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A Vaishnava commentary on Sri Rudram


(The following material was sent to me by the generous shrIvaiShNava bhAgavata personally by email. It fortifies everything that has been said in the main page of this blog beyond attack.)
SrimathE rAmAnujAya namaha.
Srimath varavaramunayE namaha.
Sri Rudram is a portion of the yajur vedam that consists of 11 anuvAkAs. It is also known as Satarudriyam, Rudraprashnam, RudrOpanishad. At a superficial glance, it appears to be directed to Parvati pati Rudran. Indeed the Satarudriyam Mantras are chanted to pArvati pati in the mahAbhArata, but these sections are of dubious authenticity, as we have explained in this article.
It should be noted that according to SrI BhAshyam, VedaVyAsar has rejected the Pashupata Matham (Shaiva, Kapalika, Kalamukha and Pasupata sects) in the Brahma Sutras not only for thewrong philosophical tenets (considering Isvaran as nimitta kAranam only and prakrti as upAdAna kAranam), but also because of the inappropriateness of their upAsaNam vis a vis vedAntA, with respect to the deity they invoke (Shiva) and the practices (smearing ashes over body; wearing rudrAkshA) as well.
So, while pArvati pati may be the devatA for this prashnam, it is inferred from the undeniable birth of rudra as declared in the mahOpanishad and satapatha brahmana that the Rudram addresses the indweller of this devatA, namely, sriman nArAyaNan, who goes by the names invoked in the prashnam. It is also explained by Krishna in the Santi parvam of the mahAbhArata that by worshipping mahEshwarA (pArvati pati), he (Krishna) was worshipping the nArAyaNa in mahEshwarA (ie, the antaryAmin, himself).
Although all the 11 anuvAkAs are meaningful, I will only take the first anuvAkA into consideration. This is because an explanation of this anuvAkA, in my opinion, would be adequate to understand other anuvAkAs, which address the deity by many names. The 1st anuvAkA is a wonderful stuti of the kalyAnagunams of the parabrahman revealed luminously by the Upanishads (srutisirasE vidiptE brahmani srinivAsE).
The Rudram has been commentated upon by the likes of SayanAchAryar and Bhatta Bhaskarar, who are not Vishishtadvaitins. As far as our achAryAs are concerned, SrI ranga rAmAnuja muni has commented on those mantras of Rudram that are repeated in the svetAsvatArA Upanishad, but has not provided a complete vyAkhyAnam. However, the gist of Rudram is clearly brought out in those 2 mantras itself. Furthermore, the Rudram does find indirect references in works such as tattva traya bhAshyam and rahasya traya sAram of srI varavaramuni and srI vedAnta desikan respectively. This write up will be based on these sources.
This write-up is just to highlight that the upAsya mUrthy of Rudram is none other than SrI lakshmi nArAyaNan. SrI Rudram is chanted during pavitrOtsavam and vasanthOtsavam in Vishnu temples.
Before looking at SrI Rudram, it is important to bear in mind the intent of the vedA, which is to proclaim the supremacy of sriman nArAyaNan. So, my next post inthis write up will focus on the following:
1)   Explain the supremacy of Sriman nArAyaNan.
2)   Explain the position of devAs with respect to sriman nArAyaNan.
3)   Explain the position of certain key acharyas of other sampadAyams.
4)   Touch on the frustration of Appayya Dikshitar in his unsuccessful attempts to prove supremacy of rudran.
With this background, I believe a study of the Rudram will be a lot easier.

