by Sushama Londhe
a chapter of 'Hindu Wisdom'
The history of ancient India is largely a history of Hindu culture and progress. Hindu culture has a distinct claim to a higher antiquity than Assyrian schools would claim for Sargon I and as much or even higher antiquity than Egyptian scholars would claim for the commencement of the first dynasty of Kings. One aspect of this culture consists in India's political institutions which were almost modern. Modern warfare has developed on mechanical lines, giving less scope for the qualities of courage and individual leadership.
The value and importance of the army
were realized very early in the history of India, and this led to
the maintenance of a permanent militia to put down dissent within
and arrest aggression from without. This gave rise to the Ksatriya
warrior caste, and the ksatram dharmam came to mean the primary duty
of war. To serve the country by participating in war became the
svadharma of this warrior community.
Dharmayuddha is war carried on the principles of dharma, meaning here the Ksatradharma or the law of Kings and Warriors. In other words, it was a just and righteous war which had the approval of society. On the other hand, kuttayuddha was unrighteous war. It was a crafty fight carried on in secret.
The Hindu science of warfare values both niti and saurya i.e. ethical principles and valor. It was therefore realized that the waging of war without regard to moral standards degraded the institution into mere animal ferocity. A monarch desirous of dharma vijaya should conform to the code of ethics enjoined upon warriors.
The principles regulating the two kinds of warfare are elaborately described in the Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras, the epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata), the Arthasastra treatises of Kautalya, Kamandaka, and Sukra. Hindu India possessed the classical fourfold force of chariots, elephants, horsemen, and infantry, collectively known as the Caturangabala. Students also know that the old game of chess also goes by the name of Caturanga.
From the references to this game in the
Rg Veda and the Atharva Veda and in the Buddhists and Jaina books,
it must have been very popular in ancient India. The Persian term
Chatrang and the Arabic Shatrang are forms of the Sanskrit
Terence Dukes, author of
Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the
Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China, says that martial arts
went from India to China and fighting without weapons was a
specialty of the ancient Ksatreya warriors of India.