Astra (अस्त्रम्)

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Vayavyastra

Arjuna used the Vayavyastra against the Trigartas in the great battle. (Chapter 102, Bhisma Parva).

Brahmastra

In the battle of Kuruksetra, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas the great teacher, Drona began to release his divine darts towards his enemies in all directions. Immediately Angiras with many other hermits came to Drona and told him, "You have burned to death innumerable men with your Brahmastra (The most powerful of all missiles). Your end is very near. So put your weapons down and stop your fight." Drona seems to have paid no heed at all to the advice of the hermits. He did not stop fighting too. (Page 41, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Atikaya went to Gokarna and did penance to please Brahma. Brahma appeared, but being fully absorbed in Samadhi, Atikaya was not aware of his presence. Even his [life-breath had been stopped. Brahma, by his power, instilled life-breath into him and restored him to consciousness. He granted Atikaya all the boons he asked for. They were three in number. The first was the gift of Brahmastra which could smash anyone. The second was the gift of an armour which was unassailable by anyone. The third was absence of thirst, desire and other cravings. (Page 73, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

BRAHMASTRA. This is known by another name Brahmasirastra also. This weapon was given to Agastya by Siva. It is mentioned in Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 138, Stanza 9, that Agastya gave this weapon to Agnivesa, who gave it to Drona and Drona gave it to Arjuna and instructed him about the use of it as follows : "You should never shoot this arrow at man. If it is used against mean people the three worlds would be destroyed. It is said that this weapon has no parallel in the world. Keep this pure, and give ear to what I say. If an enemy, other than human being attacks you, this weapon may be used to kill him in battle." (Page 159, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Indrajit and Hanuman. A clash occurred between Indrajit and Hanuman, who landed in Lanka in search of Sita, and the former got Hanuman bound by Brahmastra. (Valmiki Ramayana) .  (Page 329, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

During his forest life, Sri Rama lived with Slta and Laksmana on the mountain Citrakuta for some days. Once Sri Rama, being very tired of walking in the forest fell asleep with his head in the lap of Slta. Taking this chance Jayanta came in the shape of a crow and scratched the breast of Slta with his claws. Slta cried and Sri Rama woke up and saw Jayanta in the shape of a crow. Rama got angry and shot the Brahmastra (a divine arrow) against Jayanta. Fear of life made him fly throughout the whole of the three worlds. Even Brahma, Visnu and Mahesvara were unable to protect him, All the while the divine arrow followed him. Finally having no go he came and fell at the feet of Sri Rama. Sri Rama said that the Brahmastra could never become futile and so the arrow must hit his right eye. Accordingly the arrow struck at his right eye and thus Jayanta lost his right eye. In Adhyatma Ramayana this story is stated with some slight changes. According to Adhyatma Ramayana, this incident took place when Sita had been drying raw flesh. (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kanda, Sarga 38).

Once the sage Narada went to Ravana and expatiate on the glory and splendour of Yama. Immediately Ravana set out to Samyamani with the intention of subduing Yama. Accepting Ravana's challenge, Yama came out. After a terrible battle between them, which lasted for seven days neither of them was able to defeat the other. Both of them had received Brahma's boon. In the night of the seventh day, Yama rushed forth with his staff to beat Ravana to death. Then Ravana took his Brahmastra. At that critical moment, Brahma came to the battlefield and persuaded Yama to withdraw from the fight. Yama retreated to his city and closed the gate. Ravana went back with a triumphant shout. (Uttara Ramayana).

Kumbhakarna spent his childhood with his brothers at the asrama of his father on mount Gandhamadana. Kubera was at the zenith of his glory at that time, having been crowned king of the Yaksas, and also having got the Puspaka Vimana. The reputation of Kubera kindled jealousy in Kumbhakarna and his brothers. They too performed penance in the forest on one foot for a thousand years. But, Brahma did not appear. They continued the penance without eating any food. Khara and Surpanakha stayed there serving their brothers. Even after the second thousand years Brahma did not appear. Then Ravana cut off his ten heads and made offerings of them to Brahma. Then Brahma appeared. Brahma restored his heads to Ravana and he was granted the boon that he would not be killed by anybody but a man. The Devas shuddered at the gift to Ravana, and feared about the future in case Kumbhakarna too got such a boon. At their request Sarasvati danced on his tongue at the time of Kumbhakarna's request for a boon. Kumbhakarna wanted NIRDEVATVAM (Absence of all Devas) . But by a slip of the tongue (caused by Sarasvati) what he asked for was nidravatvam (sleep). Brahma granted him nidravatvam ; he said that Kumbhakarna would sleep for six months of the year continuously. Vibhisana got the boon that he should remember righteousness in danger and use the Brahmastra without any training in its use. The brothers returned home after securing the boons, and, after driving off Kubera, the lord of Lanka, Ravana and his brothers took their abode there. (Vana Parva, Chapter 275 and Uttara Ramayana).

