Let us start with the Maruts:
को वो वर्षिष्ठ आ नरो दिवश्च ग्मश्च धूतयः ।1.37.6Rig Vedā 1.37.6 / 1.39.4
Which of thy greatest (वर्षि॑ष्ठ॒ / varṣiṣṭhaḥ) among the masculine beings (न॑रो) among Divine lokas (दि॒वश्च॒) and of Earth (ग्मश्च॑) you are the envoy (धूतयः)
Note: varṣiṣṭhaḥ is a derivative of Sriṣṭhaḥ (foremost/pure). naraḥ here does not mean human (mānuṣaḥ referred in the very next sloka), it is a masculine representation of being.
नहि वः शत्रुर्विविदे अधि द्यवि न भूम्यां॑ रिशादसः युष्माकमस्तु तविषी तना युजा रुद्रासो नू चिदाधृषे ||1.39.4
Neither (नहि वः) in heavenly realms nor earthly (भूम्य) (light and dark द्यवि ) you have none (नहि वः) higher (अधि) as your enimy/master of maruts (रिशाद). You are (युष्माक) self caring and mighty (तविष) roring fierce (तना) and steady (युजा). Oh of Rudra-clan (रुद्रासो ) undefied (नू चिद +अधृषे) .
Now, let us take a look at Rudra from the Rig Vedā:
श्रेष्ठो जातस्य रुद्र श्रियासि तवस्तमस्तवसां वज्रबाहो ।पर्षि णः पारमंहसः स्वस्ति विश्वा अभीती रपसो युयोधि ॥2.33.3
Foremost/predominant/best (श्रेष्ठो ) Rudra (रुद्र ), brilliant/prosperous (श्रिया) of all backgrounds (जातस्य), the supreme/mightiest of the mighty (तवस्तमस्तवसां = तवः ऽतमः । तव-साम्), wielder/holder of thunder/lightning (वज्र-बाहो ) | none other than you (णः) is the best saviour/liberater (पर्षि ) from highest misfortune (पारम् +अंहसः) or attacks (अभीति), forever (विश्वा) bestow wellbeing (स्वस्ति), keep us away / take us to the other side (युयोधि ) from calamities and ailments (रपसो ) 2.33.3
Please note: the above landed in Kausitaki Shankhyayana Brahmana 25.13 of Rig Veda wherein Rudra is called the best and oldest among divinities.
इमा रुद्राय सथिरधन्वने गिरः कषिप्रेषवे /क्षिप्रेषु देवाय सवधाव्ने | अषाळ्हाय सहमानाय वेधसे तिग्मायुधाय भरता शृ॒णोतु॑ -नः ||7.46.1Rig Vedā 7.46.1/2
We sing to that/thy (इमा =ayám) Rudra (रुद्रा), holder of strong/firm bow (स्थिर +धन्व), with fast arrows (क्षिप्रेषु), that destroy/devour, oh Divine (देवाय) dependent on none/self reliant/by one’s own will (सव-धाव्ने). You are wise, none can overcome/conquer you (अषाळ्ह्) yet you are calm, patient and wise (सहमानाय), oh gracious and caring one (वे॒धसे॑) with precise/sharp weapons (तिग्मायुध), hear our plea (शृ॒णोतु॑) 7.46.1
स हि क्षये॑ण॒ क्षम्य॑स्य॒ जन्म॑नः॒ साम्रा॑ज्येन दि॒व्यस्य॒ चेत॑ति 7.46.2
Together/towards (स) come to us/bestow (हि) of firm/eternal owner (क्षये॑+ण॒) over Earthly realms (क्षम्य॑+स्य॒) and its beings (जन्मन्) and with universal/celestial sovereignty (साम्राज्य), oh heavenly divine (दिव्यसं) consciousness/inner heart/indweller (चेतस् ) 7.46.2
Please note: सहमाना is a versatile term that can mean calm, intelligent or victorious. अ-सहमान means impatient, because अ is a negation. It can also mean proud and confident. शृ॒णोतु॑ is pronounced as śrnótu and with the root words śru+na+tu meaning “hear us”. Some slokas also write it as सणोतु॑, which is not correct.हि is a root word that means “to come down to bestow” in a spiritual sense. For example हि+त to bestow wellbeing. चेत-ति/चेतस् pronounced as cétati, with root word cit meaning supreme consciousness; citta is individual consciousness.
Please take note of the consistency of concepts and attributes of Rudra across multiple Vedas Śākhās.
