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In many world mythologies, the characters in the myths are often given supernatural weapons. In Greek mythology, for instance, Zeus has his thunderbolts, whilst the Norse god Thor has his magic hammer, Mjölnir. Supernatural weapons also appear in Hindu mythology, and are known generally as astras. These supernatural weapons are wielded by the characters of the various Hindu texts, including those of the famous epic, the Mahabharata.
Whilst an astra is the general term used to denote a supernatural weapon in Hindu mythology, these weapons have certain features that allow them to be distinguished from those found in the mythology of other world cultures. For a start, each astra was presided over by a certain deity. In order for an astra to be used, the deity has to be invoked, who would then bestow supernatural powers onto the weapon wielded by the hero. As a supernatural weapon, an astra could not be countered by regular weapons, though it may be repulsed by another astra.
Conditions - Order - Astra - Warrior - Knowledge
There are also specific conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for one to wield an astra. A warrior has to have the knowledge required to arm, control and disarm the supernatural weapon. This often takes the form of a mantra, and is usually passed down from master to student by word of mouth. It is without surprise that this knowledge is handed down only to the master’s most qualified students. There are also certain astras that can only be acquired directly from its presiding deity, as knowledge of the mantras alone are not sufficient for one to use them.
In the Mahabharata, various astras are used by the warriors during their epic battles. One of them, for example, is the Sudharshana Chakra. This was the astra used by Krishna, the 8 th avatar of the god Vishnu,...
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