Nuclear Weapons in Mahabharata?
I am currently working on a presentation dealing with the mythic
background of nuclear weaponry, and have come across some
references to weaponry in the Mahabharata that seem promising.
Much though I love the MB, it's not a document that I'm deeply
familiar with: I have access to the van Buitenen translation, but
unfortunately it's incomplete, and in any case the indices are limited
to proper names. So I have my memories of the Peter Brook
theatrical production, Buck's version, and the van Buitenen Books
1-5 plus the Gita to work from, and I'd really appreciate some help
from someone who knows the material better than I.
Charles Berlitz, who is not perhaps the most scholarly of authors, in
his book *Doomsday 1999* cites Robert Oppenheimer (of the Manhattan
Project) as answering an inquiry from a student at Rochester
Student: Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan
Project the first one to be detonated?
Dr. Oppenheimer: Well -- yes. In modern times, of course.
Berlitz goes on to quote a number of passages from the Mahabharata
that describe the impact of a weapon that I suspect must be the
brahmaastra, although he neither names the weapon nor cites those
sections of the text from which his quotations are drawn (he lists
Protap Chandra Roy's translation of 1889 in his bibliography):
...a single projectile
Charged with all the power of the Universe.
An incandescent column of smoke and flame
As bright as ten thousand Suns
Rose in all its splendor...
...it was an unknown weapon,
An iron thunderbolt,
A gigantic messenger of death,
Which reduced to ashes
The Entiure race of the Vrishnis and thr Andhakas.
...the corpses were so burned
As to be unrecognizable.
Their hair and nails fell out;
Pottery broke without apparent cause,
And the birds turned white.
After a few hours
All foodstuffs were infected...
...To escape from this fire
The soldiers threw themselves in streams
To wash themselves and their equipment...
My first questions would have to do with these passages: can
anyone tell me whether they are in fact passages from the MB, and if
possible supply me with the relevant locations? If they are poor
translations, can anyone suggest a source for superior versions?
And do these particular passages refer to the Brahmaastra, or
Pasupata, or some other weapon?
Two other questions, briefly:
Can anyone explain to me why Krishna instructed NN to lie down
when Asvatthaman fired his missile and "not resist it with their
minds" as its force passed over them? What manner of weapon was
And what was the point in the story (I remember it so vividly from
the play) at which Arjuna fired and arrow which was personally
carried to its recipient by Krishna?
With thanks for any and all assistance,
firstname.lastname@example.org a virtual music of ideas