The vedA is divided into karma khAndam and jnAna khandam. The karma khAndam describes the various rituals and actions that are addressed to Brahman, whereas the jnAna khAndam describes the nature of this Brahman. Of course, the karma khAndam also contains certain clarifying statements (ekam sath...;tad visnoh paramam padam), but these could be misinterpreted without a knowledge of the Upanishads. For instance, `Vishnu' means `all-pervading', so the above statement referring to paramapadam could be interpreted as the abode of a being to which pervasiveness is attributed to, rather than nArAyaNan in particular.
Here, we shall see how all 3 vaidika matha sthApanAchAryas have shown Vishnu is the Parabrahman  of the Veda.
Sri Ramanuja’s Method
Bhagavad rAmAnujar points out that the Upanishads variously describe the cause of the universe as Sath, AtmA and Brahman. In the mahOpanishad, a more specific description of this Cause is mentioned as follows,
"Eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt, na brahma, nEshana…".
"Only nArAyaNa existed prior to creation. There was no Brahma, no Shiva (Ishana), no stars, moon, etc…."
Here, the cause of the Universe, which had been described as Sath, AtmA, Brahman elsewhere is now termed `nArAyaNa'. Furthermore, devas like Brahma and Rudra are clearly mentioned to be subject to pralaya.
According to Panini's AshtadhyAyi (8.4.3), the `Na-kaaram' makes the word `nArAyaNa' a proper noun. The vedas invariably use the `nArAyaNa' term (rolling the tongue for `na-kAram') as opposed to `nArAyana'.
As is well known, proper nouns are specific terms and hence, nArAyaNa is a specific term that denotes the supreme reality. In contrast, Sath, AtmA, Brahman, etc could even denote jivAtmA or prakrti (Prakrti is called `brahman' on account of its greatness as well).
There is a rule known as chAga pashu nyAyA, those general terms (common nouns like sat, atma, brahman) occurring in the same context as a specific term (proper noun like nArAyaNa) would make these general terms connote the specific term. For example, shruti says, ‘sacrifice an animal (paShu) at one point and then later on says, ‘sacrifice a goat’. Since the sacrifice in both contexts is the same, it is correct to interpret ‘paShu’ in the first vAkya as referring to the goat only.
The same logic is applied here. The context for Sath, AtmA, Brahman, etc in various shruti vAkyAs is Universal causality. The same is the context for eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt in the mahOpanishad. Hence, nArAyaNa is the cause of the Universe as denoted by Sath, AtmA, Brahman and other names. Furthermore, the meanings of the name ‘nArAyaNa’ are well-known as indicative of the qualities of parabrahman. Thus, the proper noun, meanings of the name and the context makes nArAyaNa the identity of parabrahman.
nArAyaNa param brahma: tattvam nArAyaNa para: says the nArAyaNa suktam. The mahOpanishad states that nArAyaNa alone existed before creation and specifically rules out Brahma, Rudra, etc. The nArAyaNopanishad, quoted by srI parAsara bhattar, srI lOkAchAryar and srI vedAnta desikan, states that Brahma, Rudra and Indra were born from nArAyaNa (nArAyaNaT brahma jAyatE, nArAyaNat rudrO jAyatE, nArAyaNat indrO jAyatE).
In addition, the satapatha brahmaNa clearly declares that a boy was born to Brahma and started crying. Upon enquiry, the boy replied that he was ‘anapahatapApmA’, ie, not cleansed of karma and that he wanted auspicious names. Brahma then gave him the names of Rudra, Isana, Mahadeva, Pashupati, etc to cleanse his karma (Ref: Sathapatha brAhmaNa – Whereas, nArAyaNa is declared to be apahatapApma in subAlOpanishad.
This indicates that names like mahAdevA, Isana, etc were existent before the birth of pArvati pati and applied to parabrahman, who is identified with nArAyaNa as above. The Satapatha Brahmana ( explicitly recommends naming children with such auspicious names after citing the incident of Rudra’s birth as ‘anapahatapApma’ and his naming. Thus, these names belong to nArAyaNa.
Hence, nArAyaNa is differentiated from the other devas. As they are subject to birth and were absent before creation, it follows that they are jivAtmAs who have been assigned different posts. The subalOpanishad, an authentic upanishad for which SrutaprakAsikAchAryar wrote a commentary, attests that nArAyaNa is without karma (esha sarva-bhUtAntarAtmA apahatapApmA divyo deva: eko nArAyaNa:)
Who is this nArAyaNa then? He is identified as the husband of SrI, Bhu and nilA devi in the purusha suktam (Hrisca te Lakshmisca patnyou). Here, `HrI' is an epithet of Bhu Devi, Lakshmi denotes Sri Devi and the second `ca' after Lakshmi denotes the hidden patni, nilA devi (the existence of nilA devi is accepted by Appayya Dikshitar in his yAdavAdbhyudaya vyAkhyAnam as well; he quotes the Harivamsha for pramAnam for the third pathni). He is the being in the Sun with the lotus eyes (tasya yathA kapyAsa pundarIkam evam akshinI) and a moustache. He has a bluish-black complexion (nIlatoyadamadyasta…) and a golden hue due to Lakshmi's divya tejas spreading from his chest over his body (aditya varnam). He, who is unborn, takes innumerable avatArams (ajAyamAno bahudA vijAyatE). He is identified with Vishnu in the Vishnu GAyatrI:
"Om nArAyaNaya vidmahE, vAsudevAya dimahi, tanno vishnu prachOdayat".
It should be noted that the gAyatri mantras for other devatas start with `tatpurushAya vidmahE', whereas the one for Vishnu starts with `nArAyaNa', which is the proper noun denoting the parabrahman.
For instance, Parvati Pati Rudran's gAyatri is `tatpurushAya vidmahE mahAdevAya dimahi, tanno rudra prachOdayAt'. The gAyatri for GarudA is `tatpurushAya vidmahE suvarnapakshAya dimahi, tanno garuda prachOdayAt'.  It is only for Vishnu that `nArAyaNa' is mentioned in the gAyatri. Thus, the equation of the supreme reality nArAyaNa with Vishnu is established. They are not two different beings, but the one and same.
But there are other sentences like `Siva eva kevalam' (Only Siva existed before creation) and `Eko vai rudrO', etc seeming to attribute paratvam to other devatas. This is reconciled in two ways:
1)        Firstly, terms like `Rudra', `Siva', `Indra', `Agni', `Hiranyagarbha' are common nouns that have general meanings like `Auspicious One', `Foremost One', etc. Hence, statements like `Siva eva kevalam' are addressed to nArAyaNa only as Siva means auspiciousness. The nArAyaNa suktam contains words like `Sivamachyutam', where this is seen explicitly.
2)   The brihadAranyakOpanishad declares that chith and achith are the body of Brahman (yasya Atma sarIram). Hence, by the body-self analogy, all names that pertain the body also are attributed to the Self due to inseparability. Therefore, for instance, Indra declares `mAm upAsya' (I am to be worshipped as supreme) in the Pratardhana VidyA. A similar statement is made by Rudra in the Atharva Siras. Rishi Vamadeva makes the same statement (I was Manu, the Sun) in Br. Up. Prahlada makes yet another such statement in the Vishnu Purana (I am unborn, eternal, lord of all). Here, the `I' in all these cases denotes the atmA of Indra, Rudra, Vamadeva and Prahlada, namely, the indweller nArAyaNa. So, the statement is taken as `Worship the paramAtmA who has all these beings as his body'. The nArAyaNa suktam also reteirates this by saying `sa brahma sa siva sEndra'.
The reason why this interpretational style (sAmAnAdhikaranyam) is needed is simply because these same devas (Brahma, Siva, Indra, etc.) have been described to have births and are non-existent prior to creation.  If we take vAkyas like `Siva Eva Kevalam' as pertaining to ShUlapAni Rudran, it would clash horribly with the Shruti that declares this same Rudran to be subject to birth and death (nArAyaNat rudrO jAyatE, Eko ha vai nArAyaNa……...nEshana) Therefore, this interpretation resolves any contradictions.
To summarize, if a term like `Siva' or `Indra' comes without a description of any specific characteristics, then its general meaning is taken (such as `auspicious') and attributed to nArAyaNa. If the devatA is specifically mentioned to be kailAsanAthan or svargaloka nAthan, the body-soul analogy is adopted and the referrant is the antaryAmin, nArAyaNa.
Considering even rsIs like vAmadeva and jnAnIs like prahlAda have called themselves as Brahman, it is hardly exceptional if Siva or Indra are hailed as such. It is thus appropriate this sarirAtma interpretation is used.
Sri Sankara’s Method
SrI Adi ShankarAchAryA has upheld the parathvam of Vishnu in his prasthana traya bhAshya and Vishnu SahasranAmA. According to Advaita, Brahman alone is real. But at the level of vyAvahArika sath, Shankarar accepts duality and the presence of a saguna brahman. He identifies this saguna brahman as nArAyaNa. Not just that, he has emphatically made it clear that the other devas are still under the influence of avidyA and that it is only Vishnu who is to be worshipped.
Adi Shankara's sishyAs have also upheld nArAyaNa paratvam. Sureshvaracharya, his prime disciple, compares Shankara to Shiva, the VedAntA to Ganga Devi and says that his achAryan ShankarA bears the VedAntA coming from the lotus feet of Vishnu on his head. This is a comparison to Gangadharan Sivan bearing the Ganga coming from the feet of TrivikramA on his head.
Sri Madhva’s Method
Coming back to topic, SrI mAdhvAchArya follows a different method. He attributes every name to Vishnu and mainly uses pramAnams from SamhitAs (such as AmbhrAni Sukta which is claimed to be spoken by Lakshmi). His philosophy of Hari SarvOttama (Hari is supreme over all) is as follows – Just as we say `this army is victorious' which implies that the `King is victorious', as the army actually belongs to the King and is dependant on the King, all statements glorifying devas simply are intended towards the Being known as Hari, Vishnu. Furthermore, all jivAs are the pratibimbas (reflections) of Vishnu, who is Bimba. The reflections reflect the attributes of the original object; similarly, the glory of all devas is a reflection of the glory of Vishnu.
This is the sarva sabda vAchyatvam of mAdhvAchArya. All words and sounds denote Vishnu only. Madhvacharya interprets AmbhrAni Sukta and Manyu Sukta as referring to Lakshmi and Vishnu (Narasimha) respectively.
Some of srI mAdhvA’s proofs are given here. I am merely copying and pasting these. The credit goes to
[PASTE] Vede ramayane caiva purane bharate tatha Adavantau ca madhye ca Vishnuh sarvatra giyate’
If at different places other names like Rudra, Hiranyagarbha are referred, they are only other names by which Sri Vishnu is referred. Sri Vishnu alone has been referred to as Rudra, Indra and other names in the Vedas and Puranas. When Brahma, Rudra and others have been referred as the devotees of Vishnu, these names refer to the corresponding gods who are evolved souls. Thus where we have Siva and Vishnu as one; Siva and Vishnu as Supreme and where we have Siva and Brahma as devotees of Vishnu, we have cogently to interpret as Vishnu who is also known by all the names when referred to as the Supreme God, and Brahma and Rudra and others who are referred to as His devotees as elevated souls in the ranks of gods who worship Vishnu.
‘Yo devanam namadhe eka eva
Which means Vishnu alone bears the names of all other gods and that He alone is the Supreme God worshipped by all these names. Again, this sruti refers to :
‘ajasya nabhau athyekamarpitam’
by which is meant, One who has lotus at the navel viz., Vishnu. Thus, Vishnu alone is referred to by various names of gods. Also all names referred to in the Vedas and Puranas have for their prime import only Vishnu as the Supreme God. This in fact gives the Golden Key to unravel the meaning of the Vedas. Having found this key it is now possible to cogently render all meaning for the various visibly conflicting statements. To this also the credit is due to Sri Madhva, who had the uncommon insight into the correct import of the Vedas and other sacred literature. Thus, in the Narayana Sukta, Vishnu has been referred to as:
‘sa brahmas a sivah sa harih sendrah so(s) ksharah paramah svarat
This obviously does not mean that Brahma is Vishnu, Siva is Vishnu and Indra is Vishnu. But it only means that Vishnu has the names such as Brahma, Siva and Indra, in fact, all names referring to gods. In the Brahmasutra Bhasya, Sri Madhva conclusively proves how every epithet addressed to the gods refers in the prime import only to Vishnu. Therefore, Vishnu alone is Supreme. He alone is full of auspicious qualities and without any blemish whatsoever. Thus we see that the Supremacy of Sri Narayana is the import of the Vedas and all other sacred literature, which we term as Sanatana.
Brahmani brahmarupo(s) sau Sivarupi sivesthitah’
Uddipayan devaganamsa Vishnurdevena rupena’
testify that Vishnu has the forms and attributes of all the gods and all the souls.
‘svasarirantargatavicitra bhagavadakara sadrsakaravatva matrena pratibimbatva muktam’ (Sri Vadiraja Swami)
Thus, even though Sri Hari can be worshipped in various forms and names, we should not forget that He is Supreme, full of auspicious qualities, and other essential attributes of the Supreme God. This is the greatness of Sri Madhva’s exposition. [/PASTE]
To summarize, SrI Adi Shankara uses the terms nArAyaNa, vAsudevA and Vishnu. SrI rAmAnujar uses the terms nArAyaNa, SrinivAsa, purushOttamA and parama purushA frequently. SrI mAdhva uses the terms Hari, Vishnu and nArAyaNa.
During the time of VijayEndra Teerthar, a prominent madhva guru (and also DoddAchAryA of our sampradAya), the shaivite scholar Appayya Dikshitar wished to interpret the entire Vishnu Sahasranama as the names of parvati pati rudran. Since terms like Vishnu, VAsudeva, etc are common nouns, it seemed possible to attribute them to Shiva. But he was unable to attribute the name `nArAyaNa' to Rudran because of the `na-kAram'. Instead, Appayya Dikshitar also tried to interpret nArAyaNa suktam as referring to a tattvam higher than nArAyaNa. This has also been refuted. For one thing, the very next vAkyam says ‘antar bahIsca tat sarvam vyApya nArAyaNa stitha:’, which declares the sarvAntaryAMitvam of nArAyaNa. So, Dikshitar’s interpretation of the previous vAkya clashes with this and is also not valid for other reasons.
The Srikantha Bhashya, a Saiva Vishishtadvaita Bhashya, is wrongly attributed to the 11th century. No vaidika has ever referenced it prior to the 16th century. There has been no documentation of a ‘Saiva Vishishtadvaitam’. Furthermore, the bhashya is a clear copy of Acharya rAmAnuja’s Sri Bhashya with the name ‘nArAyaNa’ replaced by ‘Siva’. Even the places where Sri rAmAnuja used divya prabandham to interpret shruti (kapyAsa pundarIkam evam akshinI:) are replicated, which proves it is a copy since only Sri Vaishnavas use Divya Prabandham to interpret shruti vAkyAs. The book ‘Srikantha Samalochanam’ proves that this srikantha bhAshyam is indeed very recent.
Be that as it may, let us address some arguments by Appayya Dikshita in that bhAshya. He argues that nArAyaNa is not the being in the sun because 1) The attribute of lotus-eyed-ness is not exclusively nArAyaNa's, as even the puranas describe women and kings as lotus-eyed, 2) The third eye is closed, so that is why only 2 lotus eyes are described, which does not negate a third eye, 3) The Rudram describes the Being in the Sun as black/blue-necked.
The refutation of this shaiva argument is easy. All these three points are invalid because, 1) While it is true that women and kings are described lotus eyed, the Chan.Up is describing in that context, parabrahman. For that matter, even common people and kings are described as Satyam, Sarvaj~na, etc which are also used to describe Brahman in a particular context such as ‘Satyam jnAnam anantam’, etc. So, in this context, lotus-eyed-ness is only referring to an epithet of Brahman and nobody else. This can only be Vishnu as he is alone known as Pundarikaksha in the sastras. Even the Shiva Purana, which describes a story of Vishnu plucking out his eye and offering it to Shiva, still admits that it is Vishnu who is Pundarikaksha! So, declaring that Pundarikaksha is Rudra and not Vishnu is against what even Sastras favoring Shiva have declared.
2) The idea involves assuming that there is a third eye, the third eye is closed, the upanishad is not describing the third eye, in which case it is giving an incomplete description. These are 3 more assumptions than the theory which simply assumes the being in the sun is lotus eyed. A theory with more assumptions is rejected in favor of one with less assumptions. Furthermore, even if we take the interpretation that the being in the sun has 3 eyes, it still can only be applied to nArAyaNa, since narasimha is Trilochana. In fact, Sri Ranga Ramanuja muni notes that the being is described to have moustache and attributes it to Narasimha!
3) The Rudram does not describe Nilagriva as the being in the Sun, but in the verse 'Avasarpati NilagrivO vilOhita', it describes Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma as the manifestations of that Parabrahman, denoted as Rudra and 'Asau' (That, signifying parabrahman). Here too, Avasarpati, meaning 'setting, coming down', is used to distinguish Vishnu as an avatara as per ajAyamAno bahuda vijAyatE as opposed to the other two.
This essay was simply intended to show that although all 3 great acharyas had accepted Vishnu Paratvam. And due to all these reasons, the Rudram is taken to refer to nArAyaNa only.
It is mentioned in the mahAbHAratA that the Satarudriyam was chanted to pArvati pati by Krishna and Arjuna (However, this section is of dubious authenticity, as explained here). The Satapatha Brahmana also states that Satarudriyam is chanted to Rudra. How can we then take it as referring to nArAyaNa?
As mentioned above, there are many pramAnams, including the Satapatha Brahmana, that declare Rudra had a birth and was named Rudra, Mahadeva, etc. So, these names were existent before and applied to nArAyaNa.
As we have explained here, when the Satapatha Brahmana says that the Satarudriyam is given to Rudra, it is the mind of the jIvAtmA that is referred to as "Rudra" here, if interpreted properly according to various nyAyas. Even if one doesn't accept this and says that the Satarudriyam is addressed to pArvati pati instead, it must be because he is the devatA for this prashnam. But since the antaryAmin of Rudra is NarayaNa, the Satarudriyam directly only addresses the antaryAmin nArAyaNa as testified by the Br.Up (Yasya AtmA sarIram, anganyAnya devatA), even if one doesn't accept our interpretation of the Satarudriya Brahmana.
Alright, so it denotes the antaryAmin of Rudra. But does that mean the names such as Rudra, Shiva etc denote the antaryAmin of this being as well?
Here, we have the pramAnam from the Brahma Sutram, “Sakshadapyavirodham Jaiminih”. It is mentioned that Jaimini believes all names in mantras, despite indicating the antaryAmin of the devatAs, are also *directly* (sAkshAt) interpreted as referring to nArAyaNa.
The nyAyA is explained as follows. The Upanishads enjoin meditation on the gastric fire, known as vaisvAnara. Here, the Brahma Sutras state that only the antaryAmin of the gastric fire, ie, nArAyaNa is meditated. At the same time, Jaimini’s opinion is that although the meditation is on the antaryAmin of vaisvAnara (gastric fire), the very term ‘vaisvanara’ is a common noun that means ‘giver of life’ or ‘universal being’ and could *directly* connote nArAyaNa, the antaryAmin of the gastric fire known as vaisvAnara. So, the antaryAmin of vaisvAnara (gastric fire) is also named vaisvAnara.
Similarly, the antaryAmin of Rudra is also named Rudra, Shiva, etc. The Narasimha tApanIya Upanishad, which is an authentic Upanishad quoted by Shankara, Vidyaranya, Vedanta Desika, Madhva and Ranga Ramanuja Muni openly refers to Narasimha as Nilalohita, Shankara, Umapati, etc.
Furthermore, the Satarudriyam is mentioned as being offered as a praise to Rudra when he demanded that the devas worship him during daksha yaj~na. This clearly shows, 1) There was a point in time when he actually became the devat-a for the Rudram, 2) The fact that he is ‘offered’ this particular portion of veda shows that he is not referred to by all portions of veda and even for this portion, he is just the devata only and not the actual referrant, 3) the actual referrant is nArAyaNa, the antaryAmin. We do not come across anyone ‘offering’ Purusha Sukta or nArAyaNa sukta at a point of time to nArAyaNa.
Hence, the Rudram only addresses nArAyaNa directly as well. The final pramAnam is from the Shanti parva of mahabhArata, where Krishna explains his ‘worship’ of Shiva to Arjuna:
Mahabharata, Shanti Parva (12.328.5 onwards, dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna), credit goes to Sri Krishna Kadiri for the interpretation:
brAhme rAtrikShaye prApte tasya hy amitatejasaH prasAdAtprAdurabhavatpadmaM padmanibhekShaNa tatra brahmA samabhavatsa tasyaiva prasAdajaH
In the brahma muhurta, at the end of the night, due to the mercy of the extremely brilliant Lord, a lotus emerged from His navel and in that lotus, Brahma was born, ofcourse, due to His grace.
ahnaH kShaye lalAtAchcha suto devasya vai tathA krodhAviShTasya sa~njaGYe rudraH saMhAra kArakaH etau dvau vibudhashreShThau prasAdakrodhajau smR^itau
At the end of the day, the Lord [present as antaryAmi of Brahma *] created Rudra out of krodha-guna, to enable him to be the 'samhara-karta'. Thus, these two 'fine-among-wise', Brahma and Rudra, are known to have been born out of grace and anger respectively.
* This interpretation is necessary because in the later sections of Moksadharma, Brahma addresses Rudra as a son.
 tadAdeshita panthAnau sR^iShTi saMhAra kArakau nimittamAtraM tAvatra sarvaprAni varapradau
Thus, they carry out the instructed tasks of creation and destruction. However, they, the givers of boons to all the creatures, are just the agents.
 kapardI jatilo mundaH shmashAnagR^ihasevakaH ugravratadharo rudro yogI tripuradAruNaH dakShakratuharashchaiva bhaga netraharastathA
[Rudra has] braided hair with knot of an ascetic and rest of the head bald. He dwells in the home of graveyard, steadfast on vigorous penance as a yogi. He is ferocious to Tripurasuras, destroyed Daksayajna and took away the eyes of Bhaga.
 nArAyaNAtmako GYeyaH pANDaveya yuge yuge
O Arjuna, know that in every yuga, Rudra is 'nArAyaNAtmaka'. (This phrase can mean: one whose indweller is Narayana, one who is always immersed in Narayana.)
tasmin hi pUjyamAne vai devadeve maheshvare sampUjito bhavetpArtha devo nArAyaNaH prabhuH
It is the Lord, the prabhu, the Narayana *IN* Maheshvara (the worshipable, the lord of the devas), who is actually worshiped.

ahamAtmA hi lokAnAM vishvAnAM pANDunandana tasmAdAtmAnamevAgre rudraM sampUjayAmyaham yadyahaM nArchayeyaM vai IshAnaM varadaM shivam AtmAnaM nArchayetkashchiditi me bhAvitaM manaH
O son of Pandu, I am, indeed, the Atma, the indweller of this universe and the worlds. Therefore, I worship myself first, even when I worship Rudra. If I did not worship Rudra, the bestower of boons, in such a way (i.e., worshiping the indwelling Lord first), some would not worship Me, the indwelling Lord, at all - this is my opinion.
 mayA pramANaM hi kR^itaM lokaH samanuvartate pramAnAni hi pUjyAni tatastaM pUjayAmyaham
Whatever I follow and give due worth as a pramaNa, the world follows that. Such pramanas have to be duly followed; therefore I follow them.
 yastaM vetti sa mAM vetti yo.anu taM sa hi mAm anu rudro nArAyaNashchaiva sattvamekaM dvidhAkR^itam loke charati kaunteya vyakti sthaM sarvakarmasu
Whoever knows him, knows Me. Whoever follows him, follows Me. (Though) the world, in all its actions, worships two gods, Rudra and Narayana, it is actually one only who is worshiped.
na hi me kenachid deyo varaH pANDavanandana iti sa~ncintya manasA purANaM vishvamIshvaram putrArthaM ArAdhitavAn AtmAnaM aham AtmanA
O Son of Pandu, there is, of course, nobody who can grant Me boons. Knowing that well, I worhip Myself, Who am the beginningless and universal power, known as Sarveshvara, for the sake of getting sons.
na hi viShNuH pranamati kasmai chidvibudhAya tu R^ita AtmAnameveti tato rudraM bhajAmyaham
 Indeed Vishnu does not bow to any one and [even when He bows to Himself], for what sake, but for the sake of showing the path to the wise. Therefore, it is the truth that I worship myself even when I worship Rudra.

 (It is always important to know the rishi, chandas and devatA for each mantra. For the sake of brevity, I am not stating them here. But interested readers can learn this from vidwAns).
om namo bhagavatE rudrAya
Meaning: OM, Salutations to Bhagavan Rudra.
The invocation salutes the Parabrahman as Rudra. The term `Bhagavan' denotes that this Being is possessed of the 6 kalyAna gunams (jnAna, bala, veerya, shakti, aishwarya and tejas) and that he is addressed by the name of Rudra, which will be explained shortly.
Mantram 1
om namastE rudra manyava utOta ishavE nama:|
namastE astu dhanvanE bAhubhyAmUta tE nama:||
Meaning: BhagavAn Rudra! I offer my salutations of "namaha" (not mine) to your anger. I offer my salutations of "namaha" to your arrow and bow. In addition, may my prostrations be to your sturdy arms that carry the bow and arrow.
The Being addressed here is sriman nArAyaNan who is known as RudrA. The vedic rules establish that the primary referrant of all names is Vishnu, who is the Parabrahman of the VedA. So, it is fully within the established norms to attribute this name to Vishnu. Other devatas like Brahma, Siva, Indra are all namesakes who bear the names of Bhagavan and are addressed only in a secondary sense.
Thus, one must be very clear that this mantram is addressing the consort of Lakshmi and not anyone else. He is known as Rudra which has the following meanings:
1)    rum drAvayati iti rudra: - He is Rudra as he is the destroyer of the disease of SamsarA.
2)    rOdayati iti rudra:  - He is Rudra as he makes one shed tears of joy by enjoying his kalyAna gunams.
3)   rudya vAgrUpAya, vAkyam, prApayatEti rudra: - He is Rudra as he is the one who gives the vedic speech to Brahma before creation.(yo brahmanam vidadhati purvamyo vai vedams ca.... – Sve.Up)
These meanings are given by SrI parAsara bhattar and SrI ranga rAmAnuja muni. Indeed, the Vishnu SahasranAma has made it clear that all the names of Rudra, Shambhu, Svayambhu, Shiva, Sarva, Sthanu, Bhava, etc. address nArAyaNa only.
So, it is established that Rudra is sriman nArAyaNan here. Out of these 3 meanings, which meaning is to be taken as the intent of the veda purushan in the first mantram of the Rudram?
Since this mantram addresses the anger of Rudran along with the strength of his arms, it is the 2ndmeaning which seems to fit the context. In other words, the mantra salutes the veeryam and sAttvika krodham of Bhagavan, who is called Rudra here as he makes one weep in joy at experiencing such kalyAna gunams.
Is it possible to enjoy the anger of Bhagavan? Is it not true that anger of bhagavan must induce fear and not joy? Can it not be said that the mood of veda purushan is fear here, which will not induce tears of happiness?
The answer is that even anger is a kalyAnan gunam for sriman nArAyaNan. Ravanan, SisupAlan and Kamsan, who have borne the anger of BhagavAn, have all also realised his greatness at the end. This itself indicates the purifying nature of his anger.
In addition, it is not just the asurAs who enjoy his anger. Even his parama bhagavatas like his anger and enjoy it. Thirumangai azhwar assumed the role of the rakshasas in lanka in periya thirumozhi 10.2. He performed mangalasasanams to the anger of SrI Raaghavan from the role of the rakshasas.
So the idea that bhagavad krodham is an undesirable thing is eliminated. Fear of Bhagavan or anger of bhagavan is enjoyable.
Now, we come to the important point. The Veda Purushan is saluting the anger of Sriman NArAyaNan. But there is more.
Here, in this mantram, we have to meditate on the parama purushan in all his splendour, with an angry frown on his face, brows bent, standing erect with arrow fixed to the bow. He stands as the very personification of kAlam and mrtyu. He, showing all his parathvam and veeryam, is angry with the trespasses of the jivAtmA and intends to destroy the erring chetanan completely.
In what form did Sriman nArAyaNan exhibit such rage? The following slokas from vAlmiki rAmAyaNam will make the identity of the parama purushan addressed by the mantram very clear:
evam uktvA dhanuSh pANiH krodha visphArita IkShaNaH |babhUva rAmo durdharSho yuga anta agnir iva jvalan|| sampIDya ca dhanur ghoram kampayitvA sharair jagat| mumoca vishikhAn ugrAn vajrANi iva shata kratuH||
Meaning: Speaking as above (ie, admonishing samudra rAjan), Rama with his eyes made larger by anger and wielding a bow with his hand, became dreadful to look at, as a blazing fire at the end of the world.
Swaying his terrific bow and making the earth tremble by his violence Rama released the arrow resembling a powerful thunderbolt of Indra (into the ocean).
(~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNam – 6-21-(25-26))
It is said that when sriman nArAyaNa took avatAram as srI rAman, the vedA took avatAram as srimad rAmAyaNam. The above slokas clearly prove that the parama purushan being addressed in the first mantra of Rudram is none other than IkshvAku kula tilakam, SrI VeerarAghavan.
One should note that bhagavAn's eyes, which are beautiful owing to their color and length, were made even larger by his anger. He looked more beautiful in his rage.
So, with this, let us summarize the meaning of the first mantram of Rudram as follows:
"VeerarAghavA (RudrA)! I salute your anger, which is a source of enjoyment for jnAnIs and which enhances your beauty! I salute your bow, which is capable of defeating enemies by itself even without your order. I salute your arrow, even if it is unleashed upon me, as any intent of yours can be nothing but auspicious. I also offer prostrations to your sturdy arms which are beautiful and strong, capable of wielding these weapons".
That SrI rAghavan is meditated upon as such is also the opinion of pArvati pati, who emphatically states:
Sri rAma rAma rAmeti ramE rAmE manoramE
 sahasranAma tatulyam rAma nAma varAnane.
Mantra 2
yA ta ishu: shivatamA shivaM babhUva te dhanuH|
shivA sharavyA yA tava tayA no rudra mRuDaya||
Meaning: Oh RudrA! Your arrow become auspicious (by your grace). Your bow has become auspicious (by your grace). The quiver that bears your arrows has become auspicious (by your grace). Let your bow, arrow and quiver confer all benefits to us and make us all happy.
In the first mantrA, the anger of BhagavAn was enjoyed and saranAgati (namaha) was performed to this kalyAna gunam, as well as the weapons separately. In this mantrA, it is inferred that this saranAgati has yielded fruits. `tavA' is interpreted as `by that' in the sense of `make us happy by all this'. Hence, `tava' refers to his grace which has resulted in the bow, arrow and quiver becoming auspicious to the devotee.
When we say `bow, arrow and quiver', it is not restricted to that, but also to his other weapons like sudarshanam, pAnchajanyam, nandaki, etc.
A question can be posed here as to why does the mantram state that his weapons have `become' (babhUva) auspicious? Weren't they auspicious before?
This is explained as follows: The rishi enjoyed the anger of bhagavAn and he performed saranAgati to please him in the first mantram. Although bhagavad krodham is a kalyAna gunam due to his nature of being `akhilahEyapratyanIkan', it is directed at us only because we have done acts against the sAstras. Hence, in order to rectify our mistake, we perform Atma samarpanam. The `namaha' in the first mantram was indicative of this saranAgati.
Now, in the second mantram, bhagavAn is pleased with this chEtanan. He has a sweet smile on his face. His weapons no longer have the intention to harm us. They have transformed into ornaments that can be enjoyed by the devotee. Furthermore, the devotee, owing to his saranAgati, can meditate on the subhAshraya thirumEni of bhagavAn together with the weapons as both ornaments and as representing different tattvams.
So, his weapons have now, 1) become ornaments, 2) provide jnAnam to the devotee, 3) provide anandam to the devotee. Hence the word, `becoming' is used.
The Rudram is closely connected with the SvetAsvatArA Upanishad. One of the key features of this Upanishad is a description of bhakti yOga culminating in sAkshAtkAram of subhAshraya thirumEni.
Thus, to summarize, his weapons now appear like ornaments to the devotee, who can enjoy his ananta kalyAna gunams now.
Mantra 3
yA te rudra shivA tanUragOrApApakAshinI|
thayA nasthanuvA shantamayA girishanthAbhichAkasIhi||
Meaning: O Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsAra), the creator of Girisha (pArvati pati rudradeva), shine out to us with the body of Yours that is most agreeable on account of causing happiness (shantamayA), and which is auspicious (shivam), which is not terrible (aghorA) and which is of the nature of burning all sins (apApakAsini).
This mantra also occurs in the SvetAsvatAra Upanishad (mantra 3.5). It has been commentated upon by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni. At this point, let me state that the Vishishtadvaitic understanding of the Rudram comes primarily from this illuminating commentary of the great AchAryan. So, I am reproducing his commentary on this mantram here.
Here, Parabrahman is once again called Rudra. In my first posting, I had given the 3 meanings of this thirunAmam. Considering the subject matter of this mantra (burning all sins, showing auspicious form), the context is right for interpreting Rudra as `destroyer of the disease of samsAra'.
He is also referred to as Girishantha. This is explained by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni as follows: girisam tanotIti girisantaH. Girisha refers to pArvati pati rudra. `Anta' refers to limit, which refers to BhagavAn being the limit, ie, origin, source, cause or birthplace of this Girisha. This is the etymologically appropriate meaning.
Why mention he is the creator of girisha here? Because in the SvetAsvatArA, the mantra preceeding this declared this Rudra (BhagavAn) to be the creator of Hiranyagarbha (Brahma). Now, it declares him to be the creator of Girisha (Shiva). Hence, the Upanishad has a particular context in which this mantram occurs, which is also present in the Rudram.
The context of this mantra in the Rudram is described as follows. The devotee has performed saranAgati and bhagavAn's anger is quelled. His weapons have become ornaments and objects of enjoyment for the devotee and have also imparted tattva jnAnam to the devotee. Hence, bhagavAn, out of his nirhEtuka krupa, showed his vishvarUpam to the devotee.
In this mantram, the devotee requests bhagavAn to hide his cosmic form and show his thirumEni as senthAmarai kannan and shanka-chakra-gadApAni, which is shantamayA (agreeable due to causing happiness), shivam (auspicious) and apApakAsini (destroys all sins by conferring brahma jnAnam).
This is the very same conversation that happened in the Gita between Krishna and Arjuna:
 Ma te vyatha ma ca vimudha-bhavo drstva rupam ghoram idrn mamedamvyapeta-bhih prita-manah punas tvam tad eva me rupam idam prapasya (~Gita 11.49)
Meaning: Whatever fear and whatever perplexity have been caused to you by seeing My terrible form (vishvarUpa), may it cease now. I shall show you the benign form to which you were accustomed before. Behold now that form of mine.
arjuna uvaca ~ drstvedam manusam rupam tava saumyam janardanaidanim asmi samvrttah sa-cetah prakrtim gatah (~Gita 11.51)
Meaning: Arjuna said ~ Having beheld this pleasing and unique form of Yours, human in configuration, endowed with grace, tenderness, beauty etc., the excellence of which is infinite, I have now become composed, and I am restored to my normal nature.
Thus, the bhagavad gita is quoted by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni.
Mantra 4
yAmishuM girishanta haste bibharshyastavE |
shivAM giritra tAm kuru mA himsI: purushaM jagath ||
Meaning: O Girishanta (Creator of GirishA/pArvai pati Rudradeva), O Giritra (Lord, who is propounded in the VedAntA), shoot that auspicious arrow you hold in your hand (to destroy the obstacles to my knowledge of Brahman). Do not cause injury to the JivAtmA who is migrating in the samsAra (purusham jagat).
This is another mantra that occurs in the svetAsvatArA Upanishad (mantra 3.6). It has also been commented upon by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni, which I have reproduced here.
In the 3rd mantra, upon the veda purushan's request, bhagavAn changed his terror inspiring vishvarUpam (showing all the universes as his body and everything as his form) into his usual divya mangala vigraham. With this change, the kalyAna gunams of bhagavAn could be enjoyed properly.
Now, while enjoying these kalyAna gunams and the divya mangala vigraham, the mumukkshu faces another danger. This comes in the form of adhibautika, adhyAtmika and adhidaivaka, the three troubles faced by a chEtanan migrating in samsArA.
Therefore, this mantra requests bhagavAn to discharge his sharp arrows at the enemies of the mumukkshu. These enemies are those who hinder enjoyment of bhagavad kaimkaryam and gunAnubhavam. Alternatively, these enemies are also our pApa karmas, which are obstacles as well.
The same happens in srimad rAmAyaNam. When samudra rAjan appeases the anger of SrI rAman, he gets a reply from bhagavAn that his arrow needs a target. Upon hearing this, samudra rAjan makes the following statement:
 tairna tatsparshanam pApam saheyam pApakarmabhiH || amoghaH kriyatAm rAma tatra teShu sharottamaH | (~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNam 2-22-33)
Meaning: (Samudra rAjan said:) I am not able to bear that touch of those wicked people, the evil doers. O rAmA, Let this excellent arrow (that is never rendered in vain) be released over them there.
The display of his divya mangala vigraham is `sAdhu paritrAnam'. The elimination of the bhagavatan's obstacles to enjoying bhagavAn is `vinAshAya ca dushkrita'.
Additionally, even the 3rd mantra containing the description of vishvarUpam can be taken to address srI rAghavan rather than KrishnAvatAram. Because in the mahaAbhArAta (Vana Parvam), Yudhishthira hears the story of how parashurAmA was defeated by srI rAmA during the confrontation with the Vishnu Dhanus. Here it is said that srI rAghavan, becoming angry with the ahamkAram of parashurAman, showed the latter his vishvarUpam, revealing his identity as sriman nArAyaNan. This is not mentioned by vAlmiki maharishi. Just a bit of information for those with a preference for Rama over Krishna!
BhagavAn is Girithra, the One who is revealed in the VedAntA (giri refers to the vedA). It is said in AchArya Hrudayam by Swami Nayanar that the essence of the vedAntA is the nArAyaNa anuvAkam and particularly, srI ashtAksharam (Om namo nArAyaNaya). Hence, sriman nArAyaNan is Girithra, the one known by thirumantram.
Mantra 5
ShivEna VachasA tvA GirisAccha VadAmasi|
YathA na: sarvamijjagadayakshmagum SumanA asat||
Meaning: GirishA (One who is worthy of veneration)! We strive to attain (Accha) you by auspicious words (shivEna vachasA), in such a manner that the moving beings (humans and animals) of this whole jagath will become (by your grace) free from disease and attain comfort of mind (sumanA).
BhagavAn is addressed as girishA here. `Girisha' refers to one who is worshippable in the form of praise (by the veda).
At this point, a question may arise. In mantra 4, the etymological meaning for `girishanta' was taken to mean that this Being is the creator of girisha, which is a specific epithet of pArvati pati. In this mantra, the same Being is invoked as girisha. Yet, this name is not taken to connote pArvati pati. Is this not a double standard?
The answer is no. There are three very simple reasons. One reason is because this Being is addressed as both Girishanta and Girisha, ie, He is the Creator of Girisha as well as Girisha. pArvati pati cannot both be himself and the creator of himself. One must also note that in mantra 4, the term is girishanta and NOT girIshanta, which narrows the term to specifically refer to pArvati pati girisha being created by this Being. So, it would be illogical to take the created being, the husband of pArvati as the object of the next mantram.
Secondly, it has been proven that sriman nArAyaNa, the parabrahman, is the primary referrant of all names in the vedA. It has been emphasised that the other devas have only secondary importance.
The third reason is the context in which this occurs. In this mantram, this Being is approached with `auspicious words'. In such a context, is it not appropriate to interpret Girisha as `One who is venerable/worshippable', which indicates that he alone is deserving of such auspicious words addressed to him? Other commentators have also taken `giri' here to mean `pranavam' or `cloud' or antaryAmin of girisha (pArvati pati) as well but these do not fit the context as well. Therefore, this interpretation of Girisha as the one venerated (by the vedA) fits the context like a glove, which makes it correct.
One must always take the context into account while interpreting vedic names. This is a standard rule for both shruti and smriti texts. Thus, this interpretation is conclusively established as correct.
The word `Accha' means to attain. So, how do we attain this worshippable bhagavAn? We say auspicious words like `JitantE' or `Jaya' or `Svasti' or ‘Namaha’. He cannot be attained by our own effort; we cannot conquer him by force. But by saying we have lost, or that he is victorious, he can be attained.
By such worship, BhagavAn becomes pleased. And when one person starts praising him, other people will join him. The ghoshti of adiyArs continues to increase. In this way, the jagath becomes auspicious. The reference to humans and animals could also be a way of saying that the worshippers will be of different categories – desiring aishwaryam, kaivalyam or kaimkaryam. Or it could be that it causes auspiciousness to the world in general.
Some commentators interpret `Accha' as `pure'. Since he is pure, the words we use to address him also gain their auspiciousness from him. This is also an acceptable interpretation.
As he is Girisha, the One worshipped by the vedA, he deserves auspicious praise. This is reiterated in the Gita as follows:
arjuna uvAca ~ sthāne hrshIkesha tava prakIrtyA jagat prahrRsyaty anurajyate ca rakShAMsi bhItAni diSho dravanti sarve namasyanti ca siddha-saNghAh|| (~ Bhagavad Gita 11.36)
 It is but proper (sthAne) that the whole world of gods, Gandharvas, Siddhas, Yaksas,Kinnaras, Kimpurusas, etc., who have foregathered with a desire to see the battle, should be delighted with You and love You after beholding You by Your grace.
The word ‘SthAnE’ is what is intended by ‘Girisha’ here.
The 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th rks are of great significance and most interesting. Let us recap the last two mantras to understand the significance of the upcoming mantras. We saw that bhagavAn was called `Girithra', one who is known by the vedAntA. To that,  one may pose a question – why should we know the Lord of VedAntA? The next mantra answered that by saying he is Girisha, ie, the venerable Lord. As he is worthy of veneration or worship, he deserves our auspicious words of praise.
The next question we ask is –What makes this Being worshippable and deserving of our praise? The answers are below.
Mantra 6
adhyavOchadadhivaktA prathamO daivyO bhishak|
AhImsccha sarvAn jambhayan sarvAmsccha yAtudhAnyah||
Meaning: May this BhagavAn (sriman nArAyaNa) speak in my favour, He who always speaks in favour of his devotees (adivaktA), who is foremost among upAyams (prathamO), who is known for protecting his adiyArs (daivyO), the best physician (bhishak), who also destroys both perceptible and imperceptible obstacles.
This mantram answers the question as to why he is worshippable. BhagavAn is truly unique in the possession of kalyAna gunams that attract the chetanan. These are as follows:
He is AdivaktA as he considers the doshams of prapannas as bhOgyam and speaks only in their favour. DoshabhOgyatvam is indicative of his vAtsalyam which is his best gunam (deva), hence it is mentioned first in this rk.
He is the foremost (prathamO) both as an upAyam and as a purushArtham.  Daivyah refers to his capability of protecting those with Deva bhAvam (ie, his devotees).
He is the best doctor (Bhishak) to cure the disease of samsArA as evidenced by his name of Rudran (VaidhyO nArAyaNo harih)
He destroys the visible enemies (diseases of body and mind, kAmam and krOdham etc, other samsArIs, troubles by devas, asurAs like hiranyakasipu, etc) as well as the invisible enemies (punya and papa karmas) that prevent us from attaining mOksham (paramam sAmyam upaiti)
"May he speak in my favour" is indicative of AnukUlya Sankalpam as well, an angam of saranAgati. In order for him to speak in our favour, we do not obstruct his nrihEtuka kripa and follow the shAstras properly as prapannas.
So, we have established that he is worshippable. Now, one question arises. In what way can we worship him? What form must we worship him in?
The next rk addresses this question.
Mantra 7
Asau yastAmrO Aruna uta Babhrussumangalah|
Yeh che mAgum RudhrA abhitO dikshusrithAh sahasraSO vaishAgum heDa ImahE||
Meaning: That (worshippable parama purushan) is seen as deep red (as para vAsudevan). He is reddish brown or rose tinged red (as vyUham). He is also golden colored as the supporter of the earth (vibhava avatarams) and is extremely auspicious (as archa avatAram).  He is situated around this jagath in all directions as infinite number of RudrAs (as antarAtma/antaryAmin). We offer our salutations to these forms in such a way that it does not intend disrespect or cause anger.
By far, this and the next rk are the most bewildering ones in ShrI rudram. It was only after perusing the tattva traya vyAkhyAnam of srI varavaramuni that everything  becomes crystal clear.
It is well known that the forms of bhagavAn can be grouped into two categories called `nityOdita' and `sAntodita'. Etymologically, these have two meanings:
1)    Nityodita means that which is always rising (Nitya + Udita). It also means, That (Udita) which is praised by Nitya Suris (Nityas in srI vaikuntA). Hence, this refers to Para vAsudevan.
2)   Santodita means that which rises periodically (Santa + Udita). It also means That which is praised by the Chandas (veda) or the Devas. Hence, this refers to the vyUha forms which occur during shrshtI and disappear after samhAram.
What ShrI Rudram has done is that, it uses the different colors of the sun as an analogy to describe these forms. This is because when we think of the word `Udita' (Rising), we are immediately reminded of the Sun. Since `Udita' is present in `NityOdita/SantOdita', it is an apt analogy. Furthermore, BhagavAn is often compared with the Sun as he dispels the darkness of Ignorance.
That being said, here is the detailed explanation. We can break this mantram into individual words for comprehension.
Asau – That Parama Purushan praised by ShrI Rudram. He is directly perceptible. Since Asau is also often used to indicate the Sun (asau AdityO brahma:), which is visible, he is compared with the Sun here.
tAmro – This means `deep/coppery red' color. The sun is at its deepest red when rising. Since para vAsudevan is nityOdita (eternally rising), he is referred to by this. The deep color is an analogy that indicates that this rUpam exhibits ALL kalyAna gunams. The svarUpa nirUpaka dharmams (satyam, jnAnam, etc) and the nirUpita svarUpa viSeshanams (jnanam, balam, Shakti, etc) can be seen.
arUna – This is a less reddish color as compared to the previous one and indicates the santOdita forms. How? It is because the santOdita forms are the vyUhams. And as we know, in the 4 vyUhams (or 3, as per some achAryAs), only 2 sets of gunams are revealed. Other gunams are hidden. Hence, this hiding of particular gunams and showing others is indicated by this color, which, though being red, is not the deep red (guna paripUrnatvam) of the previous form.
babhrU: - This is the golden color seen at midday. It occurs after rising (deep red) and late morning (arUnam). Hence, it refers to the form after the para: and vyuha:, ie, the vibhava avatArams. The golden color indicates that the deep red svarUpam is hidden and different kalyAna gunams are exhibited depending on the circumstances and purpose of the avatAram. Also, babhrU: means supporter of the earth. So, it indicates the vibhava rUpams who take avatAram for reducing the burden of the earth and sAdhu paritrAnam.
sumangalaH – Very easily interpreted as archa avatArams, the forms in temples and houses. Our achAryAs have always praised this form as the most auspicious and the most complete form. It is the height of soulabhyam and sousIlyam.
sahasrashO rudrAH: - `sahasrashO' here does not mean thousand, but infinite. rudrAH refers to the antaryAmin. So, this refers to his all-pervasiveness and omniscience (aham AtmA gudAkEsa; adiyEn ullAn udaL ullAn). If we take the terms `sahasrashO' and `rudrAH' separately rather than one as adjective, it can convey the two forms of antarAtmA of chith and achith (sarvam khalv idam brahma:) as well as antaryAmin (residing in the heart of all creatures).
Additionally, by describing these forms, this rk is also describing his kalyAna gunam of soulabhyam.  
heDa Imahe refers to praising these forms in a way which does not caused disrespect or anger. In other words, the rk says that though these forms have been described differently, the bhaktan must NOT consider one form as lesser than the other. They are all equally potent and possess all kalyAna gunams despite one appearing after another or one exhibiting more gunams than another. This is as per the veda vAkyams `neha nAnAsti kincana:'. If we ascribe any limitation to a form or say that it is a product of karma or equate these forms to that of manushyAs or devas, it is the height of stupidity (avi~jananthi Mam Muda:, says gitAchAryan).
Also, the fact that we worship these forms in a way to not cause disrespect or anger is prAtikulya varjanam.
SayanachAryar, Bhatta BhAskarar and all the other revered commentators have not interpreted this rk correctly. Despite acknowledging the supremacy of Vishnu in Purusha Suktam and other rks, they have misunderstood this rk as referring to antarAditya vidyA, which is not even relevant to the context nor is hinted here.
Having established the fact that bhagavAn is deserving of praise owing to his kalyAna gunams, and that he can be worshipped in the 5 forms of para:, vyUha:, vibhava, archai and antaryAmin, the question posed now is – how can this being, who has so many forms be approached for worship? Is this worship easy or hard? The 8th mantra clarifies this.

