The Astras


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:












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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