A Stone of Contention

Afterthoughts on the Rigvedic vájra – and Why a Mace is not an Option

  • Walter Slaje (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


The present study deals with the widely held view that the vájra was conceived by the Rigvedic poets as a club or mace — the translation terminology of the target languages is not uniform. This is largely due to a change of mind on the part of Karl Friedrich Geldner, who revised his earlier view of the vájra as a wedge (“Keil”, 1907-1909) to the translation “club” (“Keule”, 1929) without giving any reasons. The great influence of his authoritative translation, only published in 1951, is demonstrated by the fact that, with very few exceptions, his later view of the vájra as a club was unquestioningly adopted by most later Rigvedic translators and interpreters, even though no dictionary gives such a meaning for vdjra. This continuous practice has strengthened the unwavering belief in its correctness to the extent that it has spread as a firm conviction to all areas of research in Indology and related disciplines. In defence of my thesis that the criteria for a mace are not answered by what the Rigveda says about the vájra, and that a vájra should therefore have been some other kind of weapon, such as a biface-like sling projectile made of stone or lead, the history and rationale of the mace theory is examined and the plausibility of both assumptions (“stone” and “club”) discussed and compared.]


Rigveda, vájra