Astra (weapon)

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Ashwatthama uses Narayanastra

In Hinduism, an astra (Sanskrit: अस्त्र; also Romanized as asthra) is a supernatural weapon invoked by mantras to summon the energy of a specific deity. This energy can be channeled into any object, which can then be used as a weapon. These weapons are imbued with spiritual and occult powers. The word astra later became used to describe any ranged weapon that is handheld, such as a bow and arrow.

Astradhari[edit]

The bearer of an astra is called an Astradhari (Sanskrit: अस्त्रधारी).[1] In the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Shri Ram had more astras than any other warrior,[2] and in various texts Parashurama is stated to have possessed numerous astras as well.[3][4]

Summoning[edit]

Summoning an astra requires saying a specific incantation or invocation. Whichever deity was invoked would then give a weapon supernatural powers, which made it superior to regular weapons. Astras were only to be used in certain circumstances, and summoning one irresponsibly would be punished, possibly by death.[citation needed]

The ability to summon an astra would be passed down by word of mouth through the system of Guru–shishya, in which a teacher (Guru) would give knowledge of the incantation to a pupil (Shishya). However, some astras are only given by deities directly, and simply saying an incantation would be insufficient.[citation needed]

Arjuna uses the Agneyastra against Angaraparna

List of Astras[edit]

Astras are most common in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and feature in the battles described in each epic. While they typically take the form of arrows, astras could take the form of any object. For example, Ashwatthama invoked the Brahmashirsha astra into a blade of grass to use as his weapon.[5][6]

