The Astras, Part 13 – Narayana-astra

BY: SUN STAFF

The Battlefield of Kurukshetra
Temple carving, Angkor Wat, Cambodia


Mar 03, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A survey of transcendental weaponry.

In the previous segment, we described the scene at Kurukshetra, when Bhima refused to lay down his weapons and surrender to the fearsome might of narayana-astra, which had been launched against the Pandava army by Ashwattama. Rejecting Krsna's advice, Bhima stood alone with mace in hand, facing the onslaught of countless fiery missiles raining down from the sky.

Because he was the only targeted enemy who stood unsurrendered to it, the narayana-astra increased its potency in the direction of Bhima. A rain of fire poured down upon him, irradiating all of Kurukshetra. As Bhima defiantly raised his mace, the astra engulphed him in sheets of flame. Across the great battlefield, soldiers became confused by what appeared to be two suns – one on the horizon, and one emanating from the spot where Bhima stood.

In a bid to save the heroic Bhima, Arjuna fired his varuna-astra to counter the heat. Normally,< i>varuna-astra would have instantly flooded the whole of Kurukshetra, but in the inferno heat produced by narayana-astra, the water turned to steam when it hit Bhima's chariot.

At this point Arjuna grabbed Bhima's mace and Sri Krsna intervened, pulling Bhima down and sheltering him. The narayana-astra immediately began to dim its potency, and in some time it passed over the horizon like a comet.


The Battlefield of Kurukshetra
Temple carving, Angkor Wat, Cambodia


How Dronacharya got the Narayana-astra

By the time Dronacharya left his body, at the age of 85, he had already entrusted his son Ashwattama with the requisite knowledge and responsibility for the divinely empowered weapons in his arsenal. All these astras were controlled by mantra, including the most potent of them all -- narayana-astra.

Dronacharya had obtained most of his weapons from his war preceptor, Parasurama, but the narayana-astra he had acquired directly from Lord Narayana. This took place on an occasion when Narayana, in the disguise of a brahmana, visited Dronacharya. Drona behaved as an ideal host, serving the brahmana nicely. The brahmana then offered a boon to Drona, who asked to be given the narayana-astra, if the brahmana should deem it appropriate. Lord Narayana wholeheartedly granted the boon to Drona.

Because the astras are transcendental weapons, there are great issues of spiritual ethics associated with each one. The circumstances under which an astra is allowed to fall into the hands of a particular personality are never random or causeless.


Lord Parasuram (left) and Dronacharya (right)


A boon can be granted to anyone, but the scope and potency of the boon depend upon the capacity of the giver. In this case, Drona was asking for the narayana-astra, but he was asking it from one he believed to be a brahmana. Not only would Drona have known well the moral and ethical issues involved in getting a weapon from a brahmana, it is also interesting to consider why he would expect a brahmana to be able to grant him such a boon as narayana-astra.

Some argue that in this circumstance, Drona was actually seeking to attain perfection by concentrating on his quest for the perfect weapon. Therefore the brahmana was in his rights to assist him. Of course, only Lord Narayana Himself could sanction the deliverance of His own narayana-astra into the hands of another, but this he did with Drona. And Drona was permitted to pass the weapon on to his son, Ashwattama.

Ultimately, we know that Sri Krsna made all arrangements for the circumstances that culminated in the great Battle of Kurukshetra, down to the most minute detail. In His form as Lord Narayana, this included His arrangement for narayana-astra to play a leading role in the battle.


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