Mantra 8
Asau yOavasarpati nIlagrIvo vilOhitaH |
utainam GopA AdruSaNadrusAnnudahAryah |
Utainam vishvA bhUtani sa drashto má¹›DayAthi nah||
Meaning: That (Rudran) descends (as Vishnu), is (the antaryAmin of) blue necked one (Shiva) and is (the antaryAmin of) the reddish colored one (Brahma). Even the cowherds and women who carry water can see him. He is also thus seen by all beings. May he confer bliss (of the form of bhagavad kaimkaryam) to us.
The meaning of this mantram must be abundantly clear.
Having talked about BhagavAn's soulabhyam in the previous mantram, his sousIlyam is described here.
In order to facilitate others to see, enjoy and perform kaimkaryams to him, BhagavAn has descended into the material world. The term `avasarpati' means `descending' or `coming down', which means that he has taken an avatAram as Vishnu among the devas. Hence, this term `avasarpati' is used to distinguish Vishnu, the sAkshAt pUrnAvatAram of sriman nArAyaNa from the other two, Brahma and Rudra, who are jivAtmAs having bhagavAn as their antaryAmin.
`NilagrIvA' denotes Shiva with the blue neck from swallowing the deadly poison. `vilOhitaH' denotes red color and hence, refers to Brahma who has a reddish complexion due to rajO gunam. The color red always denotes rajO gunam and this color is associated with creation. So, this refers to Brahma.
Thus, this rk refers to bhagavAn's presence as the inner controller of these two devas.
Is his descent only limited to being among the great and powerful devas like Brahma and Rudra? No. The rk beautifully states that even the simple cowherds and women who carry water can see him.
In addition to these two categories, he is seen by all beings. This includes plants, animals, asurAs, nAstikas, etc. He has appeared in many forms (ajAyamAno bahudA vijAyatE) as a boar, fish, dwarf mango tree, a forest, an arrow and many other rUpams as per the purAnas. Nobody is excluded from his krupai. This is as gitAchAryan says `samOham sarva bhutEshu'.                                                                
The last line states that in this way, he gives us the chance to experience brahmAnandam by performing kaimkaryam and enjoying his kalyAna gunams.
`Brahma nArAyaNa: Sivascha nArAyaNa:' says the nArAyaNopanishad and adds that this is the sAram of yajur vedam. Rudram is a part of this yajur vedam. Hence, BhagavAn nArAyaNa is addressed by all sacrifices.
Mantra 9
namo astu nIlagrIvAya sahasrAkshAya mIDhusHe |
atho ye asya saTvAnohaM tebhyokaraM namaH ||
Meaning: Salutations to (the antaryAmin) of the blue necked one (Shiva), the Thousand Eyed One (Indra), the showerer of rains (parjanyan) or One who showers boons (DevaperumAl). I (the veda purushan) also offer my salutations to his adiyArs.
Having described the kalyAna gunams, the Veda Purushan is now saluting BhagavAn in his form as the antaryAmin of his prime vibhUtIs – Rudra, Indra and parjanyan (ref. vibhUti yOga adhyAyam of bhagavad gita).
Or, since `midhuSHE' can be interpreted as a direct salutation to BhagavAn himself instead of parjanyan as he is the one who grants the desires of his devotees like a dark, rain bearing cloud.
The reason why nIlagrIvan is mentioned first is because of what happened at the conclusion of daksha yAgam. After Shiva's altercation with Daksha and subsequent restoration of peace and normality, it was agreed that he (Shiva) would get the major portion of the havis in yAgams. Since the Rudram is part of the yajur vedam that deals with such yAjnas and their fruits, Shiva is mentioned first as an important vibhUti of perumAl.
Second comes Indra, who is associated with jyOtishtOma yAgam and ashwamedha yAgams. He too, is an important vibhUti of emperumAn.
Note that it would be possible to interpret `sahasrAkshan' as BhagavAn himself. But this would mean that `nIlagrIvan' would be the only vibhUti mentioned, which renders it rather out of context if the other two terms (sahasrAkshan and midhUshE) are interpreted as BhagavAn. Thus, it is better to take `sahasrAkshan' as referring to Indra.
Parjanyan is also very important as he is responsible for rains. But here, it can be taken to mean bhagavAn himself rather than parjanyan.
Lastly, the veda purushan offers his salutations with naichyam to the great devotees of the parama vaidika sampradAyam, indicated by the term `satvAnaH'.
Lastly, the mantra can also be interpreted as follows: "Salutations to the black necked Narasimha, who is omniscient and the bestower of boons. Salutations also to his devotees".
Mantras 10 and 11
Pramuncha DhanvanastvamubhayorArthinayorjyAm |
YAsCha tE hasta ishavah ParA tA Bhagavo vapa|| (10)
avatatya Dhanusthvagum sahasrAksha satEshudhe |
NisIrya salyAnam mukhA Shivo nah sumanA bhava || (11)
 Collective meaning:
RudrA! Please untie the bowstring from both ends of your bow. Also, lay down your arrow. (10)
You, who have a thousand eyes, ie, you are omniscient (sahasrAkshan) and bear a hundred quivers, ie, you are omnipotent (satEshudhE), must loosen the bowstring and blunt the tips of your arrows, thus becoming peaceful (ie, confer auspiciousness) to us. (11)
The veda purushan appeased the anger of bhagavAn in the 1st mantram and has elucidated all the tattvArthams required for a prapannan till the 9th mantram. Now, the 10th and 11th mantras once again make a request to bhagavAn to curb his anger.
The context can also be established as follows. Up till now, the veda purushan had described and enjoyed the kalyAna gunams of bhagavAn. Now, he remembers the anger of bhagavAn which had initially impelled him to perform saranAgati. So now, he is saying, "On account of possessing such auspicious attributes and my own realisation of this truth, you have no reason to be angry with me".
The 11th mantram calls him `sahasrAkshan' and `satEshudhE'. This refers to his omniscience and omnipotence. `satEshudhE' means that he bears a hundred quivers. So, he has a plentiful stock of arrows, or in other words, his power is inexhaustible, indicative of omnipotence.
Why mention this? It is to highlight that our prArthanai for dispelling his anger is not the upAyam to dispel said anger. The upAyam to quell bhagavAn's anger is bhagavAn himself, who being omniscient, is aware of the plight of the chEtanan. His omnipotence means that he only is capable of fulfilling the desires of the chEtanan.
The 11th mantram states that he himself, who is omniscient and omnipotent, must loosen the bowstring and blunt the arrows. In other words, he HIMSELF is the upAyam to do this and no-one else. Our prArthanai is not an upAyam. Self-effort is insignificant compared to his grace. He must look on us with a favourable intent (shivam).
Mantras 12 and 13
vijyaM dhanuH kapardinO vishalyO bANavAn.h uta |
aneshaNasyesHava Abhurasya nisHangathiH || (12)
yA te hetirmIDhusHTama haste babhUva te dhanuH |
tayA-smAnvishvatastvamayakshamayA pariBhuja || (13)
Collective Meaning:
May the bow of Kapardin be without his bowstring. May his quiver be without arrows. May his arrows be unable to pierce us. May his scabbard be reduced in power. (12)
BhagavAn who fulfils the desires of his devotees! You protect your devotees with your weapons, which have become the non-harmful bow in your hand, everywhere and at all times. (13)
The 12th mantram refers to the fact that bhagavAn's weapons have become ornaments for his devotees. The term `kapardin' means 1) one with shaggy mane or 2) one with matted locks or 3) one who can do things that are beyond the powers of others. The third meaning fits the context. He alone can protect us and delight us, so he is Kapardin.
It must be noted that Narasimha is also called Kapardin when the 1st meaning is taken due to his shaggy mane.
Or, kapardin can also be taken to mean "one with matted locks", in which case it indicates Shri Rama. It should be noted here that Rama has been described as "jaTAdharaH" in several places in Srimad Ramayana, for example, in ayodhya kANDa:
niriikShya sa muhuurtam tu dadarsha bharato gurum |
uTaje raamam aasiinaam jaTaa maNDala dhaariNam || 2-99-25
Translation: Looking around for a moment, Bharata beheld his elder brother, Rama himself seated in the hut, wearing matted locks.
The 13th mantram states that these weapons, although ornaments to devotees, become fearsome to the enemies of these devotees. He protects his devotees from all sides and everywhere with weapons which appear harmless to his adiyArs. We are reminded of srI rAmAvatAram when srI rAghavan and srI lakshmanan protected the sleeping vAnaras.
Mantras 14 and 15
namaste astvAyudhAyAnAtatAya dhRsHNave|
ubhAbhyAmuta te namo bAhubhyAM tava dhanvane|| (14)
pari te dhanvano hetirasmAnvRNaktu vishvataH|
athO ya ishhudhistavArE asmannidhehi tam.h|| (15)
Collective meaning:
My salutations to your powerful weapons that are not intended to kill us. My salutations go to your sturdy arms that hold the bow. (14)
May your arrows discharged from your bow spare us everywhere. Please keep your quiver far away from us. (15)
 The 14th rk praises his weapons as ornaments. Just as a devotee keeps the parathvam of BhagavAn in mind while enjoying his soulabhyam and sousIlyam, similarly, the veda purushan keeps the prowess and strength of the weapons in mind while enjoying and praising them as harmless ornaments. It is very necessary to understand both aspects.
This indicates the quality of agatithagatana samarthyam (combining opposites) The purusha suktam refers to this as ahO rAtrE (day and night). Contradictory things are reconciled by him. He has both the eagle (Garuda) and the Snake (Adi SeshA) as servants. His weapons are both ornaments and weapons. His body is black colored, which is a color that indicates tamO gunam, but which has transformed into pure suddha sattvam in association with him.
The last and 15th mantram of the 1st anuvAkam, prays for lOkakshemam, or it could be a prayer to avoid Adhibautika, AdhyAtmika and Adhidaivaka troubles.
 A jnAni feels compassion for all the jivAs struggling in samsArA and how they have become objects of bhagavAn's anger. So, the veda purushan, placing himself along with those jivAs as well, asks on behalf of those chEtanAs to be spared from the wrath of bhagavAn's arrows. This is indicated by the term `visvataH'.
Alternatively, since the devas are responsible for natural calamities, the antaryAmin is everywhere and it is requested that the jivAs be spared from these dangers as well, in addition to dangers of body and mind. This seems to be the subject of the 11th anuvAkam which I mentioned at the start as well. So, this could be indicated by `visvataH'.
This completes the first anuvAkam of SrI Rudram. But I will also take up the following mantra and the tattvams behind Tripura Samharam.
namastE astu bhagavan vishveshvarAya mahAdevAya tryaMbakAya
tripurAntakAya trikAgnikAlAya kAlAgnirudrAya nIlakaNThAya
mRtyuJNjayAya sarveshvarAya sadAshivAya shrIman mAhAdevAya ||
Some scholars are of the opinion that this was not originally part of the Rudraprashnam but was added later. But whatever the case, it is a beautiful chant which is not incongruent to our sampradAyam and requires explanation.
Let us summarize the content of the Rudram as follows – The 1st rk saluted the anger of bhagavAn and performed saranAgati. The 2nd rk celebrated his weapons and the 3rd rk showed the distinction between his cosmic form (vishvarUpam) and divya mangala vigraham. The 4th mantram was a request to bhagavAn for using his arrow to destroy the obstacles of brahmajnAnam. The 5th and 6th rks established that sriman nArAyaNa was worthy of praise and that he possessed excellent auspicious attributes such as vAtsalyam, etc. The 7th rk described the 5 manifestations of bhagavAn thus establishing his soulabhyam whereas the 8th rk stated his presence as Vishnu among Brahma and Rudra as well his accessibility to even ignorant people, highlighting his sousIlyam. The 9th rk described his chief vibhUtis, acknowledging that he is the goal of all propitiations and the essence of yajur vedA, of which Rudram is a part.  Mantras 10-15 once again praised the greatness of his weapons ending with a request for protection against all enemies and to not be angry with devotees.
This is the summary of the 1st anuvAkam. It is also the essence of the entire rudraprashnam consisting of 11 anuvAkams.
With that, let us see the meaning of the above mantra. We can break it up into individual names as follows. There is a beautiful sangathi that shows how he performs creation, maintenance and destruction. All meanings are as per the Vishnu sahasranAma vyAkhyAnam of srI parAsara bhattar (note that ‘mahAdevA’ occurs two times and has two meanings):
1)  Bhagavan – The one possessing 6 gunams.
2)  VishvesvarA – Indicates his akhilahEyapratyanIkatvam (devoid of defects) and samastha kalyAna gunAtmakam.
3)  mahAdevA – He who performs the act of creation, using Brahma, Siva, etc who are insignificant when compared to him.
4)  TryaMbakA – One 1) who knows the 3 vedAs, 2) who pervades the 3 worlds, 3) the three eyed one (as Narasimha, he has 3 eyes like sUryan, chandran and agnI. In addition, SrI Satyadharma Tirtha of Madhva Sampradayam gives a very endearing meaning for this name – He who has three mothers (trisrO ambAH) – Kalusalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi as SrI rAmA!
5)  TripurAntaka – He who performed Tripura SaMhAram (Vishnu). The 3 cities mean sattva, rajas and tamas, so he is the destroyer of these 3 gunas for the jivA. There are many other esoteric meanings.
(The destroyer of Tripura is Vishnu. This will be explained shortly).
6)  TrikAgnikAlA – He is the time when the 3 fires are lit. In other words, he is the ordainer of the actions prescribed by the vedA, or he is the true upAyam underlining these actions.
7)  kAlAgnirudra, (antaryAmi of) nIlakanta and mrtyunjayA – These three need to be taken together due to context. The Being known as Rudra (sriman nArAyaNa), engages himself in destruction of the Universe. He as kAlAgnIrudrA, causes mahApralayam. He is the antaryAmin of neelakantan (pArvati pati), who performs the duty of destruction. He stays as the antaryAmin of mrtyu devatA during this time, but even this neelakantan and mrtyu devatAs are ultimately swallowed by bhagavAn. The Upanishads say he uses mrtyu to destroy, then he swallows up mrtyu like a side-dish. Hence, he is mrtyunjayA.
8)  Sarveshvara – In this way (as above), he is the God of Gods such as nIlakantan, mrtyu, etc or he stays the inner controller of the Gods.
9)  SadAshivA – During this pralayam, everything subject to karma is destroyed. Only he remains, as he is apahatapApmA (no karmas can touch him) and hence, the eternally auspicious one (sadAshivam). The upanishadic statement `siva eva kevalam' must be remembered.
10)    Sriman mahAdevA – In this way, united with Lakshmi (srimAn), he is mahAdevA, ie, superior to all gods.
As can be seen, names 1-2 describe his qualities which prove he is the Being who creates, preserves and destroys. Names 3-4 describe his creation and propagation of veda. Names 5-6 describe his leela of maintenance. Names 7-10 describe his leela of destruction.
An alternative explanation is given as follows: I salute bhagavan (narasimha), who is full of perfections and without blemishes (vishveshvara), who is greater than Brahma, Rudra, etc (mahAdeva), who is 3 eyed (Tryambaka), who destroys the triguNas sattva, rajas, tamas (tripurAntaka), who is the upAyam (trikAgni kAla), the destroyer of samsAra dukham who is like kAlAgni to samsAra tApam (kAlAgni rudrA), who is distinctly black necked (nIlakaNTha), who is the victor over samsArA known as mrtyu for his devotees (mrtyunjaya), who is the lord of all (sarvEshvara), who is nirdosha and eternally auspicious (sadAshiva), who attains his devatvam due to his association with srI lakshmi devi, ie, he is mahAdeva because he is sriya pati: (sriman mahAdevA).
So, this concludes my notes on shrI rudram. Before my final thoughts, I'd like to add a note on Tripura SamhAram.
The story can be accessed from various sources. Let me just say what needs to be said. It is believed that Tripura Samharam is indicative of the prowess of pArvati pati Shiva, which is because of the following reasons: 1) He was appealed to by the devas as the one capable of destroying tripurasuras, 2) He attained half the power of all gods, 3) He used Vishnu as the arrow to destroy the three cities.
The mahAbhArata says,
sa kRtvA dhanuroMkAraM sAvitrIM jyAM maheshvaraH |
hayAMshcha chaturo vedAnsarvadevamayaM rathamh ||
Meaning: Maheshvara (pArvati pati) made the Omkara the bow, SavitrI the bow-string, the four vedas the horses, and the chariot from all the gods.
Vedic verses say:
tasyA agniranIkamAsItsomaH shalyo vishhNustejanaM varuNaH parNAni iti 
Meaning: The face (of that arrow) was agni, the dart-head was Soma, VishNu its sharp edge, and VaruNa its feathers.
A closer analysis reveals many things. In fact, it was MahAvishnu who took away the punyam of the asurAs as Buddha. He took away the chastity of the asura's wife by taking the shape of a tree and making her touch it. Furthermore, when the earth shifted from its place, it was he who as varAha, rescued it. It was also bhagavAn who drank up the pool that rejuvenated the dead asurAs to life, thus preventing them from rejuvenating again. It was with his grace that Rudra obtained the powers of the devas.
The mahAbHAratA also states that the bowstring of Bhava (pArvati pati) was made untouchable to the asurAs because he had Vishnu as his inner self.
Lastly, nArAyaNa was the tip of the arrow (with Garuda being the speed of the arrow) or the arrow (with agni as the tip in some versions) that destroyed Tripura.
If we analyse this incident closely, we find the following: SvetAsvatArOpanishad says amrtAksharam hara: Here, `hara' means , `one who indulges in the objects of enjoyment (prakrti)' and hence denotes the jivAtmA. Shiva is known as Haran. So, he is the jivAtmA in this incident.
In the bAnAsura charithram of harivamsha, the siva jvArA refers to its master as ‘Haran, the destroyer of Tripura’.
The whole incident of Tripura samhAram has the inner meaning of upAsanam, ie bhakti yOgam. Shiva is the jivAtma, known as haran, who tries to kill the three cities of sattva, rajas, tamas using upAsaNam. The intent of upAsaNa is aimed to destroy samsArA. This samsArA is due to prakrti (mAyA) that consists of sattvam, rajas and tamas. Transcending these gunams is the aim.
In the incident, the asura mayan builds the three cities, so the parallel is noted.
The various powers granted by gods and the weapons he acquires represent the strength required for the arduous path of bhakti yOga. The help given by bhagavAn (as Buddha, taking away the chastity of the wife, etc) represent his krupai in assisting the chEtanan. The reference to vedas as chariot, brahma as charioteer, OmkAram as bow, etc represent the need for shAstra jnAnam, achAryan, pranavOpAsanam etc as ancillaries for bhakti yOga.
It is said that the devas were not able to bear half the power of Shiva, so they gave half their power to Shiva. This has the inner meaning that the upAyam of bhakti yOga, ie, upAsaNa (indicated by the devas) is insentient by itself and requires the power of the chEtanan (indicated by pArvati pati). As opposed to this, those who adopt BhagavAn Vishnu himself as an upAyam have a sentient upAyam (namely, bhagavAn). But even this upAsaNa requires the grace of Vishnu as an indirect form which is indicated by the various assistances he provided to pArvati pati.
It is said that the arrow or its tip was Agni and Soma. This ‘Agni’ is indicative of the offering of ‘namaha’, essential to sacrifice. The ‘Soma’ here is explained as follows – the chAndogya Upanishad refers to the jivA as ‘sOmarAjA’, ie, one who enjoys sOmA. So, ‘sOmA’ refers to the objects of enjoyment in the universe, ie, long age, health, wealth, etc. As these are crucial for success of upAsaNa, along with the offering of namaha, the mahAbhArata says, ‘agni sOmAtmakam jagath’ with reference to the arrow. The same mahAbhAratA also says the jagath is filled with Vishnu in the next line, which indicates his pervasion of agni and sOma as well.
Finally, what happens? The jivAtmA, ie, Shiva, shoots the arrow. The arrow tip is Vishnu, who is the indirect upAyam for this upAsaNam. Agni is the propitiation offered to him in the form of `namaha', Garuda is the speed. And the act of unleashing that arrow is the small effort undertaken by the chEtanan. The gunams/cities are destroyed by the arrow/parabrahman and the upAsaNa is completed by Parabrahman after the chEtanan has completed his self effort.
The pramAnam for this interpretation comes from my earlier write-up on bAnAsura charithram of harivamsham, where the siva jvAram, while performing saranAgati to bhagavAn, says the following (quoted by me while writing about this history):
ahamasurakulapramAthinAtripurahareNahareNanirmitaH|raNashirasivinirjitastvayAprabhurasi deva tavAsmiki~NkaraH ||
Meaning: I was created by Haran, the destroyer of TripurA. Now I have been conquered by you. You, DevA, are now my prabhu and I am your kaimkaryapArar!
Note the specific mention of `Hara, who destroyed Tripura'. So, the inner meaning is, `I was created by that one (Haran, who indulges in objects of prakrtI), who performed bhakti yOgam. I acknowledge my inability to perform that difficult bhakti yOgam adopted by my creator and perform saranAgati to you, Krishna, (DevA) who are full of vAtsalyam'.
Thus, the tripurAsura vadham is explained. In our ithihAsAs, all historical incidents like bAnAsura charithram, tripurAsura vadham, etc have inner meanings as well. BhagavAn performs his leelas in a way as to impart meanings of shAstrAs.
Of course, the purAnams like shiva purAnam try to hide this significance of the arrow by saying Shiva destroyed Tripurasuras by a smile and did not release the arrow. This version, however, is rejected on account of the invalidity of tAmasa purAnAs as per the traditions of all veda mArga achAryAs. The bAnAsura charithram using the specific name of Haran is itself a sufficient pramAnam.

