This post is about the weapons used in the great mahabharat war.
Basically there were two types of the weapons used those days. Astras and Shastras (sha as in shall not as in sharp)
Astras were offensive weapons – Brahmastra, Pasupatastra, Agneyastra, Indrastra all come under this category
Shastras were defensive weapons – Shields, brahmadanda etc come under this category
Probably Brahmastra was a nuclear weapon as the description of this weapon in Mahabharata matches exactly that of a nuclear strike. As I have been quoting always, this was first noted by Oppenheimer , the father of modern atomic bomb when americans exploded the test version of the first atomic bomb before using it on Japan. Oppenheimer was surprised when he saw the nuclear explosion as he had already read the Bhagavadgita and Mahabharata and could immediately relate what he saw to what he had read in those ancient texts!!
Astras or the offensive weapons are also called Divyastras ( meaning divine weapons, divya means divine) In other words divyastras are the weapons owned by divine people whom I believe to be the aliens who originally owned these weapons. As I said earlier the gods mentioned in Mahabharata are aliens who visited earth from their far away planets. Maharshis, Brahmarshis etc (they were the scientists, chief scientists of those days and not some normal long bearded saints or sages as many think) usually were the ones who had all secrets of these weapons as they were the original inventors of these and would later hand them over to the political leadership aka the devatas. Some scientists like Shukracharya had defected towards the bad aliens called rakshasas.
If we observe the trend in the mahabharat and other ancient Indian texts, it becomes pretty obvious that these divyastras were limited in number and were hard to obtain. Most great warriors always tried to collect as many divyastras as possible, which is why it was preferred to be taught by great rishis as they possessed the knowledge of these weapons.
For the normal humans on earth, the other way of obtaining these astras was to do tapasya (penance) and have a superluminal contact with the alien gods like Indra who owned these weapons and impress them somehow to get the weapons.
Also it should be noted that these weapons were not necessarily collected in their physical form and stored. Instead the mantras (which I feel were passwords to launch these weapons) of the particular weapon had to be learnt. Without the mantra it was not possible to lauch a weapon. This is the reason why during the crucial stage of the war, Karna inspite of possessing great weapons in his arsenal is not able to use them as he forgets the correspoding mantras of those weapons. This is also the reason how Ekalavya acquires the knowledge of using these weapons even though he is not a student of the great maharshi drona. He learns the mantras by just listening to drona teaching the panadavas and kauravas.
Well, it also looks like mahabharatha war was more of a super psychic, super human warfare. Reciting the mantras would lauch these weapons. There were also mantras to recall the weapons! But not all weapons could be recalled! If the enemy was strong enough then he could also reverese the weapons! Some Shastras like Brahmadanda were known to protect against all kinds of astras including Brahmastra.
By the way there are three great astras which the Top divinity – The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva possess. This is also where the concept of GOD as Generator, Observer and Destroyer lies. Brahma is the Generator, Vishnu the Observer and Shiva the Destroyer.
Brahma owns Brahmastra
Vishnu owns Narayanastra
Shiva owns Pasupatastra
When I say owns, what it means is that without the consent of the owner, it is not possible to launch these weapons, even if one knew the corresponding mantra of the weapon.
This is the reason Arjuna does tapasya to please lord shiva to obtain the Pasupatastra while preparing for the great Mahabharat war.
One last thought, Mahabharata and the Gita within it could also be combined to be an epic inside every human’s lives, the stage is the human mind itself, the war is going on within us, we need to collect astras to fight the evil thoughts within us, brahmastra and others are the superpsychic combination which could be acquired only by greater concentration and dedication. Krishna says to Arjuna, ‘You may or may not use your weapons in the war. But it is VERY IMPORTANT that you possess them’ !
Below are two images: One of an existing chariot structure.. and the second an artist’s view of how this might actually be a mini space shuttle kind of vehicle with wheels to move on land and also a flying machine!!
Also there is a relevant video below!