(CHAKRA) There are many examples of symbolism and descriptions of weapons in Hinduism scriptures. Here is a list of the weapons/astras that are mentioned in various hindu texts and epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata. A few of these weapons in modern day are just used for religious symbols, but some have evolved and can be connected to other similar weapons used all around the world.
In the Ramayana, Lord Rama faced Ravana where he shot arrows and knocked off each of Ravana’s ten heads, but they grew back immediately. The new heads doubled Ravana’s strength so Lord Rama fired the arrow of Brahma that had been imparted to him by Agastya, a sage and heavenly historian, while Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana were exiled in Dandaka Forest. The arrow of Brahma burst Ravana’s chest, passed through his body, and returned to Rama’s quiver. Ravana was destroyed and Rama was able to return home in victory. The arrow of Brahma that Rama shot had feathers of winds. The points were sun and flames. The shaft was Mount Meru, the hub of the universe and where Brahma lived.
A legend concerning the sword appears in the Shantiparva section of Mahabharata where a demon-like being sprang from the midst of the sacrificial fires scattering flames all around. His teeth were sharp and terrible, stomach lean and skinny and stature very tall and slim. He was of exceeding energy and power. Simultaneously, the earth started shaking, there were turmoils in the oceans, the forceful winds started howling all around, the trees started falling and being torn apart, and the meteors started blazing through the skies! Brahma declared: The ‘being’ I have conceived is Asi. It shall effect the destruction of the enemies of the gods and restore the Dharma. Upon this, the creature assumed the form of a blazing, sharp-edged sword, glowing like the flames at the end of the Kalpa.
Brahmastra & Brahmashira
It is sometimes known as the Brahma Astra. As described in a number of the Puranas, it was considered the deadliest weapon. It was said that when the Brahmastra was discharged, there was neither a counter attack nor a defense that could stop it, except by Brahmadanda, a stick also created by Brahma. It was believed to be obtained by meditating on the Creator in the Vedas, Lord Brahma; it could only be used once in a lifetime. The user would have to display immense amounts of mental concentration. According to ancient Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra is invoked by a key phrase or invocation that is bestowed upon the user when given this weapon. Through this invocation the user can call upon the weapon and use it via a medium against his adversary. Since Brahma is considered the Creator in Sanatana Dharma, it is believed by Hindus that Brahmastra was created by him for the purpose of upholding Dharma and Satya, to be used by anyone who wished to destroy an enemy who would also happen to be a part of his (Brahma’s) creation. The target, when hit by Brahmastra, would be utterly destroyed. Brahma had created a weapon even more powerful than the Brahmastra, called the Brahmashira. The Brahmashira was never used in war, as it had four times more power than the Brahmastra, i.e. Fourth power square, as the name suggests, since Brahma has Four Heads. Only Arjuna and Ashwatthama possessed the knowledge to summon the Brahmashira. The Brahmastra was an elite weapon with only a handful of greatest of religious and devoted archers (ref) maheshwarananda, Swami.”the vedic system” having access to it. It could not be acquired by mere training or meditation, it could only be bestowed upon a warrior by Lord Shiva or Lord Brahma. It required great sacrifice and devotion to be granted a Brahmastra, only a few people in the Mahabharata had this weapon at their disposal.
The Sudarshana Chakra is a spinning, disk-like super weapon with 108 serrated edges used by Lord Vishnu. Its shape is of a circle with a sharp outer edge. Earliest references to the chakram come from the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana where the Sudarshana Chakra is the weapon of the god Vishnu. The use of Sudarshana Chakra is occasionally mentioned in the Hindu texts of Rigveda, Yajurveda and Puranas, as an ultimate weapon to eliminate the enemy of law, order and preservation. Such enemies are enumerated variously as rakshasas, asura, and vikrutatma. In one such instance, as scribed in the stanzas of the Mahabharat, Lord Shri Krishna, the Avatar of Lord Vishnu, beheads Shishupala with the use of the Sudarshana Chakra, for his rapacious behaviour (committing 100 mistakes each worthy of death) at the Rajsuya yagna celebration of Emperor Yudhishthira.
A chentu is a horse whip which looks like a crooked stick, and is a typical attribute of Lord Ayyanar, Krishna in his aspect as Rajagopala, and Shiva with Nandi. The attribute of chentu, which is etymologically derived from a Tamil word, generally appears in Southern India, especially in Hindu images of Tamil Nadu state, India.
The elephant/hathi goad or Ankusa (Sanskrit) is a tool employed in the handling and training of elephants. It consists of a hook (usually bronze or steel) which is attached to a handle. The hook is inserted into the elephant’s sensitive skin, either slightly or more deeply, to cause pain and induce the elephant to behave in a certain manner. A relief at Sanchi and a fresco at the Ajanta Caves depict a three person crew on the war elephant, the driver with an elephant goad, what appears to be a noble warrior behind the driver and another attendant on the posterior of the elephant. 2 elephant goads, perfectly preserved were recovered from an archaeological site at Taxila and are dated from 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE.