And just as Tripura SaMhara tattvam shows Rudra is a jivAtma doing upAsaNa, the bAnAsura charithram also is no different. In this, Rudra opposes Krishna and shoots many arrows. Finally, Krishna quells Rudra with the jrimbhAnam astra, which makes him yawn. This is mentioned in Harivamsha , Vishnu and Bhagavata purAnAs. The inner meaning – The chEtanas keep opposing Bhagavan’s efforts to bestow his anugraham with acts against shastras. This is equivalent to Rudra firing arrows at Krishna. Bhagavan however, patiently bears with their opposition and counters it, persevering. Similarly, Krishna countered Rudra’s arrows. Finally, when the chEtanas do not relent, he induces pralaya to cause dissolution of the universe and keeps the chEtanas in a ‘sukshma’ form for awhile, so that they cannot do anything to oppose him and creates them anew to give them opportunity for sAdhana. Just like this, Krishna used the jrimbhAnam to make Rudra ‘yawn’ and thus, become fatigued/inactive, unable to fight anymore, like how pralaya makes the chEtana inactive.
In all instances, Rudra is a jivAtma, in both literal and metaphorical interpretations. Both interpretations must be taken as valid, ie, the event really happened and also had the inner meaning as such.
I would like to say that it must be clear that ShrI Rudram is praising Sriman NArAyaNan only. It is equivalent to Purusha and NArAyaNa suktams in greatness. Bhagavatas must not have any problem in listening to it or reciting it.  Vedaisca sarvair aham eva vedyAH, says gitAchAryan.
The other anuvAkas dwell on his different kalyAna gunams and address him by names pertaining to his deeds, gunams and vibhUtIs, and they have been dealt with in a separate article. Thus, the Satarudriyam praises sriman nArAyaNan only.


