With Rajnath Singh Performing Shashtra Puja On India’s Rafale, Here’s What The Ancient Practice Is About

With Rajnath Singh Performing Shashtra Puja On India’s Rafale, Here’s What The Ancient Practice Is AboutIndian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Defence minister Rajnath Singh is set to perform ‘shastra puja’— worship of weapons — during the handover ceremony of the first Rafale fighter aircraft to India in France today.

The defence minister will also fly a sortie in the fighter jet at Bordeaux, a south-western port city in France.

The significance of Ayudh Pooja

Also known as ‘Astra Pooja’ as well as ‘Shastra Pooja’, the festival is celebrated throughout south India in various forms. It is similar to the Vishwakarma Pooja celebrated in north India.

The festival denoted pooja of any tools and instruments used for earning one’s livelihood, and not just weapons. In the modern age, even computers and typewriters receive Ayudh Pooja.

Ayudha Puja also covers Vahana Puja when people worship their vehicles including cars, scooters, and motor bikes. During Vahana Puja all sort of vehicles, which are in use, are decorated with vermilion, garlands, mango leaves and banana sapling and worshipped.

The Pooja marks expression of gratitude to the divine for the tools and instruments that bring the humanity livelihood, comfort, as well as security. The Pooja traces back to the famous legend of the Mahishasurmardini (the slayer of Mahishasura).

It is believed that after the Supreme Goddess defeats Mahishasura, the devatas worship her various Astra-Shastras.

In Durga Saptashati, it is mentioned that the Supreme Goddess had appeared in front of the Devatas defeated and humiliated by Mahishasura, The Goddess appears from a collection of their own Shaktis.

The text states that the Goddess borne out of the collective ‘Tejas’ all the devas received a Shula from Shiva’s Shula, and a Chakra from Vishnu’s Chakra. Further, the Goddess receives Vajra from Indra, Pasha from Varuna, Danda from Yama and so on.

The weapons pooja therefore signifies the pooja of the Shakti within oneself. The celebration of Ayudh Pooja along with Saraswati Pooja - the pooja of the Goddess of learning and wisdom also signifies the superiority of knowledge over force, and emphasises the mindful use of any tools/instruments or weapons.

On the day of the puja, no work is done using the instruments and the day is spent in contemplation of the divine, proper use of one’s earnings, and the higher purpose of life.

Another legend associated with the Ayudh Pooja is that of the Mahabharata. It is said that on Vijayadashami day, Arjuna, third of the five Pandavas, retrieved his Gandeev Dhanush and other weapons of war from the the Shami tree where he had hidden it before going to the Agyaatvaasa.

Using these weapons, the Pandavas emerged victorious in the Kurukshetra war.

Ayudh Pooja across different states

In Karnataka, the royal family performs the Ayudh Pooja as a part of the Dasara celebrations inside the palace grounds. The tradition is traced to the 17th century Vijayanagar empire.

First, the weapons are cleaned and laid out on a platform with flowers. They are worshipped on the Mahanavami, followed by “Kushmanda” (pumpkin in Sanskrit)– the tradition of breaking a pumpkin in the palace grounds. After this, weapons are carried in a golden palanquin to the Bhuvaneshwari temple for worship.

The pooja culminates in a grand procession through the main thoroughfares of the Mysore city to the Bannimantap on a caparisoned elephant, where the Maharaja worships the traditional Shami Tree.

In villages in Kerala, the Ayudha puja or Saraswati pooja is observed with great reverence and several martial art forms and folk dances are also performed on that day. The opening day is called Pujaveppu (keeping implements for worship) and the closing day festival is called Pujayeduppu (taking implements back from worship).

In Maharashtra, all weapons, vehicles, agricultural equipment, machines and metal items are worshiped with leaves of the shami tree, marigold flowers and the 'dhaan' that is grown during the nine days of Navaratri.

In Tamil Nadu, Ayudh Pooja is performed alongwith the Golu festival. On Navami, Saraswati puja is performed for goddess Saraswati - the divine source of wisdom and enlightenment. Apat from the tools and instruments, books and musical instruments are also placed in the puja pedestal and worshipped.

In Odisha, agricultural tools like plough, apart from the sword and dagger, and inscriptions like "karani" or "lekhani" (metal stylus) are worshipped.

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