By Swami Harshananda
Nandaka literally means ‘that which gives joy to the gods’.
All the deities of the pantheon have their āyudhas or weapons and other objects, normally held in their hands. Though Mahāviṣṇu or Viṣṇu is usually shown with his four hands, he has four more accessories:
All these eight are worshiped keeping them in the eight directions. The Agnipurāṇa contains an interesting story with regard to the sword Nandaka.
Once the four-faced Brahmā, the creator, was performing a sacrifice on the bank of the river Gaṅgā. When he was sitting in deep meditation, a demon, Lohāsura by name, came there with the intention of disturbing the sacrifice. At once, a male deity emerged out of Brahmā’s body who was greeted by the gods assembled there, with cheers. He suddenly got transformed into an excellent sword and Mahāviṣṇu accepted it as a gift from the gods. He then cut Lohāsura into pieces each of which became a metal. Mahāviṣṇu then blessed the sword Nandaka with a pure body and various boons.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore