Hindu mythological wars
While no Hindu epic or scripture fails to describe the horrors of war and its fallout, major wars are fought with the purpose of upholding the Dharma (righteousness that brings prosperity to humanity) over Adharma (wickedness that causes humanity to suffer). The purpose of the wars is often to eliminate demonic beings or lords and rulers who pursue war want only for ambition (wicked wishes) and domination (for worldly pleasures). Hindu teachings prescribe war as the final option, to be employed only after all peaceful methods are exhausted. But when this time comes, war is taught to be a matter of great personal and social importance, where every man who belongs to the warrior caste must do his duty, exemplifying courage, honor, and fearsome prowess against all odds and even at the cost of his life.
The major Hindu gods, including Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti, often engage in war, either in the form of Avatars or in their true form. They and many Hindu heroes use astra – celestial weapons with fearsome supernatural power – to aid them in battle.
In Vedic literature
Indra and Vrtra
The Devas and Asuras
The perennial battle between the Devas and Asuras is undertaken over the dominion of the three worlds: Svarga, Bhumi and Patala, or Heaven, Earth and the Nether worlds. Both races are technically equal, possessors of great religious and martial powers, but the Devas are committed to the worship of the Supreme Being and the practice of virtue. The Asuras have atheistic and devious tendencies that grow over time. The divide is the greatest in the Kali Yuga, the final age.
- Shukra: the Preceptor of the Asuras, their high priest and guru, worshiper of the Supreme Lord, but remains supportive of the Asuras.
- Bṛhaspati: the Guru Preceptor of the Devas. Possessing unparalleled knowledge of the Vedas, scripture, religion and mysticism, Bṛhaspati's mastery of the military arts is akin to Shukra, his counterpart.
- Indra: the God of thunder and lightning, King of Heaven, the leader of all the Devas against the demons. The greatest performer of sacrifices, Indra is the most famous and fearsome warrior in the three worlds. When facing opponents like Vritra, Indra seeks the aid of Vishnu.
- Skanda: the god of war.
- Narakasura: the great Asura opponent of Vishnu.
- Vritra: the brahmin Asura, who performs a sacrifice to obtain sovereignty of the three worlds.
The Kshatriya order
- Ashvamedha: The famous horse-sacrifice was conducted by allowing a horse to roam freely for a slated period of time, with the king performing the sacrifice laying claim to all the lands it touched. The king whose authority is contested must prove himself in battle or accept the imperial supremacy of the challenging king. When the horse returns safely after the period of time, the main sacrifice is performed, and the king, if successful in obtaining dominance over other kings, is crowned Emperor of the World. The Ashwamedha allows the opportunity to maintain peace if the kings do not choose to contest the sacrificial horse.
- Rajasuya: Considered the ultimate sacrifice, the king performing the sacrifice must openly challenge every king in the world to accept his supremacy or defeat him in battle. If and when the king returns successfully, having beaten all other known rulers, the performance of the sacrifice will send him to the highest abode of Lord Indra. It was performed by the Pandava hero Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata epic.
- Yajna: Akin to the conduct of the Rajasuya, save only that the entire sacrifice is to please Vishnu.
Levels of Warrior Excellence:
- Mahamaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 24 Atimaharathi warriors simultaneously. No warrior has attained this status, not least because there have never been 24 Athimaharathi warriors at the same time, but, warriors who can be called Mahamaharathis are Shiva, Vishnu and his incarnations, like Rama and Krishna, Shakti, Brahma, Skanda, Ganesha, Narsimha and Hanuman.
- Atimaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Maharathi warriors simultaneously.Vali, Kartavirya Arjuna,Ravana,Parashurama,Jambavan,Bhisma, Karna, Arjuna, Dronacharya and Indrajit are Atimaharathis.
- Maharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 60,000 warriors simultaneously; circumspect in his mastery of all forms of weapons and combat skills. Yudhistra, Bhim, Nakul, Sahadev, Abhimanyu, Satyaki, Dhristadyumna, Shalya, Duryodhana, Kripacharya, Ashwathama,Kamsa,Jarasandha and Banasur were Maharathis.
- Atirathi: A warrior capable of contending with 10,000 warriors simultaneously. Yuyutsu, Drupada, Virata, Uttar, Shikandhi, Dushashana, Vikarna, Jayadratha and Shakuni were Atirathis.
Strategic Formations: The Vyuha:
- Krauncha Vyuha: The crane-shaped formation of an army; forces are distributed to form spanning wing-sides, with a formidable, penetrating centre depicting the crane's head and beak.
- Padma Vyuha or the Chakra Vyuha: A winding, ever-rotating circular formation; considered impenetrable during the Mahabharata age by all warriors except Arjuna, Bhisma, Drona, Karna, Krishna, Pradyumna and Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu, had learnt how to break into the formation (in the womb of Subhadra) but not how to break out of it and is trapped inside during the Mahabharata war.
- Sarpa Vyuha: Winding Snake Formation
- Makara Vyuha: Crocodile Formation
- Sakata Vyuha: Cart Formation
- Shukar Vyuha: Pig Formation
The end of the world
- The end of the world and illusions is prophesied to happen at the end of the Kali Yuga.
- Lord Shiva Nataraja, the Destroyer, kills the paramount demon of the time and performs the Tandava Nritya (The Dance of Tandava) on his back.
- The mystical dance by Goddess Kali i.e. Dark Energy for destroying all forms of matter, materials, beings and illusions, which are absorbed within herself i.e. the Supreme Brahman.
- Kalki, the final Avatar of Vishnu is also prophesized to appear the end of the Kali Yuga, to wage the final battle between good and evil.
Other Sanskrit epics
- Vishvamitra is the preceptor of Rama and Lakshmana, a powerful tapasvin and Brahmarishi. He bestows the knowledge of all divine weaponry to Rama and Lakshmana, leads them to kill powerful demons, and instructs them in religion and military arts.
- Rama: the Seventh Avatar of Vishnu, the greatest warrior-tapasvin in the three worlds. His knowledge, powers and tapasya is unparalleled. Rama single-handedly slays the 14,000 demon hordes of Khara (in one hour, according to the Ramayana), the demons Maricha and Subahu, Ravana's chief commander Prahasta and is responsible for the ultimate killing of Ravana himself.
- Lakshmana is as powerful and excellent a warrior as his brother, and slays extremely powerful demons, including Atikaya and Indrajit.
- Hanuman: the Vanara minister of Sugriva is the greatest devotee of Rama, famous for his unerring service, absolute loyalty and great feats of courage. Hanuman is responsible for killing many demons, as well as burning the city of Lanka. His strength is given by his father Vayu, and by virtue of the boons bestowed on him by various Gods, he could increase his size and strength beyond any limit he desired.
- Prahasta: the chief commander of Lanka's army.
- Ravana: blessed by his fearsome 10,000 year tapasya to be the most powerful being on earth, invulnerable to every God, demon and living being, save man. Although an expert on the Vedas, a great king, and a great devotee of Shiva, he is the Emperor of evil due to his patronage of demons, desecration of women, murder of kings and humiliation of the Gods headed by Indra.
- Indrajit: as his name suggests, Ravana's first-born son defeated Indra, king of Gods. Master of mystical warfare and celestial weapons, and blessed by boons from Gods, Indrajit was considered the most fearful warrior, virtually invincible.
- Kumbhakarna: the gigantic brother of Ravana is a fearsome monster-demon who sleeps for six months at a stretch, rising for only one day and then returning to his slumber. Kumbhakarna can slay hundreds of warriors by the sweep of his hand or step of his foot. He is slain by Rama in the war.
- Kuru Army: of 11 Akshauhinis is formed by the kingdom of Hastinapura in alliance with races like the Samshaptakas, Trigartas, the Narayana army, the Sindhu army and Shalya of Madra.
- Pandava Army: is a coalition of 7 Akshauhinis, primarily the Panchala and Matsya forces, the Rakshasa forces of Bhima's son, and Vrishni-Yadava heroes.
- Commanders in Chief: Dhristadyumna
- Atirathis: Ghatotkacha, Satyaki, Yuyutsu, Dhrupad, Viraat, Uttar
- Maharathis: Bhima, Abhimanyu, Nakul, Sahadeva, Yudhisthir, Dhristadyumna.
- Atimaharathis: Arjuna.
