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Dharma and War Policy of Ancient India

Dharma and War Policy of Ancient India
Item Code: NAX829
Author: Sudipa Bandyopadhyay
Publisher: Punthi Pustak, Kolkata
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789381209417
Pages: 172
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
About The Book

The history of ancient India is largely an account of noble cultural and scientific progress which has a distinct claim to a higher antiquity than any other contemporary civilization. `Dharma or ethics' is an all embracing concept of our Indian society that promises to lead humanity ahead and elevate the level of human values. That is why warfare in ancient India was designed to bring out the best and not the worst of human traits. Though the unrighteous war was strictly avoided as much as possible by our ancient scholars, Indians had not only perfected a good system of military education and training based on high technological and scientific method, but also possessed a high ethical value. In this context, Dharmayuddha i.e. righteous war was generally approved by our ancient politicians. The present work is concerned with this moral value of Indians that achieved the ambience of 'Vasudhaiva Katumbakam, a great concept of universalism and has tried to analyse the technique of warfare mixed with idealism and realism from early Vedic period to modern standard of military intervention in the light of Dharma or ethics.

About the Author

Dr. Sudipa Bandyopadhyay is attached with the Department of Sanskrit, Vidyasagar College, Kolkata as an Associate Professor. She is also offering her lectures to the Department of Sanskrit, University of Calcutta as Guest Faculty since 2007. She is the supervisor of M.Phil. & Ph.D. programmes of the University of Calcutta since 2009. She is expertise on the area of History, Epigraphy & palaeography of ancient India. Apart from that she is also working in the areas of science and technology as well as social science, Iconography, art and architecture of ancient India. Her research scholars are involved with the fields of architecture, metallurgy, surgery, numismatics, painting & sculpture as revealed in the glorious civilization of ancient India.

Some of the Publications -'Influence Of Sentiments (Rasa) In Ancient Indian Painting', 'War: Elements Of Science In Ancient India', 'Surgery In Ancient India As Revealed In Susrutasamhita, and so on. Her only mission is to open the various aspects of the noble and glorious civilization of ancient India.

She was awarded Shiksharatna award by Govt. of West Bengal for her contribution in teaching and research related to ancient Indian civilization.


The History of Ancient India is largely a history of noble cultural and scientific progress which has a distinct claim to a higher antiquity than Assyrian and Egyptian schools. In ancient India the warfare were designed to bring out the best and not the worst of human traits.

Through my Ph.D. thesis I started my journey with intension of searching for the ideological foundation of Indian Culture. The living continuity of Indian culture is rooted in the unique vision of Dharma in Social experience. The Vedic and Classical Literature and epigraphy and iconography are replete with instances of how the concept of Dharma permeated every aspect of Indian life. The influence of such concept is noticeable even in the domain of conduct of warfare. Involvement in warfare did not under any circumstances diminish the high ethical and humanistic approach of the participants. According to our ancient politicians war was considered a risky proposition and for this reason the military training as well as knowledge of weapons was to be imparted only to those who would not misuse it for selfish ends. Dharmayuddha or Dharmavijaya was the first priority to defend Dharma by righteous means. Chivalry, individual heroism, qualities of mercy and nobility of outlook even in the grimmest of struggles were mostly followed by our ancient warriors.

As this world continues to face violence, conflict, environmental degradation and extreme discontent without any solution to the problem of mankind to deal with such problems the work based on my Ph.D. thesis attempts to provide an insight into our civilization and heritage which can become the ultimate and the only answer to taday's crisis.

In Srimadbhagavadgita lord Krsna declared that he would reincarnate himself to defend and restore Dharma and Dharma or ethics became the root of ancient Indian culture and civilization. So a defensive war aim was deeply embedded in the war policy of ancient India.

The first chapter of this book deals with the concept of Dharma in the perspective of Indian Philosophy and in chapter II the concept of Dharma in socio-political life of ancient India is elaborately discussed.

Our ancient political thinkers opined that the foremost duty of a ruler is the protection of his subjects and for that reason sometimes war became inevitable. In the third chapter of the book this has been discussed analytically.

It must be said that Indians had not only perfected a good system of weaponry but also possessed an advanced system of military education and training based on high technological and scientific methods. Veda, Epics, Arthasastra and other texts give details of a very sophisticated technique of warfare mixed with idealism and realism. Chapter IV deals with such description vividly.

Unrighteous expedition and annexation were strictly avoided as much as possible by our ancient politicians and chapter V analyses the ethical codes of warfare followed by the warriors in the battle-filed and other sectors.

The last chapter goes through a critical study of ancient Indian war policy with present military system of India in the light of Dharma or ethics.

I owe my gratitude to the great scholars Dr. V.R. Ramachandra Dikshitar and Prof. A.S. Altekar as their valuable works inspired me a lot. I also pay my homage to my sagacious teacher Dr. Sanghamitra Sengupta, exprof., Dept of Sanskrit, University of Calcutta. Major General K. K. Ganguly (Retd.) of Indian Army helped me in collecting some materials relevant to the work. To him my indebtedness is immense. I must express my sense of gratitude to my publisher Sirshendu Bhattacharya of Punihi Pustak, my colleagues of Vidyasagar College, specially the office-staff of the college, my students and research scholars who have helped me in different ways and last but not the list I have to thank my husband and my daughter for their constant support which enabled me to devote my time to present study.

Some blemishes especially typographical might have crept into this work. For this I crave the indulgence of my readers.


In the history of human civilization war would appear to be a natural condition of mankind though its proportional importance varies with period and place. War is a prolonged clash of arms among rival states and races, even the civil wars and insurrections are within its Periphery whereas riots are beyond its compass. War has been the abiter in disputes where negotiations have failed. Since, war is an organized affair, its roots may better be traced in the group behaviour or cultural conditions.

Through a detailed study of ancient Indian history it can be realized that though India has witnessed number of battles since the days of the Rgveda, the Indians were not all entirely marauders. In ancient India Dharma, the Sanskrit word used for law and ethics has very wide connotations. It includes the rules of morality and prudence with religious and ritualistic law. That is why warfare of ancient India values both niti and sourya i.e. ethical principles and valour. It was realized that the waging of war without regard to moral standards degraded the institution into mere animal ferocity. The authors of the Dharmasutras and the Dharmasastras set up the ethical code of war and a monarch desirous of Dharmavijaya should conform to the code of ethics enjoined upon warriors. When a conqueror felt that he was in a position to invade the foreigner's country, he sent an ambassador with the massage "Fight or submit". This was a great service that Indians rendered to the course of international law notwithstanding the love of glory and the spirit of heroism which actuated the warrior, recourse was had to war only the instruments of diplomacy failed to effect the desired end. There was no rigid rule for the application of sama, dana, bheda and danda towards infcrior and superior powers. When war was provoked surely there was no retaliation vigorous preparations were made to vanquish the enemy by attacking the vulnerable points in his line but still aggression was the exception and defence was the rule and genuine attempts were made to avoid armed contests and to keep peaceful relation.

The present work is merely a humble attempt to study the forms of Indian warfare from early Vedic period to the age of Dharmsastras and Niti texts with an eye to the identity with modern vision of war.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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