Brahmastra holders are always regarded as expert in Dhanurveda. There are only few Maharatha’s who held it and were knowledgeable about the releasing and withdrawing. We always count Brahmastra (sometime Brahmashir) as highly destructible weapon and it is belong to the creator himself (Brahma).
As Drona said “The Brahmastra can only be known by a Brahmana who is observant of the vows and have welfare in mind for the universe, or by a Kshatriya who has performed austerities, and by no one else.”
While imparting it in Arjuna, Drona said “O mighty-armed one! Receive this invincible and supreme weapon, named Brahmashira, with the knowledge of releasing it and withdrawing it. You must never use it against human beings. If it is used against an enemy whose energy is inferior, it will burn up the entire universe. O son! It is said that there is nothing superior to this weapon in the three worlds. Therefore, preserve it carefully and listen to my words. O brave one! If a superhuman enemy ever fights with you, use this weapon to kill him in battle.”
The most difficult Task with Brahmastra
Withdrawing any Divine weapon is most difficult task as per the sacred text. Even the warrior like Ashvatthama and Rama had shown his incapability to withdraw the Divine weapon.
As per MBH “In an encounter, it is difficult for even the gods to withdraw a weapon, once released. With the exception of Shatakratu himself, no one other than Pandava (Arjuna) was capable of withdrawing a supreme weapon, once it had been released in a battle.
Once invoked, it was full of Brahma’s energy. With the exception of someone with a cleansed soul and someone who was a Brahmachari, no one else was capable of withdrawing it.
If a person is not a Brahmachari, and having released the weapon, wishes to withdraw it, the weapon will sever his head, with that of his descendants. Arjuna had followed the vows of a Brahmachari.
He had obtained a weapon that was difficult to get. However, he had never invoked it, not even in a time of great calamity. Pandava followed the vows of truth. He was brave and a Brahmachari.
He was obedient to his superiors. It was because of this that Arjuna was capable of withdrawing that weapon again. Knowledge of a divine weapon meant not just knowledge about its release, but also knowledge about its withdrawal.
Here is the snapshot of Brahmastra Holder and User and when it was used in the Mahabharata War and Text.
Few incidents are also mentioned from the Ramayana and other period, but it is included in the Bharata Text, so we used it.
Well, we will post the Ramayana references latter.
All the references are from the BORI CE MB (Except one) with Sanskrit Text.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 317(20) – Pradyumna
प्रयुज्यमानमाज्ञाय दैतेयास्त्रं महाबलः |
ब्रह्मास्त्रेणान्तरा छित्त्वा मुमोचान्यान्पतत्रिणः ||१७||
Knowing that daitya weapons had been released, he (Pradyumna) sliced them off by unleashing enormously powerful Brahmastra.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 460(163) – Arjuna
तेषु सर्वेषु शान्तेषु ब्रह्मास्त्रमहमादिशम् |
ततः प्रज्वलितैर्बाणैः सर्वतः सोपचीयत ||३३||
उपचीयमानश्च मया महास्त्रेण व्यवर्धत ||३३||
ततः सन्तापितो लोको मत्प्रसूतेन तेजसा |
क्षणेन हि दिशः खं च सर्वतोऽभिविदीपितम् ||३४||
तदप्यस्त्रं महातेजाः क्षणेनैव व्यशातयत् |
ब्रह्मास्त्रे तु हते राजन्भयं मां महदाविशत् ||३५||
When he had pacified all of them, I grasped my Brahmastra. He was then completely covered with flaming arrows. Thus covered by my great weapon, his body began to expand. Because of the energy unleashed by me, the world began to burn. In an instant, the directions and the sky began to blaze. But that immensely energetic one pacified that weapon in a moment. O king! When the Brahmastra weapon was conquered, I was overcome by great fear.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 464(167) – Arjuna
स्पर्धमाना इवास्माभिर्निवातकवचा रणे |
शरवर्षैर्महद्भिर्मां समन्तात्प्रत्यवारयन् ||१६||
ततोऽहं लघुभिश्चित्रैर्ब्रह्मास्त्रपरिमन्त्रितैः |
व्यधमं सायकैराशु शतशोऽथ सहस्रशः ||१७||
In that battle, other Nivatakavachas challenged me and attacked me from all sides with great showers of arrows. With light arrows that had been invoked with the Brahmastra weapon, I consumed them in hundreds and thousands.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 492(195) – King Kuvalashva aka Dhundhumara
ब्रह्मास्त्रेण तदा राजा दैत्यं क्रूरपराक्रमम् |
ददाह भरतश्रेष्ठ सर्वलोकाभयाय वै ||२८||
सोऽस्त्रेण दग्ध्वा राजर्षिः कुवलाश्वो महासुरम् |
सुरशत्रुममित्रघ्नस्त्रिलोकेश इवापरः ||२९||
धुन्धुमार इति ख्यातो नाम्ना समभवत्ततः ||२९||
O best of the Bharata lineage! Then the king burnt down the cruel and powerful daitya with his Brahmastra and ensured the welfare of all the worlds. Rajarshi Kuvalashva consumed the great asura with this weapon. That destroyer of enemies killed the enemy of the gods and became like the lord of the three worlds. From that day, he became known as Dhundhumara.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 568(271) – Lakshaman
स बभूवातिकायश्च बहुपादशिरोभुजः |
तं ब्रह्मास्त्रेण सौमित्रिर्ददाहाद्रिचयोपमम् ||१६||
स पपात महावीर्यो दिव्यास्त्राभिहतो रणे |
महाशनिविनिर्दग्धः पादपोऽङ्कुरवानिव ||१७||
The body now assumed a gigantic size (Kumbhakarna), with many legs, heads and arms and looked like a mass of rocks. Soumitri burnt it down with Brahmastra. Struck by that celestial weapon, the immensely valorous one fell down in battle, like a tree that has been burnt and uprooted by a stroke of lightning.
- Vana Parva : Chapter 571(274) – Rama
ततः सुपत्रं सुमुखं हेमपुङ्खं शरोत्तमम् |
तूणादादाय काकुत्स्थो ब्रह्मास्त्रेण युयोज ह ||२४||
तं बाणवर्यं रामेण ब्रह्मास्त्रेणाभिमन्त्रितम् |
जहृषुर्देवगन्धर्वा दृष्ट्वा शक्रपुरोगमाः ||२५||
अल्पावशेषमायुश्च ततोऽमन्यन्त रक्षसः |
ततः ससर्ज तं रामः शरमप्रतिमौजसम् |
रावणान्तकरं घोरं ब्रह्मदण्डमिवोद्यतम् ||२७||
Kakutstha took a supreme arrow out of his quiver. It was excellent in the head and in the shaft and had a golden shaft. He invoked it with Brahmastra and fixed it to his bow. When Rama invoked that excellent arrow with the mantra of Brahmastra, on witnessing that, all the gods and the Gandharvas, with Indra at the forefront, rejoiced. With the invocation of Brahmastra, all the Gods, Gandharvas and Kinnaras thought that the Rakshasa only had a short span of life left now. Rama then released the arrow, unmatched in its energy. It was terrible and resembled Brahma’s raised staff, destined to kill Ravana.
- Udyoga Parva – Chapter 848(185) – Bhishma and Parshurama
समाश्वस्तस्तदा रामः क्रोधामर्षसमन्वितः |
प्रादुश्चक्रे तदा ब्राह्मं परमास्त्रं महाव्रतः ||१५||
ततस्तत्प्रतिघातार्थं ब्राह्ममेवास्त्रमुत्तमम् |
मया प्रयुक्तं जज्वाल युगान्तमिव दर्शयत् ||१६||
तयोर्ब्रह्मास्त्रयोरासीदन्तरा वै समागमः |
असम्प्राप्यैव रामं च मां च भारतसत्तम ||१७||
Thus comforted, Rama, the one with the great vows, became angry and was overcome with intolerance. He manifested the supreme weapon known as Brahma. To counter it, I also used the supreme Brahma weapon. It blazed, appearing like something at the end of an era. O supreme among the Bharata lineage! The two Brahma weapons encountered each other in mid-air, without reaching either Rama or me.
- Bhishma Parva: SECTION XLVIII (KMG) – Bhishma
ततः शरं मृत्युसमं भारसाधनमुत्तमम् ॥ 6-48-111 (40632)
विकृष्य बलवान्भीष्मः समाधत्त दुरासदम्।
ब्रह्मास्त्रेण सुसंयुक्तं तं शरं लोमवाहिनम् ॥ 6-48-112 (40633)
ददृशुर्देवगन्धर्वाः पिशाचोरगराक्षसाः ।
Then taking out an arrow resembling Death’s self and capable of bearing a great strain and incapable of being resisted, the powerful Bhishma placed it on his bowstring. And that shaft, furnished with wings and duly endued with the force of the Brahma weapon, was seen by the gods and Gandharvas and Pisachas and Uragas, and Rakshasas.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1044(67) – Arjuna
तं तूर्णमिव बीभत्सुः सर्वशस्त्रभृतां वरः |
तस्याशु क्षिपतो भल्लान्भल्लैः संनतपर्वभिः |
प्रत्यविध्यदमेयात्मा ब्रह्मास्त्रं समुदीरयन् ||९||
Bibhatsu, supreme among those who wielded all weapons, quickly attacked him with arrows that could repluse the most forceful of arrows. The one whose soul was immeasurable (Arjuna) invoked the Brahmastra.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1044(67) – Arjuna
अर्जुनः शरवर्षं तद्ब्रह्मास्त्रेणैव मारिष |
प्रतिजग्राह तेजस्वी बाणैर्बाणान्विशातयन् ||१२||
O venerable one! Arjuna used the Brahmastra to counter the shower of arrows. The spirited one countered all those arrows with his own arrows.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1058(81) – Drona
शक्तिं समुद्यतां दृष्ट्वा धर्मराजेन संयुगे |
स्वस्ति द्रोणाय सहसा सर्वभूतान्यथाब्रुवन् ||३०||
सा राजभुजनिर्मुक्ता निर्मुक्तोरगसंनिभा |
प्रज्वालयन्ती गगनं दिशश्च विदिशस्तथा ||३१||
द्रोणान्तिकमनुप्राप्ता दीप्तास्या पन्नगी यथा ||३१||
तामापतन्तीं सहसा प्रेक्ष्य द्रोणो विशां पते |
प्रादुश्चक्रे ततो ब्राह्ममस्त्रमस्त्रविदां वरः ||३२||
O descendant of the Bharata lineage! All the beings screamed in terror. On seeing the lance raised by Dharmaraja in that battle, all the beings suddenly exclaimed, ‘May all be well with Drona.’ Hurled from the king’s arms, it was like a snake that had cast off its skin. It blazed in the sky and in the directions and the sub-directions. It was like a she-serpent with a flaming mouth and it was as if Drona confronted death. O lord of the earth! On seeing it suddenly descend, Drona, supreme among those who knew about weapons, released the Brahmastra.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1058(81) – Yudhishthira
ततो युधिष्ठिरो राजा द्रोणास्त्रं तत्समुद्यतम् |
अशामयन्महाप्राज्ञो ब्रह्मास्त्रेणैव भारत ||३४||
O descendant of the Bharata lineage! When Drona’s weapon advanced, the immensely wise King Yudhishthira used a Brahmastra to pacify it.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1078(101) – Drona
ततो द्रोणो महाराज केकयं वै विशेषयन् |
प्रादुश्चक्रे रणे दिव्यं ब्राह्ममस्त्रं महातपाः ||१२||
O great king! Drona also applauded Kekaya’s special act. In that battle, the greatly ascetic one then invoked the divine and invincible Brahmastra.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1078(101) – Brihatkshatra
तदस्य राजन्कैकेयः प्रत्यवारयदच्युतः |
ब्राह्मेणैव महाबाहुराहवे समुदीरितम् ||१३||
O king! But in that battle, the mighty-armed Kekaya released his own Brahmastra and countered it.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1109(132) – Drona
विहन्यमानेष्वस्त्रेषु द्रोणः क्रोधसमन्वितः |
ततो नाज्ञासिषं किञ्चिद्घोरेण तमसावृते |
सर्वभूतानि च परं त्रासं जग्मुर्महीपते ||३४|
On seeing that his weapons had been destroyed, Drona was overcome with anger. Wishing to destroy Yudhishthira, he unleashed the Brahma weapon (Brahmastra). Everything was covered in darkness and we could see nothing. O lord of the earth! All the beings were full of great terror.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1109(132) – Yudhisthira
ब्रह्मास्त्रमुद्यतं दृष्ट्वा कुन्तीपुत्रो युधिष्ठिरः |
ब्रह्मास्त्रेणैव राजेन्द्र तदस्त्रं प्रत्यवारयत् ||३५||
O Indra among kings! On seeing that a Brahmastra had been invoked, Yudhishthira, Kunti’s son, used a Brahmastra to counter it. At this, all the foremost of warriors praised those bulls among men. The great archers, Drona and Partha, were skilled in all forms of fighting.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1140(163) – Drona
ततो द्रोणो ब्राह्ममस्त्रं प्रादुश्चक्रे महामतिः |
सन्तापयन्रणे पार्थं भूतान्यन्तर्हितानि च ||४३||
ततश्चचाल पृथिवी सपर्वतवनद्रुमा |
ववौ च विषमो वायुः सागराश्चापि चुक्षुभुः ||४४||
The immensely intelligent Drona invoked Brahmastra. It scorched Partha and all the invisible beings. The earth, with all its mountains and trees, began to tremble. Turbulent winds began to blow and the oceans were agitated.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1140(163) – Arjuna
ततः पार्थोऽप्यसम्भ्रान्तस्तदस्त्रं प्रतिजघ्निवान् |
ब्रह्मास्त्रेणैव राजेन्द्र ततः सर्वमशीशमत् ||४६||
O Indra among kings! However, Partha was not frightened. He countered that weapon with his own Brahmastra and everything became peaceful again.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1141(164) – Drona
ततः प्रादुष्करोद्द्रोणो ब्राह्ममस्त्रं परन्तपः |
वधाय तेषां शूराणां पाञ्चालानाममर्षितः ||७९||
ततो व्यरोचत द्रोणो विनिघ्नन्सर्वसोमकान् |
शिरांस्यपातयच्चापि पाञ्चालानां महामृधे ||८०||
Drona, the scorcher of enemies, invoked a Brahmastra in great anger, for the sake of killing those brave ones. Drona roamed around, killing all the Somakas. In that great battle, he brought down the heads of the Panchalas.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1141(164) – Dhrishtadyumna
अमिश्रयदमेयात्मा ब्राह्ममस्त्रमुदीरयन् ||१२९||
Maharatha Dhrishtadyumna, immeasurable in his soul, mixed up his horses and his chariot with the horses and chariot of his adversary and then invoked a Brahmastra.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1142(165) – Dhrishtadyumna vs Drona
तौ न्यवारयतां श्रेष्ठौ संरब्धौ रणशोभिनौ |
उदीरयेतां ब्राह्माणि दिव्यान्यस्त्राण्यनेकशः ||२२||
स महास्त्रैर्महाराज द्रोणमाच्छादयद्रणे |
निहत्य सर्वाण्यस्त्राणि भारद्वाजस्य पार्षतः ||२३||
Those angry and foremost ones, ornaments of a battle, countered each other. They released Brahmastras and many other divine weapons. O great king! Parshata covered Drona with great weapons in that battle and destroyed all the weapons of Bharadvaja’s son.
- Drona Parva: Chapter 1149(172) – Arjuna
अर्जुनस्तु महाराज ब्राह्ममस्त्रमुदैरयत् |
सर्वास्त्रप्रतिघाताय विहितं पद्मयोनिना ||३२||
ततो मुहूर्तादिव तत्तमो व्युपशशाम ह |
प्रववौ चानिलः शीतो दिशश्च विमलाभवन् ||३३||
“O great king! At this, Arjuna invoked Brahmastra. The one who was born from a lotus (Brahma) has decreed that this is capable of repulsing all weapons. That darkness was dispelled in an instant. Auspicious winds began to blow and the directions became clear.
- Karna Parva: Chapter 1183(33) – Karna
स पाण्डवानां प्रवरैः सर्वतः समभिद्रुतः |
उदैरयद्ब्राह्ममस्त्रं शरैः सम्पूरयन्दिशः ||२५||
ततः शरमहाज्वालो वीर्योष्मा कर्णपावकः |
निर्दहन्पाण्डववनं चारु पर्यचरद्रणे ||२६||
He (Karna) was attacked from every direction by the best among the Pandavas. At this, he (Karna) invoked Brahmastra and enveloped the directions with his arrows. The fire that was Karna had valour and anger and his arrows flamed greatly. Consuming the Pandavas, who were like a forest, he resplendently roamed around in that battle.