The Vedas sing about Rudras/Maruts as infinite in numbers and immortal1, free-spirited, mountain-dwelling2 (of Mūjavant/Girisha), fierce warriors, vehement and hero clan VS16.8-11. They hold the most powerful weapons VS16.14 including the famous bow called the PinakaTS4.5.5. They possessed tools, and riches, unparalleled to any3. Hymns proclaim that they are indestructible “ānirhatebhyo” KY4.5.9 and formidable who controls the army and a terrifying ruler who sits in the void of men AV18.1.40 as He is the vital force Prana BrhdUpa3.9.4, and there are none mightier than Rudras4 as they possess infinite-strength/omnipotent which the Vedas call “ananta-śuṣmāḥ” RV1.64.10. Rudras (rudrébhis or rudrésu) are the only Divinities in the Vedas to possess a multitude of precise and powerful weapons. Atharva Veda speaks of Rudra’s golden bows and weapons flying abroad like guided missiles in the direction he desires AV11.2.12. The only other Divinity who comes close to possessing multiple weapons is Indra; He too has a weapon common to Rudra, which is the lightning (Asani). These hymns define Rudras and Maruts as Earth-shaking clans feared by all lokas as they could create fires, bring rain (nourishment and lords of food RV2.1.6), hunts like predators, attack thousands, and kill in hundreds AV11.2.12 causes lightning and thunder5, and make rain in deserts RV1.38.7. Hence he is called the Tempest God, and also has the title Aśani given to Rudra in Brahmāṇa-1 of Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 220.127.116.11. Rudras are the only Divinities feared greatly by Rishis, and since the Vedas revolve around Yajñá, the aspect of fear is seen in the discipline and devotion of the Yajamana and Adhvaryu, meaning the one hosting and the one performing the Yajñá and the one properly chanting the mantras, else Rudra brings forth His wrath and consumes themTS1.6.7. 1: [RV10.93.4/1.43, AV11.2.3] 2: [RV5.41.11, TS4.5.5, VS3.61-63] 3: [RV1.64, VS10.20] 4: [RV1.19,2.33,5.59,7.46] 5: [RV1.38,2.33,5.58/59, KYV4.5.11, AV11.2.26]
On contrary, the sages praise Rudra as he is a cheerful, benevolent, wise, protecting, caring, and helpful clan with various tools, medicines1, riches, and vehicles like chariots, elephants, deer, and horses. Rudras are called “the physician among physicians”2 as he possesses thousands of well-needed medicines “सहस्रं ते स्वपिवात भेष॒जा”RV7.46.3, “dispeller of diseases” RV6.74.2 , and “dispeller of all sins/sorrows” RV2.33. They are prayed to for the protection of homes, cattle, farms, families, and children, for gifts like medicines, knowledge, and wealth, and for boons to bear children and find loving spouses VS3.57-59.
1: [RV1.43.4 TS4.5.10,RV2.33, AV2.27.6,AV19.10.6] 2:[RV2.33.4,AVP1.95.1]
They are described as fair complexioned, youthful, handsome, with knotted/braided locks of black hair/fair head (kapardi & harikesha), strong build, dazzling, wearing deerskin (Krittivasãn) TS1.8.6/4.5.5 and ornaments 1. While the earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Rig Veda, the Saṃhitās of the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda describe each of these features in great detail. By the time of the Atharva Veda, the complete assimilation of Agni with Rudra takes place. His Viṣvarūpam (omni-form) becomes pristine, leading to the pinnacle of His supremacy in the Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad. Coming back to the Rig Veda, the hymns repeatedly call the Rudras immortal as they possess the amṛta RV10.93.4/AV11.2.3 , and declare none to be young or elderly in their gana (group) RV2.33,5.58/59. In numerous hymns, Agni, Indra, Atithi, and others are urged to pass on their recommendations and pleas to Rudras/Maruts through Rudriya & Marutvatia (hymns dedicated to Rudra/Maruts respectively). On many occasions, various Divinities request the help of Rudras/Maruts as their strength is invincible in battle RV1:87,167. Indra will not overwrite the boons given by Maruts RV1:166 as they are his trusted friends and comrades AB1.3.20. There is a story in the Puráńas of how Viṣṇu led Maruts to a battle. Viṣṇu is also called Evaya Marut, meaning the fastest Marut RV5.87 and the title ŚipiViṣṭa (शिपिविष्ट) RV7.100.6 meaning the rays which permeate, this title is given to both Viṣṇu and Rudra TS4.5.5. Aitareya Brahmāṇa 1.30 states that Viṣṇu is the leader of the Maruts and both Ashivns and Varuna who themselves being Rudras follow His lead. The twin Ashvins are also considered Rudras – “उत नो॑ रुद्रा चिन्मृळतामश्विना” RV10.93.7 and they move like the Rudra, hence the word Rudravartanī (रुद्रवर्तनी) which means to move forwards boldly/fiercely with brilliance like Rudra RV1.3.3. It’s because of this hymn many observed a commonality among the twin Ashvins with that of Rudras, and the most obvious trait of them being Physicians just like Rudra. Hence are considered the children of Rudra. As Sri Aurobindo famously says, if Viṣṇu is the all-encompassing space/canvas, and Brahma is the Creative Idea, Rudra is the invisible force that propels Creation forward to the highest state/stride of Viṣṇu and bestows bliss/nourishment RV1.114 in their journey. When we say natural forces, it can be the force of knowledge, health, wealth VS10.20, desire, devotion, and joy; in contradiction, it is also the force of dissolution, or a force to restructure/reorganize things in the form of sickness, death, and calamities. Hence, sages feared Rudras the most, and sang for nourishment, shelter, and protection RV1.114.5; at the same time, prayed not to harm the lives of their families and cattle RV1.43/114,VS16.15 – like the hymn that says “Oh Rudra, harm us not, and abandon us not”RV7.46.5. This is why Rudra/Śiva is a total contradiction and highly unpredictable. Now, let us explore each of these aspects of Rudras in detail.
1: [RV1.43/114&2,5.42, VS16]
Please note: the term Rudra is singular, Rudras equates to Rudrébhis or Rudrésu (plural). Rudra is the all-encompassing omniscient concept whereas Rudras are the group of Divinities born to Rudra and Pṛśni or Rodasī. Hence Rudras are addressed as Maruts or Ganas.
Rudrā = denotes union with femininity and plurality for example the twin Ashvins. And this plurality expands to the Rudra clan including Maruts who are also called Rudras.
Rudravartanī = to move forward with fierceness, and brilliance like Rudra.
Rudratvam = of the nature of being Rudra.
Rudriya = the songs dedicated to appeasing Rudras.
Marutvatia = the songs dedicated to Maruts
Rudra is not a single entity or a person but a multitude of facets of manifestations. The reason will soon be addressed in our upcoming sections.
Maruts & Rudra : how are they different?
Rudra is the father of Maruts “idam pitre marutām” RV1.114,2.33,1.64. And Rudra is always surrounded by Maruts who are generally denoted as Rudras themselvesRV8.63.12. These Maruts are, on occasions, said to be the children of Pṛśni “The Vedic Cow of Knowledge”. Hence, Maruts are addressed with three profound titles – “vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ” meaning “born in knowledge”, second “mahiṣāsaḥ māyinaḥ:citra-bhānavaḥ” meaning “the makers of māyā and of clear vision/light”, finally “pra-cetasaḥ viśva-vedasaḥ” meaning “conscious & omniscient” RV1.64.6-10. These three titles are not to be taken lightly. In the realm of the Vedas, Soma, Vāk, and Pṛśni are three abstract concepts that secretly control the entirety of Vedic essence. Let us take a quick glance.
गौर्धयति मरुतां श्रवस्युर्माता मघोनाम् युक्ता वह्नी रथानाम् | यस्या देवा उपस्थे॑ व्रता विश्वे धारयन्ते सूर्यामासा दृशे कम् || 8.94.1-2Rig Veda 8.94.1-2
The Cow (Pṛśni is the cow of knowledge, and milk/Soma is wisdom/knowledge of immortality) (गौ + र्धयति dhā+yati), with Maruts (मरुतां) as sons of a mother who deserves our highest honor (श्रवस्यु + माता) and who is rich/abundant in knowledge and wisdom ( मघोनाम् = मघ+वन्- म्), harnesses/yokes them (the vehicles) to move Creation forward (वह्नी – रथा-नाम्)|
In You/Pṛśni ( यस्या 3rd person), reside/dwell (उपस्थे) all Divinities/Vedic Devas (देवा) and have their eternal (विश्वे) virtuous function (व्रता) relied upon and borne by you (धारयन्ते); the Sun (सूर्या) and the Months/Moon (मासा) witness their (दृशे) role/actions (कम्)
Please note: In the Vedas (same as Śrīmad Bhagavādgita), the cow represents mother of knowledge, cow’s milk represents wisdom and essence, the bull represents might and lordship hence the title “Bablusãye bi vyadhibe”TS4.5.5, horses represent speed and momentum and energy, chariots/vehicles are the creation/body itself. वह्नी = वह् means vehicle and वह्नी -रथा means wagons attached to the chariot.
Pṛśni is also the name of the wife of Prajāpati, which is also correct as Prajāpati is the Yajamana (the one performing the Yajñá), but we will soon explore the overlap of Prajāpati and Rudra. Pṛśni is also the name of the wife of one among the Saptarishi (the 7 primordial divine sages). Maruts are also said to be the children of Rodasī (consort of Rudra) and the same hymn distinctly addresses Rudra as their father RV5.57. Rudra is not necessarily a single entity or a group because of the unique nature of Rudra to manifest across various concepts and divinities, this will become evident in our upcoming sections. Though Rodasī was mentioned, a single entity called Śiva as a single Rudra is yet to be introduced in our discussion. Atharva Veda says “oh Rudra, come with Rudras” AV19.10.6. Hence Rudra is a collective divinity, representing both a singular concept as well as a collective concept. Mahabharata Itihasa Ashwamedha Parva 43 gave a unique name to the king of Rudra, it says “Tashtri is the king of all Rudra and Śiva the king of all creatures.. Maruts are the foremost of the Ganas”. Since Rudra is the raw and un-manifested invisible force, with the knowledge and immortal wisdom came the Maruts as the individual forces of nature wielded by Rudra. These forces cause the evolution of creation and favorite to Indra in the destruction of VritraAB3.20. THE RUDRA is not as a person but as “The Concept of Sovereignty and All-Encompassing Cosmic form” which we will cover in detail along with the personified Shiva of later literature. Hence, Rudras can save us, at the same time, cause destruction to restructure things in Creation, this is why Rudras are all-encompassing forms and are not limited to fixed attributes/actions and the Maruts are called the arrows/missiles of Rudra.
Gana / Ganapati / Brahmānaspathim
The Rig Veda sings: “Oh Courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts“ RV5.58. गणं (gana) means group, and these groups and their professions are explained in detail in Śrī Rudram of Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5. The leader of these groups is called Ganapati (gana+pati), meaning lord/abode of all groups. The Rig Veda also addresses the Maruts as vidatheṣu ā-bhuvaḥ, meaning born in knowledge, and brahmānaspathim, meaning lord/abode of knowledge RV1.38.13. Brahmānaspathim is a very unique title in the Vedas assigned to a separate class of Divinities. Sri Aurobindo defines brahmāna as the Vedic Aksharas (word) and among all Aksharas “अ/a” is considered the foremost, hence AUM begins with अ. In Śrīmad Bhagavādgita Śrī Kṛṣṇa says “Among words I am the word अ“. Panini, the author of Sanskrit Grammar says, Maruts are Akshara of Varnamala (an eternal string of sounds), and Sukla Yajur Veda Śatarudrīya explains how Rudra and Gayatri Akshara emerged from Yagna. Mahabharata Itihasa Ashwamedha Parva 43 says “Maruts are the foremost of the Ganas”. Sri Aurobindo includes both Brihaspati and Brahmā as brahmānaspathim. Similarly, T.V. Kapali Sastry, renowned student of Sri Aurobindo and Vedic commentator, says Ganapati – “Lord of all Ganas/Maruts” – is that brahmānaspati. Interestingly, the Rig Veda titles Viṣṇu as Evaya Marut RV5.87, meaning the “fastest Marut” who leads the Maruts into battle. This is a very interesting linkage of titles, like puzzles that fit together. Though Rudra Ganas are mentioned along with their leader, we are yet to find a reference of one with an Elephant face. Viṣṇu being Evaya Marut also declares Himself to be ŚipiViṣṭa (शिपिविष्ट) RV7.100.6 meaning the rays which permeate, this title is given to both Viṣṇu and Rudra TS4.5.5. Aitareya Brahmāṇa 1.30 states that Viṣṇu is the leader of the Maruts and both Ashivns and Varuna who themselves being Rudras follow His lead.
Is there such a reference where Ganas are attributed to Maruts?
तम उ नूनं तविषीमन्तम एषां सतुषे गणम मारुतं नव्यसीनाम |य आश्वश्वा अमवद वहन्त उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य सवराजः ||
तवेषं गणं तवसं खादिहस्तं धुनिव्रतम मायिनं दातिवारम |मयोभुवो ये अमिता महित्वा वन्दस्व विप्र तुविराधसो नॄन ||
Indeed we praise (एषां) thy mighty (तविषी) gang (गणम) of Maruts today (नव्यसी)| Oh fierce (अमवद) racers of horses and chariots (आश्वश्वा) like the wind (वहन्त), bringing your containers filled with elixir of immortality (उतेशिरे अम्र्तस्य), you are dependent on none, self ruling (सवराजः)||Rig Veda 5.58
Oh courageous (तवेषं) band/group (गणं) of Maruts, adorned with bracelets/rings (खादिहस्तं), cometh with roaring sounds (धुनिव्रतम) of victory, bestower (दातिवारम) of all magical gifts (मायिनं) |
We sing to the brilliance, like fire (मयोभुवो) adorned with infinite might (अमिता महित्वा). We praise and worship (वन्दस्व), oh ever willing and passionate ones (विप्र) with roaring sounds (तुविराधसो). We follow you, oh leader (नॄन).