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Sikhs with chakrams, inscribed "Nihang Abchal Nagar" (Nihang from Hazur Sahib), 1844
|Place of origin||India|
The chakram (Devanāgarī: चक्रं, Punjabi: chakkar, Malay: cakera) is a throwing weapon from India. It is circular in shape with a sharpened outer edge and ranges in size from approximately 12–30 centimetres (4.7–12 in) in diameter. It is also known as chalikar, or circles.
Unlike Chinese wind and fire wheels, which are generally larger and used as melee weapons only, the chakram was designed to be thrown but could also be used in-close. Because of its aerodynamic circular shape it is not easily deflected by wind.
Earliest references to the chakram come from the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana where the Sudarshana Chakra is the weapon of the god Vishnu. Chakradhaari ("chakram-wielder," or simply "circle-man") is a name for Krishna. The chakram was later used extensively by the Sikhs as recently as the days of Ranjit Singh. It was often associated with Sikhs because of the Nihang practice of wearing chakram on their arms, around the neck and even tied in tiers on high turbans.
From its native India, variations of the chakram spread to other Asian countries. In Tibet, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the chakram was not flat but torus-like. The Mongol cavalry used a similar throwing weapon with spiked edges.
In pop culture, the chakram was the weapon of choice for Xena (portrayed by Lucy Lawless) in TV's, "Xena: Warrior Princess", a spin-off of the popular TV series "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys". Xena used the chakram to hit and kill multiple enemies at once by bouncing it off of multiple surfaces, eventually flying back to her hand. The chakram is also a weapon of the demon hunter class from the Blizzard Entertainment game "Diablo III", and the James Bond villain Oddjob's trademark bowler-hat weapon was created by integrating a chakram into its rim.
Chakram are traditionally made from steel or brass which is beaten into a circular shape against an anvil with an indentation for the curvature. Two ends are connected with a piece of brass and then heated, forming a complete circle before the brass is removed. Some chakram, even those used in combat, were ornately engraved, or inlaid with brass, silver or gold.
The chakram's combat application is largely dependent on its size. Regular-sized (15+ cm dia.) steel chakram could be thrown 40–60 meters, while brass chakram, due to their better airfoil design, could be thrown in excess of 100 meters. If properly constructed, it should be a perfect circle. In single combat, the chakram could be thrown underarm like a modern Aerobie. In battle, it was usually thrown vertically so as to avoid accidentally hitting an ally on the left or right side. A stack of chakram could be quickly thrown one at a time like shuriken. On elephant or horseback, chakram could be more easily thrown than spears or arrows.
The most iconic method of throwing a chakram is tajani, wherein the weapon is twirled on the index finger of an upraised hand and thrown with a timed flick of the wrist. The spin is meant to add power and range to the throw, while also avoiding the risk of cutting oneself on the sharp outer edge. An adept user can twirl the chakram while using another weapon with the other hand. The use of tajani in battle was perfected by the Nihang who employed a particular formation to protect the chakram-wielder from harm. Although variants of the chakram would make their way to neighbouring parts of the region, the tajani technique remained unique to Indian martial arts.
Chakram could also be worn on the arms or wrists and used like knuckledusters. Some are as large as a shield and worn around the neck, making them equally suited for hand-to-hand combat as well as for throwing.[how?] When worn on the arms the chakram could be used to break or cut the opponent's arms while grappling. In the turban, it could be raked across an enemy's face or eyes while infighting.
See also 
- HILL, JOHN (1963). "5-THE GANGES PLAIN". THE ROCKLIFF NEW PROJECT - ILLUSTRATED GEOGRAPHY - THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT. LONDON: BARRIE & ROCKLIFF. pp. 173–174.
- "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 2010-09-21. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
- "the chakra or chackrum steel flying rings used by the sikh of india". Flight-toys.com. 2011-01-02. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
- Details of chakram history and use
- History of chakram
- More history and cultural details