Rudra is a capricious Hindu deity who holds jurisdiction over varied aspects of reality, including wild animals, storms, disease, death, and medicine. Rudra is frequently depicted as a terrifying entity, representing the numinous aspect of God with fear-inspiring abilities such as that which causes disease.

In contrast, Rudra also possesses milder characteristics such as the ability to heal. These antithetical traits are a consequence of the considerable amount of syncretism of regional and tribal gods that took place under his name. Rudra is an early form of the Hindu god Shiva, the lord of destruction.

Rudra is frequently described as the most terrifying of all divine beings. As the divine archer, he rides upon a chariot, constantly in search of beings to devour. He is armed with arrows that inflict disease upon whomever he hits, whether they be human, animal or even a god. Thus, every single being, divine or mortal, lives in fear of Rudra. Rudra is also notable for his unpredictability. Prescribed courses of actions do not always satisfy him, for he is not easily pleased. Even a minor transgression by one of his most faithful devotees can send him into a tempestuous rage. Rudra's temperament seems to be an anthropomorphic representation of nature's most ruthless forces, such as lightning, wind and forest fires.

On the other hand, Rudra is also portrayed in more favorable terms. In the Rg Veda, he is described as a handsome, youthful and intelligent deity with braided hair and ornate vestments. Additionally, he is often referred to as the bringer of the fertilizing rains. This association with fertility was probably carried over from Rudra's precursors in the religion of the Indus Valley Civilization. Not only does he possess immense potential for destruction and disease, but also the power to heal. He is frequently described as the divine physician who possesses thousands of remedies for any known malady, and can heal any illness bestowed upon humans by the other gods. This ability to bestow fecundity and heal wounds while also inflicting them exemplifies Rudra's role as the confluence of many diametric opposites.

Rudra is commonly associated with animals. For instance, he is given the title pasupati, or "Lord of the cattle." The bull is the animal with which he is most commonly associated, another symbol of both rain and fertility in ancient Indian culture. His jurisdiction spread beyond the bovine, however, as he was said to rule over undomesticated animals, as well. He was commonly depicted with numerous creatures of the wild surrounding him. His affinity with animals is reflective of Rudra's more general removal from society. For instance, he kept his residence in the hinterlands, such as the forest and the mountains.