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Gandiva is the bow of Arjuna, the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The bow was created by Brahma, the Creator of universe. Brahma held it first for a thousand years, then Prajapati held it for five hundred and three years, Indra, for five hundred and eighty years, and Soma for five hundred years. After that Varuna held it for a hundred years before handing it to Arjuna along with a Kapi/ Hanuman bannered chariot, and two inexhaustible quivers, as requested by Agni during the Khandava-daha Parva. The bow was decorated with hundreds of gold bosses, and had radiant ends. The bow was worshiped by Devas, Gandharvas and Danavas. Arjuna used it in Kurukshetra war and he was invincible. No ordinary person could wield the Gandiva bow. When fired, the bow made the sound of thunder. It has special qualities like being indestructible, having 108 bow strings, etc. Which always gave the wielder a heavy advantage over his opponent. After the war, in Svargarohanika Parva, Agni reappears before Arjuna and asks him to return Gandiva along with the quivers to Varuna.
Agni, the God of fire, wanted to devour the Khandava forest, in order to regain his power and splendour. He had enlisted the help of the two heroes, Krishna and Arjuna. The latter was one of the greatest archers of all time, and demanded Agni for a bow which would suit his strength, skill and the power of celestial weapons.
Agni provided the heroes with the desired weapons. He gave the Gandiva bow to Arjuna, as well as two quivers which would provide an inexhaustible amount of arrows.
The weapon was dreaded by many during the Kurukshetra war, having defeated and killed many great warriors and the gods themselves.
The bow was forged by Lord Brahma, the Supreme Creator Himself. Many owners included Shiva, Lord of Destruction, Prajapati, Lord of Life-Forms, Indra, God of the Sky, Chandra, the Moon God and Varuna, God of the Oceans.
The bow was itself created from a heavenly tree called the Gandi. It was about as tall as a palm tree, and was so heavy, very few people could truly wield it (Besides Arjuna, the ones who were believed to be worthy of wielding it were Krishna, Karna, Bhima, Bhishma and Parashurama).
Aside from its great proportions and tremendous weight, the bow was a double curve. It possessed a 108 strings, one of them being of celestial origin and therefore, unbreakable. The strings were known to make a deep rumble, resembling that of thunder, inspiring dread amongst enemies. Every time an arrow was fired, the bow glowed so brightly, not many people could look at it properly.Arjuna defeated the entire army of Nivatakavachas who could not be vanquished even by the Gods led by Lord Indra . Arjuna defeated them alone wielding Gandiva and standing on the celestial chariot controlled by Mitali, the charioteer of Lord Indra. During Khandava dahan, Arjuna standing on feet , defeated his father Lord Indra wielding Gandiva. Arjuna was ambidextrous and he had the habit of moisting the strings of gandiva using the sweats of his forehead when he was deep in battle. Arjuna having won control over sleep, could keep on battling for multiple days. Wielding Gandiva, Sabyasachin Arjuna, vanquished all who stood before him.
The Gandiva could fire hundreds of arrows, with a great range of over several miles. It could amplify the strength of a normal arrow by a thousand times. The body of the Gandiva was unbreakable. Wielded in the hands of Arjuna, the greatest warrior of Dwapar Yuga, its glory reached new heights. Arjuna, other wise also known as Vibhatsu, the Just, wielded Gandiva and was invincible and being the reincarnation of Nara was guided by Narayana i.e. Lord Krishna to cleanse earth of divine weapons and establish an Dharma Rajya so that earth and humanity might have a fresh start when dark Kaliyuga arrives.
In the Dwapar Yuga, there were only fourteen Celestial Bows in earth, Gandiva of Arjuna, Mahendra, Vyavaya of Arjuna's Elder Brothers Yudhishthara and Bhima, Vijaya of Karna, the bow wielded by Lord Krishna, the almighty. Then we have Vaishanava Bow of Nakula and Asvin bow of Sahadeva, Agneya Bow was wielded by Satanika son of Draupadi, The other sons had Raudra bows, Raudra, Kauverya, Girisha, Yama Bow was wielded by one of Draupdeyas as well. Abhimanyu had second Raudra bow and finally Ghatotkacha had Paulastya Bow of Ravana. Among these three bows, Gandiva is almost synonymous with Arjuna since he was the only mortal to wield it. Vijaya Bow was wielded most of the time by Lord Indra who later gave it to Parashurama who gave it to Karna .Vijaya Bow was used by Shiva for destroying Tripura City of Tarakasura and was the most robust bow ever produced for any Trideva. The string of Vijaya bow could not be broken by any kind of astra . Vijaya bow was said to give almost sure victory to the possessor making the warrior invincible. Parasurama gave Vijaya to his student Karna, who already had terrific skill, making him a very formidable warrior. There are instances where Karna lost battles, however it is not clear whether he wielded the Vijaya bow during those battles. At Draupadi Swayamvar, Arjuna disguised as a bramhin and Karna collided. However Arjuna's arrows caused Karna to faint and ultimately the battle was a stalemate when Karna left the arena.No mention of the bow used by Karna is given here. Again at the Gandharva Parva where Karna and entire Kaurava army is routed by the gandharvas and then they capture Duryodhana along with all his wives, no mention of Karna's bow is found. Afterwards Arjuna along with Bhima, Nakula & Sahadeva routed the gandharvas. By this time Arjuna had already acquired Gandiva. Then at Virat Yudhha, where Arjuna singlehandedly defeats the maharathis of the Kauravas including Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwathama, Duryodhana, Duhshashana backed by a big army, mention of Arjuna's Gandiva is there, but we dont know which bow karna used. At Virat Yudhdha , it was a rout by Arjuna.He defeated all the Kaurava generals multiple times and at the end makes them unconscious using the Sammohani astra. Lord Krishna did not wielded any weapon in Kurukshetra war and hence Srnga does not makes appearance in Kurukshetra war.
At the end of Dwapar yuga, Lord Krishna left his mortal shell and left for Vaikuntha. Lord Krishna and Arjuna were the reincrnation of the ancient sages Narayana and Nara. Hence after Narayana left World, his other half Nara i.e. Arjuna gave up his weapons. Hence after Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama left world and returned Vaikuntha, Pandavas went out for mahaprasthan in the himalayas. On their route, Lord Varuna came and Arjuna returned Gandiva to him. Thus the most famous and one of the most robust celestial bow of Dwapar yuga left earth keeping behind the greatest warrior of Dwapar Yuga with whom its name has become synonymous in Bharat's Mythology.