By Swami Harshananda
Daṇḍa literally means ‘that by which punishment is meted out;’ ‘that by which control is exercised.’
The word ‘daṇḍa’ is one of the common terms used in the dharmaśāstras and allied works. Etymologically, it means anything by which control is exercised, including punishment.
Daṇḍa, A Rod
In its simplest form it means a stick or a rod. The stick that a Vedic student or an itinerant monk keeps constantly with him for protection in emergencies is a ‘daṇḍa’. It also acts as a symbol of self-control.
Daṇḍa, As Per Purāṇas
In the purāṇas, it is the rod of death or punishment in the hands of Yama, the god of death. Consequently he is also called ‘daṇḍadhara’ or the wielder of the daṇḍa.
Importance of Daṇḍa in the Hands of Sages
A daṇḍa can also be in the form of a long staff, a cudgel or a stick often un-ornamented. It is shown in the hands of some images like those of Kārttikeya (or Subrahmaṇya), the minor deities such as Maṅgala, Śukra, Śani (planet- deities), Kapila and the goddess Rati (wife of Kāmadeva or cupid).
Importance of Daṇḍa in the Hands of King
If applied to king it can mean the armed forces. It implicates one of the seven rājyāṅgas or constituents of a State. As one of the four ‘upāyas’ or means of achieving the desired end, especially while dealing with hostile kings, it means war but as a last resort.
Daṇḍa With Reference to Time
The word is sometimes used as a unit of time, an equivalent of ‘ghaṭikā,’ and is equal to 24 minutes.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore