Astra (weapon)

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Ashwatthama uses Narayanastra
Arjuna uses the Agneyastra against Angaraparna

In Hinduism, an astra (Sanskrit: अस्त्र) was a supernatural weapon, presided over by a specific deity and imbued with spiritual and occult powers that caused its effect or impact. Later the word came to denote any weapon which was used by releasing it from one's hand (e.g. an arrow), as opposed to being used while held like a sword (Shastra). In Ramayana and Mahabharata, Arjuna had more astras than any other warrior. Various texts have stated that Arjuna possessed almost all astras except Narayanastra.[1][2]

Astradhari[edit]

The bearer of the weapon is called an Astradhari (Sanskrit: अस्त्रधारी).[3]

Summoning of Astra[edit]

To summon or use an astra required use of a specific incantation or invocation. The deity invoked would then endow the weapon with supernatural powers, 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.[citation needed]

Astras in Hindu Epics[edit]

Arjuna gifts the Agneyastra to the Gandharva

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 Parashurama, Rama, Lakshman, Meghanada (Indrajit), Ravana, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Ashwatthama, Arjuna and other warriors.

The divya ("divine")[4] astras were generally invoked into arrows, although they could potentially be used with anything. Ashwatthama invoked Brahmashirsha astra using a blade of grass as his weapon. Arjuna was capable of shooting all of his celestial weapons including Pashupatastra by the power of his mind alone.[5]

[1]

Astra Deity Effect
Brahmastra Brahma, the Creator It would destroy entire armies at once and could also counter most other astras. In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifests with the head of Lord Brahma as its tip. In the Mahabharata era, Parasurama, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Arjuna, and in other eras several other Maharathis possessed the knowledge to invoke this weapon. It was the only weapon capable of piercing the Brahma Kavach; the invincible armor of Lord Brahma. Atikaya, one of Raavan's sons, possessed the invincible armor of Lord Brahma that could only be pierced by a Brahmastra and was killed by Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama, using a Brahmastra. In ancient Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra was a weapon created by Brahma, along with its more powerful versions:- the Brahmashirsha Astra and the Brahmanda Astra.
Trishula Shiva, the Destroyer It was the Trident of Lord Shiva. The most powerful weapon in Hindu mythology, according to Shaiva traditions, infallible, cannot be stopped by anyone, except Lord Shiva himself and Goddess Shakti; the consort of Lord Shiva in Parvati form. Though it was once stopped by Atikaya, who caught hold of it mid-air.
Sudarshana Chakra Vishnu, the Preserver The legendary discus of Lord Vishnu, was created for him by Vishvakarman.[6] The most powerful weapon in Hindu mythology, according to Vaishnav traditions, infallible, flies at the command of Lord Vishnu. It could be stopped only by Lord Vishnu's wish.[7][8] It has tremendous occult and spiritual power that could protect or destroy anything. It was used by Krishna, Vishnu's 8th avatar, to behead his cousin Shishupala. [9]
Barbarika's Teen Baan Shiva, the Destroyer Lord Shiva [10] gave Barbarika three infallible arrows (Teen Baan). A single arrow was enough to destroy all opponents in any war, and it would then return to Barbarika's quiver. The first arrow was used to mark all the things that Barbarika wants to destroy. On releasing the third arrow, it would destroy all the things that are marked and then would return to Barbarika's quiver. If Barbarika uses the second arrow, then the second arrow would mark all the things that Barbarika wants to save. On using the third arrow, it would destroy all the things that are not marked. In other words, with one arrow Barbarika could fix all his targets and with the other, he can destroy them. Barbarika came to be known by the appellation Teen Baandhaari, the "Bearer of the Three Arrows". Barbarika was the son of Ghatotkacha and the grandson of Bhima, second of the Pandava brothers, and Hidimbi.
Indrastra Indra, God of Weather It would bring about a 'shower' of arrows, like rain, from the sky. Arjuna displayed this astra first in Rangabhoomi.It was also possessed by some other warriors like Lakshman Meghanad Lord Rama etc.
Vasavi Shakti Indra, God of Weather The second weapon of Indra, inferior to Vajra. It could be used only once and upon usage, it killed the opponent.Karna used it on Ghatotkacha and killed him.
Praswapastra Vasus, Gods of Skies This weapon would cause the afflicted to fall asleep on the battlefield. Bhishma was stopped by the Akashvani from using this weapon against his Guru, Lord Parashurama. In Ramayana and Mahabharat, only Bhishma had this weapon.
Agneyastra Agni, God of Fire The weapon discharged would emit flames inextinguishable through normal means. Arjuna used it against Angaraparna, the Gandharva.
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. It was possessed by Rama, Indrajit, Ravana, Lakshman, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Arjuna and likewise warriors.
Manavastra Manu, Father of the Human Race It could overcome supernatural protections and carry the target hundreds of miles away. It could inspire humane traits in an evil being. This weapon was used by Lord Rama on the rakshasa, Maricha.
Varunapasha Varuna, God of Oceans A powerful noose which not even other gods could escape from. Warriors including Rama, Indrajit possessed this weapon.
Bhaumastra Bhūmi, Goddess of Earth The weapon could create tunnels deep into the earth and summon jewels. Karna,Arjuna and likewise warrior possessed it.
Bhargavastra Parashurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu Lord Parashurama was the creator of this Astra which he gave to his disciple Karna. This was a very powerful weapon and this weapon when launched creates a shower of arrows, maces, spears and many other such weapons. This shower of weapons continues till the warrior who has launched it does not retract the weapon back. This weapon was used by Karna on the 17th day of the Kurukshetra War. This weapon destroyed one Akshauni army of the Pandavas. Only Karna possessed this weapon.
Nagastra The Nagas The weapon would have an unerring aim and take on the form of a snake, proving deadly upon impact. It was used by many warriors. Arjuna used this against Susharma.
Nagapasha The Nagas Upon impact, this weapon would bind the target in coils of living venomous snakes. In the Ramayana, it was used against Rama and Lakshmana by Indrajit. Arjuna obtained it from his wife Ulupi.
Garudastra Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu A weapon that can defend against Nagastra when attacked by the opponents. It was possessed by Rama and Arjuna. It was used by Lord Rama in Ramayana.[11]
Anjalika Astra Indra, God of Weather Arjuna killed Karna using this astra.[12]
Vayuvyastra Vayu, God of Wind Brings about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground. On the 14th day of the Kurukshetra War, when the battle continued after the sunset Ashwatthama used this weapon to penetrate the illusions made by Anjanaparvan the son of Ghatotkacha. Arjuna, Indrajit, Rama also had this weapon.
Suryastra Surya, God of the Sun Creates a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about and dry up water bodies.
Maghavan Indra Swift and flaming weapon capable of baffling arms shower used especially in illusionary warfare. Arjuna obtained this weapon from Indra.[13]
Vajra Indra, God of Weather Target would be struck with bolts of lightning (vajra referring to Indra's thunderbolt). Apart from Indra, only Arjuna possessed Vajra as Arjuna was the son of Lord Indra.Indra gave this Astra to his son Arjuna.[14]
Mohini Astra Mohini, an Avatar of Vishnu Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity. Arjuna used this astra against Nivatakavachas and dispelled all illusion created by them.
Twashtar Astra 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. Only Arjuna possessed this weapon.
Sammohana/Pramohana Gandharvas Would cause entire hosts/armies to collapse in a trance. Arjuna uses this weapon against the Kaurava army during the Virata war. On the 6th day of Kurukshetra war, Dhrishtadyumna used it against Kauravas which caused them to be unconscious but Drona used his Prajna astra to stop its effect.
Parvatastra Would cause a Parvata/mountain to fall on the target from the skies. Many warriors like Drona, Karna, Arjuna possessed this weapon.
Brahmashirsha astra Brahma, the Creator Capable of killing devas. Was used by Ashwatthama on Parikshit. It is thought that the Brahmashirsha astra is the evolution of the Brahmastra and is a secret infallible weapon creates by Lord Brahma 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 Sage Agnivesha, Drona,

Karna, Arjuna and Ashwatthama possessed this weapon.

