Hindu mythological wars

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The Battle of Kurukshetra, fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahabharata.

Hindu mythological wars are the battles described in the Hindu texts of ancient India. These battles depicted great heroes, demons, celestial weapons and supernatural beings. Major wars were fought with the aim of upholding the Dharma (righteousness that brought prosperity to humanity) over Adharma (wickedness that causes humanity to suffer). The purpose of the wars is often described as the removal of demonic beings or lords and rulers who pursued war with 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, and Shiva, often engage in war, either in the form of Avatars or in their true form. They and many Hindu heroes use astras – celestial weapons with fearsome supernatural power – to aid them in battle.

In Vedic literature[edit]

Indra and Vritra[edit]

The central battle in the Vedas is between Indra and Vritra, and the defeat of the demon Vritra leads to the liberation of rivers, cattle and Ushas (dawn/light).

Another important battle is the historic Battle of the Ten Kings, alluded to in the Rigveda, in which the Tritsu clan, led by Sudas, defeat the Puru confederation of ten Indo Aryan clans.[1]

The Kshatriya order[edit]

War Sacrifices:

  • 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 abode of Indra.
  • Vishwajeet Yagna: a sacrifice performed by Brahmins after a king had won a war.[2]

In Puranic Literature[edit]

The Devas and Asuras[edit]

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.[3][better source needed]

  • Brhaspati:[4] the 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.

War Sacrifices Conducted[edit]

  • Ashvamedha: King Sagara performed it for 99 times successfully. If a King performs it 100 times, he becomes eligible to obtain throne of King of Heaven. Sagara also performed this 100th time but it failed because of Indra's evil plot.[7]

Strategic Formations: The Vyuha[edit]

  • Padma Vyuha or the Chakravyuha: A winding, ever-rotating circular formation; considered impenetrable in the Mahabharata by all warriors except for Krishna, Arjuna, Drona, 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.
  • 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.
  • Sarpa Vyuha: Winding Snake Formation
  • Makara Vyuha: Crocodile Formation
  • Sakata Vyuha: Cart Formation
  • Shukar Vyuha: Pig Formation
  • Vajra Vyuha: Thunderbolt formation, the toughest and most difficult after Chakravyuha.
  • Kurma Vyuha: Turtle formation
  • Garuda Vyuha: Eagle formation
  • Suchi Vyuha: Needle formation
  • Simha Vyuha: Lion formation

The end of the world[edit]

  • The end of the world is prophesied to happen at the end of the Kali Yuga - the final stage of the world, and the last of the four stages. Kalki, the final Avatar of Vishnu is also prophesied to appear the end of the Kali Yuga, to wage the final battle between good and evil bringing end of the world and start of new world. [8]
  • Shiva Nataraja, the Destroyer, kills the paramount demon of Ego and performs the Tandava Nritya (The Dance of Tandava) on his back, ending with the destruction of the universe performing Rudra Tandava.
  • In Shaktism, the mystical dance by Goddess Kali (the terrifying form of Parvathi, Shiva's consort), that is, dark energy for destroying all forms of matter, materials, beings, and illusions, which are absorbed within herself i.e. the Supreme Brahman. Another aspect of Shaktism says Mahakali dances the all powerful destructive Tandava, bringing the universe to an end while her fearsome counterpart Chamunda/Charchika, plays music on her divine veena as they swallow the universe together as one.

The Ramayana[edit]

[citation needed]