An eminent asura of name Vidyutprabha performed penance to propitiate Brahma to get a son. As a result of the blessings of Brahma he got a son invincible to the Devas. He was named Vidyuddhvaja. Even from boyhood he was very brave and daring. Once when he saw some demons standing guard to protect the asura family he said "At present our country is being protected by the hands of others. I shall, therefore, perform penance and obtain boons to remove dhvaja went straight to the forests and performed penance to propitiate Brahma. When the austerities became severe, Vidyuddhvaja observed fasting without break and the whole world became excited due to anxiety. So Brahma appeared before him in person and gave him many divine weapons like Brahmastra. For Brahmastra the only counter-missile was Pasupata and so Brahma warned him that it should be used only when it was found absolutely necessary. Vidyuddhvaja became arrogant with the possession of such divine weapons and started for Indraloka with his father and his army to conquer Indra. He knew that Indra was ready to face him with a big army headed by Candraketu and Padmasekhara. The battle that ensued was very grim. Even Brahma and Rudra came to see the fight. In a combat with Indra, Vidyutprabha was killed. Vidyuddhvaja saw his father killed, got furious and sent Brahmastra against Indra who in turn opposed it with Pasupata. Vidyuddhvaja fainted. Devas sounded the trumpets of victory and left the place. The battle that ensued was very grim. Even Brahma and Rudra came to see the fight. In a combat with Indra, Vidyutprabha was killed. Vidyuddhvaja saw his father killed, got furious and sent Brahmastra against Indra who in turn opposed it with Pasupata. Vidyuddhvaja fainted. Devas sounded the trumpets of victory and left the place. After some time Vidyuddhvaja awoke from the swoon and lamented thus to those of his men who were around: "My tapobala (strength resulting from penance) was of no use. I have decided to die righting against Indra. I do not want to return to a country where my father is not alive. On hearing this his aged minister pointed out to him his mistake in having used the Brahmastra untimely. (Page 507-508, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Naradamuni prevented Arjuna and Asvatthama from using Brahmastra during the great war. (Sauptika Parva, Chapter 14, Verse 11).

According to Puranas ParaSurama did not spend his life as an instructor in archery. There are statements, however, mentioning that Karna and Drona took instructions from him. Pretending to be a brahmin Karna commenced taking instructions in archery from Parasurama. When his education was complete Parasurama taught him Brahmastra. One day tired after a long walk in the forests Parasurama took rest placing his head on the lap of Kama and soon fell asleep. At that time a beetle came and started sucking blood from the thigh of Kama. Karna remained still, bearing the pain, lest any movement of his body should disturb the sleep of his Guru. Blood was oozing from his thighs and it slowly made the body of the Guru also wet. Parasurama woke up and the sight of the bleeding thigh and the calm demeanour of Karna raised doubts in him. He questioned Karna saying that no brahmin could ever bear such a pain with such calmness and Kama had to tell the truth. Then Parasurama cursed him for deceit against his Guru saying that he would never be able to remember the Brahmastra when the time to use it came. (Page 569, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

The arrow, bright like the sun and equal to the fire of death, is the Pasupata. It will burn all that it touches. Neither Narayanastra, Brahmastra, Agneyastra nor Varunastra can stand against this. In times of old Siva burnt the Tripuras (three cities of the notorious three demons) by this arrow. Even Brahma and Visnu could be killed by Pasupata. (Chapter 14, Anusasana Parva). Devotees worship Pasupata as a deity. If the Pasupata mantra is recited once it will remove all obstacles from the way and if recited a hundred times it will end all your calamities and bring success in any war for you. (Page 580, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

