Vishnu in Rudram

This post is a humble attempt to translate this brilliant article by Sri Hari Sriramamurthy published in Rushipeetam monthly spiritual magazine in Feb 2007.

Note: No copyright violation is intended in this work. It is only an attempt to put across excellent points made by the author of original piece to a wider audience. If you represent Rushipeetam in any way and find that copyright violation happened, please write to me and I will take this piece down.

Translator’s Note: Original piece titled “రుద్రం లో విష్ణువు” (Rudram Lo Vishnuvu meaning Vishnu in Rudram) written by Sri Hari Sriramamurthy was published in Rushipeetam. A scanned copy of the article can be found at “Rudram lo Vishnuvu by Hari Sriramamurthy“. Following is a translation of the same. The explanation points mentioned at the end are added by me to help the uninitiated reader. Please do leave a comment in case you have any questions/corrections/suggestions to make the translation closer to the original.


Generally it may look as if Gods and Godesses worshipped in the world like Sun, Shakti (Ambika), Ganapati, Vishnu, Siva etc., are different/distinct from each other. This difference is seen in an amplified fashion especially between Vishnu and Siva. Education through even umpteen number of sastras seems to be in vain. The objective of this article is to show that Siva and Vishnu are not different from each other but are the same.

By showing that difference between Siva, Vishnu and other Gods and Godesses is ignorance, that one paramatma (universal consciousness) manifests itself in various worships, that any of these deities may be worshipped to ultimately worship that one paramatma, and by proposing “panchayatana puja” to achieve this, Adi Shankaracharya did an immense good to the world.

Similar to

सर्व देव नमस्कारः केशवं प्रतिगच्छति  |

meaning of

शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिव रूपाय विष्णवे
शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णुर्ह्रुदायग्० शिवः |
यधाशिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयं शिवः
यधान्तरनपस्यमि तधामे स्वस्तिरायुषि ||

is “Siva is a manifestation of Vishnu. Vishnu is a manifestation of Siva. Siva’s consciousness is Vishnu. Vishnu’s consciousness is Siva. As long as we do not see a difference between the two, our health (society’s health) remians strong”.

In Siva Sahasranamam, Siva is referred to as

  1. हरिश्च हिरनाक्षच
  2. सुतीक्षः कृश एवच
  3. विश्वक्सेनो हरिर्यज्ञः
  4. वैष्णवः प्रजविताळि
  5. धाता शक्रश्च विष्णुश्च

In Vishnu Sahasranamam, Vishnu is referred to as

  1. स्वयम्भूश्शंभुरादित्यः
  2. रुद्रोबहुशिराबभ्रुः
  3. भूतपतिः
  4. सर्वशर्वः शिवस्थाणुः

These references clearly indicate Siva-Vishnu non-duality in Hindu Culture.

Rudram means Rudradhyayam (रुद्राध्यायं )[1]. This is also referred to as Shatarudreeyam (शतरुद्रीयं), Rudropanishath (रुद्रोपनिशत्). It constitutes Namaka (नमक) and Chamaka (चमक) Mantras. These are taken from Yajurvedam. They are used in Rudrabhiskeham[2] (रुद्राभिषेकं). Sayana, Bhatta Bhaskara, Abhinava Shankara, Vishnu Suri wrote commentaries[3] on these mantras. A study on these mantras and these commentaries reveals that these mantras talk about Sun, Siva and Vishnu.

उतैनं गोपा अद्रुशन्नद्रुशन्नुदहार्यः |
उतैनं विश्वा भूतानिसदृष्टो मृढयातिनः ||

  1. based on interpretation for Sun :
    येनं = This Surya
    उदहार्यः = उद – water, हार्यः – taking or absorbing i.e., absorbing water
    गोपाः = gopikas ; गोपाः = गाः – Earth , पाः – Saving or protecting i.e., Sun Rays
    अदृशन् = watched or saw or noticed
  2. based on interpretation for Rudra (Siva):
    येनं = This Rudra
    उदहार्यः = (उत् – अहार्यः) whose souls were taken away (up)[2]
    गोपाः = humans, living beings
    अदृशन् = watched or saw or noticed
  3. based on interpretation for Vishnu :
    Three different interpretations have been proposed.

    1. येनं = This Vishnu
      उदहार्यः = fetching water
      गोपाः = gopikas
      अदृशन् = watched or saw or noticed
    2. According to Vaijayanti Kosha, Harii (हरी) means jaarastri (जारस्त्रि) i.e., woman who is corrupted/spoiled
      कन्या प्रसूतिजा जारी हरी नाम्नैव दूषित
      – वैजयन्ती कोश 87-96
      So, haaryah (हार्यः) means women who are corrupted/spoiled.  Thus “na haaryah” (न हार्यः) or ahaaryah (अहार्यः) meaning those women who are not corrupted/spoiled. (Since uth – उत् – means noble) So udahaaryah (उदहार्यः) means those women who are not corrupted but are noble women.
      Gopaah (गोपाः) = Gopikas
      Yenam (येनं) = This Krishna
      Adrushannadrushan (अद्रुशन्नदृशन्)  = (अदृशन् + अदृशन्; अदृशन् means watched, noticed or saw)[3] Noticed, watched or saw again i.e., Gopikas saw Krishna again and again and they felt blessed
      This means
      even though noble Gopikas were in rasaleela[4] (rasa dance) with Sri Krishna, they were not corrupted/spoiled but remained noble.
    3. Ahaaryah (अहार्यः) means a mountain according to Amarakosha – आहार्य धर पर्वताः. Udahaaryah (उदहार्यः) means the one who lifted a mountain i.e., Govardhana mountain – Sri Krishna. Thus it means Gopaah (गोपाः) i.e., Gopikas adrushan (अदृशन्) i.e., saw, noticed or watched such a Krishna and felt blessed.

Narayana Teertha (नारायण तीर्थ) called Gopikas as a manifestation of Vedas by referring to them as Srutayah (श्रुतयः). A similar reference to Gopikas as manifestation of Vedas can be found in Bhagavata Puranam.

इति गोप्यः परानन्दं गायंतस्त्याः पृथक् पृथक् |
अपराः श्रुतयोः भूयो भूयो तत्रैव संगताः ||

– कृष्णलीला तरंगीणि

This summary comes from Narayana Teertha’s[4] observation on Mantras in Yajurveda and Shlokas in Bhagavata Purana in Krishna Leela Tarangini.

Putting all these interpretations in perspective,

येनं = This Paramatma (supreme being) devoid of all attributes and properties
उदहार्यः = उत् – noble, good अहार्यः – that which cannot be taken away or stolen or doesn’t vane
गोपाः = Vedic Mantras
अदृशन्  अदृशन्  =  noticing, watching or observing again and again

Vedic Mantras, which are noble and which cannot be taken away, stolen or vane, proclaim us to observe in them, a paramatma (supreme being) devoid of all attributes i.e., Sun, Siva and Vishnu are manifestations of paramatma (supreme being).

In Rudram,

नमो गिरिशायच शिपिविष्टायच |

Commentaries indicate that “shipivishta” (शिपिविष्ट) is a reference to Sun, Siva and Vishnu.  Sayana refers to Vishnu as

विष्णुमूर्ति धारी शिपिविष्टः |

which means Shipivishta is a manifestation of Vishnu. Vedas refer to Shipivishta in a similar way.

विष्णुः शिपिविष्टः |

In Vishnu Sahasranamam, Shipivishta is referred to as

नैकरूपो बृहद्रूपः शिपिविष्टः प्रकाशनः |

In Siva Sahasranamam, Shipivishta is referred to as

शिपिविष्टो अम्बिकानाधः |

In Naanardha Sangraha Kosha, Vishnu and Siva are referred to as Hari and Shankara respectively

शिपिविष्टस्तु दुश्चर्म खिल्वात हरिशन्कराः |

Vishnu Suri’s commentary explains

शिपयो जीवाः, तदनुसंधाता शिपिविष्टः सर्वसाक्षी रुद्रः |

This means “Shipis are living beings. Rudra as the all pervading consciousness protects them by being their conscience”

In Taittriya Samhita,

यज्ञोवै विष्णुः, पशवः शिपिः, यज्ञ येव पशुषुः प्रतितिष्ठति |

– तैत्त्रिय संहित 2-5-5

Adi Shankaracharya in his commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama and Vishnu Suri in his commentary proclaim

शिपयः पसवः, तेषु विशति प्रतितिष्ठति यज्नरूपेण इति शिपिविष्टः |

Cattle are also called as Shipis. Vishnu in Yajna manifestation, enters their inner consciousness and protects them as Shipivishta.

Thus one can see Vaishnavam in Rudram.

Also in Rudram,

नमस्ताराय नमस्चंभवाय च |

Tarah (तारः) means that which blesses. This mantra talks of Siva (Rudra) who blesses. In Vishnu Sahasranamam,

अशोकस्तारणस्तारः |


भूर्भुवः स्वस्तरुः तारः |

Both Bhatta Bhaskara’s commentary,

तारय प्राणव रूपाय |

and Vishnu Suri’s commentary,

तारयति संसारदिति तारः प्राणवः तद्रूपाय |

indicate that tara (तार) means Om (ॐ). Both Siva and Vishnu are manifestations of Om.

Another mantra

नमो ह्रस्वायच वामनायच |

clearly talks of Vishnu’s reincarnation – Vamana.

Another mantra in rudram says

नमो गोष्ठायच गृःयायच

Sayana in his commentary explains

गोष्ठं गवाम् स्थानम् तत्र भवो गोष्ठ्यः

Meaning – Goshtam (गोष्ठं) is the place where cows live i.e., a Byre and Goshtyah (गोष्ठ्यः) is Krishna, since he stays with the cows. Vishnu Suri in his commentary says

श्रुतयो गवाः, तासां स्थानम् गोष्ठं – मनोमय कोशं | तत्र प्रकशमानः गोष्ठ्यः | तस्मै नमः |

Vishnu Suri refers to Cows as Vedic Mantras. The place where cows stay is Goshtam (गोष्ठं). Vedic Mantras reside (in a human) is mind or manas (Manomaya Kosham).  One who resides there glowing brightly is called Goshtyah (गोष्ठ्यः) and that is Go-pala i.e., Go-vinda, the one who takes care of Cows which are manifestations of Vedic Mantras. That Go-pala is none other than Krishna.

Similarly, mantras like नमश्शोक्यायच, आशुषेनायच clearly refer to Vishwaksena or Krishna.

This way, all mantras in rudram clearly refer to Sun, Siva and Vishnu. Finally,

नमो रुद्राय विष्णवे मृत्युर्मे पाहि

meaning “I salute Siva who is manifestation of Vishnu and Vishnu who is manifestation of Siva. May Vishnu who is manifestation of Siva protect me from death. May Siva who is manifestation of Vishnu protect from death”. Such interpretation would lead to unity between Siva and Vishnu.

Rudram is also referred to as “Shata Rudreeyam” (Rudram of 100 mantras). In Drona Parva (in Mahabharata), Vyasa taught Ashvatthama and Arjuna as an Upadesam. Neela KanTa Deekshitulu in his commentary on Rudram, to show Vishnu in Rudram, says that Shata Rudreeyam starts with non-duality of Siva and Vishnu.

“तदेवं विश्नोष्षिवमयत्वं व्याख्याय विष्णुत्राणात्
तन्मय स्वजगतः तराणमपि शिवमेव कर्मेत्युक्तं”

“यधा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयं जगत्”

–  Bharatam – NeelakaTa Vyaakhya – Drona Parvam.

By explaining non-duality of Vishnu with Siva, it has also be summarized that like Vishnu, protection of the worlds is Siva’s Karma.

