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Summoning of Astra
To summon or use an astra required knowledge of a specific incantation/invocation, when armed. The deity invoked would then endow the weapon, making it impossible to counter through regular means.
Specific conditions existed involving the usage of astras, the violation of which could be fatal. Because of the power involved, the knowledge involving an astra was passed in the Guru-shishya tradition from a Guru (teacher) to a Shishya (pupil) by word of mouth alone, and only following the establishment of the student's character.
Certain astras had to be handed down from the deity involved directly, knowledge of the incantation being insufficient.
Astras in Hindu Epics
Astras come into importance mainly in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, where they are used in the great battles described in each epic. They are depicted as used by archers such as Rama, Lakshman, Arjuna, Meghnad, Karna etc.
The astras were generally invoked into arrows, although they could potentially be used with anything—Ashwatthaman invoked an astra using a blade of grass as his weapon.
Indrajit the son of Ravana, is believed to be the only human who ever possessed the three ultimate weapons of trinity. At a very young age, Indrajit (Meghnada) became the possessor of several supreme celestial weapons, including Brahmastra, Pashupatastra and Vaishnavastra, under the guidance of Shukra, the Guru of the Daityas (demons).
|Indraastra||Indra, god of weather||Would bring about a 'shower' of arrows from the sky.|
|Vasavi Shakti||Indra, god of Weather||Magical dart of Indra. Used by Karna against Ghatotkacha in the Mahabharata war.|
|Agneyastra||Agni, god of fire||The weapon discharged would emit flames inextinguishable through normal means.|
|Varunastra||Varuna, god of water||The weapon discharged would release torrential volumes of water. This weapon is commonly mentioned as used to counter the Agneyastra.|
|Manavastra||Manu (Hinduism), father of the human race||Could overcome supernatural protections and carry the target hundreds of miles away. Can inspire humane traits in an evil being.|
|Varunapasha||Varuna||A powerful noose which not even other gods can escape from.|
|Bhaumastra||Bhūmi, goddess of earth||The weapon could create tunnels deep into the earth and summon jewels.|
|Bhargavastra||Lord Vishnu||Parashurama (an avatara of Lord Vishnu) gave this astra to Karna. It caused great damage to Pandavas army. This astra possesses Parashurama's skill in archery. Infallible. It brings a shower of much more powerful weapons than the Indrastra and could cause total destruction of a planet if not retracted|
|Nagaastra||The Nagas||The weapon would have an inerring aim and take on the form of a snake, proving deadly upon impact. Used by Karna against Arjuna.|
|Nagapasha||The Nagas||Upon impact, this weapon would bind the target in coils of living venomous snakes.(in the Ramayana, it was used against Lord Rama and Lakshmana by Indrajit)|
|Garudastra||Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu||The only weapon that can defend Nagaastra when attacked by the opponents. It was used by Lord Rama in Ramayana .|
|Vayvayastra||Vayu, god of wind||Bring about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground.|
|Suryastra||Surya, god of the sun||Create a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about and dry up water bodies.|
|Vajra||Indra, god of the skies||Target would be struck with bolts of lightning (vajra referring to Indra's thunderbolt).|
|Mohini||Mohini, an Avatar of Vishnu||Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity.|
|Twashtar||Twashtri, the heavenly builder||When used against a group of opponents (such as an army), would cause them to mistake each other for enemies and fight each other.|
|Sammohana/Pramohana||Would cause entire hosts/armies to collapse in a trance.|
|Parvataastra||Would cause a Parvata/mountain to fall on the target from the skies.|
|Brahmaastra||Brahma, the Creator||Would destroy entire hosts at once. Could also counter most other astras. In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the single head of Lord Brahma as its tip.In Mahabharata era Parasurama, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama,Arjuna,Yudhishtir and several Maharathis possessed the knowledge to invoke this weapon|
|Brahmashira||Brahma, the Creator||Capable of killing devas. Was used by Ashwatthama on Parikshit. It is thought that the Brahmashira is the evolution of the Brahmastra, 4 times stronger than Brahmastra. In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the four heads of Lord Brahma as its tip.In Mahabharata era Parasurama,Bhishma, Drona,Karna, Ashwatthama,Arjuna possessed the knowledge to invoke this weapon|
|Brahmadanda||Brahma, the Creator||A defensive weapon . Capable of repelling the Brahmastra. Used by Vashishta against Vishwamitra.In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the all five heads of Lord Brahma as its tip.Brahma earlier lost his fifth head when he fought with Lord Siva.This weapon is said to possess the power to destroy entire solar system or brahmand,the 14 realms according to Hindu cosmology. In Mahabharata era Parasurama,Bhishma,Drona,Karna possessed the knowledge to invoke this weapon.|
|Narayanastra||Vishnu, the Preserver||Would create showers of arrows and discs. The astra's power would increase with the resistance offered to it. This weapon had to be obtained from Vishnu directly, and could be used only once. If the user were to attempt invoking it a second time, it would rebound on him, and possibly, his troops.|
|Vaishnavastra||Vishnu, the Preserver||Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. Infallible. This weapon had to be obtained from Vishnu directly.|
|Kaumodaki||Vishnu, the Preserver||Divine mace of Vishnu. Would destroy whole armies. Infallible and without parallel. Lord Krishna slayed Demon Dantavakra with it.|
|Sudarshana Chakra||Vishnu, the Preserver||The legendary discus of Lord Vishnu,infallible . Flies at the command of only Lord Vishnu. Cannot be stopped by anyone, except Lord Vishnu himself.It is considered to be the most powerful of all weapons. When it pursued sage Durvasa, even Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva failed to stop it. It was used prominently by Krishna in the Mahabharata.|
|Sharanga||Vishnu, the Preserver||The bow of Lord Vishnu, also called as Vaishnav Dhanush. Was given by Vishnu to Parshuram, by Lord Vishnu.|
|Nandaka||Vishnu, the Preserver||The sacred sword of Vishnu. It had a blade which was indestructible. Was used by Lord Krishna to kill countless demons.|
|Trishul||Template:Shiva, the Destroyer||The Trident of Lord Shiva. infallible. Said to be the one of the most powerful weapons. The head of Ganesha and Lord Brahma were severed by Lord Shiva using the Trishul.|
|Pinaka||Shiva,the Destroyer||Also called as Shiva Dhanush, was the bow of Lord Shiva, which he used to kill countless Asuras in battle (The city of Tripura was destroyed by Lord Shiva using the Pinaka). Was given to Parshuram By Lord Shiva, which was passed down to King Janaka, the father of Devi Sita, and was broken by Lord Ram in her swayamvara.|
|Maheshwarastra||Shiva, the Destroyer||Contains the power of Shiva's third eye. Shoots a really fast fiery beam which can turn even celestial beings to complete ashes. Infallible, though can be nullified only by any Astra of Lord Shiva and by an Astra of Lord Vishnu.|
|Pashupatastra||Shiva, the Destroyer||Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. When released, the weapon summons several monsters and a huge spirit which personifies the weapon. Sometimes it can cause a catastrophic explosion similar to a hydrogen bomb. Each time the weapon is summoned, its head is never the same This weapon had to be obtained from Shiva directly. Infallible, though can be nullified only by any other Astra of Lord Shiva or by an Astra of Lord Vishnu.|
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 72.
- Astradhari definition