The Deadly Weaponry of the Mahabharata
Composed perhaps as early as 1,000 B.C.E., the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit spiritual epic, contains the history of a great battle waged between the five sons of King Pandu and the hundred sons of King Dhritarashtra.
Within this sacred account, there are references to use of over forty devastating weapons, the most severe of which may have been the brahmastra. This device is described multiple times within the Mahabharata, but detailed perhaps best in the text of Srimad Bhagavatam, a commentary of divine Hindu knowledge, compiled by Vyasa.
āvṛtya rodasī khaṁ ca
vavṛdhāte 'rka-vahnivat ”
The translation of this Sanskrit passage reads as follows:
“When the rays of the two brahmastras combined, a great circle of fire, like…the sun, covered…whole firmament of planets.” -source
Evidently, this weapon was so destructive that it could upset the cosmic balance (i.e. “whole firmament of planets”); environments would be rendered inhabitable and resulting infertility would cause species to become extinct.
Still, there remains an inventory of additional technologies utilized during this historic war.Mantras, for instance, refer to weapons that caused impairment by emitting harmful sound vibrations. Another device, known as the Naga astra, had flawless aim and attributed similarities to a snake. An ideal modern comparison would be a heat-seeking missile. Other passages within the Indian epic reference the use of toxic gases that could cause physical and mental incapacitation (sammohana astra)
Regardless of their specific purpose, all astras, or supernatural weapons, were created by a supreme heavenly deity yet commanded by lesser gods. A fairly complete list of recordedastras can be found here.
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