E. W. Hopkins. Position of the Ruling Caste in Ancient India. JAOS.  1889. 269-303.


2. The club. This weapon appears to be more used than the sword. But its more primitive character is further shown by the fact that some heroes hold to the club as their favorite weapon, and none do so in the case of the sword. Bhīma, Çalya, etc., are particularly famed as club-men. No one is noted especially for sword-skill. But usually both of these are merely reserve-weapons. As much skill is required in club-fighting as in bow-fighting. Set duels of club-men are often described, but the use of the sword is more adventitious. If the hero Foes into battle at the beginning of the day, his chariot contains swords and clubs as well as bows; but no hero, discarding the bow, enters battle with the sword as his first weapon, whereas we find this occurring in the case of the club. Thus Bhīma, virtually on that day the leader, advances at the beginning of one day's battle at the head of the army armed with the club as the main weapon.1 When ordinary combatants find that their arrows fail to kill the adversary, they usually leap down and rush at each other, not with swords, but with clubs. It is the first weapon in general esteem next to the bow.

 Like the bow, the favorite club bears a pet name, as in the case of Krishna's kāumodakī.2

 The best description of the use of the club is given in the account of battle between Duryodhana and Bhīma, where the club is used with tricks and 'circles' of passes to such an extent that it is plain great skill was required (ix. 55 ff; 57.16 ff.). In fact, it seems as if the highest skill and greatest amount of practice was spent on the management of the war-car and the club; the bow being ordinarily used, as said above, with more attention to speed than to nicety of aim (although bāṇavedha, or exact aiming, is spoken of as an object of endeavor). This club-fight quotes the law that 'no Aryan strikes below the navel' (see above, p. 233); the event shows that the Pāndu hero managed by a clever turn to break both the thighs of his adversary; but he is greatly blamed for the act.

 The club is called by several names, most commonly musala ('pestle') and gadā. Judging from here and there, a distinction seems possibly to have existed between these two forms of clubs (cf. vii. 25.58-59), but what the difference is cannot be determined from the Epic. The pināka also seems to be a general term for the club, but is usually confined to the weapon of the deity, and may mean a bow, as it is later identified with the trident-spit, çūla. But beside these we often find parigha, explained by modern works as a catapult, but in the Epic an iron-bound club flung with the hand. In the descriptions of the club we find much that repeats the ornamentation of the bow, with some added particulars. Its general form seems to have been that of a tapering post, girded with iron spikes, and hence heavy and sharp, sometimes plated with gold, or, according to the extravagance of the poet's fancy, bejeweled. For the simple truth of the primitive club, we may subtract the glitter, and leave an iron pillar, cruelly made terrible with sharp corners and inserted spikes. It was carried upon the shoulder, and appears in this form to have been used only by the well-born. Probably its great size and weight prevented its popularity as much as anything; Bhīma, its greatest lover, being at the same time the strongest of the Pāndus. The descriptions of this weapon are generally quite uniform, and amount to a heavy inlaid gold-plated sharp-cornered club of iron girded with spikes.3

 Besides the above-mentioned ornamentation, we find the club decorated with bells, of which a hundred are mentioned.4 The simple staff or cudgel is used as a club-weapon. Sometimes it is of iron, sometimes of wood, but generally defined as iron. Several weapons not more nearly defined appear to belong here, as battle-clubs.5 To prepare for a club-fight, one binds up the hair, and fastens on a breastplate and helmet (ix. 32. 60 ff.). The conflict could not take place except on the ground; the cars are sometimes unexpectedly left, but often by mutual agreement, to fight with the club.6

 The following scene (vii. 15) will illustrate the method of fighting as generally described. Çalya and Bhīma, both celebrated for their skill, face each other. No other than Çalya can withstand the sweep of Bhīma's club; and who other than Bhīma can support that of Çalya's? Bound about with golden plates (or thongs, paṭṭāiḥ) shone Bhīma's club, and Çalya's. Like a flash of lightning gleamed each club as the two warriors circled and manoeuvred; for like two circling bellowing steers they rushed about each other. Vainly they stood and fought, while fire came from out their clashing clubs, but neither yielded. Then back they stepped, retreating each eight paces, and like two angry elephants again charged on each other with their mighty iron staves; that blow bore neither, and down to earth fell each; till Çalya's friend rushed up to aid, and the fight of the two was ended.'7



1vi. 19. 82.

2One example suffices, but names will be found generally for favorite weapons. In Krishna's case, the discus is the pet weapon, but the club is nicknamed kāumodakī. nāmnā gadā, i. 225. 28 (the vajranābhaç cakraḥ in 22).

3The following passages corroborate this: kāṅcanāṅgadabhūṣanā (gadā) adrisāramayī gurvī, ix. 32.37; skandhe kṛtvā 'yasīṁ gadām, ib. 88 (R. vi. 55. 12, gadā sarvāyasi); çāikyā 'yasī gadā jātarūpapariṣkṛtā, ib. 39: çāikyā gadāḥ, vii. 163. 21; gadāḥ, ... vimalāiḥ paṭṭāiḥ pinaddhāḥ svarnabhusitaiḥ, vi. 87.29; the gilded knobs (samutsedha) are particularly referred to, iii. 271.4; gadā bahukaṇṭakā, R. vi. 28.36. The number of edges is six or eight (ṣaḍasri, aṣṭāsri), and the club as a whole is often compared either to the daṇḍa of Yama, or to the açani of Indra (v. 51. 8; ix. 55. 18, 25 to end; in v. 51. 24, 28 the iron club is damascened, four kiṣku long, with fair sides, six-cornered (but in ib. 24 'without ears,' and described as a çataghnī of heavy iron: see below). The length of a heavy club flung at the foe is represented as four kiṣkus also in vii. 134. 10, as above, adorned with gold aṅgada. According to i. 19. 17; vii. 25.58; 157. 9; 162.27; 178. 12, 22, the parigha is nothing but an iron club thrown by the bearer. It is described here as sharp and horrible,' and is itself discharged at the head of the foe (mumoca, vii. 157. 9). There is no difference as to size perceptible between the kinds, for the parigha is large, but (vii. 178. 12) atikāya, or enormous, only as a demon's weapon. But the iron gold-bound musala seems smaller perhaps in ix. 14. 29-30 (ayasmayam musalaṁ cikṣepa parighopamam), since the larger is that naturally used as comparison. Compare the demons' bahuvyāmāḥ parighāḥ in R. vi. 44.34 (with simple gadāḥ and musalāni). In this passage sālaskandha is also (a beam used as) a club. It is possible that, in vi. 117. 28, hematālena mahatā bhīṣmas tiṣthati pālayan may refer to the size of Bhīshma's club, but probably his signum is meant.

4vii. 178. 14 (çataghaṇṭā). In this case also the weapon is ‘like fire,' probably from its bite, or its gems' glitter. Compare the ‘glowing clubs,' gadāḥ pradīptāḥ, of R. vi. 17. 27. So the gold-plating presumably induces the comparison with Indra's açani (açanīprakhyā gadā, vii. 15. 6, etc.), quite as much as size or force.

5Thus, v. 51. 22; vii. 22. 22, āyasena daṇḍena (with other arms). Even kaḍaṅgara is interpreted as a daṇḍa, and seems to be a missile (vii. 25. 58; omitted in C.). Perhaps the unknown weapon called kalāngala (iii. 15. 7) is the same as kaḍaṅgara. Laguḍa, explained by Pischel as a Prakrit word (Bezz. B. iii.), and rendered by ayoghana, appears to be an iron club. Sthūṇa is an iron pillar (kārṣanāyasa), vii. 156. 142, and is flung like other clubs.

6This jumping out of the car to fling something (a rathacakra, for instance) is common, and is the regular procedure when the horses are slain. The hero then drops the bow and rushes out with the club. Compare vi. 53. 28, sa cchinnadhanvā viratho hatāçvo hatasārathiḥ gadāpāṇir avārohat khyāpayan pāuruṣam mahat; the same in vii. 99.26; and similar is ix. 11.41 ff. Compare vii. 167. 8, where one is exposed and in danger from an unexpected assault of this sort. Bhīma is particularly fond of rushing out in this way, viii. 93. 23 ff. Less often the sword is so used, as in viii. 13. 29 (virathāu asiyuddhāya samājagmatur āhave). The club is often hurled at the foe along with other common missiles; and e. g. in vi. 48.92 it is flung at a war-car.

7In this scene each hero has a gadā. The circles and manoeuvres are, as in the war-cars, called so technically. Compare 14, 15, mārgān maṇḍalāni ca sarvaço viceratuḥ; and the expression in i. 69. 23, gadāmaṇḍalatattvajñaḥ, 'one well acquainted with the club-circles.' In our passage, verse 28, the lohadaṇḍa, iron staff,' is the equivalent of gadā. The stepping back eight paces for a new charge is regular. Compare ix. 12. 20, where the same occurs. The four methods of club-fight spoken of in i. 68.12-13 (catuṣpathagadāyuddhe sarvapraharaṇeṣu ca, nāgapṛṣṭhe 'çvapṛṣṭhe ca babhūva pariniṣṭhitaḥ) are defined by the commentator as prakṣepa, vikṣepa, parikṣepa, abhkṣepa; that is, flinging at the foe from a distance; engaging at the point of the club; revolving it about in the midst of foes; and smiting the foe in front. Of gadā as a projectile fired by gun-powder (Nitip.) there is of course no trace; nor of parigha as a battering-ram (ib.) requiring many to move it. For mudgara, see below. Compare further above, p. 253, note.