The epic story of Ramayana was adopted by several cultures across Asia. Shown here is a Thai historic artwork depicting the battle which took place between Rama and Ravana.
  • Vishvamitra : He was the preceptor of Rama and Lakshmana, a powerful tapasvi and Brahmarishi.[9] 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 : He was 7th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Rama was an extremely powerful warrior and had knowledge of usage of many celestial astras. Rama single-handedly slayed the 14,000 demon hordes of Khara (in one hour, in the Ramayana), the demons Maricha and Subahu, Ravana's chief commander Prahasta and is responsible for the ultimate killing of Ravana himself.
  • Lakshmana : He was also very powerful like his brother. He was incarnation of Anantha-Seshanag. He controlled his sleep for 14 continuous years and slayed extremely powerful demons including Atikaya and Indrajit.
  • Hanuman : He was son of Kesari and Anjana. He was one of the Rudras of Shiva. He was first trained by Sun god Surya and later Shiva himself mentored him. Later he became Vanara minister of Sugriva. He 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, no astra and weapon could harm him. He can transform into any size and shape as he desired. He was also well expert in using celestial astras. He also possessed Mohini astra, Rudra astra etc.
  • 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, murder of kings and humiliation of the Gods headed by Indra.
  • Indrajit : He was first-born son of mighty Ravana. Originally his name was Meghanada. He was master of illusion war techniques. He became the possessor of several supreme celestial weapons. Through penance, he obtained a boon from Brahma : he could be killed by a common man who could control his sleep for 12 years continuously. He defeated Indra and arrested him. Then Brahma appeared and asked him to free Indra. Meghanada did as Brahma directed and was then granted boon : he would never be killed in any battle, until his Yagna (fire-worship) of his native goddess Nikumbala was disturbed and destroyed. On the completion of the Yagna, a supreme celestial chariot would appear, boarding which, Indrajit would become unkilled in any battle. But Brahma also cautioned him that whosoever would destroy this yagna, would also kill him. He was killed by Lakshmana.
  • Kumbhakarna: the gigantic brother of Ravana was a fearsome monster-demon who sleeps for six months at a stretch, rising for only one day and then returning to his slumber. Kumbhakarna could slay hundreds of warriors by the sweep of his hand or step of his foot. He was killed by Rama in the war.[10]
  • Prahasta: the chief commander of Lanka's army who was killed on the 1st day of the war of Rama and Ravana.
  • Atikaya: the second son of Ravana, who had an indestructible armor given to him by Brahma that can only be pierce by the Brahmastra. Once he caught Shiva trident in Mount Kailash when Shiva was angry with him. Both Atikaya and his cousin Trishira were the reincarnations of Madhu and Kaitabha, who were defeated by Mahavishnu.
  • Akshayakumara: the youngest son of Ravana who died, fighting Hanuman in Ashok Vatika.
  • Shatrughna: Youngest son of King Dasharatha, youngest brother of Rama. He killed Lavana, son of Madhu and Kumbhini (a sister of Ravana) and became the King of Mathura.
  • Bharata: Younger brother of Rama, elder to Lakshmana and Shatrugna. He along with his maternal uncle Yudhajit, conquered Gandhara and created his kingdom of Takshasila and Pushkalavati by defeating Gandharvas and inhabiting that kingdom.
  • Vali: Son of Vanara king Vriksharaja, spiritual son of King of Gods- Indra. Vali was invincible in Treta Yuga. Vali defeated some of the greatest warriors like Ravana. Vali was blessed with the ability to obtain half the strength of his opponent before which he already had strength of 70,000 elephants. Hence, Rama killed Vali by hiding behind the trees.

Atirathis:

  • Akampana
  • Kampana
  • Devanataka
  • Narantaka
  • Akshayakumara
  • Ahiravana
  • Kumbha
  • Nikumbha
  • All younger sons of Ravana

Maharathis:

  • Laxmana
  • Ravana
  • Kumbhakarna
  • Atikaya
  • Jambavan
  • Sugriva
  • Angada
  • Bharata
  • Shatrugna

Atimaharathis:

  • Rama
  • Indrajit
  • Hanuman

War Sacrifices Conducted[edit]

The Mahabharata[edit]

