Gandiva (IAST: Gāṇḍīva; Sanskrit: गाण्डीव) is the bow of Arjuna, the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The 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. Arjuna used it in Kurukshetra war and he was invincible. No ordinary person could wield the Gandiva bow. When fired, the bow made the sound of thunder. It has special qualities like being indestructible, having 100 bow strings, etc. Which always gave the wielder a heavy advantage over his opponent. After the war, in Svargarohanika Parva, Agni reappears before Arjuna and asks him to return Gandiva along with the quivers to Varuna.
Agni, the God of fire, wanted to devour the Khandava forest, in order to regain his power and splendour. He had enlisted the help of the two heroes, Krishna and Arjuna. The latter was one of the greatest archers of all time, and demanded Agni for a bow which would suit his strength, skill and the power of celestial weapons.
Agni provided the heroes with the desired weapons. He gave the Gandiva bow to Arjuna, as well as two quivers which would provide an inexhaustible amount of arrows.
The weapon was dreaded by many during the Kurukshetra war, having defeated and killed many great warriors and the gods themselves.
The bow was forged by none other than Lord Brahma, the Supreme Creator Himself. Many owners included Shiva, Lord of Destruction, Prajapati, Lord of Life-Forms, Indra, God of the Sky, Chandra, the Moon God and Varuna, God of the Oceans.
The bow was itself created from a heavenly tree called the Gandi. It was about as tall as a palm tree, and was so heavy, very few people could truly wield it (Besides Arjuna, the ones who were believed to be worthy of wielding it were Krishna, Bhima, Karna, Bhishma and Parashurama).
Aside from its great proportions and tremendous weight, the bow was a double curve. It possessed a 108 strings, one of them being of celestial origin and therefore, unbreakable. The strings were known to make a deep rumble, resembling that of thunder, inspiring dread amongst enemies. Every time an arrow was fired, the bow glowed so brightly, not many people could look at it properly.
The Gandiva could fire hundreds of arrows, with a great range of over several miles. It could amplify the strength of a normal arrow by a thousand times. The body of the Gandiva was unbreakable. Wielded in the hands of Arjuna, the greatest warrior of Dwapar Yuga, its glory reached new heights. Arjuna, other wise also known as Vibhatsu , the Just , wielded Gandiva and was invincible and being the re incarnation of Nara was guided by Narayana i.e. Lord Krishna to cleanse earth of divine weapons and establish an Dharma Rajya so that earth and humanity might have a fresh start when dark Kaliyuga arrives.
In the Dwapar Yuga, there were only three Celestisal Bows in earth, Gandiva of Arjuna, Vijaya of Arjuna's Elder Brother and arch Enemy Karna and Srnga, the bow wielded by Lord Krishna, the almighty. Among these three bows, Gandiva is almost synonymous with Arjuna since he was the only mortal to wield it. Vijaya Bow was wielded most of the time by Lord Parshurama who later gave it to Karna, who wielded it in Kurukshetra war. Lord Krishna did not wielded any weapon in Kurukshetra war and hence Srnga does not makes appearance in Kurkshetra war.
At the end of Dwapar yuga , Lord Krishna left his mortal shell and left for Vaikuntha. Lord Krishna and Arjuna were the reincrnation of the ancient sages Nara and Narayana. Hence after Narayana left World, his other half Narayana i.e. Arjuna lost his powers. He could not even lift the famed Gandiva with which he conquered three worlds. Hence after Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama left world and returned Vaikuntha, Pandavas went out for mahaprasthan in the himalayas. On their route, Lord Varuna came and Arjuna returned Gandiva to him. Thus the most famous celestial bow of Dwapar yuga left earth keeping behind the greatest warrior of Dwapar Yuga with whom its name has become synonymous in Indian Mythology.
- Bharadvaja Sarma, Vyāsa, Bharadvaja Sarma. Vyasa's Mahabharatam. Academic Publishers. p. 844.
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