Breaking News

History of War in India:The Laws of War

I found a really interesting article on a website, with courtesy to this nice website I am sharing a part of the article, if you wanna know more go to that website: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vimanas/esp_vimanas_11a.htm

The Laws of War


When society became organized and a warrior caste (Kshatriya) came into being, it was felt that the members of this caste should be governed by certain humane laws, the observance of which, it was believed, would take them to heaven, while their non-observance would lead them into hell. In the post Vedic epoch, and especially before the epics were reduced to writing, lawless war had been supplanted, and a code had begun to govern the waging of wars. The ancient law-givers, the reputed authors of the Dharmasutras and the Dharmasastras, codified the then existing customs and usages for the betterment of mankind. Thus the law books and the epics contain special sections on royal duties and the duties of common warriors.

It is a general rule that kings were chosen from among the Kshatriya caste. In other words, a non-Ksatriya was not qualified to be a king. And this is probably due to the fact that the kshatriya caste was considered superior to others in virtue of its material prowess. Though the warrior's code enjoins that all the Ksatriyas should die on the field of battle, still in practice many died a peaceful death. There is a definite ordinance of the ancient law books prohibiting the warrior caste from taking to asceticism.


Action and renunciation is the watch-word of the Ksatriya. The warrior was not generally allowed to don the robes of an ascetic. But Mahavira and Gautama protested against these injunctions and inaugurated an order of monks or sannyasins. When these dissenting sects gathered in strength and numbers, the decline of Ksatriya valor set in. Once they were initiated into a life of peace and prayer, they preferred it to the horrors of war. this was a disservice that dissenting sects did to the cause of ancient India.

When a conqueror felt that he was in a position to invade the foreigner's country, he sent an ambassador with the message: 'Fight or submit.'

More than 5000 years ago India recognized that the person of the ambassador was inviolable. This was a great service that ancient Hinduism rendered to the cause of international law. It was the religious force that invested the person of the herald or ambassador with an inviolable sanctity in the ancient world.

Its message of letting go of the fruits of one’s actions is just as relevant today as it was when it was first written more than two millennia ago.  Dharmayuddha is war carried on the principles of Dharma, meaning here the Ksatradharma or the law of Kings and Warriors. The Hindu laws of war are very chivalrous and humane, and prohibit the slaying of the unarmed, of women, of the old, and of the conquered. Megasthenes noticed a peculiar trait of Indian warfare they never ravage an enemy's land with fire, nor cut down its trees.  The Bhagavad Gita has influenced great Americans from Thoreau to Oppenheimer. 

The Mahabharata rules that the king who killed an envoy would sink into hell with all his ministers.

As early as as the 4th century B.C. Megasthenes noticed a peculiar trait of Indian warfare.
"Whereas among other nations it is usual, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil and thus to reduce it to an uncultivated waste, among the Indians, on the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a class that is sacred and inviolable, the tillers of the soil, even when battle is raging in their neighborhood, are undisturbed by any sense of danger, for the combatants on either side in waging the conflict make carnage of each other, but allow those engaged in husbandry to remain quite unmolested. Besides, they never ravage an enemy's land with fire, nor cut down its trees." (source: A Brief History of India - By Alain Danielou p. 106).

The modern "scorched earth" policy was then unknown. "
Professor H. H. Wilson says:
"The Hindu laws of war are very chivalrous and humane, and prohibit the slaying of the unarmed, of women, of the old, and of the conquered."
At the very time when a battle was going on, be says, the neighboring cultivators might be seen quietly pursuing their work, - " perhaps ploughing, gathering for crops, pruning the trees, or reaping the harvest." Chinese pilgrim to Nalanda University, Hiuen Tsiang affirms that although the there were enough of rivalries and wars in the 7th century A.D. the country at large was little injured by them. 

No comments