Sikhs with chakrams, inscribed "Nihang Abchal Nagar" (Nihang from Hazur Sahib), 1844
Type Sharp Ring Place of origin India
The chakram (Devanāgarī: चक्रं, Punjabi: chakkar, Malay: cakera), sometimes called a war quoit, is a throwing weapon from India. Its shape is of a flat metal hoop with a sharp outer edge from 5–12 inches (130–300 mm) in diameter. It is also known as Chalikar.
Unlike Chinese wind and fire wheels, which are larger and used as melee weapons only, the chakram was designed to be thrown but could also be used in-close. Because of its aerodynamic shape it is not easily deflected by wind. The word chakram comes from the Sanskrit term chakra, meaning circle or wheel.
Earliest references to the chakram come from the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana where the Sudarshana Chakra is the weapon of the god Vishnu. Chakradhaari ("chakram-wielder") is a name for Krishna. The chakram was later used extensively by the Sikhs as recently as the days of Ranjit Singh. It was often 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.
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. The Mongol cavalry used a similar throwing weapon with spiked edges.
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.
The chakram's combat application is largely dependent on its size. Regular-sized steel chakram could be thrown 40–60 meters, while brass chakram, due to their lower mass and better airfoil design, could be thrown in excess of 100 meters. If properly constructed, it should make no sound when thrown. In single combat, the chakram could be thrown underarm like a modern Aerobie. In battle, 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.
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 remained unique to Indian martial arts.
Chakram could also be worn on the arms or wrists and used like knuckle-dusters. Some are as large as a shield and worn around the neck, making them equally suited for hand-to-hand combat as well as for throwing. When worn on the arms the chakram could be used to break or cut the opponent's arms while grappling. In the turban, it could be raked across an enemy's face or eyes while fighting in close-quarters.
In popular culture
- Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena's most iconic weapon in the series was a chakram, which returned to her after she threw it. In later seasons, it also split in half, firing off in two different directions, before rejoining as it returns to her.
- In the Dynasty Warriors series, Sun Shang Xiang wields chakrams as her main weapon (except in Dynasty Warriors 6.)
- In Tron, the original identity disc was derived from the frisbee, but was updated with the chakram design for Tron: Legacy for easy carrying on the back and faster aerial attacks than the older disc. Tron and Rinzler are the only two programs depicted to utilize two discs at once.
- In the renamed strategy videogame Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, there's a the settlement of Sikhs (called in the game Udasi Temple) that allows the training of sikh warriors who throw chakram to the enemy.
- In the book Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck, Ren is given a chakram by Durga. It is later used in the next book, Tiger's Quest, by his brother, Kishan.
- In Final Fantasy XI, chakrams are used by a variety of job classes, such as thieves or warriors, as a throwing weapon. The chakram returns to the thrower and is not expended.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the player-controllable character Colette Brunel wields a pair of chakrams and can be equipped with progressively better ones, including whimsical variations like the flying disc (e.g. "frisbee") and the tambourine.
- In the Kingdom Hearts games, the character Axel wields two chakrams as his weapons.
- The League of Legends character Sivir fights using a bladed, x-shaped chakram.
- in the anime and manga "buso renkin", one of the minor characters (gota) would use chakram's as his main weapon
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