Rudra is a Vedic deity and a precedent to Lord Śiva. Though there are only 5 sūktas devoted to Rudra in the Ṛg veda, the key aspect of Rudra in the Ṛg veda is that of a divine Vaidya or healer! In fact, in the very first sūkta on Rudra in the Ṛg veda (1.43), the seer Kaṇva prays to the Earth (mentioned as Aditi) to show/ give them the medicines related to Rudra (‘Rudriyam’ translated by Sāyaṇāchārya as ‘Rudra sambandhi bheṣajam’ i.e. medicines related to Rudra!) for the wellbeing of the people and the animals1. In his commentary on this verse, Sāyaṇāchārya further mentions that the relation between Rudra and medicines is well established also through other mantras in the Taittirīya Samhitā such as ‘Śivā rudrasya bheṣajī’ (TS 18.104.22.168) i.e. the medicines of Rudra are the most beneficial/ auspicious! In the subsequent verses, Rudra is mentioned as having watery medicines with him (jalāṣabheṣajam) or water itself can be converted into medicine by chanting name of Rudra2! He is welcomed home and requested to remove all the sickness from the family3. He is requested to cure the family with the thousands of medicines he has with him4. ‘Give us the best medicines and cure our bodies. Also please take away the sins performed by our bodies’ they request Rudra along with Soma5. He is hence called the ‘Healer amongst healers’ (bhiṣajām bhiṣaktamah).
It is this aspect that later got associated with Lord Śiva when Vedic Rudra got assimilated into Puranic Śiva. He thus came to be called ‘Vaidyanātha’ or the ‘Lord of healers’. This is the form in which he blesses his devotees in the temple of ‘Vaitheeśvaran Koil’ in Tamil Nadu. Puranas are replete with stories of various men and celestials getting rid of chronic ailments through worship of Śiva such as planet Mars getting cured of leprosy.
He also comes in the form of a hunter or kirāta having bows and arrows as his weapons and drives away enemies and ailments from us! Ṛg vedic sūkta praises the Lord’s firm bow & swift flying arrow6. In fact, the Namakam (popularly called Rudram) from the Taittirīya Samhitā of Yajurveda begins as ‘Namaste astu dhanvane’,’Yāta iśuh śivatamā śivam bhabhūva te dhanuh’ i.e. ‘I worship the wielder of bows!’ ‘Let your bows and arrows become auspicious and well-disposed towards us!’. He also carries sharp pointed weapons (tigma-āyudhā) which probably later became the trident.
To such a Rudra, lets pray to bring in peace and health everywhere when the whole world is battling with COVID-19.
1. यथा नो अदितिः करत्पश्वे नृभ्यो यथा गवे | यथा तोकाय रुद्रियम् || (RV 1.43.2)
2. उदकं हि रुद्रनामाभिमन्त्रितं सत् औषधं भवति | (RV 1.43.4 Sayanabhashya)
3. दुरश्चरानमीवो रुद्र जासु नो भव | (RV 7.46.2)
4. सहस्रं ते स्वपिवात भेषजा | (RV 7.46.3)
5. सोमारुद्रा युवमेतान्यस्मे विश्वा तनूषु भेषजानि धत्तम् | अवस्यतं मुञ्चतं यन्नो अस्ति तनूषु बद्धं कृतमेनो अस्मत् | (RV 6.74.3)
6. इमा रुद्राय स्थिर धन्वने गिरः क्षिप्रेषवे देवाय स्वधाव्ने | (RV 7.46.1)
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