Cautionary Note:We live in the times of plagiarism, agenda-based adapted narratives, and worse, fabrication of the truths of thousands of years. So people (I mean the likes of liberal proponents of the baseless Aryan theory) may have many versions of the ‘Ayudha Puja’ and the tales associated with it to entice you (the one with a lower caste Mahisasura is my personal favorite) but I urge you to trust nothing but the truth.
Before moving into the details and importance of the Puja itself, First, let’s answer the current question. Will VHP’s Astra be able to slay the arrogance of Mamata?
Peace, for the likes of Smt. Mamata Banerjee, has always meant observing only non-Hindu occasions.
Attacking Hinduism beliefs held from generations, and selective cultural shaming directed against anything which is (even remotely) connected to Hinduism, has been Mamata Banerjee’s and Left’s forte. But especially now, since ‘minority appeasement’, her political-oxygen, continue to be rejected by people across India, she is increasingly becoming desperate to ensure her hold on the state does not lose. However, in this process she is also ensuring the state neither move towards development nor towards embracing true Indian ethos.
In the wake of this, whether stopping the Durga idol immersion (on coming September 30) on account of Muharram or directing DGP, commissioner of Kolkata, all the district magistrates and district superintendents to stop the traditional ‘ Astra Puja ’ as planned by VHP, nothing is a surprise now.
Calcutta High Court has also asked Mamata Banerjee government “Why can’t two communities celebrate together?” Well, ‘milord’, we have already answered that for you in the opening statement above, haven’t we? However, to what maximum extent a politician can fall from her grace in her fraught to maintain her votebank through appeasement, remains to be seen.
VHP, on the other hand, is rightly adamant, given they must follow the right code of conduct and ethics of the Pooja ceremony and not, in any case and however provoked, take law in their own hands. And if Astra Puja succeeds, we only could infer that goddess Durga stood by VHP’s side, slaying the arrogance of Mamata, like Maa did with the buffalo headed demon.
Ayudha Puja:Etymology and Legends
Legend One: Chapters 81-93 of the Markandeya Purana is a text called ‘Devi Mahatmya’ , which details out all the events and battles that Maa Durga, or all of her incarnations, fought including the famous Story of the demon Mahisasura. Ceremony post this battle is associated with the ‘Ayudha puja’ that occurs during the Durga Puja Festival in Navratri.
‘a-yudha’ means a weapon, ‘ayudha-sale’ means an armory, arsenal and ‘ayudhika’ is a soldier . The Puranas list five categories of weapons and astra is one of them  which Maa Durga used to slay Mahisasura. To commemorate the weapons or astra used by Maa Durga in order to restore dharma, the puja is observed.
Legend Two: From Maharajas of Mysore in Karnataka to Mewar kingdoms, Rajput Warriors in Rajasthan  – the Ayudha puja was also a festival to celebrate an episode from Mahabharata, in which the exiled Pandavas upon completing their incognito living took out their weapons from the trunk of a Shami tree [4b] and worshipped them before the Kurukshetra war . Hence, to commemorate the worshipping of their weapons, the puja is observed.
But why one should worship non-animate objects like weapons or tools? The Answer lies deep in Sanatana Dharma.
A soldier may ask, why should I worship my weapons? Or you may ask why should I worship my computer? What difference will it make? That is a very fair question and (only) the Sanatana Dharma philosophy allows you freely to ask and debate on such questions (Shankaracharya was able to unite all the 600 broken fragments of Sanatana Dharma by debate alone). Because only Sanatan Dharma accommodates all kinds of beliefs, from agnosticism, atheism to monotheism and polytheism through its different schools of thoughts and leave a subject to no doubt. Not even the question of the very existence of God is out of debate here.
In Sanatana Dharma, there is belief that even (and every) non-animate objects like weapons, trees, stones and rivers, by the sheer force of belief, worship and by work can be called upon to help when needed (say for example in a war). This is called invocation. All yagnas are nothing but summoning of one form of god or deity or another through Vedic hymns. Your normal day to day work (nitya niyama) as well, when performed with full devotion can take the form of a ‘yagna’ from a mere physical activity and do the same. For example – Prahlada was able to invoke god for help from a stone pillar after years of worshipping, Mira saw Krishna in his idol and went into it through devotion, Hanuman was able to ask and get help from dead stones….and thousands of other tales of God’s invocation exists. In every battle, all the gods have invoked various useful astras, they don’t carry it with them.
This all sounds too mystical but invocation of what? What is the basis of this invocation and why should it work? To understand that, we need to go a little deeper into the philosophy.
There are a total of 8 Material energies of God, called Prakrti (nature in layman terms) that are present in the universe. 5 of them are physical or gross or inferior energies known as pancha-bhootas within which the five sense objects are included and rest 3 are abstract or subtle energies known as mind, intellect and ego. From these eight separated energies of the lord are manifest the 24 elements of the material world [*]. These 24 elements explain for all the properties (physical, chemical, biological etc) of everything present in nature – living and non-living. On the other hand, the superior energy of the lord is responsible for the creation of living objects (not going into details here).
Now, the Satvata-tantra  describes that there are three plenary expansions of the supreme personality of Godhead.
‘Visnos tu trini rupani.
1] Maha Vishnu – who creates the total Material energy in the entire cosmos. This entire material energy is called Maha-tattva – and it is the total material (mass) for all the universes existing. In Shaivism, this is also called Shiva-tatta as well. Quite simply – this is the cause of the physical manifestation of God’s prakrti.
2] Garbhodaksayi Vishnu – who enters all the universes created above and creates diversities in all of them. Quite simply – all the variations of species, elements, or atoms that are present in the universe is because of this tattva.
3] and Ksirodakasayi Vishnu – who diffuses himself in every element /atom / god’s particle whatever , the one which we call as paramatma (the all-pervading soul).
It is the third Vishnu form above, whose physical manifestations are what we see all around us. This third prakrti tattva is present in everything – living and non-living – whether it is human body or weapons. With the only difference is that in the living, the three ‘modes of Prakrti’ – Sattvic, Tamas and Rajas gets switched on which are absent in non-living. The Brahma, Vishnu (the one who we normally adore) and Mahesh are nothing but a formal manifestation of these modes of material nature.
Since weapons, books, tools, vehicle, houses etc are made up of raw materials, which are in turn, are made up of various elements found in nature/prakrti, no matter what is the shape or state of an object is, all objects are only physical manifestations of the elements and hence the very nature of Ksirodakasayi is present in them all.
But this aspect of Vishnu is dormant in all objects, since its diffusion. It needs some kind of force to make it active within them, some kind of invocation. For the sake of understanding, you can compare it with the sleeping Kundalini energy within all of us that needs yoga to wake it up until all the seven chakras are open.
It is this deep invocation of ‘Prakrti’ force – which is embedded within all the objects present in all the universes – that Astra Puja is related to.
For example, if you read a book for long, or drive for hours, or write and play or sing for years, you may be able to achieve perfection. It is easy to tell why because of your hard work since you practiced a lot. However, it does not explain why only few people achieve when hundreds of them work the same number of hours. It is only when the conscious Ksirodakasayi element of the object, present deep and at a subtle level in them, is invoked, that you achieve what you desire.
It is not just about cleaning and respecting one ayudham, or paint or polish them and smear them with turmeric, vermillion and sandalwood paste, but it also gives us time to think about what is our ‘pravarti’ (work, true calling), and what’ paniyayudhangal’ (tools of work) we need. And once we find it, we must respect the source from which that ‘pravarti’ is obtained and is deep tooted in.
If we work with enthusiasm with the belief that a Shakti is backing us up, it will yield good results  as long as those tools and weapons must not be used to any evil gains, but only to protect dharma. Arjuna was a Kshtriya – a righteous war was his only dharma. And to do that he needed his weapons. Similarly, goddess Durga took the form of Kali to slay Mahisasura: Her purpose was only to slay the ‘adharma’ caused by demons including Mahisasura. And hence, once she killed the demon, she laid down her weapons which were later worshipped by all the deities.
Note that – the Astra Puja is for both reasons – to thank the weapons that lead you to victory after a battle, and also ask them to help you before a battle. And both the stories above tell you the same; one laid down her arms after the battle when victory was achieved, and another possessed the arms before the battle and emerged victorious in the end.
Whatever tools you need to carry out your true Dharma – for a student, it could be pen or a pencil to carry out the dharma of studentship; for a doctor his stethoscope and medicines; for an engineer his computer; for a soldier his weaponry; for an artesian or a craftsman his tools and so forth, you must understand their significance. And that’s all Astra puja is all about.
Ok, if I worship my tools and evoke the sleeping prakrti, then what?
Ayudha puja and other such occasional rituals (naimittaka) help us achieve the four chief aims of human life or ‘purusharthas’ (viz. satisfaction and glory in dharm, artha, kaam and moksha) quickly – so that man can finally be on the path of self-realization and truth (moksha is not the same as truth/ self-realization) – which is the ultimate objective. If you win a war due to Astra puja – your dharm and artha are solved. In Sanatan Dharma, the pursuit of Truth is far more important than belief or disbelief in God or a particular divinity and so, the methods to achieve the same are many (Dhyaan, Yoga, Karma, Bhakti).
But is battle needed every-time for weapons to come alive?
Be it Ma Durga battling Mahisasura to restore dharma or Rama slaying Ravana, every battle between Gods and demons, between good and evil is primarily a battle of ego. In almost every battle, the demons do severe penance to possess some kind boon of immortality. In every battle, the demons get the boon of immortality but it is not a direct one – and there lie all the messages.
“No one can kill you except a woman”/or/ “No one can kill you except a half-man half-lion” /or/ “No one can kill you except but yourself” etc..
In every battle, the demon dies because mortality is inevitable and ego, that is borne out of adharma and begets it, has but one end. Interestingly, many a times such incarnations are part of God’s plan (for example Kalika Purana, (Chapter 60) – tells that Mahisasura was boon-incarnation of Shiva itself) to not just restore dharma, but also to spread the message of Dharma.
In modern day – this co-relates to your own ego that stops you from moving ahead. If you disrespect your teacher out of your ego, if you don’t follow your orders in a battle out of your ego and so forth – victory will never be yours. And hence the battle is needed to kill that ego
We hope that the same sense of false ego evades Mamta didi and she gives up belittling festivals and beliefs of the eternal Sanatan dharma that hold the soul of India.
Ayudha Puja Celebrations across India
Navratri is a Pan Indian celebration, but Ayudha Puja or Astra puja is a main part of it especially in Southern states where goddess Durga is worshipped in many forms. As chamundeshwari in Karnataka, as Saraswati Puja festival in Kerala, Golu festival in TN and so on.
In west Bengal, Astra puja is a part of Durga Puja, which begins with Mahalaya. Mahalaya is an invitational (untimely or Akaalbodhan) evocation to ‘MahishasuraMardini’ Goddess Durga, by chanting various colloquial (‘JagoTumiJago’ etc.)and Vedichymns. The beginning of Mahalaya (that marks the first day of the ‘Devi-Paksha’) is when Goddess Durga starts her journey from Mount Kailash towards earth with Ganesha, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kartika. Beginning of Mahalaya also the end of the ‘Pitru-Paksha’ (the Shradh or the mourning period) – it is interesting to see how this period coincides with the Muhharram (which is also for mourning), like other Islamic beliefs (Ramadan) coincided with Hindu rituals that existed even before Islam was born.
The Victory of good over evil of both goddess Durga and Shri Rama merges in Vijaydashmi. Along North to West, Vijaydashmi/Dusshera marks the end of Ramlila when Ravana was slayed while From East to NE, Vijaydashmi marks the end of Durga puja when Mahisasura was slayed. The great war of Ramayana spanned 13 days and concluded on Phalgun Krishna Amavasya, with the death of Ravana but it is not sure how long the battle of Durga with Mahisasura took place.
Warriors thank, decorate and worship their weapons, musicians uptune their musical instruments. Farmers, carpenters, smiths, pottery makers, shopkeepers and all sorts of trades people similarly decorate and worship their equipment, machinery and tools of trade. Students pay respect and seek blessing from their teachers as well  .
Various other gods and goddesses such as Saraswati and Lakshmi, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shiva are regionally revered during Ayudha Puja, but Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts, is worshipped pan-India and as part of Vidyāraṃbhaṃ in Kerala.
Additional Notes and References
 Devi Mahatmya (or DurgāSaptashati) contains 700 shlokas in total, and it is a part of Markandeya Purana. It is considered an authority on the source of goddess Durga origin and her powers.
 A Kannada-English Dictionary by Ferdinand Kittel
 Yantramukta weapons – weapons are released from a machine like a launcher or a bow  Panimukta – Weapons that are released by hand (pani in Sanskrit is for hand)  Mukta-sandharita – which could be flung as well as withdrawn like a boomerang  Hasta-Shastra or Amukta astra- weapons which are wielded from hands (hasta) and remain in hands. Shastra is a weapon that is hurled afar. Sword or mea are ‘astra’ while a bow and arrow and spear is a ‘Shastra’. Astra are like modern day warheads. Special knowledge of a specific incantation/invocation is required to summon an astra and endow the weapon with it. E.g. Indraastra, Narayanastra, Brahmastra (believed by the likes of Robert Oppenheimer to be a modern day atomic bomb) etc.  and Weapons of physical borne force used in physical battles like in wrestling. (So did the knowledge contained in the Puranas, thousands of years ago, miss anything that is developed in the modern world today – No).
**Reference Translation of Agni Purana By B. K. Chaturvedi and other Puranic sources. Details of astras are also given in the Dhanur Veda.
[4b] Importance of the tree in brief can be read here https://www.bimbim.in/herbs/shami-tree/3721
 Alan R. Beals,”Change in Leadership of Mysore Village” in India’s villages, Asia Publishing house Bombay,1963,p. 155.
Even, Lord Rama is also said to have worshipped the weapons for success in the desired military avocations in Treta Yuga.
[*] Bhagwad Geeta shlokas, 7.4 and 7.5 and Sankhya Aesthetic philosophy tells about the 24 elements.
 Satvata-tantra can be read here https://archive.org/details/SatvataTantra.
 A lot of reference can be quoted here. For easier reference, one may refer to ‘Religion and Society, Volume 24, Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, The University of Virginia, 1977.’
 As per the Puranic stories, from her sheath, goddess Durga created Kaushiki. From the eye-brow of the goddess Kaushiki, goddess Chamunda emerged as Chandika Jayasundara, was tasked to slay the two demons Chand and Munda, generals of demon kings Shumbha-Nishumbha. Chandika killed them both in a battle. Kaushiki, pleased thus, gave the title Chamunda to Chandika. Durga created Matrikas*, and one of the Matrikas was Kali who sucked the blood of the demon Raktabija. More details exist in Devi- Mahatmaya, and slight variations also appear in other texts such as Varaha Purana etc.
*The seven mothers of Saptamatrika were worshiped locally by people across India since long. Some examples are described in Zimmer Heinrich book The Art Of Indian Asia.
*My personal favorite reference is this verse from Durga Chalisa that mentions three of the demons killed by Durga.
महिषासुर नृपअतिअभिमानी। जेहिअघभारमहीअकुलानी॥
Shumbh Nishumbha Daanav tum mare, Raktabeeja shankhan sanhare
Mahishasur nrap atiabhimaani, Jehiadhabhaarmahi akulani
 Nicholas B. Dirks (1993). The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom. University of Michigan Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 0-472-08187-X.
 MaithilyJagannathan (2005). South Indian Hindu Festivals and Traditions.Abhinav Publications. pp. 115–117. ISBN 978-81-7017-415-8.