Shastar Defined: Weaponry in Sikhism

16 Kinds of Traditional Weapons Used by Sikh Warriors




Shastar (sastr) is a word meaning weaponry, any type of hand-held weapon.

In Sikhism, Shastar commonly refers to weaponry used by ancient Sikh warriors or collections and displays of ancient, modern and ceremonial weaponry. Sikhism has a martial history dating back to the time of Sixth Guru Har Govind following the martyrdom of his father Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. The succeeding Gurus maintained a fighting force. After the martyrdom of Ninth Guru Teg Bahadar his son, Tenth Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa warrior order of saint-soldiers to stand up to oppressive Mughal tyranny and injustice. Khalsa warriors fought using a wide variety of held Shastar weaponry including, but not limited to:

  1. Barchha - Long spear, or pike.
  2. Barchha Nagni - Javelin with a corkscrew spearhead.
  3. Barchhi - Short slender spear.
  4. Bhag Nakh - Tiger claw device.
  5. Bothatti - Throwing lance.
  6. Chakar - Throwing ring.
  7. Dhal - Shield used to protect the body and deflect enemy weapons
  8. Flails - Spinning weapons such as chains, chakar bolo, chuks etc.
  9. Gurj - Spiked Mace.
  10. Kataar - Armour piercing, double-edged flat implement with a divided handle gripped by the fist and bound to the wrist.
  11. Khanda - Double edge straight sword.
  12. Kirpan - Short curved sword.
  13. Khukuri - Curved broadsword.
  14. Lathi - Wooden cudgel, cane, stick or staff.
  15. Talwar - Single edge curved slim sword.
  16. Teer - short spear, spike or arrow.

Shaster are used in the Sikh martial art Gatka during practice and demonstrations of skill displayed for festive events such as the Hola Mohalla parade, part of week-long festival begun by Guru Gobind Singh to encourage a martial spirit among Sikhs.

Phonetic Roman and Gurmukhi Spelling and Pronunciation:

Shastar (*shastr or **sastr) - The first vowel is Mukta, a short phonetic sound represented the Roman Character a which has no corresponding Gurmukhi character.

The *Punjabi Dictionary gives Gurmukhi spelling as beginning with subscript dot Sh, or Sasaa pair bindi while **Sikh scriptures give Gurmukhi spelling as beginning with S or Sasaa.

  • Pronunciation: Shastr or sastr is correct, but commonly pronounced shas-tar.
  • Alternate Spellings: Shaster, Sastar, sasathr.
  • Common Misspellings: Shastra (*shaastra, or **saastr)

Examples of Shastar Honored in Scripture:

The legacy of Guru Gobind Singh includes a collection of compositions with a martial spirit and tempo which praise shastar weaponry and battles fought by valorous warriors:

  • "Namo sastr paanae || Namo astr maanae ||
    Salutation to Thee who art the wielder of weapons and art accounted with Arms." DG||8
  • "Phannee-ar phunkaaran baagh bakaarann sastr prehaarann saadh matae ||
    Snakes hiss (round your neck), your lion roars, you wield weapons and possess a saintly nature." ||DG||75
  • "Ghungharoo ghamankann sastr jhamankann phanee-ar phanukaarann dharam dhujae ||
    O flagstaff of righteousness! small bells (worn around your ankles) make a jingling sound, your weapons gleam and snakes (round your neck) hiss furiously." DG||75
  • Jai jai hosee sastr prakarkhan aadh aneel agaadh abhae || 10||220||
    Hail! O wielder of weapons, primeval, countless, extremely profound and dauntless. (10)(220)" DG||76
  • "Jitae sastr naaman || Namasakaar taaman ||
    I salute the weapons of all names." DG||108
  • "Tehaan beer bankae bakai aap maadhan || Outh-ae sastr lai lai machaa judh sudhan ||
    The dandyish dressed warriors (of both the tribes in the battlefield) challenged each other to fight. With weapons in their hands, they stood up and a serious battle ensued."

Bhai Gurdas wrote eye witness accounts in the compositions of his Vars:

  • "Ioun outh bhabakae bal beer singh shastr chamakaa-ae|
    The mighty Singhs rose and made their arms [weapons] shine." Amrit kirtan | 284

Colloquial examples:

  • *Shastar bastar - arms and accouterments.
  • *Shastar dhari - one who is armed and accoutred.

*The Punjabi Dictionary by Bhai Maya Singh
Scriptures of Siri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), Dasam Granth (DG) by Tenth Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Gur Das Vars and Amrit Kirtan Hymnal - Translations by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa.

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Your Citation
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Shastar Defined: Weaponry in Sikhism." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2021, February 8). Shastar Defined: Weaponry in Sikhism. Retrieved from Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Shastar Defined: Weaponry in Sikhism." Learn Religions. (accessed June 8, 2023).