  • 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 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.
  • Abhimanyu: He was legendary archer and was a super warrior like his father, Arjuna. On the 13th day of war, he entered Chakravyuha and was unfairly killed by multiple Kaurava warriors.[11]
  • Arjuna: He was the son of Indra. He was the best archer and greatest warrior in Mahabharata. He defeated great warriors like Bhishma, Drona, Ashwatthama, Karna, Kripa many times but never got defeated by any of them through out his life. He performed incredible feats like defeating Gandharva King Chitrasena & Nivatakavachas (whom Ravana and Indrajit together failed to defeat and made truce). In the Mahabharata, only Shiva had the ability to beat Arjuna in battle.
  • Ashwatthama: the son of Drona, one of the eight Chiranjeevis . He is a great warrior. Ashwathama and Kripa are considered to be the lone survivors still living who actually fought in the Kurukshetra war. Ashwathama was born with a gem in his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans. This gem is supposed to protect him from attacks by ghosts, demons, poisonous insects, snakes, animals etc.
  • Bhima: The 2nd most physically strong character in the Mahabharata after Hanuman. Bhima had phenomenal personal strength, he is also known for killing many powerful kings and demons like Jarasandh, Kirmira, Bakasura, Hidimb, Jatasura, Kichaka, 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 epic, Duryodhana.
  • Duryodhana: He was a skilled warrior with mace in the Mahabharata war. The only men who could beat him in a mace fight was Bhima, Arjuna and Balarama, the elder brother of Krishna.
  • Dussasana: Younger brother of Duryodhana who assaulted Draupadi in the Game of Dice. He was known to be an aggressive warrior but was brutally slain by Bhima on 16th day of Kurukshetra war.
  • Bhishma: the most consummate warrior trained by Parashurama, Bhishma was indestructible by any warrior (except Lord Parshurama, Lord Krishna, Lord Balrama, Arjuna and Abhimanyu) when he lifts his weapons. Having countered all the kings of the earth, he is the Commander in Chief of the Kuru Army.
  • Drona: the guru of the Kauravas and Pandavas, Drona is a great master of Vedic military arts and almost every celestial weapon. He is invulnerable to any attack (except to Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Krishna and Balarama) till he holds a weapon of any sort. He also has great religious knowledge and wisdom. He becomes the second Kuru commander, and Arjuna was his favorite student.
  • Karna: the son of Surya and first born of Kunti who shunned him due to her being the mother of the Pandavas. Karna was born with Kavacha Kundala (divine armor) which he donated to Indra just before war. Karna was taught by Parashurama in warfare. Karna was one of the great warriors in the Mahabharata. He was defeated and killed by Arjuna on 17th day of the Kurukshetra war.
  • Nakula: 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. He was also greatly associated with horses. During the Kurukshetra war, he was the one who killed most of the offspring of all the Kauravas.
  • Sahadeva: the fifth brother of the Pandavas. He was an expert in the art of axe warfare. He was also greatly associated with sheep, insects. During the Kurukshetra war, he killed Shakuni.

Levels of Warrior Excellence as per Bhishma from Mahabharata[edit]

Before war, Bhishma ill-treated Karna by calling him Artha-rathi because Karna had a very bad habit of flying away from battlefield after being defeated. But Karna was potentially equal to 1 Maharathi warrior

From Kaurava side

Rathis

  • Sudhakshina-the ruler of the Kamvojas.
  • Shakuni-King of Gandhara and uncle of Kauravas.
  • Duryodhana's son-Lakshmana and the Durjaya-son of Dussasana are single Rathis
  • Jayadratha-the king of the Sindhu and brother in law of Kauravas is equal to 2 rathas
  • All 99 brothers of Duryodhana including Dushasana are single Rathis
  • Duryodhana is classified as a warrior equal to 8 Rathis

Atirathis

  • Kritverma- the general of "Narayani Sena" of Krishna.
  • Susharma-the ruler of Trigartas
  • Shalya- the ruler of Madra
  • Bhurisravas-the son of Somadatta
  • Brihadbala-a descendant of Rama, equal to 6 atirathis
  • Kripa-also known as Kripacharya, the son of Saradwat, equal to 5 atirathis

Maharathis

  • Karna-the son of the sun god Surya; king of Anga kingdom; he is equal to 1 Maharathi.
  • Bhagadatta- the ruler of Pragjyotisha and son of Narakasura- equal to 1 maharathi.
  • Ashwatthama-the son of Guru Drona, one of the eight chiranjeevis and equal to 2 Maharathis.
  • Drona-the teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas; equal to 3 Maharathi class warriors.
  • Bhishma-even though he never classified himself, later it was revealed that Bhishma is equal to 4 Maharathi warriors.

From Pandava side

Rathis

  • Uttamaujas
  • Sikhandin-the son of the prince/ess of the Panchalas
  • All sons of Draupadi (Upapandavas) are single rathis
  • Dhrishtaketu-the son of Shishupala, the king of the Chedis
  • Nakula and Sahadeva are single Rathis.
  • Yudhishthira-the son of Pandu and Kunti, is a Rathi.
  • Virata King-King of Matsya

Atirathis

  • Bhima-the second of the Pandava prince, is equal to 8 Atirathis.
  • Satyaki-of the Vrishni race-equal to 6 Atirathis
  • Dhrishtadyumna-the son of Drupada.
  • Kuntibhoja-the maternal grand uncle of Pandavas.
  • Ghatotkacha-prince of Rakshasas and master of all illusions, son Bhima and Hidimba. (During night, Ghatothkatcha is equal to Maharathi)
  • Drupada-King of Panchalas.

