As I know, when Arjuna did penance to Indra, Shiva referred to the pashupata weapon as "roudra" but also as a pashupata, implying that it is another name of the weapon according to Shiva:

'"O great king! Having done this, the illustrious one discarded the form of a kirata and appeared in another divine form, dressed in a wonderful garment. The illustrious god himself, with the bull on his banner, 164 yellow-eyed and capable of assuming many forms, the wielder of the pinaka, 165 could be seen in his own form, accompanied by Uma. O scorcher of enemies! After the battle, I stood there, and the wielder of the trident told me, 'I am pleased with you. 'Grasping the bow and the inexhaustible quivers that never run out of arrows, the illustrious one returned them to me and said, 'Ask for a boon. O Kounteya! Yo soy satisfied with you. Tell me what I can do for you. Or brave one! What is the desire of your heart? Tell me and I will grant whatever is in your heart, as long as it is not immortality. ' Then, I joined my hands in salutation, with my mind set on obtaining weapons. I bowed to Sharva167 and spoke these words, 'If the illustrious one is pleased with me, I ask for this boon I wish to know about all the weapons that the gods possess. 'The illustrious Tryambaka168 told me, 'I will give. O Pandava! My own weapon, roudra, will always be present before you. 'Satisfied, the Lord granted me that pashupata weapon.169 Having given me that eternal weapon, Mahadeva told me,' This should never be used against humans. OR Dhananjaya! This powerful weapon should only be used if you are hard-pressed. It can be used to counter all other weapons. 'Because of Vrishadhvaja's favors, that divine weapon, capable of countering all other weapons, the destroyer of all enemies and capable of annihilating the armies of enemies, unassailable and impossible for gods, danavas and rakshasas to endure, stood personified by my side. After obtaining his170 permission, I sat down there. In my very sight, the god disappeared. "'

And in fact Arjuna used that weapon against the kalakeyas:

'"In that battle, with all my showers of arrows, I was not able to oppress them. But they oppressed me. Thus hard-pressed by many who were accomplished in weapons and were skilled warriors, I felt pain in that great battle. A great fear took hold of me. In the battle, I bowed down to Rudra, god of the gods. Saying, 'May there be welfare to all beings,' I used the great weapon famous by the name of roudra, capable of destroying all enemies. I then saw a man with three heads, nine eyes, three faces and six arms, with hair blazing like the sun and the fire.206 O scorcher of enemies! There were giant serpents with flaming tongues on his head. O bull among the Bharata lineage! On beholding that terrible and eternal roudra weapon, I lost my fear and attached it to Gandiva. I bowed in obeisance to the three-eyed and infinitely energetic Sharva.207 Or descendant of the Bharata lineage! I discharged it, to defeat the lords of the danavas. O Lord of the earth! As soon as I discharged it, I assumed thousands of different forms everywhere-deer, lions, tigers, bears, buffaloes, serpents, cattle, elephants, marsh-deer, sharabhas, bulls, boars, cats, hyenas, ghosts, bhurundas, 208 vultures, garudas, sharks, 209 pishachas, yakshas, ​​haters of gods, guhyakas, nairritas, large fish with mouths like elephants, owls and masses of fish and tortoises, all brandishing many kinds of weapons and swords. There were yatudhanas, 210 wielding clubs and maces. There's were many other beings in different forms. They filled up the universe when that weapon was discharged Those many different forms-with three heads, four tusks, four faces and four arms-devoured the flesh, fat and marrow of the danavas. They continuously killed the ones who had gathered there. Or descendant of the Bharata lineage! In an instant, I also killed the danavas with arrows that were destructive of enemies, as hard as the vajra and as radiant as lightning, blazing like the sun and the fire.

But anushasana parva describes the very different weapon:

This was the great and extremely terrible divine weapon, the Pashupata. It was unmatched, impossible to describe and fearful to all creatures. It was gigantic in size, with sparks, and seemed to spout out fire. It possessed a single foot and giant teeth. 156 It had one thousand heads and one thousand stomachs. There were one A thousand arms and one thousand eyes, and these seemed to spout out fire. O mighty-armed one! It is superior to Brahma, Narayana, Aindra, Agneya and Varuna weapons and is capable of countering all weapons. Or Govinda! In ancient times, Mahadeva sported around and with this single arrow, in an instant, consumed and reduced Tripura to ashes. There is no doubt that if it is released from Maheshvara's arms, in an instant, it consumes the entire universe and the three worlds, with their mobile and immobile objects. There is nothing in the world that can not be slain with it, even Brahma, Vishnu and the gods. Or are! I saw that extraordinary, wonderful and supreme weapon there.

My question is this, the roudra and pashupata weapons are the same weapon? If not, why does Shiva also refer to the pashupata weapon as roudra?


2 Answers 2


It is hard to answer this question with certainty. There are many different names for celestial weapons in the Puranas, and there is no clear explanation as to if they are different ones.

For example the following weapons are associated with Lord Shiva.

1) Rudrastra - Lakshmana uses this in The Ramayana to neutralize Indrajit's Varunastra. And Lord Rama responds to Ravana's application of Rudrastra with his own Gandarvastra. It is not clear how those astras have opposite effect on each other. One version of The Mahabharata says Arjuna contemplated launching Rudrastra on Karna when the latter was trying to lift the chariot. But Arjuna decided against using the Rudrastra (reason not mentioned)

2) Pasupatastra - Common notion is this is what Lord Shiva gave Arjuna, who used it against Kalakeyas and Nivata kavachas. The Mahanbharata also says Arjuna used it when he had to direct Jayadrata's head to his father. From the narration surrounding this account in The Mahabharata, it sounds like Arjuna led by Krishna requested Lord Shiva again for Pasupatastra.

3) Maha Pasupatastra - This is mentioned in The Sri Lalitha Sahasranama (which is part of The Brahmanda Purana). Goddess Sri Lalitha uses the astra to destroy Bhandasura's forces. Sri Bhaskara Raya, who wrote the commentary for Sri Lalitha Sahasranama, says this astra was different from, and more powerful than, the Pasupatastra given to Arjuna by Lord Shiva. It appears like an interpretation of Sri Bhaskararaya, and I am not sure if he quoted any sources for this distinction.

4) Kameshvarastra - This is also mentioned in The Sri Lalitha Sahasranama (which is part of The Brahmanda Purana). Goddess Sri Lalitha uses the astra to destroy Bhandasura.

I know this does not answer your exact question, but it appears like some of them are different astras. Based on the references in The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, there is some basis to think The Rudrastra is possibly different from The Pasupatastra.

Likewise there are alternative names for other astras too -

Vaishnavastra (Bhagadatta uses it on Arjuna) and Maha Narayanastra - The presiding deity is Lord Vishnu / Lord Narayana. No clear explanation as to if they are the same or different.

Aindrastra / Mahendrastra / Vajrastra / Vira Mahendrastra - all are associated with Devendra. But no clear reference as to if they all are the same. But Aindrastra is described to be one of the powerful astra.


Relevant extract from Mahabharata says that Arjuna asked for brahmasira.

7 [अर्ज] भगवन ददासि चेन मह्यं कामं परीत्या वृषध्वज कामये दिव्यम अस्त्रं तद घॊरं पाशुपतं परभॊ

8 यत तद बरह्मशिरॊ नाम रौद्रं भीमपराक्रमम युगान्ते दारुणे पराप्ते कृत्स्नं संहरते जगत

9 दहेयं येन संग्रामे दानवान राक्षसांस तथा भूतानि च पिशाचांश च गन्धर्वान अथ पन्नगान

10 यतः शूलसहस्राणि गदाश चॊग्रप्रदर्शनाः शराश चाशीविषाकाराः संभवन्त्य अनुमन्त्रिताः

11 युध्येयं येन भीष्मेण दरॊणेन च कृपेण च सूतपुत्रेण च रणे नित्यं कटुक भाषिणा

12 एष मे परथमः कामॊ भगवन भव नेत्रहन तवत्प्रसादाद विनिर्वृत्तः समर्थः सयाम अहं यथा

13 [भगवान]

ददानि ते ऽसत्रं दयितम अहं पाशुपतं महत समर्थॊ धारणे मॊक्षे संहारे चापि पाण्डव

7 [arj] bhagavan dadāsi cen mahyaṃ kāmaṃ prītyā vṛṣadhvaja kāmaye divyam astraṃ tad ghoraṃ pāśupataṃ prabho

8 yat tad brahmaśiro nāma raudraṃ bhīmaparākramam yugānte dāruṇe prāpte kṛtsnaṃ saṃharate jagat

9 daheyaṃ yena saṃgrāme dānavān rākṣasāṃs tathā bhūtāni ca piśācāṃś ca gandharvān atha pannagān

10 yataḥ śūlasahasrāṇi gadāś cograpradarśanāḥ śarāś cāśīviṣākārāḥ saṃbhavanty anumantritāḥ

11 yudhyeyaṃ yena bhīṣmeṇa droṇena ca kṛpeṇa ca sūtaputreṇa ca raṇe nityaṃ kaṭuka bhāṣiṇā

12 eṣa me prathamaḥ kāmo bhagavan bhava netrahan tvatprasādād vinirvṛttaḥ samarthaḥ syām ahaṃ yathā

13 [bhagavān]

dadāni te 'straṃ dayitam ahaṃ pāśupataṃ mahat samartho dhāraṇe mokṣe saṃhāre cāpi pāṇḍava

Arjuna said, 'O illustrious god having the bull for thy sign, if thou wilt grant me my desire, I ask of thee, O lord that fierce celestial weapon wielded by thee and called Brahmasira.

pAshupata may indicate that related to pashupati (shiva).

  • Sometimes pAshupatAstra is treated as same as brahmashira while sometimes both weapons are treated as different.
    – user16581
    Nov 16, 2019 at 15:32
  • Arjuna already had Brahmashira which he received from Drona. So he has no reason to ask the same to Shiva. Arjuna probably means that Pashupata is on the same class or level as Brahmashira. Jun 18, 2023 at 4:17

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