* Digital painting of Indra in pic above is by Anirudh Sainath aka Molee Art*
Rudra and Indra - two vedic deities that share a lot in parallel.In fact,the Vedas describe Indra and Rudra as the One with two names. A profound and deep meaning to the link between these two deities will be concluded at the end of this article.
Foremostly,let's analyse these two deities.Before that,we must understand that in the vedic culture,everything has different dimensions of expressions to it.You cannot limit anything to a single form of understanding.For example, Shiva is seen as a being , yet He is also the formless aspect of the cosmos in the form of Linga.Like this,different dimensions exists.When we talk about Rudra or Indra,we may be talking about different dimensions - more than just limiting them as beings with a form and role.
Rudra is the usual term used to depict the fierce ( ghora ) aspect of Shiva
Again,note that Rudra here being 'fierce' can have more symbolism or understanding than just an angry Lord Shiva.Rudra is also associated with roar ( fierceness - the big bang is often described as a roar - from which creation happened. We often hear stories or puranas on how Rudra does His tandavaa ( dance ) causing the universe to undergo the cycle of destruction and birth
Shiva is described as Mangalakara or the One who gives prosperity and auspiciousness.The opposite side of it is called Rudra-Akara.These two aspects differ in form and apearance,but we need to realise the oneness or unity that is present in both aspects.We see these two aspects of anger and peace occuring side by side in God as well as in the whole created world.
Rudra,is very often associated with storm,thunder,rain,weapons and terror.
The Vedas also adore the mind as Rudra.
Indra is the King of Angels of the heavens - this is what we commonly know of.We often see Indra seated on His elephant ( Airavata ) whilst holding his Vajra - thunderbolt weapon - going for war with the Asuras.
Yet,Indra in a different dimension is said to be the master of senses.Therefore,Indra here means the indwelling God who is the real master of senses.This dimension of Indra explains why Indra is given much importance in the vedas.
Thiruvalluvar has beautifully put this in his teachings ( kural ) as such :
(1) ஐந்தவித்தான் ஆற்றல் அகல்விசும்பு ளார்கோமான்
இந்திரனே சாலுங் கரி
இந்திரனே சாலுங் கரி
Aindhaviththaan Aatral Akalvisumpu Laarkomaan
Indhirane Saalung Kari
The king of gods Indra the great, is the prime example for the power that one can acquire by conquering his senses.
(2) பொறிவாயில் ஐந்தவித்தான் பொய்தீர் ஒழுக்க
நெறிநின்றார் நீடுவாழ் வார்
Porivaayil Aindhaviththaan Poidheer Ozhukka
Nerinindraar Neetuvaazh Vaar
Those shall long prosper who abide in the faultless way of Him who has destroyed the five desires of the senses
Chamakam from Yajur Veda :
Now let's analyse.Seeing them as beings, Rudra and Indra are both associated with thunder and storm.Both appear warrior-like and fierce.
In another dimension,the mind is adored in the Vedas as Rudra.The mind contacts the objective world ( outer world ) and experiences it through the function of the five senses.This aspect of the Mind is the Indra aspect.As we had seen, Indra is also said to be the master of senses.
The Indra aspect of the Mind has another capability too.It can master the senses and become aware of the Universal Inner Truth of the multiplicity called the Objective world.This aspect of the Mind is designated as Rudra.
To put it in a nutshell :
(1) The aspect of the mind which experiences the outer world through the five senses is Indra
(2) The aspect of the mind that can master the senses and become aware of God or the world is Rudra
This is why the Vedas describe Indra and Rudra as the One with two names.
A comic displaying how Indra replaces the position of Shiva in His absence...Interesting...very interesting.
I had always associated the thunder-related and stormy representation of Indra and Rudra to resemble the neuronal activity in our brains. Since the mind is associated with the brain functionality - and the mind is verily associated with these deities,It could be possible that the thunder and roary emphasis of Rudra and Indra denote the haphazard 'thundering' of neuronal impulses in our brain ?
By the same token, isn't it wise to calm down the mind so that it is in samadhi - so as to experience Shiva ? - Just like how Rudra is pled to calm down His fierce form into a calmer and auspicious Shiva form in the Sri Rudram hymn.
When we go beyond the mind and body,we experience divinity.