Why « Rudra »?
Maurice Béjart’s first dance school, founded in Brussels in 1971, was called Mudra. Mudra means ‘gesture’ in Sanscrit. After the revolution of the Sixties there was an exciting opening up of society and young people were looking for new forms of expression in all fields of art. In 1992, still fascinated and inspired by the art forms and ancestral traditions of India, Béjart linked the name of his new school to the Hindu god Rudra.
Rudra signifies an intellectual and ethical way of life. In a lax and permissive environment we need people who can stand up to life’s challenges resolutely and without aggressiveness. Maurice Béjart chose a deity who was both destructive and protective; a symbol of strength and spirituality providing young dancers with a set of values to enable them to take their place in today’s society
Rudra, the god Shiva
SIVA, the auspicious one – he was perhaps given this epithet as a euphemism to make him kinder - is also known as RUDRA, a minor figure of the preceding era who, like VISNU, belonged to the category of the eleven RUDRA.
RUDRA-SIVA inherited some traits of ascetism – perhaps he was already revered on the shores of the Indus in Mohenio Daro – as well as other features most likely taken from different local gods. Some legends affirm his non-Vedic origins. In the Mahabharata, for example, he has the two aspects which later characterised him: his terrible side likes places of cremation while his kind side helps other gods by drinking the poison derived from the churning of the ocean of milk, and protects men and cattle.
Originally, he was known as RUDRA, the leader of the RUDRAS, the eleven minor atmospheric gods. Very early on he was known as an ascetic god, a feature probably inherited from the ancient Indus civilisations, and closely related to yogis. He was also likened to Time, the destroyer personified by MAHAKALA. He was thus a fearsome god, Bhairava or the terrible, but also SIVA, the auspicious one, a name perhaps given to him for propitiatory purposes.
At the beginning of the Christian era, he was venerated as PASUPATI, the master of cattle. At about that time, the name Siva was used in one of the later UPANISADS, the SVETASVATARA, as an epithet of RUDRA. In connection with this god, both creator and destroyer as he performs his cosmic dance, there developed over the course of centuries among the peoples of India, essentially SHIVITE worshippers of nature, a common tradition called SHAKTISM. This cult implies the worship of the creative power of a female divinity, or SAKTI, the female aspect of the divine.
In the oldest Indian texts which are collections of Vedic hymns, the word SIVA is not used as a name but as an adjective meaning ‘kind’. Only in the last texts of Vedic literature does SIVA appear as a divine figure, as another name for the great Vedic god RUDRA, a terrible figure whose ambivalent nature can make him take on the roles of helper, magic healer and doctors’ doctor. There is, therefore, an unquestionable continuity in RUDRA-SIVA.
References : Alain Danielou, writer & indian dance teacher -> email