Some Brief Points On The Vajra

Earlier, we had a question to the page around a seeming similarity between a Thunderbolt carried by a Roman deific statue – and the famed Vajra so prominent in the Hindu (and Buddhist) sphere. Particularly, around whether what was seen in Hindu art had some deliberate iconographic coterminity with the Trishula (Trident).

As applies the Vajra symbol itself – it’s definitely the case that what we tend to see around the place is a symbol (or symbols) more prominent in Buddhist usage. The Tibetan approach is understandably pretty salient there as well – and it would seem that, at least in part, what they’ve done is ‘hollow out’ the head, leaving several prongs curved around to form its outline in three dimensions.

This may, in addition to reminding of the multi-pronged forking lightning, also recall the actual more ‘solid head’ Gada [‘Mace’ / Club] – except with that ’emptiness’ dimension the Buddhists are often rather keen on at the center. [Although it should also be noted that there are an array of other formulations which turn up in Buddhist usage – including with points splayed out; and, of course, incorporation into other things like axes, hammers, daggers, flensing knives, etc.]

However, that is not quite what we see with the trident-looking form – although I suppose in three dimensions, it could be more similar. Key difference is whether the prongs arc toward a central point or flare out, it would seem. But I digress.

The important point to be made is that the Vajra is, in its essence, two things: first it is lightning/thunder, and second it is a weapon that – at least in Hindu understanding – is infused with the very power of Cosmic Order (Rta) Itself [Herself].

Now, this is interesting, because as it happens … there is an iconographic saliency for the Trishula weapon of Mahadeva & Devi to be equivalent in various ways to a Vajra (although there is also rather more to the Trishula – it is the Axis Mundi as well, literally “He’s / She’s Got The Whole World In Her Hands”, so to speak, for a start) ;

Oh, and as a brief point, we also find, if memory serves a Khatvanga [‘Skull-Staff’] to have some equivalency to the Vajra as well. This is particularly relevant for some forms of Shiva and Devi, but more upon that, perhaps, some other time.

In terms of specific weapons that link to the Vajra – it is necessary to consider a) the broader Indo-European linkages for the Weapon of the Striker/Thunderer deific; and b) some of the specific Vedic occurrences pertaining to other deifics.

In terms of a) what we tend to find is a ‘per-cussive’ [like, literally .. Proto-Indo-European: *Per .. meaning to strike, to hit] weapon, swung in the hand by the Striker/Thunderer deific.

So, a club from the bough of a tree, or more sophisticatedly, by attaching something weighty to the head of the branch to add force as it is swung (hence the ‘mace’ understanding – and, presumably, Thor’s Hammer; the Zoroastrian ‘(in)appropriation’ of the myth of the Striker/Thunderer, which was pointedly De-Indra-ized with relevant elements being transferred to Mithra, likewise links here with the ‘Vazra’ being a mace);

Or perhaps the head becomes sharp, like an axe [c.f the Axe of Perun – note the ‘Per’ once again] … and interestingly, the Greeks actually wound up depicting the Weapon Herakles in some of the older iconographic renderings we have of, say, the Hydra-Slayer .. as a Harpe – a sort of curved sword.

There is additional mention within the Greek mythology for a Harpe of adamantium – that is to say, ‘undividable’, ‘unbreakable’; just as we find the Vajra utilized to represent ‘diamond’, unstoppable force, etc. This would likely recall, one suspects, the utilization of Meteoric Iron by a bronze-age civilization – this being the major source of workable iron and therefore some pretty impressively hard (and incredibly rare) weaponry.

And, to perhaps buttress this point, we likewise find various Vedic verses which refer to a Vajra as being, in effect, a meteor – conjured by Brihaspati with which to carry out an orbital bombardment of the underground lair of a certain demon-dragon. He utilized the Power of Prayer with which to do so !

Although it should be noted that strictly speaking, Brihaspati’s instance is a case of b) – as Brihaspati is a form of the Sky Father deific. As can be handily demonstrated not only via internal Vedic theology, but also direct concordancy with various elements across the other IE mythologies – in particular, a set of one-for-one correspondences with Odin.

Now, Brihaspati is (a) Rudra – and it should therefore come as no surprise to find, as I have noted earlier, Rudra wielding a Vajra. Which likely would link in iconographic terms to the Axe Rudra is so prominently stated to wield in the Vedic verses – or, yes, the Spear which shows up, particularly in later conceptry. I also recall Brihaspati’s Weapon being an Axe likewise.

And to speak to the ‘Axe’ conceptry further – we find an interesting point via comparative linguistics wherein in Uralic languages, there are clear cognate terms for Vajra that have specific meaning as ‘Hammer’ (e.g. Finnish ‘Vasara’) ‘Axe’ (e.g. ‘Uzer’ in Mordvinic languages).

Although it should be noted that the actual ‘root’ meaning for Vajra is actually more along the lines of ‘Powerful’, ‘Strength’ – as can be seen via comparison to a semi-cognate in our modern Western IE languages … ‘Vigour’.

I would also tentatively ponder whether there’s an ‘Imbued Energy’, ‘Activated’ / ‘Expressed Energy’ sense, too, given that what informs our modern English ‘Wake’ (c.f Old Norse ‘Vakr’) is the same PIE *Weg (see also: Latin ‘Vigil’), and as an arguably fairly consistent PIE accented ‘G’ becoming Sanskrit ‘J’ and (Proto-)Germanic ‘K’ pattern – that is to say , PIE *Wogros underpins both. (As applies ‘Imbued Energy’ – the imbuement is particularly of that aforementioned Cosmic Order force ; and we see this also with the understanding more prominent in later texts for the Vajra being made from the pious bones of a sage Dadhyanc / Dadhichi).

It is certainly the case that an ‘alive’ saliency has been observed for PIE *Weg – and we can easily see how the coruscating and swift (‘quick’ some might say – also in its more archaic sense) Lightning should align thusly with same.

Oh, also, to more directly address your question – while it is true that the Trishula has saliency of Vajra … I do not think that it also flows the other way around – that is to say, the Vajra borne by Indra is not a Trishula (although may have some degree of iconographic resemblance to a point – or three).

The reasons for this pertain to the particular characteristics and theological potency of the Trishula – I’ve written about this at rather greater length in my previous (A)Arti-cle ‘World-Spear’, so shall not repeat that analysis here. Except to note that the ‘Spear’ , coterminous with the Arrow (and Bow – c.f Sanskrit ‘Pinaka’ for the more archaic Weapon of Rudra in particular; note also Brihaspati to be an Archer, too – with a bowstring of Rta) exerts force in a rather different manner to the percussive weapon; it is sharp, it is shot or thrown (which, to be sure, a Vajra may also be), it pierces / ‘skewers’ [indeed the relevant PIE term actually sounds rather like our modern ‘Skewer’] , and it has that lengthy stave to it as well.

In terms of its bearing upon Classical symbolism – it is quite strongly evident that the Thunderbolt of Zeus (thrown like a javelin), the Bident of Hades, Trident of Poseidon, Thyrsus of Dionysus, etc. … are all expressions of this weapon. As, of course, is Odin’s spear Gungnir.

One thought on “Some Brief Points On The Vajra

  1. Pingback: Some Brief Points On The Vajra – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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