Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4

by Vihari-Lala Mitra | 1891 | 1,121,132 words | ISBN-10: 8171101519

The English translation of the Yoga-vasistha: a Hindu philosophical and spiritual text written by sage Valmiki from an Advaita-vedanta perspective. The book contains epic narratives similar to puranas and chronologically precedes the Ramayana. The Yoga-vasistha is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, an...

Chapter XLVIII - Description of daivastras or supernatural weapons


vasishtha said:—

Raja Viduratha, finding the high shouldered Sindhu-raja before him, was enraged like the raging sun, in his mid-day fury.

2. The twanging of his bow resounded in the air on all sides, and growled as loudly as the howling of winds in the caverns of mountains.

3. He drew his arrows from the dark quiver, and darted them like the rays of the sun rising from the womb of night.

4. Each arrow flung from the bowstring, flew as thousands in the air, and fell as millions on the ground. (The arrow or bana is a name given to bombs which burst out into unnumbered shells).

5. The king Sindhu was equally expert in his bowmanship, as both of these bowyers owed their skill in archery to the favour of Vishnu.

6. Some of these darts were called bolts, which blocked the aerial passages as with bolts at their doors, and fell down on the ground with the loud roar of thunderbolts.

7. Others begirt with gold, flew hissing as if blown by the winds in the air, and after shining as stars in the sky, fell as blazing meteors on the ground.

8. Showers of shafts poured forth incessantly from the hands of Viduratha, like the ceaseless torrents of rivers or billows of the sea, and the endless radiation of solar rays.

9. Shells and bullets were flying about as sparks of fire struck out of the balls of red-hot iron, and falling as flowers of forests, blown away by gusts of wind.

10. They fell as showers of rainwater, and as the rush of water-falls;and as plentifully as the sparks of fire which flew from the burning city of Viduratha.

11. The jarring sound (chatchat) of their bowstrings, hushed the clamour of the two armies, as a calm quiets the roaring of the raging sea.

12. The course of the arrows, was as the stream of Ganges (the milky path) in heaven, running towards the king Sindhu, as the river runs to meet the sea (Sindhu).

13. The shower of arrows flying from the golden bow of the king, was as the flood of rain falling under the variegated rainbow in the sky.

14. Then Lila the native of that city, saw from the window the darts of her husband, rushing like the currents of Ganges, against the forces of Sindhu resembling a sea.

15. She understood the flight of those darts to promise victory to her lord, and then spoke gladly to Sarasvati, with her lotus like face (Lit.—by opening her lotus like mouth).

16. Be victorious O goddess! and behold victory waiting on the side of my lord, whose darts are piercing the rocks, and breaking them to pieces.

17. As she was uttering these words full of affection (to her lord), the goddesses eyed her askance, and smiled at her womanish tenderness of heart.

18. The flaming (Agastian) fire of Sindhu swallowed the raging sea of Viduratha's arrows, as the submarine fire consumes the water, and as Jahnu drank the stream of Ganges.

19. The missive weapons of Sindhu, thwarted the thickening arrows of his adversary, and drove them back broken and flying as dust in the empty air.

20. As an extinguished lamp loses its light in the air, so the flashes of the fire arms disappeared in the sky, and nobody knew where they fled.

21. Having thus dispelled the shower of arrows, he sent a thick cloud of his weapons, appearing as hundreds of dead bodies flying in the air.

22. Viduratha repelled them quickly by means of his better bolts, as a hurricane disperses the frightening clouds in the air.

23. Both the kings being thus baffled in their aims by the opposing arms, which were indiscriminately let loose against one another, laid hold on more potent missiles (which they had got as gifts of their gods to them).

24. Sindhu then let fly his magic missile the gift of a Gandharva to him, which kept his hostile army all spell-bound except Viduratha's self.

25. Struck with this weapon, the soldiers became as mute as moonstruck, staring in their looks, and appearing as dead bodies or as pictures in a painting.

26. As the soldiers of Viduratha remained exorcised in their files, the king employed his instruments of a counter-charm to remove the spell.

27. This awakened the senses of Viduratha's men as the morning twilight discloses the bed of lotuses, and the rising sun opens their closed petals to light; while Sindhu like the raging sun darted his rage upon them.

28. He flung his serpentine weapons upon them, which bound them as fast as a band all about their bodies, and encircled the battle ground and air, like snakes twining round the crags and rocks.

