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The term chakra (also cakra) has a wide variety of meanings, depending on context, for example: kalachakra – ‘wheel of time’ (a cycle or period of duration); chakrapuja – a grouping of divinities or practitioners; Chakravyuha – a military term denoting a particular defensive arrangement of troops; chakravartin – a metaphor for the Sun as ruler of the heavens. In the Puranas, one of Vishnu’s primary weapons – a razor-edged metallic disk is referred to as a chakra. In Indian astrology, ‘chakra’ is sometimes used to refer to a zodiacal cycle, and in some texts, such as the Yogini Hridaya, chakra is used in such a manner as to suggest that it is synonymous with Yantra.

Two of the commonest usages of chakra appear to be that of ‘circle’ or ‘wheel’ – in the Vedas, ‘chakra’ is used variously to denote a chariot, or a chariot’s wheel (that of the Sun, or a King), and also a potter’s wheel. It is also used with reference to flights of birds, the dominion of a King; the winding of rivers, the motion of whirlpools, and the circle of a peacock’s tail.

NB: the Param Vir Chakra is the name of the highest gallantry award for Indian military personnel given for valour in the presence of the enemy.