Maharathis

  • Abhimanyu- the son of Arjuna is equal to 4 Maharathis.

Atimaharathis

  • Arjuna- the son of mighty Indra is equal to 12 Maharathis.

According to Bhishma, only Arjuna was the Atimaharathi at time of Mahabharata war.

Deities Mentioned[edit]

  • Shukra: the Preceptor of the Asuras, their high priest and guru, worshiper of the Supreme Lord, but remains supportive of the Asuras.[12]
  • Vritra: the Asura son of Savitr deva. Deva Savitr who performs a sacrifice to obtain a son who is capable to be ruler of the three worlds.[13]

War Sacrifices Conducted[edit]

  • Ashvamedha: In the Mahabharata, Arjuna alone had conquered the whole world for the sake of Ashwamedha Yagna of his brother Yudhishtira.[14]
  • Rajasuya: It was performed by king Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata epic. Arjuna had conquered 36 kingdoms for the sake of Yudhisthira's Rajasuya Yagna- most by any Kshatriya warrior in a Rajasuya yagna[15]

Levels of Warrior Excellence[edit]

  • Atimaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Maharathi class warriors or 8,640,000 warriors simultaneously; circumspect in his mastery of all forms of weapons and combat skills; expert in designing and destroying all strategies (vyuhas); able to fight against all illusions and win against opponents in such situations.Indrajit Hanuman, Rama, Ravana, Krishna and Arjuna are considered as Atimaharathis. Different forms of Lord Shiva are also Atimaharthis. Veerabhadra, Bhairava etc. fall under this category. Incarnations and avatars of Lord Vishnu are generally considered as Atimaharathis.

Major deities[edit]

Vishnu[edit]

Vishnu is the Supreme God in Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism. According to traditional etymologies, "Vishnu" means "all pervading" supreme being, the source of everything. In the Vishnu Sahasranama, he is called Paramatma (supreme soul) 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. Lord Vishnu has 10 avatars The 10 Avatars of Vishnu include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parshurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha/Balarama and Kalki. Vishnu is also said to have total of 36 forms. 26 forms other than Dasa-Avatars include Mohini, Nara-Narayana, Arjuna, Dattatreya, Danvantri, Yagya-raja, King Prithu etc. He is also considered in some sources to be the first God, 'Adideva'. He is described as being beyond birth, death and time. In battle, the avatars of Vishnu are aided by a variety of astra or celestial weapons. His two human avatars, Rama and Krishna, were fearsome warriors and possessed many celestial weapons that accompany the past times of Vishnu. Krishna also used a few of these weapons in Mahabharata. These include:

  • Kaumodaki: The divine mace weapon of Vishnu; invincible and unparallel; Krishna slayed demon Dantavakra with it.
  • Kodanda: The powerful bow of Rama, 7th avatar of Vishnu. Kodanda was also wielded by Vishnu.
  • Nandaka: The sword of Vishnu which Krishna also possessed.
  • Narayanastra: Narayanastra is one of the most powerful astras in the universe after Pashupatastra and Vaishnavastra. The personal missile weapon of Vishnu in his Narayana 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 Rama in the Ramayana. Then, thousands of years later, this astra was again used by Ashwathama in the Kurukshetra War against the Pandava army. Apart from Rama, only Ashwatthama possessed this weapon.
  • Parashu: The axe of Parashurama, 6th avatar of Vishnu. This axe was given by God of Gods- Shiva.
  • Sharanga: The celestial bow of Vishnu.
  • Sharkha: The bow of Krishna, 8th avatar of Vishnu.
  • Sudarshana Chakra: The magical Chakra, a spinning disc with sharp outer spears. It is the most powerful Shastra in the universe, and without any parallel. The Chakra was famously designed by Vishwakarma for Vishnu. The Sudarshana chakra 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 Krishna in the Mahabharata.
  • Vaishnavastra: Vaishnavastra is one of the most powerful astras in the universe along with the Narayanastra. The personal missile weapon of Krishna, once fired it cannot be thwarted by any means, save by the will of Vishnu himself. Krishna gave this astra to his cousin Arjuna.