The asura chief, Prahlada took the divine Brahmastra and then Nara took the fierce Narayanastra. They met in the air and fell down powerless. When his Brahmastra got fused Prahlada got wild with anger and taking a mace jumped out of his chariot and rushed at Nara. When Narayana saw the daitya chief rushing towards Nara with his mace he asked Nara to step aside and faced the demon himself. Prahlada then attacked Narayana and hit him with the mace. But the mace broke into a hundred pieces and Prahlada was forced to use other weapons. The fight became ghastly and even devas assembled above to witness the fight. When Prahlada found it was getting more and more difficult for him to defeat the Naranarayanas he prayed to Mahavisnu for help. Visnu appeared before him and when Prahlada asked him the reason why he could not defeat Naranarayanas, Visnu replied that they were the sons of Dharmadeva who were invincible by weapons. They could be won over only by devotion. Hearing that Prahlada returned to Patfxla and entrusting the administration of his kingdom to his cousin Andhaka, son of Hiranyaksa, Prahlada returned to Badarikasrama and erecting an asrama there started a penance to propitiate Naranarayanas. When Naranarayanas appeared before him Prahlada requested to be pardoned for fighting against them. They pardoned him and blessed him and Prahlada returned to Patala. Even after his return Prahlada did not take back the administration from Andhaka. He constructed an asrama away from the palace and lived there performing penance. He spent many years there as an advisor to the asura Kings. (Chapters 7 and 8, Vamana Purana).

With Sri Rama's blessings Laksmana began fighting again. Indrajit shot Narayanastra which attracted by the 'seven-letter-Mantra' (Namo Narayanaya) of Laksmana circled him thrice and entered his quiver. The Raksasa minister called Mahodara converted his elephant into Airavata and himself changed into Devendra and encountered Laksmana. Saying that he had no quarrel with Indra and would not fight him Laksmana put down his bow, and Indrajit, exploiting the situation shot Brahmastra against Laksmana under cover of the clouds. Laksmana, Sugriva and others fainted. Laksmana killed Atikaya with Brahmastra. (Page 637, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Ravana once went to Satyaloka and performed the most intense tapas for many years. Yet, Brahma did not appear and then he began cutting his heads one after the other and offering them in the fire. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of his heads were cut thus. When he was about to cut the last head also, Brahma, fearing the end of the world, appeared and granted him the following three boons.

(i) You will not die at the hands of anyone, but a woman.

(ii) Brahmastra, which would annihilate, will be at your disposal.

(iii) You will also possess an aerial chariot for travels as you please. (Page 665, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

There is the following Puranic story about the origin of the observance of Sivaratri as a sacred day. Brahma took his birth in the lotus that originated from the navel of Visnu. Brahma trying to know the source of the lotus saw Visnu only. He asked, 'Who are you?' and was answered 'I am Visnu, your father'. That answer did not satisfy Brahma and a quarrel ensued between him and Visnu which ended in fighting. Brahma shot the Brahmastra, which Visnu countered with Pasupatastra and neither of the two was able to withdraw it, which went round the world. While both stood aghast not knowing what to do, Sivalinga appeared betwixt the two. Both the ends of the linga were invisible. To find the ends Brahma went upwards and Visnu downwards. Though they travelled a great distance they could not find out the ends, and, so, returned to their old seats. Immediately Siva appeared betwixt the two and withdrew the Pasupatastra. It was on Caturdasi day in the month of Magha that Siva thus appeared. Siva enjoined that in future Caturdasi night every year should be observed as a holy day, which should be known as Sivaratri. (Kannassa Ramayana).

Agneyastra

AGNEYASTRA. A powerful weapon or missile- One night Arjuna fought against a gandharva, Arigaraparna, on the banks of the river Ganges. Arjuna then described to him how he came into possession of this missile. This powerful missile was given first to Bharadvaja by Brihaspati and Bharadvaja gave it to Agnivesya who in turn gave it to Drona and the latter gave it to Arjuna, his most favourite disciple. (Slokas 29-30, Chapter 170, Adi Parva, M.B.) .

Mention is made in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 169, Stanza 21 that Brhaspati gave Bharadvaja Agneyastra (the arrow of fire). (Page 163, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Siva has a bow named Pinaka. Pasupata is the arrow that is used on that bow. Pinaka is a serpent with the colours of a rainbow. It has seven heads and has fierce canine teeth. Poison flows from them always. The string of the bow is wound round the neck of Siva. The arrow, bright like the sun and equal to the fire of death, is the Pasupata. It will burn all that it touches. Neither Narayanastra, Brahmastra, Agneyastra nor Varunastra can stand against this. In times of old Siva burnt the Tripuras (three cities of the notorious three demons) by this arrow. Even Brahma and Visnu could be killed by Pasupata. (Chapter 14, Anusasana Parva).