- Mahamaharathis:Krishna, Hanuman(although not as warriors,lord Krishna become Arjuna's charioteer and Hanuman sat invisible atop Arjuna's chariot and protected the chariot from celestial weapons).
- Bhishma: the most consummate warrior trained by Parashurama, Bhishma is indestructible by any warrior when he lifts his weapons. Having defeated his preceptor himself, as well as all the kings of the earth, he is the Commander in Chief of the Kuru Army.
- Drona: the preceptor of the kshatriyas and kings of the age, Drona is a great master of Vedic military arts and almost every celestial weapon. He also has great religious knowledge and wisdom. He becomes the second Kuru commander, and Arjuna is his favorite student. Drona's rejection of Karna as a student, owing to his unknown caste, lays the foundation for the great Karna-Arjuna rivalry.
- Arjuna: known all over the three worlds as the foremost warrior alive in his time, he is the son of Indra. He was thought of to be unconquerable in the field of battle and was never defeated in any war he fought. He was one of the greatest archer on Earth, he also pleased the god Lord Shiva with his fighting skills,so much so that he gave him his personal celestial weapon pashupatastra, lord Indra and others gods gave him all celestial weapons on his visit to heaven, he is also responsible for slaying the mighty demon race of kalkaiya's, puloma's and nivatkavacha's. He single handedly a paltry of Kuru army in the Viraat Yudh. He is responsible for vanquishing Bhishma, as well as exterminating an entire Akshauhini of warriors and Maharathas in one day, in addition to the armies of Samshaptakas, Trigartas and Narayanas - millions of soldiers and heroic warriors. He is also the protagonist in the great epic. He was the sworn enemy of Karna. The rivalry between Arjun and Karna is the most intense rivalry that appears in the epic. Arjun held Gandiva, the personal bow of Lord Varuna. (Pandava's chief army general was Drushtadhymna and not Arjuna as it was mentioned in the earlier editions of this page[clarification needed])
- Bhima: One of the four supreme physical powers, along with Balrama, Shalya & Kichaka. He was the second and most impetuous Pandava. Bhima had phenomenal personal strength,he is also known for killing many powerful kings and demons like Jarasandh, Kirmira, Bakasura, Hidimb, Jatasura, Kichak and wrestler Jimut,he was an unsurpassed master of the mace weapon and a consummate wrestler. He slays all of the one hundred Kuru brothers including the chief antagonist of the saga, Duryodhana.
- Abhimanyu: the son of Arjuna, Abhimanyu is a consummate warrior almost equal to his father. When he enters the unbreakable Chakra vyuha, he holds the entire Kuru host, with Drona, Karna and hundreds of other heroic warriors, in addition to hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers at bay single-handedly. He is killed however, by deceit and a merciless and unlawful slaying while he is unarmed and without a chariot, by all the powerful Kuru heroes.
- Nakul: the fourth brother of the Pandavas. It is said that he was the most handsome man in the world. He was an expert in the art of sword warfare and astronomy. He was also greatly associated with horses. During the Kurukshetra war he was the one who killed all the offspring of all the Kauravas. He also killed the only son of Shakuni, Ulloka.
- Karna: the tragic hero of the epic, Karna is the first-born of Kunti, the mother of the five Pandavas, but abandoned as a child owing his mother's maidenhood and fear of destroying her honor. As a result, Karna is raised by charioteers and denied the recognition and benefits of belonging to the Kshatriya order. Karna has to employ deceit to dodge the question of his caste, but obtains training from Parashurama. The entire rivalry is a question of who is truly superior. Karna's prowess is equal to Arjuna's in terms of Archery, however, he possessed strength and other war skills much more than Arjuna. According to Krishna, Karna had all the qualities of the five Padavas - The Righteousness of Yudhisthir, Strength of Bhima, War Skills of Arjuna, Handsomeness of Nakula and Wisdom of Sahadeva. Karna Shot Nagastra at Arjuna. Krishna saved Arjuna from certain death by his divine powers; by subtly lowering Arjuna's chariot into the earth, through a gentle pressure from tip of its toe. An angry Arjuna showered all his arrows on Karna, but Karna neutralized them all with his own. Karna then shot more arrows which incapacitated Arjuna and made him weaponless. But the close of the day spared Arjuna's life, since both sides observed the codes of war and stopped fighting. The next day, nearing the end of the battle, Karna's chariot wheel stuck in to the ground(fulfilling the curse he had). Nextly, he forgot all the knowledge he had of the celestial and indestructible weapon Bramhastra, as a result of another curse given to him by Parashurama. While he was trying to get his wheel out of the ground, Arjun shot the Anjalika Weapon, decapticating Karna, as per the orders of Krishna.
Vishnu, the Inconceivable Supreme, is the Supreme God of Hinduism, as, in the Vishnu Sahasranama he is called Paramatman or Parameshwara, and is periodically reborn as an Avatar upon earth in order to destroy evil and bring deliverance to the pious. He is also the refuge of the Devas in their battles against Asuras. The most martial Avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Mohini, Vamana, Parshurama, Rama, Krishna, Kalki. He is also considered to be the first God, Adideva. He is beyond birth, death, time. He is Beyond all. In battle, the Avatars of Vishnu are aided by a variety of astra or celestial weapons. These include:
- Narayanastra: The personal missile weapon of Vishnu in his Narayana (Naraina) form, this astra lets loose a powerful tirade of millions of deadly missiles simultaneously. The intensity of the shower increases with resistance. The only solution is total submission before the missile; only then will it cease. The Narayanastra was first used by Lord Rama in the Ramayana. Then, thousands of years later, this astra was again used by Ashwatthama in the Kurukshetra War against the Pandava army.
- Vaishnavastra: The personal missile weapon of Krishna, once fired it cannot be thwarted by any means, save by the will of Vishnu Himself. This astra was used by King Bhagadatta, son of Narakasura and King of Prajyogsta (modern day Burma) in the Mahabharata war against Arjuna. This astra was stopped by Shri Krishna himself, as Arjun couldn't stop it even with his most powerful weapons.
- Kaumodaki: The divine mace weapon of Vishnu; invincible and without parallel, Lord Krishna slayed demon Dantavakra with it.
- Sudarshana Chakra: The magical Chakra, a spinning disc with sharp outer spears. The Sudarshan flies at the command of Krishna, spinning away to tear off the heads of His opponents, or to perform any function desired by Vishnu. It was most famously used by His Avatar Krishna in the Mahabharata.
- Nandaka: The Sword of Vishnu
- Sharanga: The Celestial bow of Vishnu
Mahadeva literally means "Highest of all gods". Shiva is also known as Maheshvar, "the great Lord", Mahadeva, the great God, Shambhu, Hara, Pinakadhrik, "bearer of the axe" and Mrityunjaya, "conqueror of death". He is the spouse of Shakti. He also is represented by Mahakala and Bhairava. Shiva is often pictured holding the damaru, an hourglass-shaped drum, along with his trishula, a trident-staff. His usual mantra is Om Namah Shivaya. Lord Shiva is also considered as the God Of Gods. The existence which represents infinity itself.He is the supreme masculine divinity in this universe and is lord of the three worlds (Vishwanath) and is second to none in wrath and power.
The Lord Destroyer, Sarvaripati Shiva is one of the most fearsome manifestation of the Supreme God. Assigned with destroying all of the universe at the end of time, Shiva is one of the most fearsome warriors and unconquerable. Tandava is the dance of the Destroyer, which He performs over the body of a demon. Shiva employs his power to kill the Asura Tripura, destroying the flying three cities of Tripura. In battle, Shiva and his Avatars deploy formidable weapons controlled by him. Some of these are:
Both a Supreme Being and an energy that is considered to be the source of all works of creation, preservation and destruction, Shakti is the wife of Shiva and the mother of the universe and all of creation. She took many incarnations to fight with demons, including Parvati, the complete avatar of Shakti herself, according to the Devi Gita and Durga Saptashati, the main scriptures for Shakti worshipers. As the goddess Parvati, she is considered to be the most powerful of all deities, including Shiva.
Sometimes, the gods worship Parvati, who came before them in different avatars:
- Durga, who killed the demon Durgamasur
- Kali, the most ferocious Form of the Goddess, who can not be pacified by anyone after war. No one can stop her because she is the only deity who is omnipotent, free from all rules and regulations.
- Chandi, the gentle manifestation of Durga or Kali, Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati, who killed Mahishasura in battle of Alkapuri.