Shiva[edit]

11th-century statue of Shiva performing the dance of destruction.

Mahadeva literally means "Highest of all gods" i.e. God of Gods. He is the supreme God in Shaivism sect of Hinduism. Shiva is also known as Maheshwar, "the great Lord", Mahadeva, the great God, Shambhu, Hara, Pinakadharik (pinakapani- South India notation), "bearer of the Pinaka" 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 damaruka, an hourglass-shaped drum, along with his trishula, a trident-staff. His usual mantra is Om Namah Shivaya.[16] 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.

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 amshas (spirits) deploy formidable weapons controlled by him. Some of these are:

  • Arrow of Shiva: It can destroy creation. Returns to the quiver after being used.
  • Chandrahas: Sword of Ravana granted by Shiva as a boon.
  • Ekasha Gada: The mace of Shiva. A blow from the weapon is the equivalent of being hit by a million elephants.
  • Girish: A special sword of Shiva with unique characteristics.
  • Jayantha Vel: A spear which contains the power of the third eye of Shiva.
  • Khaṭvāṅga: In Hinduism, the god Shiva - Rudra carried the khatvāṅga as a staff weapon and are thus referred to as khatvāṅgīs.
  • Maheshwara Chakra: The Chakra of Shiva.
  • Parashu: The axe of Shiva given to Parashurama (the 6th Avatar of Vishnu).
  • Pashupatastra: An irresistible and the most destructive personal weapon of Shiva, discharged by the mind, the eyes, words, or a bow. This is the most devastating weapon in the universe. Sage-King Vishwamitra and Arjuna are only other persons who possessed this weapon.
  • Pinaka: The celestial bow of Shiva.(Shiva's bow): A bow given by Shiva to Janaka and broken by Rama during Sita's swayamvara
  • Vijaya Dhanush:Vijaya (bow): A bow given by Shiva to Parasurama to kill Kshatriyas
  • Shiva Kaakam: An unconquerable weapon of Shiva.
  • Shiva Parham: A long noose (of Shiva) from which even the Gods can't escape from.
  • Shiva Vajra: A vajra which is as powerful as Indra's Vajra
  • Teen Baan: Shiva 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.
  • Trishula (Trident): The trident of Shiva.

Shakti[edit]

Shakti is the supreme Goddess in Shaktism sect of Hinduism. Both a supreme being and an energy that is considered to be the source of all works of creation, preservation and destruction, Adi Parashakti is the source of Trimurti, the universe and all of creation. She took many incarnations to fight with demons, including Parvati, wife of Shiva, Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu, [17] 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.[18]

Sometimes, the gods worship Parvati, who came before them in different avatars:

  • Durga, who killed the demon Mahishasura
  • Kali, the most ferocious form of the Goddess, who can not be pacified by anyone after war.
  • Chandi, the gentle manifestation of Durga or Kali, who killed Mahishasura in the 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 demigods.

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 Yamaraj.

Celestial Weapons[edit]

An Astra is a power, weapon, missile that is to be hurled at an enemy. Generally astra is in form of an arrow. Astras can be invoked using incantations (mantras). Different astras have different power. A Shastra is a personal weapon like swords, bows, spades, axes, spears and maces which must be constantly operated by a warrior.

