Nitiprakasika (Critical Analysis)

by S. Anusha | 2016 | 34,012 words

This page relates ‘Sarga II: Dhanurveda-viveka-kathana (64 Verses)’ of the study on the Nitiprakasika by Vaisampayana which deals primarily with with Dhanurveda, i.e., the science of war, weapons and military strategies of ancient Indian society. It further contains details on Niti-shastra, i.e., the science of politics and state administration but most verses of the Nitiprakashika deal with the classification and description of different varieties of weapons, based on the four groups of Mukta, Amukta, Muktamukta and Mantramukta.

Sarga II: Dhanurveda-viveka-kathana (64 Verses)

verses 1-10: Description of Dhanurveda and Mantra:

(a) verses 1-2–Mūrti of Dhanurveda Puruṣa: The physique of the Mythical dhanurveda puruṣa is described as -having a reddish complexion, four faces, eight arms and three eyes (two eyes are tawny and in the one in the forehead is reddish). He belongs to the gotra of Śāṅkhyāyana (Brahmā)–He weilds Vajra, Khaḍga, Dhanuḥ and Cakra in the four left hands; and Śataghnī, Gadā, Śūla and Paṭṭiśa in the four right hands.

(b) verses 3-4–Metaphoric description of Dhanurveda-puruṣa: The dhanurveda puruṣa is metaphorically portrayed as–wearing the crown of the knowledge of using weapons; having rājanīti as his limbs; mantras as his armour; upasaṃhāra as his heart; śastra and astra are his earrings; various practices of śastras as his ornaments and wears garland of victory (over enemies).

(c) verses 5-10–Dhanurveda Mantra: Then, Brahmā explains the dhanurveda mantra to Pṛthu (verses 6-7):


This mantra vanquishes enemies, protects oneself and one‘s kith and kin. Its ṛṣi is Brahmā himself, gāyatri is its metre, its devatā is Maheśvara and its application is that of arinigraha. The japa of this mantra comprising of thirty-two syllables is to be done for 1000 times to attain victory.

From the two verses given in the text the mantra is brought out by the Tattvavivṛti while commenting on verse 10—


verses 11-5: Classification of weapons:

(a) verses 11-3–The first type of classification: Mukta–released by hand like arrow; Amukta–killer of enemy which is held in the hand like sword; Muktāmukta–a combination of the previous two classes and Mantra-muktaastras are only released and not withdrawn.

(b) verses 14–The second type of classification: This divides weapons as: Śastra, Astra, Pratyastra and Paramāstra.

(c) verses 15–The third type of classification: This defines the stages in the śastraprayoga: Ādāna–taking; Sandhāna–using; Vimokṣa–releasing and Saṃhṛti–killing the target.

verses 16-41: Enumeration of weapons:

Brahmā says that among these, the first type of classification is popular and hence he enlists them.[1]

verses 17-8: The Muktāyudhas:

13 Here all the edited commentaries read[...] instead of[...] which is the correct one since the texts reads[...]

14 There are 12 Muktāyudhas, 20 Amuktāyudhas, 94 (44+50) Muktāmuktāyudhas and 6 Mantramuktāyudhas. Altogether Nītiprakāśikā deals with one thirty two weapons.

They are twelve in number–Dhanus, Iṣu, Bhindipāla, Śakti, Drughana, Tomara, Nalikā, Laguḍa, Pāśa, Cakra, Dantakaṇṭaka and Bhuśuṇḍi. This forms the ādya pāda of dhanurveda.

Tattvavivṛti on verses 17-8:

Names of the twelve muktāyudhas weapons are explained with etymological derivations.

verses 19-21: The Amuktāyudhas:

The twenty weapons of this category are–Vajra, Īli, Paraśu, Gośīrṣa, Asidhenu, Lavitra, Āstara, Kunta, Sthūna, Prāsa, Pināka, Gada, Mudgara, Sīra, Musala, Pattiśa, Mauṣṭika, Parigha, Mayūkhi and Śataghni.[2]

Tattvavivṛti on verses 19-20:

No such etymological derivations are found for the twenty amuktāyudhas enlisted here.

verses 22-41: The Muktāmuktayudhas:

These are broadly divided into two classes, viz., sopasaṃhāras and upasaṃhāras.

verses 21-7: Sopasaṃhāras (forty-four):–

Daṇḍacakra, Dharmacakra, Kālacakra, Aindracakra, Śūlavata, Brahmaśīrṣa, Modaki, Śikhari, Dharmapāśa, Varuṇapāśa, Painākāstra, Vāyavya, Śuṣka, Ārdra, Śikharāstraka, Krauñcāstra,

15 Khaḍga for which a separate sarga is allotted (sarga II) is also to be added to this class. This will make the total number of weapons as 133.

Hayaśīrṣa, Vidyāstra, Avidyāstra, Gandharvāstra, Nandanāstra, Varṣana, Śoṣana, Prasvāpana, Praśamana, Santāpana, Vilāpana, Madana, Mānava, Nāyana, Tāmasa, Samvarta, Mausala, Satya, Saura, Māyāstra, Tvāṣṭra, Somāstra, Samhara, Mānasa, Nāgāstra, Garudāstra, Śaiva and Īsika.

Tattvavivṛti on verses 22-7

Sopasaṃhārāstras being not easy to define, only simple explanations are found in the commentary.

verses 28-34: Upasaṃhāra (49+1):-

Satyavān, Satyakīrti, Rabhasa, Dhṛṣṭa, Pratīhāra, Avāṅmukha, Parāṅmukha, Dhṛḍhanābha, Alakṣya, Lakṣya, Āvila, Sunābhaka, Daśākṣa, Śatavaktra, Daśaṣīrsa, Śatodara, Dharmanābha, Mahānābha, Tundanābha, Nābhaka, Jyotiṣa, Vimala, Nairāsya, Kṛśana, Yogandhara, Sanidra, Daitya, Pramathaja, Sārcimāli, Dhṛti, Māli, Vṛttimān, Rucira, Pitṛya, Saumanasa, Vidhūta, Makara, Karalīra, Dhanarati, Dhānya, Kāmarūpaka, Jṛmbhaka, Āvarana, Moha, Kāmaruci, Varuṇa, Sarvadamana, Sandhāna and Sarvanābhaka.

verses 35-6:

Enlisted amongst the 49 upasaṃhāra weapons–Satyavān, Sarvadamana, Kāmarūpa, Yogandhara and Alakṣya are most effective in causing destruction to the demonic weapons like, Kaṅkalāstra, Mausalāstra, Kāpālāstra, Kaṅkaṇa and Paiśācāstra, which are peculiar to demons.

Tattvavivṛti on verses 35:

It says that foreseeing the necessity of curbing demonic weapons that may evolve in the future, Suprabha bore the five anti-demonic weapons.

verses 37-9cd:

Thus 44+5 becomes 49 Upasaṃhāra weapons. Sarvamocana, that pacifies all other weapons, is the fiftieth. All these together, formulate the tritīyapāda of dhanurveda.

Tattvavivṛti on verses 37-8:

Explains that the forty-nine upasaṃhāra-astras and the Sarvamocana-astra, together form the fifty sons of Suprabhā; the forty-four sopasaṃhāra astras and six mantramuktas, totalling fifty astras are the sons of Jayā.

verses 39cd-41: Mantramuktāyudhas:

The six astras in this category are: Viśṇucakra, Vajra, Brahmāstra, Kālapāśaka, Nārāyaṇāstra and Pāśupatāstra. These are not subdued by any other astras apart from themselves. They form the caturthapāda of dhanurveda.

Tattvavivṛti on verses 40-1:

The mantramuktas can be overcome only by themselves and not by any other astra. For instance, Brahmāstra can be controlled by Brahmāstra alone and none else. In other words, the Tattvavivṛti explains that an astra invoked with a particular mantra can be nullified by another astra invoked with the same mantra.

verses 42-60: Mythological origin of śastras:

The legend of Dadhīci giving the mythological origin of śastras–Once, when the asuras attacked devas, the latter fled because of insufficient knowledge on dhanurvidyā. They surrendered their weapons to sage Dadhīci and sought refuge. The sage obliged and using the powers of his penance, converted weapons to spikes and ate them. These weapons, took the position of his bones. For a long time, the weapons remained in the body of the sage. In the meantime, the devas submitted themselves to Lord Brahmā and prayed for his help. Moved by their pitiable condition, He instructed the dhanurvidyā in full. After being enlightened thus, the devas wished to collect the weapons which they had deposited with the sage. Dadhīci, in turn, desired a heavenly status for taking out the weapons from his body, which would claim his life. The devas readily granted him that boon. Out of the thirty-one bones of Dadhīci‘s body thirty-one weapons emerged and his backbone became vajrāyudhā of Indra.

It is said that these weapons resemble the shapes of the respective bones in the sage‘s body.

verses 60-4: Conclusion of the second Sarga:

Due to the greatness of dhanurvidyā, the devas won over the asuras. By understanding the nuances of this science, the kings shall become experts in polity without any doubt. This māhātmya says Brahmā will benefit the practitioners as well the people who listen to its māhātmya. Pārīkṣit after thus listening to the words of the Brahmā, through Vaiśampāyana, contemplated on these ideas.

Footnotes and references:


There are 12 Muktāyudhas, 20 Amuktāyudhas, 94 (44+50) Muktāmuktāyudhas and 6 Mantramuktāyudhas. Altogether Nītiprakāśikā deals with one thirty two weapons.


Khaḍga for which a separate sarga is allotted (sarga II) is also to be added to this class. This will make the total number of weapons as 133.

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