Tue, May 30, 2017 | updated 06:57 AM IST

An outstanding effort to recall great military thinkers of ancient India

Updated: Aug 05, 2016 08:37 IST      
An outstanding effort to recall great military thinkers of ancient India

New Delhi, Aug. 5, (ANI): Independent India had to face violence during partition of the sub-continent and later during the conflict in 1948-49 over Pakistan's aggression in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, followed a policy of non-alignment and tried his best to promote peace in the Asian region and the newly independent nations

The country received a rude shock following the Chinese aggression on India in 1962. Effort was made to strengthen our armed forces, as also to promote strategic thinking. Organisations like the United Services Institution and the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis were established and in university departments specialising in strategic studies.

The efforts have borne fruit and the country has given birth to many strategic thinkers. We have also been made aware of the fact that ancient India was home to many military thinkers, like Manu, Kautilya, Thiruvalluvar, Kalidas, Kamandaka Banabhatta, Somadeva Suri, Shukracharya and Kalhana.

Manu, the first among the strategic thinkers, is traced back to the Vedic Period of 200 BC and 200 A.D., and he wrote about the role of the king, inter-state relations and diplomacy. He even wrote about the functions of intelligence in a state and described spies as the eyes and ears of the king.

Kautilya, the author of the Arthashastra , is generally regarded as a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya. He had laid down the limbs of the state as (1) Swami (king), (2) Amatya (Minister) (3) Janpada (territory) (4) Durg (Fort), (5) Kosa (treasury) (6) Bala (army) and (7) Mitra (allies). The King, to Kautilya, was the source of social progress and prosperity and everything depended upon him.

In his works Kautilya, elaborated on the instruments of diplomacy as Sama, Dana Danda and Bheda. For him, diplomacy and foreign policy was an extension of warfare.

Southern India also had strategic thinkers, notable among them was Thiruvalluvar. He was born around 30 BC. He not only dealt with general administration, but also codified a clear set of rules to govern people's behaviour in social, political religious and family circles.

Thiruvalluvar had even mentioned that "spies disguised as sanyasis and holy men may easily secure access and information from sources" .

Thiruvalluvar elaborated on the concepts of the state, kingship, army, diplomacy and war.

Kalidasa in his Raghuvamsham highlighted the achievements of kings. Besides, he also wrote Kumarasambhavam, Abhigynashakuntam, Vikramaorvashiyan, Malavika Agnisutram, Meghadootam and Ritusamharan. In his works, he had elaborated on the duties of a king and his relationship with his subjects. It was mentioned in his works that great kings, used to indulge in battles to expand their territories, and as soon as the battle was over, the feeling of enmity was also renounced. After the battle, the victorious kind used to make efforts and secure the welfare of the subjects of the enemy's territories.

Nitishastra, which laid down the role of the state and war and diplomacy was written by Kamandaka. According to him, the king is the most vital organ of the state. Essential qualifications of a king, according to him are eloquence, self-confidence, accuracy of memory , stateliness of stature, superior might, self control, ingenuity for inventing various instruments of torture, perfection in all the arts, ability of easily reclaiming men treading evil way , the power of sustaining an assault of the enemy , among others.

Nitishastra also lays down the role of ministers and the art of war. The author feels that Kamandaka's greatest contribution was to agree that military strategy should be subordinated to political decisions. The idea found supreme expression in the modern age with the writings of Machiavelli.

Another strategic thinker mentioned in the book is Banabhatta, known for his books, Harshacharita and Kadambari. Harshacharita was written in praise of Harsha of Thaneswar (606-648 A D) He elaborated on the need for using force or war, the difference between offensive and defensive battles and the relationship between foreign policy and war. The author says that Bana's observations of the relationship between the king the king and the subjects, integrity of administrative system, caution against retaliation, proper time of attack, generalship and battles are still valid today.

The author also gives details of the thoughts presented by "Nitvakyamritra", written by Somadeva Suri, a Jain scholar, probably composed in 1006 A D. His work gives us his concept of the origin and functions of the state, and the role and qualities that a king should possess. He also gives the details of the formations of the army like the infantry, cavalry and inter-state relations during a war and different forms of diplomacy.

Among the eighth century thinkers was Sukracharya. He gives us details as how to prepare gunpowder, different kinds of battles, using diverse forms of balle, array for horses, elephants and foot soldiers. He also mentions in his work as to how the defeated enemy should be treated

The last of the strategic thinkers is Kalhana, whose work, Rajatarangini coves the rule of various dynasties from 1184 B C to 12th century A.D. Kalhana , the author says, concentrates on political and military history of Kashmir where the focus was on the intrigues, treacherous murders, conspiracies, civil war, tyranny and treason. His book focuses on the role played by Lalitaditya, who had a strong urge for more and more expansion of his territories

Shekhar Adhikari, the author, has presented us in one book the thoughts of strategic thinkers of India.

Book Review ; Military Thinking of Ancient India, by Shekar Adhikari, Pentagon Publishers, pages 296. Price 995/-

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail raoramamohan@hotmail.com (ANI)

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