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In ancient Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मास्त्र, IAST: Brahmāstra) was a weapon created by Brahma,along with its more powerful versions like Brahmashirsha astra and Brahmanda astra.Brahmastra and Brahmashirsha astra are said to be mythical equivalent of modern day atomic weapons, nuclear and thermonuclear bombs respectively.
As described in a number of Purana, it was considered as a very destructive weapon. It is said that when the Brahmastra was discharged, there was neither a counterattack nor a defense that could stop it, except by a Brahmastra or Brahmashirsha astra or a Brahmanda astra. In epic Mahabharata,it points out that during the Kurukshetra war, Karna neutralised a Brahmastra discharged by Arjuna with an equal Brahmastra and the destruction it caused by the colliding of this astra's was catastrophic.The Brahmastra never missed its mark and had to be used with very specific intent against an individual enemy or army, as the target would face complete annihilation. It was believed to be obtained by meditating on the Lord Brahma or from a Guru who knows it and it could only be used once in a day. The user would have to display immense amounts of mental concentration. According to ancient Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra is invoked by a key phrase or invocation that is bestowed upon the user when given this weapon. Through this invocation the user can call upon the weapon and use it via a medium against his adversary. It is said that the weapon manifest with the single head of Lord Brahma as its tip.
Since Brahma is considered the Creator in Sanatana Dharma, it is believed by Hindus that Brahmastra was created by him for the purpose of upholding Dharma and Satya, to be used by anyone who wished to destroy an enemy who would also happen to be a part of his (Brahma's) creation. The target, when hit by Brahmastra, would be utterly destroyed. In Mahabharata era Parasurama , Bhishma,Drona ,Karna ,Kripa ,Ashwatthama,Arjuna,Yudhishtir,vikarna and few Maharathis possessed the knowledge to invoke Brahmastra weapon.
The weapon was also believed to cause severe environmental damage. The land where the weapon was used became barren and all life in and around that area ceased to exist, as both men and women became infertile. There was also a severe decrease in rainfall with the land developing cracks, like in a drought. The Brahmastra is mentioned in the epics and vedas as a weapon of last resort and was never to be used in combat.
The brahmastra, described in the Mahabharata, is a weapon which is said to be a single projectile charged with all the power of the universe.It is considered equivalent to modern day atom bombs.In Hindu Puranas after a Brahmastra is used the events that caused is described as “An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as ten thousand suns rose in all its splendor: it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes. The entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Their hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause, and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…to escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment.”
Modern day Nuclear weapon and Brahmastra
Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) was a scientist, philosopher, bohemian, radical, fanatic of ancient Sanskrit literature,a theoretical physicist and the supervising scientist of the Manhattan Project, and most importantly, the developer of the atomic bomb. Seven years after the first successful atom bomb blast test in New Mexico (Trinity), Dr. Oppenheimer was giving a lecture at Rochester University. To the question “Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan project the first one to be detonated?” he gave a strange reply “Well — yes. In modern times, of course.”And as for Oppenheimer’s first words after the detonation of the bomb he quoted from Hindu epic Mahabharata , “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” (Bhagavad Gita)
Most people agree that no human civilization before us had knowledge of atomic energy and its by-products. The atomic bomb is something completely novel to modern science. But we find in the Vedic literature descriptions of weapons that had a similar amount of energy as the atomic bombs we use today.“The atomic energy fissions the ninety-nine elements, covering its path by the bombardments of neutrons without let or hindrance. Desirous of stalking the head, ie. the chief part of the swift power, hiden in the mass of molecular adjustments of the elements, this atomic energy approaches it in the very act of fissioning it by the above-noted bombardment. Herein, verily the scientists know the similar hidden striking force of the rays of the sun working in the orbit of the moon.” (Atharva-veda 20.41.1-3).
There are numerous instances within Sanskrit scriptures where the Brahmastra is used or its use is threatened, including:
- Vishvamitra used it against Vasishta, but the Brahmastra was swallowed by Brahmadanda, Lord Brahma's countermeasure against the Brahmastra.
- In the Ramayana a Brahmastra is used by Shri Rama several times: once against Jayanta (Indra's son) when he hurt Sita, against Mareecha in their last encounter, against the Ocean when he did not answer his prayer to allow his army and himself to cross over to Lanka and finally in the last battle with Ravana. Also, Indrajit used Brahmastra against Hanuman, but Hanuman survived because of Lord Brahma's boon, when he was destroying the Ashok Vatika after meeting Sita.
- It is also mentioned in vedas that Brahmastra was aimed by Shri Rama to make way out of sea so that the army of apes can march towards Lanka, however at the very moment, Varuna appeared and told Lord Rama, about the technical flaws of using the weapon and hence later was aimed towards Dhrumatulya by Lord Rama,which fell at the place of modern day Rajasthan causing it to become a desert. Also Indrajit aimed a Bhramastra at Lord Lakshman on the final battle between him and Lord Lakshman, however the deadly weapon returned because Lakshman himself was the avatar of Trinity.
Capable of killing devas. It is recorded on mahabharata that Ashwatthama and Arjun used this weapon each other. It is thought that the Brahmashirsha astra is the evolution of the Brahmastra, 4 times stronger than Brahmastra. It is similar to modern day hydrogen bomb or thermonuclear (fusion) bomb.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.This astra can be invoked by using sacred mantras into any object, even to a blade of grass .
In Mahabharata,it is explained that when this weapon is invoked " it blaze up with terrible flames within a huge sphere of fire.Numerous peals of thunder were heard; thousands of meteors fell; and all living creatures became inspired with great dread. The entire welkin seemed to be filled with noise and assumed a terrible aspect with those flames of fire. The whole earth with her mountains and waters and trees, trembled.". When it strikes an area it will cause complete destruction and nothing will grow even a blade of grass for next 12 years.It will not rain for 12 years in that area and everything including metal,earth become poisoned.
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,Brahmanda astra 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. Later Parashurama, who had sworn to teach Brahmins only, laid curse upon Karna because he lied about his real identity ,that he would forget all the knowledge required to wield the divine weapon Brahmanda astra, at the moment of his greatest need when fighting with an equal. Upon Karna's pleading, Parshurama gave him the celestial weapon called Bhargavastra,equivalent to Brahmastra but cannot be countered by any astra along with his personal bow called Vijaya, for being such a diligent student. When this weapon is invoked events similar to invoking Brahmastra and Brahmashirsha astra takes place.As recorded in Hindu puranas, when this weapon is invoked it will cause " the oceans to boil due to its heat and earth and mountains will float on the air and everything will burn without even leaving ashes".When this weapon is used for defensive purpose or counter to Brahmastra and Brahmashirsha astra it will swallow the above said astras and neutralize it. When this astra is used for offensive purpose nothing can stop or escape from it.Guru Drona possessed the knowledge about this weapon and he never gave it to his son Ashwathama and his favorite student Arjuna.During Mahabharata war Drona invoked this weapon to use it against Pandava army but due to the request of Gods and ancestors Drona revoked this weapon because it will completely annihilate the Pandava army who were fighting on the side of righteousness