  • 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. It was used multiple times in the Ramayana, Indrajit used it against Hanuman, Lakshmana asked permission to use it against Indrajit, which Rama declined, Lakshmana used it to kill Atikaya, Rama used it as final arrow to kill Ravana. In the epic the Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the single head of Brahma as its tip. In the Mahabharata era Parashurama, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Arjuna, Yudhishtira and many Maharathis possessed the knowledge to invoke this missile.
  • Brahmashirsha astra: A weapon capable of greater destruction than the Brahmastra. It can burn all creation to ashes once discharged, Arjuna and Ashwathama both used it against each other after the Mahabharata war. Capable of killing even heavens. Was used by Ashwatthama on Parikshit. It is thought that the Brahmashirsha is the evolution of the Brahmastra, 4 times stronger than Brahmastra. "It blazes up with terrible flames within a huge sphere of fire. Numerous peals of thunder were heard, thousands of meteors fell and all living creatures became terrified with great dread. The entire sky seemed to be filled with noise and assumed a terrible aspect with flames of fire. The whole earth with her mountains and waters and trees trembled." When it strikes an area it will cause complete destruction and nothing will ever grow, not even a blade of grass for the next 12 years. It will not rain for 12 years in that area and everything including metal and earth becomes poisoned.[19] In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the four heads of Brahma as its tip. In the Mahabharata, Agnivesha, Drona, Ashwatthama, Arjuna possessed the knowledge to invoke this weapon.
  • Brahmanda astra: This is the most powerful weapon of Brahma. It was first used by sage Vashishtha against Vishwamitra's (who was King Vishwarath at that time) Brahmashirsha, as only Brahmanda astra can stop Brahmashirsha astra, it was also used by sage Piplad against Shani to avenge his father's death.In the epic Mahabharata, it is said that the weapon manifest with the all five heads of Brahma as its tip.Brahma earlier lost his fifth head when he fought with Siva.This weapon is said to possess the power to destroy entire solar system or brahmand, the 14 realms according to Hindu cosmology. In some texts it is called Brahma-dhanda astra, the weapon created by Saptarishi's to counter any weapon ever created, even that of Trimurti's. The rishi of this weapon is Para Brahman. It is stated to be the most difficult astra to obtain. Capable of destroying entire universe in a blink of an eye. Vishvamitra used all kinds of divine weapons against sage Vashistha, even Pashupatastra, but the Brahma-dhanda astra of Vashistha neutralized and swallowed all astra (weapon) of Vishwamitra proving that Brahma-dhanda astra is the most powerful of all astras.[20]
  • Pashupatastra: In Hinduism, it is considered that Pashupatastra is the most devastating weapon, as it is the weapon of the consort of the God head Mahadeva, i.e. Mahakali. Mahadeva literally means "Highest of all gods" and Mahakali means "Goddess who is beyond time". This weapon was granted to Arjuna by Shiva. It is the most destructive and foreboding weapon in the Mahabharata. It was first used by Shiva for the destruction of tripura. It is capable of destroying entire multiverse. In the Ramayana, Vishvamitra possessed this mighty weapon. In the Mahabharata, only Arjuna possessed this weapon.
  • Narayanastra: Invincible and painful, this astra is unconquerable except by total submission, this astra was used by Krishna against Shiva, when Shiva was fighting on behalf of the evil Banasura, when Shiva charged his personal Pashupatastra on Krishna, Krishna used this to make Shiva fall asleep, allowing him to move past him and cut off Banasura's arms but at the request of Shiva does not kill Banasura.
  • Vaishnavastra  : One of the most powerful astras, this cannot be stopped by anyone except its creator, Vishnu. Vaishnavastra is the most powerful astra in the universe along with the Narayanastra. The personal missile weapon of Krishna, once fired it cannot be thwarted by any means, save by the will of Vishnu Himself. Krishna gave this astra to his cousin Arjuna. Rama, Krishna, Arjuna possessed this weapon.
11th-century statue of Shiva performing the dance of destruction.
  • Nagastra: The snake weapon used by Indrajit against Rama and Lakshmana, used by Karna against Arjuna.
  • Nagapasham: is the celestial weapon equal to Nagastra".
  • Garudastra:The eagle weapon to counter against the Nagastra.
  • Anjalikastra: The personal weapon of Indra. This is the astra used by Arjuna to slay Karna in the Mahabharata war.
  • Ramabanam (Ramastra): Created by Ram, and is used to kill the Ravana in Ramayana. It cannot be countered by any weapon and could not be stopped by anyone except Rama.