  1. Dear Swami,
    Brilliant write up...Too good...


  2. Just wondering... like naaraayaNa, you also have baadaraayaNa, chaandraayaNa, aasuraayaNa, etc. With the 'n' you have words like kaamukaayana, aatishayana, kaatyaanana, vaatsyaayana etc. All are proper nouns. All have a plural form like every other noun in Sanskrit. So how is the N in naaraayaNa of any use to proving anything?

    1. You need to look at Panini sUtras in AshtadhyAyi 8.4.1-8.4.3

      8.4.1 states "if a non-compound word has the consonant r (or the vocalic R^i) or Sh, followed by a n sound, the 'n' should be rendered as 'N'

      Eg., karNa, viShNu etc.

      8.4.2 states that if the r/Sh and the n are separated by arbitrary combinations of letters that are either vowels, consonants in the ka-varga, pa-varga, or the semivowels ya-ha, the rule of changing 'n' to 'N' still applies.

      Eg., kaaraNa, kaaryeNa, maargeNa, raavaNa, kareNa, vaaraNa, kR^ipaNa, arpaNa, bhaaShaNa, bhaaShyeNa, lakShmaNa, etc.

      Now, the above two rules do not apply to compound words, but only simple words i.e., "samAna pada"

      8.4.3, 'pUrvapadAt saMj~nAyAM agaH' gives an exception: the above two rules also apply to compound words (i.e., has a samAsa) if and only if there is no 'ga' in the first part of the compound and if the compound is a given name (proper name, not to be interpreted according to etymology).

      The first set of examples satisfy 8.4.3, whereas the second set does not satisfy it, since it does not satisfy 8.4.1 in the first place.

  3. Is the purpose of your blog, to establish vishishta-advaita or the supremacy of vishnu?

    1. To establish the supremacy of Vishnu. Since we both subscribe to Vishishtadvaita, our commentaries are from that standpoint.

      That said, discussions about Vishistadvaita vs. dvaita, Advaita vs. Vishishtadvaita, dvaita vs. advaita are beyond the scope of this blog.

  4. Very good one, Swami. Amazed to know the multiple meanings of TryaMbakA and also enjoyed the links between Srimad Ramayana and these mantras. Pallaandu!!

  5. Dear Bhagavatas

    You write - During the time of VijayEndra Teerthar, a prominent madhva guru (and also DoddAchAryA of our sampradAya), the shaivite scholar Appayya Dikshitar wished to interpret the entire Vishnu Sahasranama as the names of parvati pati rudran. Since terms like Vishnu, VAsudeva, etc are common nouns, it seemed possible to attribute them to Shiva. But he was unable to attribute the name `nArAyaNa' to Rudran because of the `na-kAram'.

    In which of his works did Appayya Dikshita try to establish all names of Vishnu as applying to Shiva? Did he explicitly acknowledge his failure to attribute the word Narayana to Shiva?

    Also, where can I find the commentary on Narayana suktam by Appayya Dikshita?

    1. To be honest, this Sri rudram isone of the first articles we ever wrote for the blog. At that time, we had not delved deeply into research.

      So, this statement of ours that appayya tried to interpret the entire Vishnu sahasranama as referring to Shiva paratva is likely wrong. Based on what we know now, Appayya attempted no such thing. Apologies for that.

      However, it is a fact that Appayya acknowledged narayana as parabrahman in his Ananda lahiri. As for failure, the proof is in his own works where he repeatedly reverses his own position after failing to establish his view. He first refers to rama as a jiva in one work and then says rama is verily parabrahman in another, declares rudram did not receive Ganga from vishnu's feet but later on contradicts by saying Ganga rose from the feet of vishnu and landed on Shiva's hair, etcetera. Also, he alternates between veerashaiva, Shakta, hari-hara aikya and sada Shiva turiya vada in his works to prove supremacy of Shiva, which again shows hid methods were not working. A repeatedly changing stance is a sign of failure.

      He has not written a commentary on the narayana sukta. Rather he has tried to show Shiva paratva in narayana sukta mantras and claimed narayana as lesser than Shiva (which he again contradicted later by hailing narayana as the highest in the anandalahiri). You can refer our article on narayana sukta to see how appayya interpreted some mantras and how his views were defeated.

      In the meantime, out of pure curiousity, why the desire to read Appayya's comments on narayana suktam? Do you subscribe to a non-vaishnava school of thought (no issues of course if you do)?

      HBB will give you more information on Appayya's works if you Wang specific details.

    2. Thank you Sri Aryamaa. No need to apologize. It is very difficult to get everything right.

      May I then suggest that you remove the incorrect portions from your blogs. It will only give opportunities for your opponents if you keep these incorrect portions.

      "In the meantime, out of pure curiousity, why the desire to read Appayya's comments on narayana suktam?"

      I am a firm believer in supremacy of nArAyaNa, having found lot of evidence for the same in the scriptures. I want to know what the opponents like Appayya Dikshita are thinking.

    3. The mistakes are only limited to early articles and even there they are very minor. They don't change the overall view at all.

      For instance, I think the commentary for some of the mantras in the 3rd anuvaka of Rudram needs to be reviewed as it looks slightly dodgy. But it does not change the context of the whole article at all.