पूर्वयोः पर्वणोः विश्नोर्विस्वरूप प्रकाषणेन व्याख्यातं| अथ दृष्तांतीकृतं विश्निष्षिवमयत्वं व्याचिख्यासुः शतरुद्रीयमारभते |

– Bharatam – Drona Parvam – 1201.

Meaning “all smritis say that Siva is a manifestation of Vishnu and Vishnu is a manifestation of Siva. In Drona Parvam, to show this non-duality, Shata Rudreeyam is being started”

Explanatory Notes:

[1] Rudram is taken from Yajurvedam. It is also called as Rudradhyayam and Rudra Prasnam. It is a great treatise to the properties of universal consciousness or nirguna paramatma as explained earlier via an example from Chamakam here. Translators who came from Europe saw Rudram as sacrificial hymns to Shiva but rather these are actually properties of nature. This is probably the reason why so many commentators – ancient and modern see that Rudram is actually a treatise not just to Shiva but also Surya (Sun) and Vishnu –deities described by Adi Sankaracharya as three of the six primary deities or Shanmatas.

[2] Abhishekam is that process of worship in which a deity is anointed with some nature’s products as a part of worship. Panchamritas (ghee, milk, curd, sugar/jiggery syrup, honey), Sandalwood powder, leaves from different trees/plants, rice grain and many more are generally used for this purpose. This is treated as an offering made to the deity. Abhishekam is done to any deity according to Hindu worship. When it is done while reciting Rudra Mantras, it is called Rudrabhishekam. Rudram is generally most used in deity worship through abhishekam.

[3] Actually the Sanskrit word – Bhashyam cannot be translated to English precisely. Commentary would be a misfit in many cases. We will however stick to the word commentary in this translation.

[4] Narayana Teertha’s Krishna Leela Tarangini is a literary work based on Dasama Skandam of Bhagavatam. The work is represented in many forms in modern day – both in music, dance. The lyrical beauty of in Krishna Leela Tarangini is something which has no parallel in its genre. For instance, sample this – Alokaye Sri Balakrishnam. Some more details are presented by Dr. Goli Anjaneyulu in this video commentary.


Translator’s own observations:

In Krishna Yajurveda Sandhya Vandana Vidhi (procedure), the yajamani is expected to recite some mantras which talk of Siva-Vishnu non-duality. Even the sandhya vandana vishi (procedure) itself invokes four of the shanmata deities – Sun, Shakti (ambika), Siva and Vishnu. This can be seen in the following stages.

  1. Arghyam is an offering made to Sun.
  2. Achamanam invokes Vishnu.
  3. Tarpanam invokes Shakti.
  4. In digbandhana process, Vishnu, Siva, and all other deities are invoked.

Just the Gayatri mantra itself is seen by scholars as a representation of Sankhya philosophy – Purusha and Prakruti. The invocation if for Gayatri or Shakti. Gayatri mantra is exactly 24 letters. Ramayana is exactly 24,000 verses.



  1. Venkata Ramamurthy · · Reply

    ekameva adviteeyam brahma,

    ekam sath, vipra bahudha vadhanthi.

    There are instances in mahabharatha, srimadh bhagavatham, devi bhagavatham that there is no difference between shiva and vishnu.

    In devi bhagavatham, the following is said by vishnu himself.
    ‘shivasya hrudayam vishnu, vishnoshca hrudayam shivaha’ (it is part of yajurveda sandhyvandan’

    In mahabharatham, on the day of abhimanyu’s death , arjuna swears to kill Syndhava the next day and goes to sleep. In his dream he does
    puja to lord krishna and gives him a garland/flower . After that krishna takes arjuna to lord shiva to get ‘mahapashupatha asthram’. Then he sees the same garland/flower given to krishna at the feet of lord shiva.

    There’s no difference between shiva and vishnu but manifestation of para brahma in different ways to carry out different duties.


    1. Absolutely sir. I completely agree. Several instances where this non-duality is seen.

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