Brahmadanda Brahma, the Creator A defensive personal weapon divine rod (danda) possessed only by Bhramana. Capable of repelling other higher energy weapons . Used by Vashishta against Vishwamitra.This high energy is used only as defence.
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 the Narayana form Vishnu directly, and could be used only once. It is one of the most powerful weapons of Hindu mythology. [15]

Any attempt of invoking it a second time would rebound back on user and his troops. In Mahabharata era, Lord Vishnu in Narayana form blessed Drona with this weapon . Drona as presented this astra to his son Ashwatthama. In Mahabharata war Ashwatthama used this weapon against Pandava army after the death of Drona.[16] It destroyed one Akshauhini of Pandava army.The only way to escape is total submission before the weapon, which prompts this weapon to spare the target as stated by Krishna. When it was used, Ekadasha (Eleven) Rudras appear in the sky to destroy the targets. Millions of types of weapons like Chakra, Gadha, ultra sharp arrows appeared in rage to destroy the target. Who ever tries to resist it will be destroyed.

Vaishnavastra Vishnu, the Preserver Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. Infallible. Had to be obtained from Lord Vishnu directly. The only counter to this weapon was to invoke another Vaishnavastra to counter the attacking Vaishnavastra or for the presiding deity of the Vaishnavastra to stop the Vaishnavastra. In Mahabharata era Bhagadatta, Krishna had this weapon. Bhagadatta used this weapon on Arjuna but Krishna stood up before Arjuna to retrieve the weapon. Sri Rama used this weapon to destroy the energy of Bharghava Rama.[17]
Kaumodaki Gada Vishnu, the Preserver Divine mace of Vishnu. Would destroy whole armies. Infallible and without parallel. Lord Krishna slayed Demon Dantavakra with it.
Sharanga (bow) Vishnu, the Preserver The bow of Lord Vishnu, also called as Vaishnav Dhanush was used by Sri Rama then Sri Krishna.
Nandaka Vishnu, the Preserver The sacred sword of Vishnu. It had a blade which was indestructible. It was used by Lord Krishna to kill countless demons.
Vijaya (bow) Shiva, the Destroyer The bow was made by Vishvakarma. Vijaya Dhanush was the personal bow of Lord Shiva, which was regarded as the foremost of bows. Lord Shiva left it in the care of Indra Dev who on instruction from Lord Shiva happily gave it to Sage Parashurama. This bow is one of the strongest bow. When any weapon or released from the bow, the weapon becomes much more stronger than its original strength. The bow also forms an invisible guard around the Warrior holding it, and the guard cannot be broken by any weapon. Warrior Parashuramaa (bow) 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). It was given to Parashurama By Lord Shiva, which was passed down to King Janaka, the father of Devi Sita, and was broken by Lord Rama 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. It has the power to turn the entire creation to ashes.
Rudra Astra Shiva, the Destroyer Contains the power of a Rudra. When it is used, it invokes the power of Rudra out of the Ekadasha (Eleven) Rudras and destroys the target. In Mahabharata Arjuna uses this astra in war against 3 crore Nivatakavachas and Kalakeyas. Only Arjuna possessed this weapon in Mahabharata.[18]
Pashupatastra Shiva, the Destroyer One of the most powerful weapons among all the astras. Every time it was summoned, its head would never be the same. It summons a larger number of monsters and a huge spirit which personifies the weapon. Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. This Astra was capable to destroy whole world. In Dvapara Yuga, only Arjuna possessed Pashupatastra.[19] In Treta Yuga, sage Vishwamitra possessed this weapon [20]
Parashu (axe) Lord Shiva The Parashu (axe) was an unconquerable and indestructible divine weapon given to Lord Parashurama by his Guru Lord Shiva along with other divine weapons due to the extreme devotion of Lord Parashurama. Lord Parashurama later gave this axe to Lord Ganesha. Parashurama means Rama who wields the axe as Rama was the name Lord Parashurama was known by till he acquired the axe from Lord Shiva.
Chandrahas Shiva, The divine sword Chandrahas (Chandra-Moon, Has-laugh, literally 'the laughter of the moon' but referring to the shape formed by a crescent moon which resembles a smile) was given to Raavan with a warning that if it was used for unjust causes, it would return to the three-eyed Lord Shiva and Ravana's days would be numbered.