Arjuna gifts the Agneyastra to the Gandharva
Name Type Deity Astradhari Notes
Brahmastra Brahma Ashwatthama Most powerful astra in the Mahabharata. Only weapon capable of piercing Brahma's armor.
Trishula Trident Shiva Most powerful weapon according to Shaiva traditions.
Sudarshana Chakra Discus Vishnu Krishna Can only be stopped by Vishnu's command.[7][8] Used to behead Shishupala.[9]
Teen Baan Arrows Shiva Barbarika Three arrows given by Shiva. First arrow marks what is to be destroyed, second marks what is to be saved, and third destroys what is marked to be destroyed.[10]
Aindrastra Arrows Indra Arjuna Would summon a shower of arrows from the sky, like rain.
Vasavi Shakti Indra Karna Could be used only once. Used by Karna to kill Ghatotkacha.
Praswapastra Vasus Bhishma Causes the afflicted to fall asleep on the battlefield.
Agneyastra Agni Parshuram, Ram, Bhishma, Dronacharya, Karna , Arjuna, Ashwathama, Kripacharya Emitted inextinguishable flames.
Varunastra Varuna Rama, Indrajit, Ravana, Lakshman, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Arjuna Released large torrents of water. Used to counter the Agneyastra.
Manavastra Manu Rama Overcomes spiritual protection, can carry the target far away, and can inspire humanity in evil beings.
Varunapasha Noose Varuna Rama, Indrajit, Arjuna, Karna, Bhishma, Drona Noose which gods were incapable of escaping.
Bhaumastra Bhūmi Arjuna Could create deep tunnels and summon jewels.
Bhargavastra Arrows Parashurama Karna Launches a large quantity of arrows.
Nagastra Arrow The Nagas Many Arrow which never missed. Took the form of a snake.
Nagapasha The Nagas Indrajit, Karna, Arjuna Bound the target in live venomous snakes.
Garudastra Garuda Rama, Arjuna Used to defend against the Nagastra.[11]
Anjalika Indra Laxmana, Arjuna Used to kill Indrajith and Karna.
Vayvyastra Vayu Ashwatthama, Arjuna, Indrajit, Rama Brings about storms which can lift armies off the ground.
Suryastra Surya Arjuna Creates bright light which dispels darkness and dries up water.
Maghavan Indra Arjuna Flaming weapon used to create illusions.[12]
Vajra Thunderbolt Indra Arjuna Target would be struck with bolts of lightning.[13]
Mohini Mohini Arjuna Dispels nearby illusions and sorcery,
Twashtra Twashtri Arjuna Causes armies to fight among each other.[14]
Sammohana/Pramohana Gandharvas Arjuna, Dhrishtadyumna Causes armies to fall into a trance.
Parvatastra Arjuna Causes a mountain to fall from the sky.
Narayanastra Vishnu Drona, Ashwatthama Creates a shower of arrows and discs. Only way to escape is submission to the weapon.[15][16]
Vaishnavastra Vishnu Bhagadatta, Arjuna, Rama Completely destroys the target.[17][18]
Kaumodaki Gada Mace Vishnu Krishna Destroys whole armies. Used to kill Dantavakra.
Sharanga Bow Vishnu Rama, Krishna
Nandaka Sword Vishnu Krishna Indestructible blade used to kill countless demons.
Raudrastra Shiva Arjuna Name means "furious" in Sanskrit.
Pashupatastra Shiva Arjuna Used by Shiva to liberate the creatures of earth. Cannot be possessed by ordinary humans.
Pinaka Bow Shiva Parashurama, Janaka Broken by Rama.
Vijaya Bow Shiva Parashurama, Vasusena karna Its bowstring cannot be broken. Used to kill Tripura.
Maheshwarastra Shiva Contains the power of Shiva's third eye. Fires a beam which turns the target to ash.
Parashu Axe Shiva Parashurama, Ganesha Given to Parashurama due to his devotion to Shiva.
Chandrahas Sword Shiva Raavan Name means "laughter of the moon", referring to the crescent shape of the moon.
Gandiva Bow Brahma Prajapati, Indra, Soma, Varuna, Arjuna Decorated with gold and had radiant ends.
Sabda-veda Arjuna Guided by source of sound
Antardhyana Kubera Arjuna Capable of making objects and people disappear.
Prajnastra Arjuna, Drona Used to restore the senses of a person.
Parjanyastra Arjuna Used to pierce the earth, bringing forth water to quench Bhishma's thirst.[19]
Tej Prabha Surya Arjuna Obtained when Arjuna visited heaven.
Sailastra Rama, Krishna, Indrajit, Arjuna, Karna. Used to make heavy winds disappear.
Visoshana Indra Arjuna Capable of drying anything.[20]
Jyotiksha Astra Surya Arjuna Capable of dispelling darkness.
Sauparna Susharma Released wild birds.
Govardhana Bow Vishnu Vidura
Kavasa Kundalam Armor Surya Karna, Indra Made completely of amrit.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Astradhari (Astradhari) meaning in English - ASTRADHARI मीनिंग - Translation". dict.hinkhoj.com.
  2. ^ "Ramayana and Mahabharata: Stories, Similarities and Differences". www.asiahighlights.com. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  3. ^ "Parshuram Jayanti 2021: 10 Interesting Things To Know About Parshuram". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  4. ^ Narayan, R. K. (2006). The Ramayana : a shortened modern prose version of the Indian epic (suggested by the Tamil version of Kamban). New York: Penguin Books. p. 13. ISBN 9780143039679.
  5. ^ 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. {{cite web}}: 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.
  6. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Kairata Parva: Section XL". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  7. ^ Bodhasarananda Swami. (2016). Stories from the Bhagvatam. Advaita Ashrama. ISBN 978-81-7505-814-9. 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, Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CLXIX". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  13. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CLXXI". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  14. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 7: Drona Parva: Dronabhisheka Parva: Section XIX". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  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. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 6: Bhishma Parva: Bhagavat-Gita Parva: Section CXXIII". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  18. ^ Rao, Desiraju Hanumanta. "Valmiki Ramayana - Baala Kanda - Sarga 76". www.valmikiramayan.net.
  19. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 6: Bhishma Parva: Bhagavat-Gita Parva: Section CXXIII". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  20. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CLXX".