- Karna Parva: Chapter 1215(65) – Arjuna
प्रादुष्करोम्येष महास्त्रमुग्रं; शिवाय लोकस्य वधाय सौतेः |
तन्मेऽनुजानातु भवान्सुराश्च; ब्रह्मा भवो ब्रह्मविदश्च सर्वे ||२३||
इत्यूचिवान्ब्राह्ममसह्यमस्त्रं; प्रादुश्चक्रे मनसा संविधेयम् |
ततो दिशश्च प्रदिशश्च सर्वाः; समावृणोत्सायकैर्भूरितेजाः ||२४||
I will release a great and fierce weapon for the welfare of the worlds and for the death of the son of a suta. Let me have your permission, that of the gods, Brahma, Bhava and all the ones who are knowledgeable about the brahman.’ Having said this, he invoked the invincible Brahmastra in his mind, in accordance with the prescribed rites. All the directions and sub-directions were covered by extremely energetic arrows.
- Karna Parva: Chapter 1216(66) – Karna
निर्भिद्य ते भीमवेगा न्यपतन्पृथिवीतले |
कम्पितात्मा तथा कर्णः शक्त्या चेष्टामदर्शयत् ||४७||
बलेनाथ स संस्तभ्य ब्रह्मास्त्रं समुदैरयत् |
ऐन्द्रास्त्रमर्जुनश्चापि तद्दृष्ट्वाभिन्यमन्त्रयत् ||४८||
They pierced him with great force and then fell down on the surface of the earth. Karna trembled. However, he exhibited great capacity. Using his strength, he invoked Brahmastra. On seeing this, Arjuna invoked mantras and released aindrastra.
- Karna Parva: Chapter 1216(66) – Arjuna
ततोऽब्रवीद्वृष्णिवीरस्तस्मिन्नस्त्रे विनाशिते ||५१||
विसृजास्त्रं परं पार्थ राधेयो ग्रसते शरान् |
ब्रह्मास्त्रमर्जुनश्चापि संमन्त्र्याथ प्रयोजयत् ||५२||
When that weapon was destroyed, the brave one from the Vrishni lineage said, ‘O Partha! Radheya is destroying your arrows. Release supreme weapons.’ Using mantras, Arjuna released Brahmastra.
- Karna Parva: Chapter 1217(67) – Karna
एवमुक्ते तु राधेये वासुदेवेन पाण्डवम् |
मन्युरभ्याविशत्तीव्रः स्मृत्वा तत्तद्धनञ्जयम् ||६||
तस्य क्रोधेन सर्वेभ्यः स्रोतोभ्यस्तेजसोऽर्चिषः |
प्रादुरासन्महाराज तदद्भुतमिवाभवत् ||७||
तं समीक्ष्य ततः कर्णो ब्रह्मास्त्रेण धनञ्जयम् |
When Vasudeva addressed Radheya in this way, Pandava Dhananjaya remembered all this and was overcome by great rage. Energetic flames of anger seemed to issue out from all the pores on his body and it was extraordinary. On seeing this, Karna again invoked Brahmastra against Dhananjaya. He showered down arrows and tried to extricate his chariot.
- Sauptika Parva: Chapter 1297(14) – Arjuna vs Ashvatthama
ततस्तदस्त्रं सहसा सृष्टं गाण्डीवधन्वना |
प्रजज्वाल महार्चिष्मद्युगान्तानलसंनिभम् ||७||
तथैव द्रोणपुत्रस्य तदस्त्रं तिग्मतेजसः |
प्रजज्वाल महाज्वालं तेजोमण्डलसंवृतम् ||८|
That weapon was violently released by the wielder of Gandiva. It blazed with great flames, like the fire that arises at the end of a yuga. In a similar way, the weapon released by Drona’s son was fierce in its energy. It blazed in great flames, surrounded by a disc of energy.
अस्त्रं ब्रह्मशिरस्तात विद्वान्पार्थो धनञ्जयः |
उत्सृष्टवान्न रोषेण न वधाय तवाहवे ||१९||
अस्त्रमस्त्रेण तु रणे तव संशमयिष्यता |
विसृष्टमर्जुनेनेदं पुनश्च प्रतिसंहृतम् ||२०||
Vyasa replied, “O son! Partha Dhananjaya knew about the weapon Brahmashira. However, he did not release it out of rage, or to slay you in this encounter. In the encounter, he wished to pacify the weapon that had been released by you. Arjuna released it, and withdrew it again.
Deepak Kumar Jha (A Learner)