Gandiva (bow) Brahma, the creator This invincible bow was created by Brahma, the Creator of universe. Brahma held it first for a thousand years, then Prajapati held it for five hundred and three years, Indra, for five hundred and eighty years, and Soma for five hundred years. After that Varuna held it for a hundred years before handing it to Arjuna along with a Kapi/Hanuman bannered chariot, and two inexhaustible quivers, as requested by Agni during the Khandava-daha Parva. The bow was decorated with hundreds of gold bosses, and had radiant ends. The bow was worshiped by Devas, Gandharvas and Danavas. No person other than Arjuna could wield the Gandiva and Arjuna was wielder of Gandiva then he came to be known as gandivdhari (carrier of gandiva bow).
Sabda-veda astra This weapon prevents an opponent from turning invisible. Used by Arjuna against the Ghandarva king Chitrasena. In Mahabharat era, only Arjuna and Krishna knew this weapon
Antardhana Astra Kubera The Antardhana Astra would make things, people or entire places disappear. It was given to Arjuna by Kubera.
Prajnastra This weapon was used to restore the senses and thoughts of someone. It was a good counter to the Sammohanastra. Warriors like Drona Arjuna had and Drona used this astra in war.
Tej Prabha Astra Surya The Sequestrator of the brilliance of enemies. Arjuna obtained this when he visited heaven.
Sailastra The Sailastra was used to make heavy winds disappear, meaning it was the counter to Vayvayastra, the wind weapon. It was possessed by warriors Rama, Krishna, Indrajit and Arjuna.
Visoshana Indra, god of weather The Visoshana was the drying weapon. It could dry anything.It was an amazing counter to the Varunastra. Arjuna obtained this weapon from Indra at heaven.[21]
Jyotiksha Astra Surya, god of the sun The Jyotiksha Astra could brighten a dark area. Arjuna had this astra in the Mahabharata.
Sauparna The Sauparna weapon would release crazy birds. Hence, it was a good counter to the Nagastra. It was used by Susharma in the Mahabharata war when Arjuna used the Nagastra on the Sampshapataka army.
Govardhana (bow) Vishnu, the Preserver The Govardhana was a powerful bow of Vishnu. During the Mahabharata, Vishnu gave Vidura this bow.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gopa l, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 72.
  2. ^ Mahabharata by Roy, Chandra Pratap
  3. ^ "Astradhari (Astradhari) meaning in English - ASTRADHARI मीनिंग - Translation". dict.hinkhoj.com.
  4. ^ Bhaktivedanta Database https://web.archive.org/web/20120318224435/http://vedabase.net/d/divya. Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 27 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help) A concordance of occurrences of the word divya in the Bhagavad-gita and other sacred texts, with a translation for each occurrence.
  5. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Kairata Parva: Section XL". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  6. ^ "The unknown and untold story of Krishna's Sudarshan Chakra". www.speakingtree.in.
  7. ^ Bodhasarananda Swami. (2016). Stories from the Bhagvatam. Advaita Ashrama. ISBN 978-81-7505-814-9., Quote: "There, Mahadeva told him: 'I cannot help you either. Go to Vaikuntha. Nobody but Sri Hari can save you."
  8. ^ Sri Swami Vishwananda (2016). The Essence of Shreemad Bhagavatam. Bhakti Marga Publications. p. 308. ISBN 978-3-940381-52-1., Quote: "Lord Shankar looked and said, "Aaah! I can't help you. Go to Maha Vishnu."
  9. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 8: Karna Parva: Section 89". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  10. ^ Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda (2017). Shreemad Bhagavad Gita: The Song of Love. Publishdrive. ISBN 978-3940381705.
  11. ^ "Valmiki Ramayana - Yuddha Kanda". www.valmikiramayan.net.
  12. ^ "The Mahabharata in Sanskrit: Book 8: Chapter 67". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  13. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CLXIX". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  14. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CLXXI". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  15. ^ Oppert, Gustav Salomon (1880). On the Weapons, Army Organisation, and Political Maxims of the Ancient Hindus: With Special Reference to Gunpowder and Firearms. Higginbotham. p. 30. Narayanastra most powerful.
  16. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 7: Drona Parva: Drona-vadha Parva: Section CC". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  17. ^ Rao, Desiraju Hanumanta. "Valmiki Ramayana - Baala Kanda - Sarga 76". www.valmikiramayan.net.
  18. ^ https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03170.htm
  19. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Kairata Parva: Section XL". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  20. ^ Rao, Desiraju Hanumanta. "Valmiki Ramayana - Bala Kanda - Sarga 56". www.valmikiramayan.net.
  21. ^ https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03170.htm