Gandiva is a holy bow created by Brahman of old, not to be confused with Brahma, the Creator. Brahma held it first for a thousand years. The bow was worshiped by Devas, Gandharvas and Danavas. Arjuna used it in Kurukshetra war and he was invincible. It is said that beside Lord Krishna no one except Arjuna could wield the bow in the mortal world. The bow, when twanged made the sound of thunder. Gandiva is parallel in its fame to its famous wielder. The name of Arjuna and Gandiva are spoken in single breath.
Khatvanga is a long, club or staff originally created to be used as a weapon. It is a divine weapon of polysemic significance and accoutrement of chthonic deities and ‘left-handed path’ (Sanskrit: vamamarga) holy people in Dharmic Traditions such as Shaivism. The Khatvanga was adopted by some lineages of historical Tantra though it preceded such traditions. Lord Shiva as well as Lord Rudra carried the Khatwang as a staff.
The personal missile of lord Vishnu in his Narayan form. This astra in turn fires millions of deadly missiles simultaneously. The intensity of the shower increases with increase in resistance. The only way of defense towards this missile, is to show total submission before the missiles hit. This in turn will cause this weapon to stop and spare the target. Ashwathama, a Kuru warrior-hero in the epic Mahabharata unleashes this weapon on the Pandava forces. Lord Krishna, who is an Avatar of Vishnu tells the Pandavas and their warriors to drop their weapons and lie down on the ground, so that they all surrender completely to the power of the weapon. This secret of nullifying the power of this weapon by this method was known only to three warriors namely Drona, Aswathama, and Krishna. Even Arjuna was not aware of this secret. It was also said that this weapon can be used only once in a war and if one tries to use it twice, then it would devour the user’s own army.
The parashu is an Indian battle-axe. It is generally wielded with two hands but could also be used with only one. The parashu was the choice weapon of Lord Parashurama, sixth Avatar of Vishnu. Parashurama was the guru of Dronacharya, the guru who instructed the Pandavas in the epic of the Mahabharata. Bhishma and Karna, half brother of Pandava also took instruction in weaponry from Parashurama, a disciple of lord Shiva, and was known to have terrible temper having lost his father to the evil Asura. Parashurama’s parashu had supernatural powers. It had four cutting edges, one on each end of the blade head and one on each end of the shaft.
The Pashupatastra is the most destructive personal weapon of Lord Shiva, discharged by the mind, the eyes, words, or a bow. Never to be used against lesser enemies or by lesser warriors, the Pashupatastra is capable of destroying creation and vanquishing all beings. It was used in the Mahabharata war by Arjuna to kill Jayadratha. It was used against Lakshmana by Meghanada. It is returned without causing any harm since it can be used only to uphold Dharma.
A trishula is a type of Indian trident but also found in Southeast Asia. It is commonly used as a Hindu & Buddhist religious symbol. The word means “3 spear” in Sanskrit and Pali. The trishula is wielded by Lord Shiva and is said to have been used to sever the original head of Lord Ganesh. Durga also holds trishula, as one of her many weapons. There are many other gods and deities, who hold the weapon trishula. The three points have various meanings and significance, and, common to Hindu religion, have many stories behind them. They are commonly said to represent various trinities—creation, maintenance and destruction, past, present and future, the three guna. When looked upon as a weapon of Shiva, the trishula is said to destroy the three worlds: the physical world, the world of the forefathers (representing culture drawn from the past) and the world of the mind (representing the processes of sensing and acting). The three worlds are supposed to be destroyed by Shiva into a single non-dual plane of existence, that is bliss alone. The trisula’s central point represents Shushmana, and that is why it is longer than the other two, representing ida and pingala.
The vajra is believed to represent firmness of spirit and spiritual power. As a material device, the vajra is a ritual object, a short metal weapon, originally used as a kind of fist iron. The earliest mention of the Vajra is in the Rigveda, believed to have been composed between 1700 and 1100 BCE. It is described as the weapon of Indra. Indra is described as using the Vajra to kill sinners. The Rigveda states that the weapon was made for Indra by Tvastar, the maker of divine instruments. It is similar to the Japanese weapon called Yawara
The Vel is the divine javelin (spear) of the Lord Murugan. Goddess Parvati presented the Vel to Murugan as an emobodiment of Her shakti or power in order to vanquish the evil asura Soorapadman. According to the Skanda Purana , Murugan used His Vel to defeat all the evil forces of Soorapadman. Murugan, too keen for the deception, hurled his Vel and split the mango tree in to two halves, one becoming Seval (a rooster) and the other Mayil (a peacock). Murugan, henceforth, had the peacock as His vahanam and the rooster became the emblem on His battle flag. The Vel became the symbol of valour, and of the triumph of good over evil. The spear used by ancient Tamils in warfare is also commonly known by this name.
A Gada (also known as a mace) is a blunt weapon, a type of club or virge—that uses a round and very heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful blows. The usage of gadas in warfare was very prevalent in the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabarata. The gada is also carried in the right hand of Lord Hanuman, where is can symbolize self-sovereinty, the authority of governance and the power to rule.