Spiritual war in scripture
Indian mythological stories or Hindu mythological stories cannot be thought without warfare. Most of these wars or battles were driven with the purpose of good triumphing over evil. The major Hindu gods and goddesses including Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Divine Mother were involved in major mythological wars in their different forms. The celestial weapons used in these wars inspire Indian people or Hindu devotees still today. The stories of the major mythological wars have been used to preach the ethics or the justice of God for ages. So, these wars narrated in Hindu scriptures can be termed as spiritual wars.
A large number of spiritual warfare stories are found in Indian Hindu scriptures. To narrate these stories, I would like to mention first the Vedic war between Indra (the king of Devas or gods and Vrat (the Asura or demon of drought). In this destructive war, Vrat swallowed both Indra and his mount elephant. But Indra having very powerful weapons tore open Vrat’s stomach and came out with victory. Another Vedic battle is the Battle of Ten kings. It is mentioned in the Rigveda (Book 7, hymns 18, 33 and 83.4-8). In fact, all the people of the Rigvedic India were involved in this battle directly or indirectly.
There are some major spiritual wars in Hindu myths which took place between Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) in different Hindu mythological yugas (ages). These are the war of Tarakanaya, the war of Avijaka, the war of Tripura-ghanta, the war of Andhaka, the war of Vritrasambhara, the war of Jita, the war of Halahala, the war of Kolahala etc. In some wars Lord Vishnu and his ten Avataras (incarnations) took part and triumphed over Asuras (demons). These wars were fought between Hiranyakashipu (the king of demons) and Narasimha (the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), between Vali (the king of demons) and Vamana (the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu ), between Hiranaksha (the king of demons) and Varah (the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu), between Ravana (the demon king of Lanka) and Rama (the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and so on.
According to Shakta sects of Hindu devotees, Divine Mother is the feminine form of the Creator. She also fought many battles for the Devas (gods) against Asuras (demons). In some battles, Kartikeya and Ganesha, two sons of the Divine Mother, also participated for the welfare of gods as well as Trilok (the three worlds of earth, heaven and hell). Among these the story of the killing of Mahishashura (a demon king with the head of a buffalo) narrated and broadcast electronic media on the occasion of Durga Puja festival (the biggest Bengali Hindu religious festival and one of the world festivals which has got UNESCO cultural heritage status recently). According to this story, Mahishashura got a boon of immortality from Lord Brahma and he attacked Trilok. Then the gods decided to wage a war against him (Mahishashura) but nobody was able to defeat him due to Brahma’s boon. Finding no other way, the gods and goddesses went to Lord Vishnu. Afterwards, the Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) created the Divine Mother who defeated Mahishashura and the gods and goddesses got back their kingdom of heaven.
In the great Indian epic Ramayana, Rama (the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu) fought against Ravana (the demon king of Lanka) to rescue his wife, Sita from him (Ravana). Rama with the help of Hanumana (a monkey god in Hindu religion) and his other devotees defeated Ravana and got back his wife. Besides, here are a large number of battles throughout this epic. Another famous war is depicted in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Here, Lord Krishna is seen to fight directly for the Pandavas (the symbol of truth) against the Kouravas (the symbol of evil) in Kurukshetra. He was the charioteer of Arjuna ( the third of the Pandava brothers and Krishna’s freind) in this war. It is mentionable that Arjuna was the best archer at that time. When Arjuna was in despair to see his relatives as his opponent in the war, Lord Krishna convinced him to fight against them. We see not only the war of Kurukshetra but also a large number of battle episodes in this great epic.
While narrating the spiritual warfare in Hindu scriptures, I cannot but talk about the identities of great warriors and the celestial weapons they used in wars or battles. There are five classes of warrior excellence as per different Hindu mythology. These are – Rathi, Atirathi, Maharathi, Atimaharathi and Mahamaharathi. Famous Rathis in Hindu mythologies are – Somadatta (father of Bhurishrava in the Mahabharata), Shakuni ( Kaurava’s matternal uncle in the Mahabharata), Shishupala (Lord Krishna’s cousin), Vrishasena (son of Karna in the Mahabharata) etc; famous Atirathis in Hindu mythologies are – Shalya ( the fourth commander –in- chief of Kaurava’s alliance in the Mahabharata), Kripacharya (teacher and family priest of Kuru dynasty in the Mahabharata), Yuyutsu ( the only son of Dhritarashtra who survived in the Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata), Drishtadyumna ( commander of the Pandava army in the Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata), Ghatotkacha (son of Bhima in the Mahabharata), Angada (most feared warrior in the Ramayana), Duryodhana and most of the Kaurava brothers and all Pandava brothers except Arjuna in the Mahabharata; famous Maharathis in Hindu mythologies are – Parshurama (sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Rama ( incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the hero of the Ramayana), Kumbhakarna (brother of Ravana in the Ramayana), Lakshmana (brother of Rama in the Ramayana), Ravana (king of Lanka in the Ramayana), Arjuna (third of the five pandava brothers in the Mahabharata), Lava and Kusha (sons of Rama in the Mahabharata), Hanumana, Jambavan and Vali (devotees to Rama in the Ramayana), Bhisma, Drona, Ashwatthama, Abhimanyu ( warriors in the Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata), Lord Krishna (incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Balarama (Krishna’s brother) and Narasimha ( incarnation of Lord Vishnu); famous Atimaharathis in Hindu mythology is Indrajit (son of Ravana in the Ramayana) and famous Mahamaharathis in Hindu mythologies are – Lord Brahma (the creator), Lord Vishnu (the preserver), Lord Shiva (the destroyer), Durga (Divine Mother) and Ganesha and Kartikeya (sons of Lord Shiva and Parvati).
As per Sanatan Hindu scriptures, the great warriors discussed above used celestial weapons which had a great variety. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva used some destructive weapons. Lord Brahma created a weapon named ‘Brahamastra’ which could destroy the whole creation. Lord Vishnu used ‘Narayanastra’, ‘Vaishnavastra’, ‘Kaumodaki’, ‘Sudarshana Chakra (discus)’, ‘Nandaki (the sword of Lord Vishnu)’, ‘Saranga ‘Teer-dhanuk (bow and arrows)’ (the bow of Lord Vishnu)’ etc. Lord Shiva is always depicted with a ‘Trishul (trident)’ in his hand. Devi Durga (Divine Mother with ten hands) is always seen with some celestial weapons. Before fighting against Mahishashura she was gifted with ten weapons for her ten hands. These were ‘Trishula (trident)’, ‘Sudarshana Chakra (discus)’, ‘Vajra (thunderbolt),’ ‘Shankha (conch)’, ‘Varsha (spear)’ ‘Taravari (sword)’, ‘Teer-dhanuk (bow and arrows)’, ‘Gada (club)’ or ‘Kuthar (axe)’, ‘Padma (lotus)’ and ‘Sarpa (snake)’. Some of the celestial weapons are very common in Indian mythological scriptures. These are ‘Teer-dhanuk (bow and arrows)’, ‘Trishula (trident)’, ‘Gada (club)’ etc. Kartikeya is always seen with ‘Teer-dhanuk (bow and arrows)’. ‘Teer-dhanuk (bow and arrows)’ were used immensely in the wars of Ramayana and the Mahabharata. ‘Gada (club)’, a very common and primitive weapon was frequently used by many Hindu mythological warriors like Ganesha, Bhima and Hanumana.
Hindu mythological texts are full of many spiritual wars which depict gods, goddesses, demons, different kinds of celestial weapons and beings and supernatural elements. In fact, most of these major wars were fought with the purpose of upliftment and protection of the goodness and annihilation of the evil tendencies, desires, potentials etc in the universe. So, Lord Krishna uttered–
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham
vinasaya ca duskritam
sambhavami yuge yuge [ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter:4, Text:7 & 8]
Talker: Bidyut Biswas