By using Agneyastra (the arrow of fire) Asvatthama made Krsna and Arjuna fall fainting in the battle-field. (Page 68, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Pasupata astra

The missile of Siva. Arjuna during his exile in the forests performed penance to propitiate Siva and got this missile from him. Siva has a bow named Pinaka. Pasupata is the arrow that is used on that bow. Pinaka is a serpent with the colours of a rainbow. It has seven heads and has fierce canine teeth. Poison flows from them always. The string of the bow is wound round the neck of Siva. The arrow, bright like the sun and equal to the fire of death, is the Pasupata. It will burn all that it touches. Neither Narayanastra, Brahmastra, Agneyastra nor Varunastra can stand against this. In times of old Siva burnt the Tripuras (three cities of the notorious three demons) by this arrow. Even Brahma and Visnu could be killed by Pasupata. (Chapter 14, Anusasana Parva). Devotees worship Pasupata as a deity. If the Pasupata mantra is recited once it will remove all obstacles from the way and if recited a hundred times it will end all your calamities and bring success in any war for you. (Page 580, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Who all procured Pasupata astra ?

At the birth of Arjuna Kunti heard a heavenly voice declare as follows : "Oh ! Kunti ! your son will be equal to Siva in prowess and unconquerable just as Indra is. After defeating all the Kings he will perform the Asvamedha thrice. He will please Siva and get the great weapon called Pasupata from him.

Arjuna went to the Himalayas to please Siva by penance and get from him the Pasupatastra. (Arrow called Pasupata). When Arjuna performed tapas and received PaSupatastra from Siva, Yama was pleased and presented Dandastra to Arjuna. (M.B. Vana Parva, Chapter 41, Verse 25).

MUKA II. An asura. This demon once went to Arjuna who was engaged in penance in the forests. He had assumed the form of a boar and Arjuna killed him. At once Siva appeared there in the guise of a forester and contended that the boar was killed by him. A quarrel ensued which ended in a fight between them. In the end Siva appeared before Arjuna in his real form and granted him the missile Pasupata.  (Page 507, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Atikaya went to Kailasa and received his education from Siva. He learnt all the sciences, Arts, Sruti, Smrti etc. from there. On the completion of his course he asked what Gurudaksina he should pay. Siva made him promise that he would never practise Black magic. Pleased with him, Siva awarded him the Pasupatastra. Atikaya had an uncle, a Raksasa named Candra. Once he was defeated by Indra. It was at this time of chagrin that he came to know that Atikaya had reached Lanka with the Pasupatastra. Candra Raksasa ordered Atikaya to bring Indra as a captive. Atikaya went to Svarga (Heaven) and began a war with Indra. Mahavisnu who came to help Indra used his SudarSana cakra. Atikaya shot his PaSupatastra. Knowing Atikaya's history well, Mahavisnu brought the battle to a close. Both parties accepted the position that Devendra had lost the battle and Atikaya had won.

Vidyuddhvaja, even from boyhood he was very brave and daring. Once when he saw some demons standing guard to protect the asura family he said "At present our country is being protected by the hands of others. I shall, therefore, perform penance and obtain boons to remove dhvaja went straight to the forests and performed penance to propitiate Brahma. When the austerities became severe, Vidyuddhvaja observed fasting without break and the whole world became excited due to anxiety. So Brahma appeared before him in person and gave him many divine weapons like Brahmastra. For Brahmastra the only counter-missile was Pasupata and so Brahma warned him that it should be used only when it was found absolutely necessary. Vidyuddhvaja became arrogant with the possession of such divine weapons and started for Indraloka with his father and his army to conquer Indra. He knew that Indra was ready to face him with a big army headed by Candraketu and Padmasekhara. The battle that ensued was very grim. Even Brahma and Rudra came to see the fight. In a combat with Indra, Vidyutprabha was killed. Vidyuddhvaja saw his father killed, got furious and sent Brahmastra against Indra who in turn opposed it with Pasupata.

VAJRABAHU I. A notorious asura. Vajrabahu was born of a Vidyadhara-damsel named Cancalaksi, when she was raped by the asura Sahasramukha. This Vajrabahu did penance before Siva and obtained Pasupatastra (a divine arrow) and an impenetrable armour. After this, he caught hold of Indra and bound him. Subrahmanya rescued Indra and killed Vajrabahu. (Kamba Ramayana, Uttara Kanda).

Vajrabahu was Sahasramukha's son. He secured from Siva PaSupatastra and an armour impenetrable by anyone. Vajrabahu captured Indra and Subrahmanya killed the former.