Chakram: Spinning Death in Myth, War & Physics


Hanuman brandishes a chakram weapon, possibly Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra.  Chanatiptravel
Hanuman brandishes a chakram weapon, possibly Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra. Chanatiptravel

It’s easy to assume that spinning, ring-shaped blades are weapons best left to Hindu gods and TV warrior princesses. But long before humans invented the peaceful Aerobie, ancient Indian warriors unleashed spinning chakram against their enemies -- and Sikh warriors continued to use them in combat up into the 19th century. Join Robert and Christian as they explore the mythic power, military history and aerodynamics of this marvelous flying halo.

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In this picture Vishnu, one of the three major Hindu deities, kills Kaitabha. Inscribed on the back of the picture is: 'Bikaner, circa 1750'. It is currently to be found in the National Museum of New Delhi. Note the chakram, top left.
In this picture Vishnu, one of the three major Hindu deities, kills Kaitabha. Inscribed on the back of the picture is: 'Bikaner, circa 1750'. It is currently to be found in the National Museum of New Delhi. Note the chakram, top left.
Angelo Hornak/Corbis via Getty Images
This picture shows the goddess Durga, who is an incarnation of the anger of Vishnu and Shiva, vanquishing the buffalo demon Mahishasura in one of the great battles between the Devas and the Asuras. Circa C.E. 1275. Note the chakram on Shiva's finger.
This picture shows the goddess Durga, who is an incarnation of the anger of Vishnu and Shiva, vanquishing the buffalo demon Mahishasura in one of the great battles between the Devas and the Asuras. Circa C.E. 1275. Note the chakram on Shiva's finger.
Angelo Hornak/Corbis via Getty Images

Topics in this Podcast: Physics, myth, religion, Hinduism, war