  • Bhargavastra: this is the astra created by Parahsurama, he gave it to Karna in the Mahabharata.
  • Parvatastra: one of the most dangerous weapon, once it used mountains from sky fall in to the earth.
  • Vasavi Shakti: The magical dart weapon of Indra, unfailing at executing its target. Indra granted it to Karna during the Kurukshetra war, 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.,[21] In, the Rigveda, it is stated that it was fashioned by Tvashtar.[22] In the Puranas, the vajra stated to be made from the bones of sage Dadhichi. In all versions, it was used by Indra to slay serpent called Vritra. In the Mahabharata, Indra gave the Vajra to his son Arjuna. Apart from Indra, only Arjuna possessed it.
  • Agneyastra: The fire weapon, created by Agni, god of fire
  • Varunastra: The water weapon, created by Varuna, god of the oceans
  • Vayavastra: The wind weapon, created by Vayu
  • Samvarta: Weapon belonging to Yama used by Bharata to annihilate thirty million Gandharvas in a moment, tearing them to pieces.
  • Sammohanastra: Would cause entire hosts/armies to collapse in a trance. It was used in the Mahabharata by Arjuna to collapse the entire army of Kuru Maharathis including Duryodhan, Drona, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Dushasana, and Karna.
  • Twashtastra: When used against a group of opponents (such as an army), would cause them to mistake each other for enemies and fight each other.
  • Sooryastra: Create a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about and dry up water bodies.
  • Sabda vedastra: This weapon prevents an opponent from turning invisible. Used by Arjuna against the Gandharva king Chitrasena.
  • Gandharvastra: Created by Gandharva King Chitrasena (who defeated the combined force of Duryodhan and made Karna flee the battlefield). He gave it to Arjuna.
  • Mayastra: Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity. It was possessed by Arjuna.
  • Manavastra: Created by Manu, it could overcome supernatural protections and carry the target hundreds of miles away. Can inspire humane traits in an evil being. This weapon was used by Rama on Maricha.
  • Bhaumastra: Created by Goddess Bhumi Devi, the weapon could create tunnels deep into the earth and summon jewels.
  • Indrastra: Created by the God Indra, it would bring about a 'shower' of arrows from the sky.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schmidt, H.P. Notes on Rgveda 7.18.5-10. Indica. Organ of the Heras Institute, Bombay. Vol.17, 1980, 41-47.
  2. ^ "A History of Hinduism". The Bombay Quarterly. 2: 192–195. 1852.
  3. ^ The Holy Science, by Jnanavatar Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, Yogoda Sat-Sanga Society of India, 1949
  4. ^ Coleman, Charles. Mythology of the Hindus, p. 133
  5. ^ Chandra, Suresh. (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu gods and goddesses. pp. 173–175.
  6. ^ Epico-Puranic Myths and Allied Legends, D. C. Sircar, in The Comprehensive History of Assam, Vol 1, ed H. K. Barpujari 1990.
  7. ^ Sons of Sagara Vishnu Purana translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, 1840, Book IV, Chapter IV. p. 378 the gods repaired to the Muni Kapila, who was a portion of Vishńu, free from fault, and endowed with all true wisdom. Having approached him with respect, they said, "O lord, what will become of the world, if these sons of Sagara are permitted to go on in the evil ways which they have learned from Asamanja! Do thou, then, assume a visible form, for the protection of the afflicted universe." "Be satisfied," replied the sage, "in a brief time the sons of Sagara shall be all destroyed."
  8. ^ Hindu Prophecies: Translations from the Kalki Purana
  9. ^ The Vinaya Pitaka's section Anguttara Nikaya: Panchaka Nipata, P. 44 The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science by Robert Spence Hardy
  10. ^ Pot-Ear's Awakening. From the Ramayana, as translated by Arthur W. Ryder
  11. ^ "Sacred Texts: Section XLV".
  12. ^ Subramaniam, Kamala (2007). "Adi Parva". The Mahabharata. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan India. ISBN 81-7276-405-7.
  13. ^ Ganguli, Kisari (1883-96, reprinted 1975). The Mahabharata. ISBN 0-89684-429-3.
  14. ^ "Digivijaya of Arjuna".
  15. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 2: Sabha Parva: Jarasandhta-badha Parva: Section XXIX". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  16. ^ Elizabeth Gilbert (2007). Eat, Pray, Love, p. 133.
  17. ^ Wilkins pp.240-1
  18. ^ "Worship of Devi, the Goddess, the Divine Feminine!". Archived from the original on November 22, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  19. ^ www.sacred-texts.com
  20. ^ "Brahmadhanda astra". Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  21. ^ Sarat Chandra Das (1902), A Tibetan-English dictionary with Sanskrit synonyms, Bengal Secretariat Book Depôt
  22. ^ Rigveda 1.32, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith