The Astras, Part 5 – Vaishnava-astra

BY: SUN STAFF


Jan 27, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — A survey of transcendental weaponry.

Like Sri Krsna's Sudarshan-chakra and Lord Siva's Pashupati-astra, among the most celebrated of all divine weaponry is Lord Visnu's Vaishnava-astra. Visnu the Preserver is the presiding deity of this infallible astra, which is capable of destroying a target completely, irrespective of the target's nature. This most fearsome of weapons can only be obtained directly from Vishnu.

The rare Vaishnava-astra is seldom mentioned in the Vedas, but among its most famous appearances was in the battle between Bhagadatta and Arjuna during the Kurukshetra war. King Bhagadatta, the ruler of Prajyogasta (known today as Myanmar), was the son of the demon Narakasura.

The painting above is a folio leaf from a dispersed Bhagavat Purana, painted in Delhi/Agra around 1540 A.D. Entitled "The Earth Goddess Returns the Stolen Goods to Krishna and Pays Homage to Him", it depicts Sri Krishna's pastime of killing Bhagadatta's father, the demon Naraka, who had stolen a sacred bowl and earrings from the goddess Aditi along with paraphernalia from the demigods, as a show of boldness and power over them.

The earth goddess, Mother Bhumi, then begged Krishna to have mercy on her grandson, Bhagadatta, whose reputation was tainted by his father's demoniac activities. Krishna granted her request and installed Bhagadatta on the throne at Pragjyotisha (shown in the upper right compartment of the painting).


Bhagadatta Fighting with Bhima at Kurukshetra
Temple carving, Belur


During the battle at Kurukshetra, Bhagadatta was fighting on the side of the Kauravas. He was well known to attack his enemies with his elephant in warfare and during this particular battle, Bhagadatta on his elephant came up against Arjuna, who rode his elephant Supratika. Bhagadatta deployed the Vaishnava-astra against Arjuna, not realizing that Krishna was the charioteer, and He could stop the astra from killing Arjuna.

The Vaishnava-astra is known to be absolute in its intensity -- a weapon that cannot be defeated. Once this astra is deployed, only Lord Vishnu can withdraw it. So in the midst of battle, Bhagadatta fired the terrible Vaishnava-astra at Arjuna, thinking nothing could save his foe from its destruction.

Fortunately for Arjuna, he was protected by his transcendental charioteer – none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Acting as a cushion for the potent weapon aimed at Arjuna, Krsna took the Vaishnava-astra's blow, causing the weapon to transform into a garland, which fell onto Him. Bhagadatta was eventually killed by one of Arjuna's arrows.


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