative of the entire Vedas. The five syllables na, ma, Shi, vA and ya represent respectively the five fundamental elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space; they are indicative of the five psychic centers of the body starting from the mUlAdhAra upto viSuddhi. The sixth center namely, the AjnA cakra is indicative of OM.

This is only the thin end of the wedge as far as the greatness of the ‘Shiva’ name is concerned. It has an added importance in that the Shiva-mantra occurs in the Rudram chapter. One of the most thrilling and spiritually satisfying Vedic recitations is that of the Rudra-prashna of Krishna Yajurveda. It is seen in all the 100 branches of the Yajurveda and so it is also called Shata-rudrIyam. It is one of the five scriptural texts chosen by the ancients for constant repetition and meditation. The other four are: Vishnu Sahasranama, Bhagavad-Gita,  Purusha-sUktam and the Upanishad of one’s own branch of the Veda. It is also known as Rudropanishad, because the three hundred prostrations to Shiva which constitute the central part of Rudram take one to Ultimate Self-Realisation itself. The theme is that Rudra-Shiva is all pervasive; He is behind and beyond all forms of Divinity; nay, even all forms of human and sub-human beings. The Lord is worshipped as the indwelling presence of the entire universe, including all the high and the low, the good and the bad, the virtuous and the debased. For instance He it is who sports as the Chief of Thieves – ‘taskarANAm pataye namaH’. (Recall B.G. 10-86: dyUtam chalayatAm-asmi.  ‘I am the gambling of the fraudulent’). To hear it chanted according to the South Indian style collectively in a full-throated fashion is itself a spiritual flight to heavenly Bliss and beyond. The Jabala Upanishad says, ‘By the repetition of the Shatarudra one gains immortality, for the names of God therein are nectarine’. The Kaivalya Upanishad says; ‘He who recites the ShatarudrIyam is cleansed of all sins as if by fire. He becomes free from the sins of theft, man-slaughter or commission of a prohibited act. He is like one who has taken refuge in the city of Avimukta (Varanasi). By this a man attains that knowledge which destroys the sea of samsAra. Thus knowing he enjoys the fruit of Kaivalya or Bliss’.


The ‘Shiva’ name occurs as the mantra ‘namah-ShivAya’ in the Rudram chapter almost in the center of the middle Veda, namely the yajur-Veda. The latter consists of 7 volumes (kANDas), each of which is divided into several chapters (praSnas). Each praSna is divided into paragraphs (anuvAkas) and each paragraph is counted in terms of subparagraphs (pancASat). Every pancASat contains fifty words or when it is the ending subparagraph of a paragraph, it may contain a few more or a few less. The mantra namah-ShivAya occurs in the middle kANDa, (in the 4th kanda out of 7 kandas in the Yajurveda), in the 24th prashna out of the total of 44 prashnas,  in the 341st anuvaka out of 651), in the 1116th panchasat (the standard paragraph of about 50 words) out of a total of 2198 and in fact, amidst a total of around 110,000 words it misses the center of the yajur-Veda by just around a thousand!

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy