The Pashupatastra (IAST: Pāśupatāstra, sanskrit: पाशुपतास्त्र), in Hindu History, is an irresistible and most destructive personal weapon of Shiva and Kali, discharged by the mind, the eyes, words, or a bow. Never to be used against lesser enemies or by lesser warriors, the Pashupatastra is capable of destroying creation and vanquishing all beings. Pashupatastra is the weapon of Pashupatinath, the most important of all Shiva temples, located in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In the Mahabharata Arjuna obtained this weapon from Lord Shiva but did not use it because this weapon would destroy the entire world, if used against a mortal enemy. Arjun didn't used this astra to slay Jayadaratha. Some versions of Ramayana say that it was used against Lakshmana by Meghanada.  It is returned without causing any harm since it can be used only to uphold Dharma. It is said that the mantra to obtain and discharge the astra is sealed by Shiva to prevent its misuse in the Kali Yuga. It is said that no one in the three worlds can resist lord Shiva when he shows his prowess.
Narrative from KMG translation of Mahabharata:
"O Phalguna, I have been pleased with thee for thy act is without a parallel. There is no Kshatriya who is equal to thee in courage, and patience. And, O sinless one, thy strength and prowess are almost equal to mine. O mighty-armed one, I have been pleased with thee. Behold me, O bull of the Bharata race! O large-eyed one! I will grant thee eyes (to see me in my true form). Thou wert a Rishi before. Thou wilt vanquish all thy foes, even the dwellers of heaven; I will as I have been pleased with thee, grant thee an irresistible weapon. Soon shall thou be able to wield that weapon of mine."
Narrations about Pashupatastra in South Indian villages :
In Mahabharata, While Pandavas were spending their time in the forest, Ashwatthama (the son of Guru Dhrona) visited Dwaraka and met Lord Sri Krishna and urged him to offer his Sudarshana Chakra and Krishna told him to take it. Ashwatthama in excitement tried to lift the Sudarshana Chakra with his left hand but failed.He then tried with his right hand, failed again. Though using all his Knowledge of Atharwana Veda(He is considered as the creator of the 4th veda called "The Atharwana Veda"), he was not able to move even a bit. By seeing the act of Ashwatthama, Lord Krishna asked, “O Ashwatthama" Even Arjuna, my dearest friend on earth, never asked me the Chakra. Tell me one thing, whom were you planning to fight using this weapon?” Drona’s son replied, “After offering my worship to you, O Krishna, it was my intention to fight you. If I had attained your Chakra, I will be able to Kill you". Lord Krishna was pleased with his courageous act and Granted him the knowledge of Narayanastra which is the most powerful fighting weapon of Lord Vishnu.
Ashwatthama was not convinced with the Narayanastra and wanted a weapon which is most powerful and destructive in nature and be able to kill the pandava brothers. With the support of his power in Atharwana veda, he created a weapon called Pashupatastra with Lord Shiva as the deity of this weapon. This weapon should not be used against lesser enemy and it can be invoked only, if the enemy is Immortal in nature. Pashupatastra will kill the enemy only if the person who invokes it should follow dharma.Arjuna obtained this weapon from Lord Shiva and used it only once during Mahabharata against Jayadratha, The King of Sindhu Kingdom.Though Ashwatthama is the creator of this weapon he never used it in the Kurukshetra War because of its destructive nature and he is not on the Dharma side.In all forms Pashupatastra is considered as the most powerful and destructive weapon, since it will not show any mercy on any person.
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola
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