BY: SUN STAFF
Deva Holding a Golden Vajra, Lord Indra's Celestial Weapon
Other paraphernalia (clockwise): shakti vel, cudgel, sword, noose, flag, mace, chakra, umbrella, and trishula
Apr 20, CANADA (SUN) A two-part look at the transcendental weapons, Astras, employed by the Lord and his administrative representatives.
The astras are transcendental, supernatural weapons created by the Lord, and presided over by a specific Deity. In order to summon or use an astra, one must have the required knowledge, i.e., the specific mantra that will arm, direct, and disarm the astra. The presiding deity, once properly invoked, endows the weapon, making it essentially impossible for foes to counter its potency through regular means.
As described in sastra, specific conditions existed involving the usage of various astras, and the violation of proper protocol could be fatal. Because of the power involved, the knowledge involving use of an astra was passed from guru to disciple by word of mouth alone, and only the most qualified students were made privy to the information. Certain astras had to be handed down directly from the presiding deity himself, as having knowledge of the mantras alone was insufficient.
The importance of astras is described in particular detail in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which describes their use in epic battles. Various pastimes describe the use of astras by archers such as Rama, Arjuna, and Bhisma. They generally invoked the astras into arrows, although they could potentially be used with anything. For example, Ashwatthama invoked an astra using a blade of grass as his weapon.
One of the most famous astras is Pashupatastra, being the inconceivably potent and highly destructive personal weapon of Lord Siva. He discharged Pashupatastra by means of his mind, eyes, words, or bow. Never to be used against lesser enemies or by lesser warriors, the Pashupata is capable of destroying creation and vanquishing all beings.
In Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavatam we also read about the foremost astra, Sri Brahmastra, which will be discussed in tomorrow's segment.
Following are the primary astras mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata: