The scientific types define lightning as a natural electric discharge of very short duration, usually between high-voltage oppositely charged clouds,that is accompanied by a bright flash and sometimes thunder. If you didn't understand that explanation, that's okay. Specialists use jargon that few people outside their field can comprehend. Fortunately there are other ways to describe the phenomenon of lightning. For instance, the Vedic seers saw lightning as the result of the ongoing tussle between heavenly deities that represent the forces of nature and their demonic counterparts.The Rigveda identifies three types of lightning. The one accompanied with little or no rain is commonly associated with the demon Vritra. The lightning followed by a downpour is connected with Indra. And the maleficent lightning that kills people and causes widespread destruction is attributed to a minor deity called Rudra, who later became one of the eight forms of Shiva. Today Shiva is one of the most popular gods of Hinduism and attracts a group of three hundred million devotees called Shaivites.
The Powerful Rudra
As a storm god, Rudra,"the terrible," is a mystery, and scholars and academics, scouring ancient texts, are puzzled by his enigmatic behavior. Known as the howler or the weeping one, Rudra carries many contradictions that people are drawn to him. He can endear yet create fear; he can heal diseases yet spread them like wildfire; he can be calm and collected at one moment yet given to a temper tantrum the next. Only four hymns are dedicated to Rudra in the Rigveda, although it makes more than seventy references to him-about the same as the number of references to Yama.
While Yama struck fear with his visage and accouterments, he was never as menacing as Rudra. In later texts, after Yama was relegated to serving as the god of death, Rudra became more powerful through his association with Shiva. Rudra has two opposing personalities-terrible and pleasing. As an archer, he always carries a bow. If Indra was famous for his thunderbolt, Rudra was notorious for his bow.
When he is being fearsome, Rudra is described as the divine archer who fires at gods, men, and cattle, either killing them outright or infecting them with mortal diseases. Like Shiva, he has an appetite for fierce, unpredictable, destructive deeds. Everyone lives in fear of Rudra, because he is unpredictable.A minor transgression by a faithful devotee can propel Rudra into a tem pestuous rage.
Lord Rudra - The Pashupati
When he is pleasing, Rudra is described as young, intelligent, and the most beautiful of the gods. As the greatest physician, Rudra is said to possess hundreds of remedies that he dispenses to his devotees. Since his animal is the bull, Rudra holds the title of Pashupati, or Lord of the Cattle which is the form in which he is worshiped most often. According to the British academic Robin Zaenher, devotees flock to Rudra in this form be cause they see themselves as the herd with Rudra as the leader. The bull is a symbol of both rain and fertility in Vedic culture.That is why he is sometimes referred to as the provider of fertilizing rains.
Unlike Indra, Rudra is not confined to palaces. He is the man of the wild and keeps his residence in the hinterland-like the forest or mountains.In myths Rudra epitomizes many of the vital quali- ties of Varuna and is often invoked for protection against the decrees of Varuna. One key attribute of Varuna, his supernatural power, or maya, seems to have gradually become Shakti, the creative force identified as the supreme power of Rudra (and Shiva).
Whereas Varuna inspired awe and fear in pre-Vedic times, Rudra (and later Shiva) created the same intensity of opposing feelings in later times. Rudra is officially acknowledged as the father of a group of storm gods called Maruts, who are said to have been born from the laughter of lightning. Also known as Rudriyas (sons of Rudra), the Maruts were the constant companions of Indra in his battle against the demons. Rudra and his sons are known to wear ornaments of gold and are armed with weapons like the bow and arrow, although Rudra by himself was never associated with the warlike exploits of the Maruts.
Another story of Rudra
A story about Rudra's name describes him as the son of Ushas, the goddess of dawn, and Prajapati. One day his father found him weeping and asked why the boy was upset. Rudra replied that he wept because his evil had not been taken away. His father named him Rudra, the weeper. He wept seven more times and gained seven other names.These seven names, along with Rudra, became the genesis for the multiple attributes in the manifestation of Shiva. In the eight fold concept of Shiva (known as Ashtamurti among Shaivites), Rudra is one of the attributes of Shiva- not as the terrible god but as the one who dispels sorrow.
From Rudra we get the term Rudraksha, which translates as "Rudra's eyes" and refers to the Rudraksha tree or its brown seed. Evergreen and broad-leaved, the Rudraksha tree grows in the hilly regions of the Himalayas and other parts of the world, including Southeast Asia and Australia. The seeds of the Rudraksha tree are unique in that each seed has a natural hole in the middle, making them easy to string together as beads for a necklace or rosary. This has made them popular for creating organic jewelry, or mala. Legend has it that Rudraksha beads are the tears of Shiva after he decimated a triad of demons called Tripurasura, who were devoted to him.
Story of Tripurasura
In mythology Tripurasura is a collective name given to the three sons of the demon Taraka. Many versions of this story exist, but one version says that Tripurasura performed severe austerities in their quest for power and obtained a boon from Brahma. Because their father was killed by Shiva's son Kartikeya,the demon trio asked for immortality. But Brahma flatly refused their request, saying it was against the dictates of dharma. Tripurasura then asked to be blessed with impregnable fortresses in three different cities that can be destroyed only by a single arrow-which they knew only Shiva could do. Brahma granted their request, although he knew he might regret his magnanimity. The demons, however, thought that so long as they were devotees of Shiva, they were assured of immortality.
Three magnificent cities (known as Tripura, which means "three cities") and the fortresses were built at three separate locations by the demons' own architect, Mayasura, who also was a devotee of Shiva. These towers of power were located on earth, in the sky, and heaven and had walls of iron, silver, and gold, respectively. The locations were chosen in such a way that cities aligned in a single line only once every one thousand years.The
Tripurasura were thus assured of the safety of their fortresses. Soon other demons began to flock to the newly created cities, which offered prosperity and peace.
Lord Rudra defeated Tripurasur
After several years of peace and harmony, the evil tendencies of the asuras resurfaced. As they became steeped in luxury and power,the asuras forgot their devotion to Shiva. Safe behind the impregnable forts, they embarked on a spree of terror, waging wars without provocation and lashing out at mortals and devas (demigods). Soon Indra and the gods approached Shiva for relief from the rampaging demons. Shiva told them that he would transfer half his strength to the gods, which would allow them to overcome their enemies. But the gods could not support half of Shiva's strength, so instead they gave half of their own strength to Shiva. Meanwhile a magnificent chariot of gold along with weaponry was built by the god's architect Vishwakarma for the military operation. Shiva braced for battle but had to wait a thousand years for the three fortresses to line up. When the moment arrived, Shiva used the mighty Mount Meru as his bow, strung a single arrow with Vishnu as its shaft and Agni at its tip, and let it fly. The arrow pierced the three forts at the same time and engulfed them in flames. The only demon to survive was Mayasura.
Formation of Rudraksha Beads
The death of his devotees caused Shiva to shed some tears-which became Rudraksha beads. Shiva also became more powerful because of the strength obtained from other gods, an oft-cited reason for his prowess. As for Rudra, despite the awe and fear he generated in his heyday, he is no longer worshipped and has fallen into obscurity. Scholars believe that the many facets to Rudra's character could have arisen from the assimilation of many Vedic gods.The antithetical traits, according to them, are perhaps a consequence of amalgamation of regional and tribal gods that took place under his name, and were later attributed to Shiva. Although Rudra represents a phase in the evolution of Shiva, the worship of Rudra also represents perhaps one of the earliest instances of worship of the power of destruction.