29. The ground was filled with snakes as the lake with the spreading stalks of lotuses, and the bodies of gigantic warriors were begirt by them, like hills by huge and horrible hydras.

30. Everything was overpowered by the poignant power of the poison, and the inhabitants of the hills and forests were benumbed by the venomous infection.

31. The smart poison spread a fiery heat all around, and the frozen snows like fire-brands sent forth their burning particles which were wafted by the hot winds in the air.

32. The armigerous Viduratha who was equally skilled in arms, had then recourse to his Garuda or serpivorous weapons, which fled like mountainous eagles to all sides.

33. Their golden pinions spread in the sky on all sides, and embroidered the air with purple gold; and the flapping of their wings wheezed like a breeze, which blew away the poisonous effluvia afar in the air.

34. It made the snakes breathe out of their nostrils with a hissing, resembling the gurgling (ghurghur) of waters in a whirlpool in the sea.

35. The flying Garuda weapons devoured the creeping terrene serpents with a whistling noise (salsala), like that of the rising waters

(water-spouts), in the act of their suction by Agastya—the sun.

36. The face of the ground delivered from its covering of these reptiles, again appeared to view, as the surface of the earth re-appeared to light, after its deliverance from the waters of the deluge.

37. The army of Garudas disappeared afterwards from sight, like a line of lamps put out by the wind, and the assemblage of clouds vanishing in autumn.

38. They fled like flying mountains for fear of the bolts of the thundering Indra; and vanished like the evanescent world seen in a dream, or as an aerial castle built by fancy.

39. Then king Sindhu shot his shots of darkness (smoke), which darkened the scene like the dark cave under the ground.

40. It hid the face of the earth and sky, like the diluvian waters reaching to the welkin's face; making the army appear as a shoal of fishes, and the stars as gems shining in the deep.

41. The overspreading darkness appeared as a sea of ink or dark quagmire, or as the particles of Anjanagiri (Inky mountain) wafted by the breeze over the face of nature.

42. All beings seemed to be immersed in the sea or darkness, and to lose their energies as in the deep gloom of midnight.

43. Viduratha the best of the most skilful in ballistics, shot his sun-bright shot which like the sun illumined the vault of the sky.

44. It rose high amidst the overspreading darkness like the sun (Agastya) with his effulgent beams, and dispelled the shades of darkness, as autumn does the rainy clouds.

45. The sky being cleared of its veil of darkness, manifested itself with its reddish clouds, resembling the blowzy bodices of damsels before the king. (Here is a pun upon the word payodhara which means both a cloud and the breast of a woman).

46. Now the landscape appeared in full view, like the understanding (good sense) of men coming in full play after the extinction of their avarice.

47. The enraged Sindhu then laid hold on his dreadful Rakshasa weapon, which he instantly flung on his foe with its bedeviled darts.

48. These horrid and destructive darts flew on all sides in the air, and roared as the roaring sea and elephantine clouds (dighastis) of heaven.

49. They were as the flames of lambent fire, with their long licking tongues and ash-coloured and smoky curls, rising as hoary hairs on the head, and making a chat-chat sound like that of moist fuel set up on fire.

50. They wheeled round in circles through the air, with a horrible tangtang noise, now flaming as fire and now fuming as smoke, and then flying about as sparks of fire.

51. With mouths beset by rows of sprouting teeth like lotus stalks, and faces defaced by dirty and fusty eyes, their hairy bodies were as stagnate pools full of moss and weeds.

52. They flew about and flashed and roared aloud as some dark clouds, while the locks of hairs on their heads glared as lightnings in the midway sky.

53. At this instant Viduratha the spouse of Lila, sent forth his Narayana weapon, having the power of suppressing wicked spirits and demons.

54. The appearance of this magic weapon, made the bodies of the Rakshasas, disappear as darkness at sun rise.

55. The whole army of these fiends was lost in the air, as the sable clouds of the rainy season, vanish into nothing at the approach of autumn.

56. Then Sindhu discharged his fire arms which set fire to the sky, and began to burn down every thing, as by the all destroying conflagration of the last day.

57. They filled all the sides of air with clouds of smoke, which seemed to hide the face of heaven under the darkness of hell.

58. They set fire to the woods in the hills, which burned like mountains of gold; while the trees appeared to bloom with yellow champaka flowers all around.

59. All the sides of the sky above, and the hills, woods and groves below, were enveloped in the flames, as if they were covered under the red powder of huli, with which Yama was sporting over the plain.

60. The heaven-spreading flame burnt down the legions in one heap of ashes, as the submarine fire consumes whole bodies of the fleet and navy in the sea.

61. As Sindhu continued to dart his firearms against his vanquished adversary, Viduratha let off his watery arms with reverential regard.

62. These filled with water, flew forward as the shades of darkness from their hidden cells;and spread up and down and on all sides, like a melted mountain gushing in a hundred cataracts.

63. They stretched as mountainous clouds or as a sea in the air, and fell in showers of watery arrows and stones on the ground.

64. They flew up like large tamala trees, and being gathered in groups like the shades of night, appeared as the thick gloom beyond the lokaloka or polar mountains.

65. They gave the sky the appearance of subterraneous caves, emitting a gurgling sound (ghurghura) like the loud roaring of elephants.

66. These waters soon drank (cooled) the spreading furious fire, as the shades of the dark night swallow (efface) the surrounding red tints of the evening.

67. Having swallowed the fires above, the waters overflooded the ground and filled it with a humidity which served to enervate all bodies, as the power of sleep numbs every body in death-like torpidity.

68. In this manner both the kings were throwing their enchanted weapons against each other, and found them equally quelling and repelling one another in their course.

69. The heavy armed soldiers of Sindhu and the captains of his regiments were swept away by the flood, together with the warcars which floated upon it.

70. At this moment, Sindhu thought upon his anhydrous weapons (soshanastre—thermal arms), which possessed the miraculous power of preserving his people from the water, and hurled them in the air.

71. These absorbed the waters as the sun sucks up the moisture of the night, and dried up the land and revived the soldiers, except those that were already dead and gone.

72. Their heat chased the coldness as the rage of the illiterate enrages the learned, and made the moist ground as dry, as when the sultry winds strew the forest land with dried leaves.

73. It decorated the face of the ground with a golden hue, as when the royal dames adorn their persons with a yellow paint or ointment.

74. It put the soldiers on the opposite side to a state of feverish (or blood heated) fainting, as when the tender leaves of trees are scorched by the warmth of a wild fire in summer heat.

75. Viduratha in his rage of warfare laid hold on his bow (kodanda), and having bent it to a curve, let fly his cloudy arms on his antagonist.

76. They sent forth columns of clouds as thick as the sable shades of night, which flying upward as a forest of dark tamala trees, spread an umbrage heavy with water on high.

77. They lowered under the weight of their water, and stood still by their massive thickness; and roared aloud in their circles all over the sky.

78. Then blew the winds dropping the dewdrops of the icy store they bore on their pinions; and showers of rain fell fast from the collections of the clouds on high.

79. Then flashed the fiery lightnings from them like golden serpents in their serpentine course or rather like the aslant glances of the eyes of heavenly nymphs.

80. The roarings of the clouds rebounded in the mountainous caverns of the sky, and the quarters of heaven re-echoed to the same with the hoarse noise of elephants and the roaring of lions and growling of tigers and bears.

81. Showers of rain fell in floods with drops as big as musalas—malls or mallets, and with flashes of lightnings threatening as the stern glancings of the god of death.

82. Huge mists rising at first in the form of vapours of the earth, and then borne aloft by the heated air into the sky, seemed like titans to rise from the infernal regions (and then invade heaven with their gloomy armament).

83. The mirage of the warfare ceased after a while; as the worldly desires subside to rest upon tasting the sweet joys attending on divine knowledge.

84. The ground became full of mud and mire and was impassable in every part of it; and the forces of Sindhu were overflown by the watery deluge, like the river Sinde or the sea.

85. He then hurled his airy weapon which filled the vault of heaven with winds, and raged in all their fury like the Bhairava-Furies on the last day of resurrection.

86. The winds blew on all sides of the sky, with darts falling as thunder bolts, and hailstones now piercing and then crushing all bodies as by the last blast of nature on the dooms-day.

Footnotes and references:


I have always thought the Daivāstras or superhuman arms, described in the Ramāyana and Mahābhārata epics, as a display of pyrotechnic contrivances much in use in early warfare. Or they may have been some kinds of electric, hydraulic, pneumatic and steam engines emitting gusts of fire, water, wind and smoke in the field of war. Halhead in his Gentoo Laws, tells them to be shot from a kind of cross-bow used by the Crusadiers of old.