      So we don't see any hurry in making corrections. We will get to it eventually. By now, the readers are probably able to discriminate for themselves.

    4. It is interesting to note that Sri Appayya Dikshita tried to prop up saivam mainly because at his time vaishnava-saiva conflict was felt to be excessive and traceable to thatachar family. However Appayya Diskshita himself was also a vishnu bhakta and had a great admiration for Vedantha Desika also. Appayya Dikshita himself has a written a stothram on Kanchi Varadaraja swamy imitating sri vaishnava stothrams on this Lord. Appayya Dikshita was also a part vaishnava from his grand mother side! So we can dismiss appayya dikshita's antiques as just that. He was parama vaishnava at heart. He used his erudition to prop up the other side. As for me, I do have great admiration for great personalities from other schools though I am a Sri vaishnavan. From my perspective, Appayya Dikshita, Vidraranya, etc. are vaishnavas only. As indicated in the blog in many places including my small responses here and there, vedic tradition emphasizes vishNu and nArAyaNA only as saguna parabrahmam. The foremost pramanAs for us are Atreya Brahmana verse 1 and sandyavandana mantras. All the vedic rks have nArAyaNA as antaryamin. He is also Indra, etc. per nArAyaNa suktam.

    5. With all due respect to you, we do not consider Appayya Dikshita as 'parama vaishnava at heart'. Please read our introduction under the "Hari/hara abheda vAda" section. If you disagree, you can elaborate further how he was "parama vaishnava".

    6. <<>>

      Maybe if you actually examined why he wrote Vishnu stotras, it would be clear.

      Appayya was initially a veerashaiva who has the audacity to claim Sri rama was a jivAtma and was affected by karma. These theories were soundly criticized as bhagavad apachara by other advaitins like Nrisimhasrama. Later on, Appayya realized that he was going too far and changes his stance to a more "moderate" sada shiva turiya vada where vishnu is accorded some brahmatva, though inferior to Shiva. It was in this mood that he composed vishnu stotras.

      He was an admirer of Vedanta desikan's poetry, not the philosophy. I have seen many Sri vaishnavas say this in defense of dikshita. The fact that he praised Vedanta desikan does not elevate or degrade our acharya in anyway. In the yatiraja saptati, Desikan himself described the philosophy of appayya as venom emitted by one of the hoods of Kaliya on the waters which are the Veda.

      Appayya's stotras are grammatical and literary accomplishments. However, they lack the knowledge of bhagavad tattvam and are merely generic in praise of bhagavan. I am saying this as one who has read them. Read the "Introduction to hari-hara aikya vada" to see how Appayya misinterpreted the yAdavAbhyudaya of Vedanta desikan. Appayya did not even understand the concept of "sausIlya" guNa, a basic vaishnava concept that even other advaitins like Sridhara and Sarvajnatman understood.

      Even vernacular compositions of bhaktas like Meerabai have more anubhava and bhagavad tattva than the grammatically superior sanskrit stotras of Dikshita. As the Bhaja Govindam says, "what use is grammar without true knowledge"?

      We of course, do not insult Appayya as a person. He was probably a sagely personality. We only condemn his philosophy. The definition of "vaishnava" does not mean one who considers vishnu as lower to other devas.

    7. Additionally, I would like to point out that some "Sri vaishnavas" proudly quote Appayya's folowing words as a praise of Desika - "If it wasn't for the works of Desika which are irrefutable, I would have destroyed the philosophy of sri vaishnavas like a cow grazing on grass".

      This is not praise. This is an insult to other Sri vaishnava acharyas like Sri Nathamuni, Sri Yamuna, Sri Ramanuja, Sri Vishnu Chitta, Sri Vatsya Varada Guru, Sri Lokacharya, Sri Vara Vara Mini - all acharyas before and after Sri Desikan who wrote works establishing tattvas. If true, Appayya's statement reads as though our sampradaya is weak, that the other acharyas' works do not count and is only propped up by a few works of Sri Vedanta Desikan, who only followed the acharyas before him and was followed by the acharyas after him.

      Clever of Appayya to disguise an insult under the cover of praising Sri Desikan. The latter acharyan is a colossus of Vedanta, praised by all scholars of his times and does not need Dikshita to validate his greatness.

  6. The point is Appayya Dikshita's stunts can be dismissed. He was at least partly a vedic vaishnava. He had to do sandayavanam using vishnu nAmAs, say apaupasparsya after reciting rudra mantras, say RudrAyA vishNAvE at the end of rudram, say agna vishno sajoshasemavardantu in chamakam, etc. as a part of his rituals. The vedic tradition enveloped with nArAyAna and vishnu tatvam whether he liked it or not. If he vascillated back and forth, it only indicates that he could not whole-heartedly be a saivaite. His erudition led him astray. We should dismiss his objectionable works and statements as just stunts. Let him rest in peace! Ramayana, Mahabharata, satvika tatvam permeating the vedas, etc. point to supreme role of Hari. Let us rejoice in this aspect.

    1. His "stunts" cannot be dismissed. He was performing nitya naimittika karmas sanctioned by the Veda, but his philosophy and anushtAna of those very karmas (offering it to Rudra) is unvedic. The ShAsta declares that vaidika karmas do not bear fruit unless dedicated to vishnu. Appayya did not dedicate his karmas to vishnu as the supreme god. He was a Shaiva.

      Plenty of Shaivas like some of the Nayanmars were Brahmins who recited the Rudram, performed Sandhya etc. This does not make them "partly vaishnava". There is no such thing as "part vaishnava" or "three quarters vaishnava" for that matter. A person is a vaishnava or an a-vaishnava, simple as that.

      Performance of karmas is not a measure of gauging vaishnavatva.

      Enough on the subject. Unless you have rational arguments, please do not post fantastical statements claiming Appayya to be a vaishnava. Additionally, you seem to dwell on sandhya and that aitreya brahmana verse as the be-all and end-all of Vedanta. It is not so.

    2. Many articles in this website provide a lot of pramanas from vedantha and puranas. But they do not mention one of the most ancient ideas that the brahmanas have been implicitly following for ages and which demonstrate the vishNu tatvam. That is why I am citing atreya brahmana verse 1 and sandyAvandana mantra. They explicitly portray what the vedic tradition emphasizes – vishNu aka nArAyAnA is saguna parabrahmam. Let our opponents know our position that is deeply rooted in the common practice that we are required to follow and its import. Vaikhanasa kalpa sutram also mentions atreya brahmana verse 1 explicitly. The rg veda pancha suktam called as rg veda pavamana suktam also amply demonstrates the pavitratvam of vishNu. I am citing additional pramanas like these to add to the good articles that have been written up here. Also vedanta has been indicated to be the crest jewel in the sarvadarsanasangra of Vidyaranya. Therein all darsanas (including saivam) except Vedanta and vaishnavam are debated out. Despite what we all have to say in this matter the dual between saivam and vaishnavam will continue until vaishnavam figures out how to pull all into its fold with gentle arguments or by force. Moreover the point to convey to the opponents is this. Atreya brahmana ranks the gods in ascending order from agni to vishNu. Why? Agni is visible and havya vahanam. VishNu is everywhere, invisible, invincible, and is full of gyanam, balam, aiswaryam, viryam, sakti and tejas. He is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent aatma of karma kanda and gyana kanda. Even if a little of the natural force can be felt by our senses the deity gets classified lower than vishNu per what we can infer from atreya brahmana. We can also state numerous pramanas about aatma and paramaatma and vishNu’s paratvam. All the vedantins know them. Let me not repeat them here. You have also cited quite a few in the articles here already. We can also state the equality we profess as follows. Aatma and paramatma is everywhere. Ekam Sath. VishNu is everywhere. Vishnu is also nArAyaNA. So paramaatma = Ekam sath = VishNu = nArAyaNA. All other devatas are our preferred perspectives depending on time and space and mood. Arguments to the contrary by the non-vaishnavites are just pointless and contrary to crest jewel of sruti. The opponents do not necessarily come from the primary vedic tradition even though that may be disguised as brahmanas or vedists. They are influenced by agamic and tantric traditions that are contrary to veda-vedanta vaishnavam. Debates will continue as the core purport of sruti as I am trying to portray here is not their core belief. ( please replace my previous reply with this one.)

  7. Namaskaram,
    If you take this catholic approach to Sri Rudram and assert it is about nArAyANA only, why it is used in normal Sri Vaishnava households for pArAyaNam etc.? Why is it not recited in Sri Vaishnava Temples? I am just asking your kind opinion on this matter. I am Sri Vaishnavan myself and like the ring of these mantras. What do agamas say about reciting Sri Rudram in Sri Vaishnava temples? As a side note, I came to know recently that madhvAs recite Rudram as they do tirumanjanam to sALagramam on Siva rAtri - an interesting practice that Sri Vaishnavas would not normally think highly of.

    1. The entire body of shruti praises Sriman Narayanan alone as supreme:

      "vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyaH"

      "vede rAmAyaNe ... Adau madhyau tathAca antau hariH sarvatra gIyate"

      Thus is the position of all pUrvAcAryas.

      Does that mean *every* Rk, sUktam and prashnam of the shruti is recited in Srivaishnava Temples for specific purposes like thirumanjanam, other than in general pArAyaNam? Obviously not.

    2. Sri Rudram, Aruna Prashnam, etc can be chanted and listened to by all Sri vaishnavas. It is recited in temples during all major utsavas and also during porappadu (procession).

      Obviously, importance is given to purusha and nArAyaNa suktas as the veda itself declares these to be the most important.

      The chanting of Rudram in Shiva temples is irrelevant as these temples and such practices are based on agamas which are unvedic.

      The pAncharAtra contains the mantra raja pada stotra in the ahirbudhnya samhita. This stotra declares that the essence of Sri Rudram is Lord Narasimha and this is verified in the nrisimha tApanIya itself. The author of this mantra raja pada stotra is Rudra himself.

      If you want to recite Rudram, please go ahead with no hesitation as you would for the nArAyaNa sUkta.

    3. Meant to ask.. why it is **NOT** used in normal Sri Vaishnava households for pArAyaNam etc.? Thank you for providing a quick reply. Nice to know about mantra raja pada stothram is from ahirbudhnya samhita. Adiyen wrote a personal commentary on the equivalent stuti/mantra in nrisimha purva tApini upanishad myself. I was wondering if there is any specific proscription against chanting Rudram in Sri Vaishnava households. Perhaps not. Thank you for your reply again. You should add more articles to this web site especially Sri Rangaramanuja muni's commentaries on upanishads. Smartas would be quite interested in them. Of course adiyen is interested in them as well. Regards.

  8. I am saddended that you spend so much efforts on proving Narayana's supremacy :-) to even think that Narayana and Eswara are different! The parabrahmam has no form. Sivaya vishnurupaya sivarupaya vishnave! HH Kanchi Paramacharyal, called the walking god used to say "Sri Hari, Sri Hari" when he woke up, but performed Chandramouleesvara pooja all his life. To say Sri Rudram is meant for Nrsimha does not make a difference for Advaitins. We are in 2016 - let us bury age old differences and realize the true parabrahman in all of us. Hari narayana dhuridha nivarana paramandha sada shiva shankara!!

  9. ps. - Also going by such interpretations, Sri Hayagriva perumal who gave us the Lalitha Sahasranama says

    "Dasavataras originated from the nails of 10 fingers of Para Amba "karanguli nakhotpanna Narayana dasa kritih.." :-)

    1. If you are too lazy to consider and ponder on the massive heap of evidence against the pop-culture of hari-hara aikyatva, and want to accept bogus texts like Lalita Sahasranama as an authentic purANa, so be it. We have nothing against you following what you like.


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