Hindu mythology makes use of these Astra’s which were said to be supernatural elements which only certain God’s could control.
Significantly, Astra means ‘missile weapon’. Specific incantations and spells were required in order to be able to gain the Astra’s and to use
them. Because of the power of these Astra’s, only those who were righteous and understood the conditions of use could be taught the power of being
able to attain the use of one. Astra’s are used in both epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Let’s examine some of the Astra’s that were
:This was the weapon that was created by Brahma. Nothing could stop the Brahmastra once it was unleashed and it could never
miss it’s intended target. This Astra causes massive environmental damage and no life could survive in the area once it was used, it cannot rain,
and the ground grows dry.
: This Astra was the personal weapon of Vishnu. It released an outburst of thousands of missiles and the only way to stop it
was for the target to bow down in complete submission.
: This was the personal Astra of Siva. It could be controlled by the eyes and the mind. It was said to be capable of
destroying life and all creation.
: Another Astra of the God Vishnu. Once released, this missile could not be stopped without Vishnu himself commanding
: This Astra was said to be a water weapon, it could master the oceans and control them to be used as a weapon of war.
These Astra’s do sound a lot like modern day weaponry to some, with all the effects (destruction, impacts on the natural world, etc). Some have
compared, specifically the Brahmastra to a modern day nuclear bomb.
The Destroyer of Worlds
Whether or not nuclear weapons have been used in the past, the influence of the Hindu Epics is prominent today, notably, in association with the first
detonation of the atomic bomb. J. Robert Oppenheimer was a world famous physicist, and the head of Project Manhattan. Upon witnessing the nuclear test
in 1945, Oppenheimer famously recalled verse 32 from chapter 11 of the Baghavad Gita:
“Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds”.
(click to open player in new window)
It is clear that Oppenheimer understands what he has done, and is feeling remorseful, he could be coming to an understanding of the cyclical nature of
humanity, and how man destroys man with mans own creation. Oppenheimer is quoting Lord Krishna (avatar of Vishnu) once he has transformed into his
celestial form in front of Arjuna. Remember, the Bhagavad Gita is the text inside the Mahabharata Epic which shows the conversation between Arjuna and
Vishnu. As Vishnu transforms he becomes consumed with a bright light. Could this be Vishnu showing Arjuna the weapons they have available to use, in a
way giving Arjuna the courage to continue fighting against his cousins. Oppenheimer considers the Bhagavad Gita as the most important literature that
shaped his philosophy of life.
Notably, Krishna (Vishnu) has transformed into a cosmic (celestial) form, emitting some form of radiance. One could describe the following (Arjuna
speaking to Krishnu) as a description of a atomic bomb exploding, capturing everything in its path. The following are excerpts from the Bhagavad
These warriors of the mortal world are entering your blazing mouths as many torrents of the rivers enter into the ocean.
All these people are rapidly rushing into your mouths for destruction as moths rush with great speed into the blazing flame for
You are licking up all the worlds with your flaming mouths, swallowing them from all sides. Your powerful radiance is filling the entire
universe with effulgence and burning it, O Krishna. (11.30)
Krishnu then explains that he has destroyed all the opposing armies without Arjuna having to fight:
Lord Krishna said: I am death, the destroyer of worlds. I have come here to destroy all these people. Even without your participation in the war,
all the warriors standing arrayed in the opposing armies shall cease to exist. (11.32)
In quoting the Mahabharata itself, we witness a destructive incident, possibly the result of an Astra:
The splendour, equal to that of either the Sun or
the Moon, of bracelets and diadems of all the heroic kings, became
dimmed. And the dust that rose looked like a cloud, the flash of bright
weapons constituting its lightning. And the twang of bows, the whiz of
arrows, the blare of conchs, the loud beat of drums, and the rattle of
cars, of both the armies, constituted the fierce roar of those clouds.
And more famously, consider the following passages:
...A single projectile,
charged with all the power of the Universe.
An incandescent column of smoke and flame
As bright as the thousand suns
Rose in all its splendour...
A perpendicular explosion
with its billowing smoke clouds...
...the cloud of smoke
rising after its first explosion,
formed into expanding round circles
like the opening of giant parasols...
...It was an unknown weapon,
An iron thunderbolt,
A gigantic messenger of death,
Which reduced to ashes,
The entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.
...The corpses were so burned
As to be unrecognisable.
The hair and nails fell out;
Pottery broke without apparent cause,
And the birds turned white.
After a few hours,
All foodstuffs were infected...
...to escape from this fire.
The soldiers threw themselves in streams,
To wash themselves and their equipment.
Looking at it from a non bias side, this is a VERY accurate description of the after effects of a nuclear explosion.
We should not however, forget Oppenheimer. At Rochester University a student asked Oppenheimer whether or not the bomb that was detonated at
Alamogordo the first one to be detonated. To that, Oppenheimer replied:
Well – yes, in modern times, of course.
What Arjuna is describing when witnessing the transformation of Krishnu or what strange events that seem to be massive explosions are being described
can be interpreted in many ways, but what leaves only two possible interpretations, fact or fiction, is the tale of the Vimanas.