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As related in Hindu epics, a Maharathi is a warrior having mastery of all forms of weapons and combat skills. Maharathas are masters of all Vyuhas or battle formations and excellent strategists.
Levels of warrior excellence
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There is a reference of several levels of excellence in the Mahabharata which is a part of India's sanskrit itihaas. However what determines these is by and large left unknown. This has led to speculation.
- Mahārathi: A warrior capable of fighting more than 12 Atirathi class warriors simultaneously with mastery of all forms of weapons and combat skills.
- Atirathi: A warrior capable of contending with 9 Rathi class warriors. The majority of mahabharata warriors are atirathis including, Ashwatthama, Abhimanyu, Lakshmana Kumara, all sons of Karna, Drupada and all his sons, all sons of Draupadi, Iravana, Alambusha, Ghatotkacha, Kripacharya, Kritavarma, Satyaki, Shalya etc.
- Ekarathi: A warrior capable of fighting with 6 rathi class warriors. Duryodhana, Sahadeva, Nakula, Bhima, Dushyasana and his son were probably the only ekarathis.
- Rathi: A warrior capable of attacking 1000 warriors simultaneously.
- Ardha-rathi: Literally half a rathi.
However, the authenticity behind this can be judged as there are no evidences of the above. According to the rankings by Bhishma in Mahabharata, the rankings suggest something entirely different. It can also be argued that the system of levels of excellence is seen the wrong way.
Atimaharathi and mahamaharathi
Recently a 2 new levels of excellence have been added. Mahamaharathi and atimaharathi.
- Mahamaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 24 Atimaharathi warriors simultaneously. No warrior has attained this status, not least because there have never been 24 Atimaharathi warriors at the same time, but warriors who can be called Mahamaharathi are Lord Shiva, Goddess Shakti, Lord Vishnu and his avatar Lord Krishna. Mahishasura can also be called a Mahamaharathi since it took Goddess Durga ten days to slay him. Madhu-Kaitabha also fall in this category because Lord Vishnu fought 5000 years with them.
- AtiMahārathi: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Maharathi warriors simultaneously. Ravana, Indrajit, Lord Hanuman, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Ganesha and all complete avatars of Lord Vishnu except Lord Krishna are atimaharathis. An Athimaharathi warrior knows all three ultimate weapons of the Trimurthi namely Vaishnavastra, Pashupatastra and Brahmashira astra.
- Handbook of Hindu Mythology by George M. Williams
- Srimad Bhagavad Gita by Asoka Kausika, Star Publications, 1998