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Sikhs with chakrams.jpg
Sikhs with chakrams, inscribed "Nihang Abchal Nagar" (Nihang from Hazur Sahib), 1844
Place of origin Indian subcontinent
Service history
Used by
Wars Afghan–Sikh Wars
Production history
  • Chakri
    • Chakri dang

The chakram (Sanskrit : cakram; Punjabi : chakkar; Malay : cakeram) is a throwing weapon from the Indian subcontinent. It is circular with a sharpened outer edge and a diameter of 12–30 centimetres (4.7–11.8 in). It is also known as chalikar [2] meaning "circle", and was sometimes referred to in English writings as a "war-quoit". The chakram is primarily a throwing weapon but can also be used hand-to-hand. A smaller variant called chakri was worn on the wrist. A related weapon is the chakri dang, a bamboo staff with a chakri attached at one end.

Punjabi language Indo-Aryan language spoken in India and Pakistan

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language with more than 100 million native speakers in the Indian subcontinent and around the world. It is the native language of the Punjabi people, an ethnic group of the cultural region called the Punjab, which encompasses northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

Malay language Austronesian language

Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family spoken in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as parts of Thailand. A language of the Malays, it is spoken by 290 million people across the Strait of Malacca, including the coasts of the Malay Peninsula of Malaysia and the eastern coast of Sumatra in Indonesia and has been established as a native language of part of western coastal Sarawak and West Kalimantan in Borneo. It is also used as a trading language in the southern Philippines, including the southern parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and the southern predominantly Muslim-inhabited municipalities of Bataraza and Balabac in Palawan.

Indian subcontinent Peninsular region in south-central Asia south of the Himalayas

The Indian subcontinent, is a southern region and peninsula of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Geologically, the Indian subcontinent is related to the land mass that rifted from Gondwana and merged with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago. Geographically, it is the peninsular region in south-central Asia delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east. Politically, the Indian subcontinent includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


Javanese Chakram can take a different form. It has four cross iron on centre to joint a hole in centre with shape on edge. Each tip of the crossed iron had a shape like arrow tip. Between the two iron cross it carved with fire ball, and the tip of fire ball had a smaller arrow tip. so it had 4 larger arrow tip and 4 smaller arrow tip on blade. Another parts from bronze; diameter about 17 cm (6.7 in). It had a small (12-inch (13 mm) diameter) hole in the centre to rotate the chakram before launches. Outside this small hole it carved with 8 petal lotus in close form and 4 petal lotus outside.


The earliest references to the chakram come from the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana where the Sudarshana Chakra is the weapon of the god Vishnu. Contemporaneous Tamil poems from the 2nd century BC record it as thikiri (திகிரி). Chakra-dhāri ("chakram-wielder" or "disc-bearer") is a name for Krishna. The chakram was later used extensively by the Sikhs at least until the days of Ranjit Singh. It came to be associated with Sikhs because of the Nihang practice of wearing chakram on their arms, around the neck and even tied in tiers on high turbans. The Portuguese chronicler Duarte Barbosa writes (c.1516) of the chakram being used in the Delhi Sultanate. [1]

Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which were originally composed in Sanskrit and later translated into many other Indian languages, and The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature and Sangam literature are some of the oldest surviving epic poems ever written.

<i>Mahabharata</i> One of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India

The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

<i>Ramayana</i> A major Sanskrit epic of ancient India

Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Mahābhārata. Along with the Mahābhārata, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

The people of the kingdom ... are very good fighting men and good knights, armed with many kinds of weapons; they are great bowmen, and very strong men; they have very good lances, swords, daggers, steel maces, and battle-axes, with which they fight; and they have some steel wheels, which they call chakarani, two fingers broad, sharp outside like knives, and without edge inside; and the surface of these is of the size of a small plate. And they carry seven or eight of these each, put on the left arm; and they take one and put it on the finger of the right hand, and make it spin round many times, and so they hurl it at their enemies, and if they hit anyone on the arm or leg or neck, it cuts through all. And with these they carry on much fighting, and are very dexterous with them.

From its native India, variations of the chakram spread to other Asian countries. In Tibet, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the chakram was not flat but torus-like. Mongol cavalry used a similar throwing weapon with spiked edges.[ citation needed ]

Tibet Plateau region in Asia

Tibet is a region covering much of the Tibetan Plateau in modern-day China. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa, Tamang, Qiang, Sherpa, and Lhoba peoples and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han Chinese and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest, Earth's highest mountain, rising 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level.

Malaysia Federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and largest city while Putrajaya is the seat of federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the world's 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, with large numbers of endemic species.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, is home to more than half of the country's population.


Mid-19th century Nihang turban from Lahore. Cotton over a wicker frame and steel overlaid with gold. "A tall conical turban provided convenient transportation for a number of sharp steel quoits - edged weapons hurled to lethal effect by the practised hand of the Akalis." Akali Turban with quoits.JPG
Mid-19th century Nihang turban from Lahore. Cotton over a wicker frame and steel overlaid with gold. "A tall conical turban provided convenient transportation for a number of sharp steel quoits - edged weapons hurled to lethal effect by the practised hand of the Akalis."

Chakram are traditionally made from steel or brass which is beaten into a circular shape against an anvil with an indentation for the curvature. Two ends are connected with a piece of brass and then heated, forming a complete circle before the brass is removed. Some chakram, even those used in combat, were ornately engraved, or inlaid with brass, silver or gold. [3]

The chakram is 0.5–1.0 in (13–25 mm) wide and is typically 5–12 in (130–300 mm) in diameter. The smaller variations are known as chakri while the larger ones are called vada chakra which were as large as a shield.


The chakram's combat application is largely dependent on its size. Regular-sized (diameter of 15 cm (5.9 in) or more) steel chakram could be thrown 40–60 m (130–200 ft), while brass chakram, due to their better airfoil design, could be thrown in excess of 100 m (330 ft). If properly constructed, it should be a perfect circle. Warriors trained by throwing chakram at lengths of green bamboo. In single combat, the chakram could be thrown underarm like a modern Aerobie.[ citation needed ] In battles, it was usually thrown vertically so as to avoid accidentally hitting an ally on the left or right side. A stack of chakram could be quickly thrown one at a time like shuriken. On elephant or horseback, chakram could be more easily thrown than spears or arrows. Because of its aerodynamic circular shape it is not easily deflected by wind.

Bamboo subfamily of plants

The bamboos are evergreen perennial flowering plants in the subfamily Bambusoideae of the grass family Poaceae. The word "bamboo" comes from the Dutch and/or Portuguese languages, which probably borrowed it from Malay, and some suspect that Malay borrowed it from Kannada.


An Aerobie is a flying ring used in a manner similar to a chakram or flying disc (Frisbee), for recreational catches between two or more individuals. Its ring shape of only about 3 mm (0.12 in) thickness makes the Aerobie lighter and more stable in flight than a disc. It can be bent to tune it for straighter flight. Since it has very low drag and good stability, it can be thrown much farther than a flying disc. The Aerobie was used to set two former world records for thrown objects.

The most iconic method of throwing a chakram is tajani, wherein the weapon is twirled on the index finger of an upraised hand and thrown with a timed flick of the wrist. The spin is meant to add power and range to the throw, while also avoiding the risk of cutting oneself on the sharp outer edge. An adept user can twirl the chakram while using another weapon with the other hand. The use of tajani in battle was perfected by the Nihang who employed a particular formation to protect the chakram-wielder from harm. Although variants of the chakram would make their way to neighbouring parts of the region, the tajani technique appears to have remained unique to Indian martial arts.

Nihang armed Sikh warrior order originating in the Indian subcontinent

The Nihang are an armed Sikh warrior order originating in the Indian subcontinent. They are also referred to as Akali. Nihang are believed to have originated either from Fateh Singh and the attire he wore or from the "Akal Sena" started by Guru Hargobind. Early Sikh military history was dominated by the Nihang, known for their victories where they were heavily outnumbered. Traditionally known for their bravery and ruthlessness in the battlefield, the Nihang once formed the irregular guerrilla squads of the armed forces of the Sikh Empire, the Sikh Khalsa Army.

Indian martial arts refers to the fighting systems of the Indian subcontinent. A variety of terms are used for the English phrases “Indian martial arts”, usually deriving from Dravidian sources. While they may seem to imply specific disciplines, by Classical times they were used generically for all fighting systems.

The smaller chakri could also be worn on the arms or wrists and used like knuckledusters. When worn on the arms the chakri could be used to break or cut the opponent's arms while grappling. The larger vada chakra were worn around the neck and thrown or dropped down on the opponent vertically. In the turban, it could be raked across an enemy's face or eyes while fighting.

Modern inventions and applications

In the 1970s, the American inventor Alan Adler began attempting to improve upon a flying toy disc by considering its design characteristics. He tried streamlining the shape of the disc to reduce drag, but this resulted in a disc that was more unstable in flight. Eventually, inspired by British accounts of deadly Indian weaponry and martial arts, he turned his attention to the ring shape of the chakram. This led to the development of the predecessor of the Aerobie, which was called the "Skyro". [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Duarte Barbosa (1970). A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar. London: Johnson Reprint Corporation.
  3. "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2010-09-21. Archived from the original on September 21, 2010. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
  4. Cassidy, John (1989). The Aerobie Book: An investigation into the Ultimate flying mini-machine. Klutz Press. ISBN   0-932592-30-9.