- Kanyakumari, who killed Banasura
- Chamunda,who killed Chanda and Munda
- Kaushiki, who killed Shumbha and Nishumbha
- Minakshi, who defeated all the demigods and destroyed the arrogance of all demi-gods.
Shakti is usually depicted as having the weapons of all the gods, even the Trimurti. She holds the trident of Shiva, the Chakra of Vishnu, the Vajra of Indra, the Gada of Yamaraaj. It indicates that she is the one who actually having all kinds of powers. It is she from whom strength arose. It is she from whom all powers of GOD is vested. She is all powerful. All in one and one in all too.
An astra is a missile-type weapon that is to be hurled at an enemy. Examples include arrows from bows. A shastra is a personal weapon, like swords and maces, that must be constantly operated by the warrior.
- Brahmadanda: This is one of the most powerful weapon in the universe. This astra is the most powerful weapon of Brahma,it was first used by sage vashishtha against vishwamitra's(who was king vishwarath at that time)brahamastra,as only brahamdanda can stop brahamastra,it was also used by sage Piplad against Shani to avenge his father's death.
- Pashupatastra: It is believed in Hinduism that Pashupatastra is one of the most devastating weapons, as it is the weapon of the consort of the Godhead Mahadeva, i.e. Mahakali. Mahadeva literally means "Highest of all gods" and Mahakali means "Goddess who is beyond time". This weapon, granted to Arjuna by Shiva, is one of the most destructive and foreboding weapon in Mahabharata it was first used by lord shiva for the destruction of tripura,also acc. To Ramayana, Indrajit used it against lakshmana,lord shiva also granted this astra to Arjuna.
- Narayanastra: Invincible and painful, this astra is unconquerable except by total submission,this astra was used by lord Vishnu against lord shiva,when lord Vishnu didn't recognize him,when lord shiva tried to bring him back to vaikuntha,In Mahabharata ashwathama used it against pandava army to avenge his father's death.
- Vaishnavastra : One of the most powerful astras, this cannot be stopped by anyone except its creator, Vishnu,it was used by king bhagdatt against Arjuna,only to be saved by lord krishna,since he is the incarnation of lord Vishnu.
- Brahmashir Astra: A weapon capable of greater destruction than the Brahmastra. It can burn all creation to ashes once discharged,Arjuna and ashwatthama both used it against each other after the Mahabharata war.
- Brahmastra: Embedded with the mystical force of Brahma, this weapon releases millions of missiles, great fires and a destructive potential capable of extinguishing all creation, if not used by and aimed only at a celestial fighter. Modern speculation has equated its destructive nature to be similar to that of a nuclear weapon,it has been used multiple times in Ramayana,Indrajit used it against hanuman,Lakshmana asked permission to use it against Indrajit,which lord Rama declined,lakshmana used it to kill atikaya,lord Rama used it as final arrow to kill Ravana.
- Nagastra: The snake weapon, first used by Indrajit against Rama and lakshmana,used by Karna against Arjuna. It is considered as an irresistible weapon equal to the Brahmastra. It has a fame that never misses its target.
- Vasavi Shakti: The magical dart weapon of Indra, unfailing at executing its target. Indra granted it to Karna during the Kurukshetra war,first used by Indrajit against lakshmana in Ramayana, in Mahabharata it was used by karna to kill ghatotkacha.
- Vajra: The thunderbolt weapon of Indra, who is the God of Thunder and Lightning, akin to Zeus and Jupiter., this weapon was made from the bones of sage dadhichi and it was used by Indra to slay demon called vritra.
- Agneyastra: The fire weapon, created by Agni, master of the flames
- Varunastra: The water weapon, created by Varuna, master of the oceans
- Vayavastra: The wind weapon, created by Vayu
The three potential astras are Vaishnavastra, Pashupatastra and Brahmadanda. However, these astras cannot harm five principle gods i.e. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha and Devi as they are the supreme manifestation of the divine. Especially, these astras cannot harm Vishnu, the greatest of all gods, Shiva, the destroyer himself, and Shakti, both Supreme Being and the original energy behind all astras. With these five gods, the astras also can not harm hanuman, the son of god vayu, as he obtained vardanas (boons) from several gods.
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