Astras - 1 - Narayanastra

Note:- An internal mail by my colleague G, is the starting point of this series.
This could be labelled as a religious post. Readers Discretion is advised.
I enjoyed researching and writing it.
Hope you enjoy reading it...!!!


So what do we know about the Narayanastra ?

There are only two known instances of use of Narayanastra.
(I am aware of only two. Please correct me, in case I am wrong ..)
One is the usage by Ashwathama on the Pandavas.
The other one is by Dhruv on the Yakshas. Not much literature is available on the Dhruv episode, hence ignoring it, for the time being.

Well, here are three things that I know about Narayanastra ...

Its secrets were known only by three people, Krishna, Drona and Ashwathama.
It cannot be used twice. If tried, it boomerangs on the invoker itself.
The only way to counter it is......

Well, want to know how to counter Narayanastra ?

Read on .. :)

During the Mahabharata War, after Dronacharya is killed, Ashwathama goes on a rampage. He kills hundreds and thousands of Pandava soldiers. As Arjuna approaches Ashwathama's region, he lets loose the Narayanastra.

Now,letting loose the Narayanastra itself was an act transgressing the normal ethics of war. Narayanastra was an embodiment of Narayana itself, and was to be used only in case the enemy was of Deva/Daitya nature, i.e it was not intended for 'Maanav-Yudh'.

Note : Here Narayastra is not to be confused with the Vaishnavastra.

As the Astra started attacking the Pandava forces, the Pandavas did what they were best at. Fight back. And what happens is that the Astra begins to rain down missiles even heavily. And as the Pandavas fight the Astra more and more, the Astra strengthens its attacks. As the Pandava Soldiers perish by the Hundreds and thousands, Panic grips Yudhishtra. He is delusioned by the fact that the current massacre is because of his lie, that caused his preceptor, Drona's Death, and he shouts to his brothers and warriors, to leave the battlefield and to let him face the Astra alone.

Just then another voice is heard, ordering them to lay down their weapons, and to surrender to the power of Narayana's Divine weapon. Krishna orders the Pandava Army to worship the weapon, and not to feed it by their own aggresive energies. Krishna's words spread like wildfire across Kurukshetra, as every Pandava Soldier, prostrates on the ground, after laying down his weapon. The Narayanastra has already simmered down. But one Pandava Kshatriya has not yet laid down his weapons.

He roars, "I am no coward to bow before this weapon from Ashwathama. I killed an elephant named Ashwathama yesterday, Today I will kill a Kshatriya by the same name.I will oppose this astra, even if no one else, has ever dared to do so."

Yes. You guessed it right. Its the hot blooded Bheema !!

A rain of fire pours down from the Astra, showering light like arrows on Bheema. The whole of Kurukshetra is irradiated by the golden light from the Son of Vayu, who looks like a mountain covered by Fireflies. Unperturbed by all this, Bheema raises his weapon to attack Ashwathama, by whose will the Astra is functioning. The Astra, launches the missiles that destroy his chariot and weapons. It engulfs him in a sheet of flames, and now he looks like a Deva who has materialised at the heart of a yagna fire. The soldiers are now confused. There are two suns now. One on the horizon and one on the Kurukshetra battlefield. Arjuna fires the Varunastra on Bheema to counter the heat. The Astra, whose normal usage could have flash flooded the whole of Kurukshetra, simply turns to Steam when it hits Bheema's Chariot.

Arjuna and Krishna realise that Bheema is heading for his own Kaal. They get down and rush towards his chariot, fighting the white flames engulfing them. Before Bheema realises what is happening, Arjuna and Krishna pin Bheema down, and the Narayanastra dims itself again. It waits for some time and then passes off as a comet, over the Pandava army and out of Kurukshetra and into the horizon. The Pandava Army heaves a sigh of relief, as Duryodhan openly expresses his disappointment on seeing the Pandavas alive.

Here is some interesting material to chew on for Narayanastra.

Dronacharya died at the age of 85. By this time, he had entrusted almost all his responsibilities onto his son, Ashwathama, and that included, the responsibility of all the war-weapons and missiles, their usage and knowledge of their mantras. Among these, were his most potent astras, namely the Narayanastra. Though he had obtained most of his weapons from his war-preceptor, Parashurama, the story of Mahabharata tells us that, Drona received the Narayanastra from Narayana himself. Narayana visits Drona disguised as a Bhrahman. Drona, acts as the ideal host, and serves the Bhrahman well, and the Bhrahman decides to grant Drona a boon. Drona asks for the Narayanastra, if he deems it to be fit. The Bhrahman grants him the boon, wholeheartedly.

Don't you think it is a strange co-incidence that Drona should ask Narayanastra from a Brahmin ? Drona, till that time, has invested his whole life, into the science and art of warfare. So, it is very likely that he would have very well known the implications of his boon. Also, the Astra must have had some moral and ethical issues involved. There is a blatant contradiction here... Drona prays for a boon to obtain the Narayanastra, from a man, he believes to be a Bhrahman.

A Boon can be granted to anyone, but the nature of the boon, depends upon the capacity of the giver. The supplicant needs to consider, if he wants his desire to be fulfilled. If in any way, he does not consider it, the boon giver may only record his sanction when it goes beyond his control.

Drona was in his quest for the ultimate weapon as a means of attaining perfection, and this preoccupation of his, might have come out of his mouth, when the Bhrahmin offered him a boon. He asked for an invincible weapon, and his desire was granted, not only as a patronizing gesture, but as an actual fulfilment. The giver was Narayana himself in disguise. Mythically the Bhrahmin wished him the attainment of perfection, and Drona actually acheived it,as a result of his concentration on his quest for the perfect weapon. The weapon, when attained as means such as the one mentioned above, must surely have some moral and spiritual implication, both on the bearer and on its usage. Anything divine cannot stand netural to the wider issues of life and justice, and hence we have the principles of this weapon being read out,

This weapon being an irresistible one, must not be used indiscriminately in escapable situations or citing flimsy grounds, (clearly indicating that it must be used only as a last resort). It should not be used on soldiers who have laid down their weapons and abandoned their chariots, and nor upon those retreating or entreating shelter or protection. Its use in such cases, would be such that it would boomerang itself on the invoker itself, thus the Lord Narayana himself stipulated the rules of its usage.

Here is what happened when the Astra was first fired.

There was thunderclap in the cloudless sky, there was rain and tempestous wind. The earth was quaking, the oceans were angry and the sea turned its tides. This and many things happened as an indication of cataclysmic disturbance. The weapon first rose as a single rocket, then flew past over a distance to explode in the air into thousands of shapes and colors covering the enemy positions in ever expanding circles. Then emerged from it, thousands of fire-tipped missiles and in a moment, millions of club shaped projectiles, two wheeled and four wheeled propellers and projectiles, all burning like revolving and sweeping celestial bodies in space.

This is the forerunner of the modern ballistic missile only kept within a limited range to hit a less remote target.

After Narayanastra, leaves Krishna and Arjuna, without even causing a scar on their bodies, Ashwathama is disappointed and goes to Ved Vyas to inquire about his weapon's potency. Vyas explains to him that Narayana was Krishna and was beyond the access of all weapons. He also explains to Ashwathama the indestructibility of Krishna and the state of his Godliness.

The Rishi here cites that man too can attain indestructibility !!
Surprised ?? Read on...

The case in point here is Arjuna. No !! Arjuna is not Narayana, then what happened to the effect of the astra on him ? Arjuna is not Narayana, but he is Nara. He is beyond the scope of the Astra, when in company of Narayana, simply implying that whatever faults he may have in his mortal being, when in the company of Narayana, he is safe.

That's a long post.. !!! After a long long time, on Mythology..

Comments are welcome... !!!

P.S:- Many thanks to G for his 'Ram-Ram' threads. This series on Astras is dedicated to him.
P.P.S:- I promise to do more research and provide some interesting food for thought.
P.P.P.S :- Here are the links that I referred to ...
Read Here and Here.
Both are acclaimed books. Have a good look, in case you are interested. :)

Monday, November 30, 2009 by Hari
Categories: , , , , , | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. Quite interesting... with the discovery of Dwaraka's ruins... things are just gonna be more and more interesting... :)

  2. drona and ashwatthama where brahmins not kshatriyas

  3. Drona didn't ask for the Narayanastra from the Brahman thinking he was a mere Brahman. All mahatmas can recognize God - even if He comes as a beggar. That is an eternal law of God.

    After attaining Him, God bestows all of His energies, powers, siddhis, aisvarya, etc. on the soul. Thus, Drona knew very well who the Brahman was. Why only Drona... Bhisma, Ashvatthama, the Pandavas, Kunti, - all the characters of Mahabharata were mahatmas - souls who have crossed maya.

    If hisotry tells us of any persons surrounding God in His incarnations, know them all to be realized souls of the highest caliber, even though they may be having wives, children, etc. Verily, even their wives and children are mahatmas. Pretending to be mere humans, they sport in any of the fourteen worlds with God and assist in His leelas.

    Anyway, I love your explanation of Nara-Narayana part. Extremely satisfying...

  4. no, Arjuna didn't die not because of he is Nara. if this was point, he could able to survive when karn used nagastra. he survived because he let the gandiv down.

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