This is a quick & simple FAQ in layman terms on “Rudram” – a special prayer that is chanted to Lord Rudra (Shiva) – a Vedic God.
1. What is Rudram ?
Śrī Rudram, also known as Śrī Rudrapraśnaḥ, is a hymn offered to the all pervading Brahman, designated as Rudra-Śiva, present in auspicious, benign forms as well as terrible forms which He assumes at the time of the dissolution and the destruction of the cosmos. It occurs in the Taittirīya Saṁhitā of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda in the 4th kāṇda (chapter), 5th praśna (topic) and it is considered as one of 108 Upaniṣads. It is also known as Namakam because of the repeated word namaḥ in it.
Śrī Rudram is divided into 11 anuvākas (passages) and consists of 37 ṛks (verses) in various Vedic chandas (meters) in anuvāka 1, 10 and 11. Anuvākas 2 to 9 and the last line of anuvāka 11 consist of 130 yajus (sacrificial formulas).
2. Who is Rudra ?
Rudra is a God of the Vedic period. He finds mention in the Rig Veda but there is a detailed section in praise of Rudra in the Yajur Veda.
Rudra has two forms, ghora or terrible form and śiva or auspicious form. Hence Rudra is one side and Śiva the other side of the same coin. They are not two, but one. The Brāhmaṇa text which interprets the Rudram states: “Rudra is verily this fire. He has two forms; one terrible, the other auspicious. If a man does sacrifice to Him by chanting the Rudram, that man pacifies the terrible form”.
The word Rudra has 4 root meanings: (a) dreadful, terrific, angry; (b) great or large; (c) driving away evil; (d) fit to be praised. Another explanation derived from the meaning of its roots is also; “ru”, to cry or to teach, “rud”, to make a person weep, and “dra” to flow. Hence Rudra is considered as a deity who teaches the supreme knowledge to all and whose energy flows in everything
3. What is the significance of Sri Rudram ?
The purpose of this magnificent hymn is to set aside once and for all, the extra-cosmic notion of God that people sometimes entertain in their religious fervour, and to instil into the minds of people the greater, profounder knowledge of the fact that God is not merely the creative extra-cosmic Parent of the Universe, but He is also immanent in every particle, in every speck of space, in every unit of time, in every nook and corner, in every particle of creation.
A very intriguing aspect of God present in this wondrous hymn is that God is existing in both the aspects; the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the right and the wrong, the positive and the negative, the high and the low, the conceivable and the inconceivable, mortality and immortality, existence and non-existence.
It is considered as the only hymn of its kind in the religious literature of the entire world which focuses on the idea of God, not only associated with the ideas of pleasant and good, but also with the idea of dreadful and destructive; that the God permeates everything in manifestation, including aspects deemed not ethical by the purists and fault-finders.
4. Why Chant Rudram?
It is said: “By reciting Veda once, he becomes pure on that day, but by reciting Rudram the very next moment he gets purified.” Yet another verse declares: “Where a devout reciter of the Rudram lives, be it in a village or town, that place will be free from disease, drought, thefts, and other ills.”
Śiva Purāṇa further explains: “By chanting Rudram, one gains both worldly pleasures and liberation.” The Jābāla Upaniṣad5 states: “Once the students of sacred knowledge asked sage Yājñavalkya: Can we gain eternal life by repetition of mantras? Yājñavalkya said: By the repetition of śatarudrīya6 a man becomes immortal, for the names of God therein are nectarine.” Kaivalya Upaniṣad7 also declares: “Whoever reads śatarudrīya becomes pure as fire, becomes pure as air”.
5. What is Chamakam?
Chamakam, occurs in the Taittirīya Saṁhitā of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda in the 4th kāṇda, 7th praśna. It is so called on account of the recurrence of the word ca me directly translated as “and me”. After praying and identifying Rudra with everything in the Namakam, Camakam is usually recited immediately after, in which the devotee asks Him to give him everything, 347 things to be precise, coupled with the article ca (and) and the verb me kalpatām (be granted unto me). Camakam furnishes completely the idea of human happiness and defines in the highest degree the desires to be asked or to be granted. Camakam roots are firmly implanted in the worldly desires ultimately leading to the divine fulfilment
6. How much time does it take to Chant the Rudram ? And why are there 11 priests involved in the chanting?
The typical time to chant the Sri Rudram (both Namakam and Chamakam) is about 40 mins.
Rudram is the most sacred means of worshipping Lord Siva. Sage Satapatha in his treatise “Maharnava Karma Vipaka” listed 4 types of procedures to propitiate Lord Siva. Ekadasa Rudram, Maha Rudram and Athi Rudram; each has greater significance than its preceding one. ‘Athi’ means “ultimate”. Therefore, Athirudram is the highest form of worship of Lord Shiva. Athirudram is a destroyer of all sorrows and the provider of ‘Kshema’.
The Sri Rudram has 11 anuvakas of Namakam and 11 anuvakas of Chamakam. After Each chanting of One round of Rudram one Anuvaka Each of Chamakam is chanted. Eleven recitations of Rudram followed by one recitation of Chamakam is called Ekadasa Rudram. This constitutes one unit of Rudra Homam. Eleven rounds of Ekadasa Rudram makes one Laghu Rudram. Eleven Laghu Rudra chartings make one Maharudram and eleven Maharudram recitations is the Athirudram. In a “AtiRudram yagna” Everyday One Maharudram is completed and in eleven days an Athirudra Mahayagnam is completed. Thus in the Athirudra Mahayagnam, the Srirudram hymn is chanted in all 14,641 times by 121 Ritwiks in 11 days with the performance of 1331 rudra Homams simultaneously.
The number 11 has a big significance in propitiating Lord Siva. The 11 priests are involved/required in the chanting to meet the specific number of recitations prescribed by the procedures.
7. Why is Rudram Chanted at Sathabhishekam functions? ( 80th Birthday after 1000 moons have been signed)
Man, according to Vedantha and Yoga philosophies, is charged with a spark of the universal soul. Therefore, such functions are conducted to worship the atman residing in him so that he can unite with it ultimately. This uniting with the “Atman” is the sole purpose of human life and confers on the devotee the highest boon of immortality, i.e. liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Lord Shiva who is easy to please is also the embodiment of time and Rudram is chanted as an expression of gratitude for the long life granted and also to seek the ultimate boon of immortality.
8. What is the benefit of listening to Rudram Chamakam?
A devout listener and seeker of Rudram Chamakam is blessed with both worldly and spiritual benefits such as good health, peace of mind and pure joy. Slowly and steadily it draws the listener to spirituality in the quest of the truth behind human existence.
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