The Astras



Jan 24, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A survey of transcendental weaponry.

According to the Vedas, there are more than 3,300 unique weapons possessed by various incarnations of the Lord and the demigods. Each of these transcendental weapons is presided over by a particular deity, and sastra describes many pastimes in which the weapons are bestowed by the controlling deity for someone's use in battle. For example, Lord Shiva gave Arjuna use of his Pashupati-astra, after Arjuna performed tapas in order to get the boon.

The astras are used to fight in the countless battles that go on between the demigods and the asuras. On some occasions, the super-weapons are given as a boon to very devout asuras or rakshasas, who perform austerities in order to get them.

Among the most celebrated of all divine weaponry are Sri Krsna's Sudarshan-chakra, Lord Brahma's Brahma-astra, Lord Siva's Pashupati-astra, and Lord Visnu's Vaishnava-astra. Lord Indra has his famous Indra-astra and Vajra thunderbolts, like the Hirany-astra, similar to Siva's lightening-bolt weapons.

Mention is found in the Puranas of the Asura-astra, Pramohana-astra, Devi-astra, Shakti-astra, Trishul, Garuda-astra, Varuna-astra and Chakra-astra. The Marut-astra was the astra of the Maruts, and Agni-astra, belonged to Bhairava and Shakti.

Lord Krsna, in each of His limitless incarnations and expansions, has many different astras, each with its own specific empowerments. Lord Visnu's Narayana-astra can be used only once when invoked in war, against one particular enemy. Some astras will return to their original owner once used, like Lord Rama's use of the Narayana-astra in His battle with Ravana. That same astra was later used by the son of Dronacharya, Ashwattama, in battle against the Kauravas at Kurukshetra.

Deva Holding a Golden Vajra, Lord Indra's Celestial Weapon
Other paraphernalia (clockwise): shakti vel, cudgel, sword, noose, flag, mace, chakra, umbrella, and trishula

Some astras have very specific purposes and realms of use, like the Vidyastra, a weapon of intellect, and the Virajaya-astra, a weapon for victory. The Agneya-astra was used to invoke fire upon the enemy, while the Varunastra is used to manifest water, to fight fire. The Naga-astra brings forth a torrent of poisonous snakes.

Over the course of this series, we will explore many of these transcendental weapons, beginning tomorrow with Lord Siva's fearsome Pasupati-astra.












Sammohana/ Pramohana







Indra, the god of weather

Agni, the god of fire

Varuna, the god of water

The Nagas

The Nagas

Vayu, the god of wind

Surya, the sun god


Mohini, Visnu avatar

Twashtri, the heavenly builder

Brahma, the Creator

Brahma, the Creator

Visnu, the Preserver

Visnu, the Preserver

Shiva, the Destroyer

Would bring about a shower of arrows from the sky.

The weapon discharged would emit flames inextinguishable through normal means.

The weapon discharged would release torrential volumes of water. This weapon is commonly mentioned as used to counter the Agneyastra.

The weapon would have an inerring aim and take on the form of a snake, proving deadly upon impact.

Upon impact, this weapon would bind the target in coils of living venomous snakes. In the Ramayana, it was used against Lord Rama and Lakshmana by Indrajit.

Bring about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground.

Create a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about.

Target would be struck with bolts of lightning (vajra referring to Indra's thunderbolt).

Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity.

When used against a group of opponents (such as an army), would cause them to mistake each other for enemies and fight each other.

Would cause entire hosts/armies to collapse in a trance.

Would cause a Parvata/mountain to fall on the target from the skies.

Would destroy entire hosts at once. Could also counter most other astras.

Capable of killing devas. Was used by Ashwatthama on Parikshit.

Would create showers of arrows and discs. The astra's power would increase with the resistance offered to it. This weapon had to be obtained from Vishnu directly, and could be used only once.

Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. Infallible. This weapon had to be obtained from Vishnu directly.

Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. Infallible. This weapon had to be obtained from Shiva directly.


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