by Sushama Londhe

a chapter of 'Hindu Wisdom'

from HinduismWisdom Website



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.

Hindu military science recognizes two kinds of warfare:

  • the dharmayuddha

  • the kutayuddha

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 Caturanga.

According to Sir A. M. Eliot and Heinrich Brunnhofer (a German Indologist) and Gustav Oppert, all of whom have stated that ancient Hindus knew the use of gunpowder. Eliot tells us that the Arabs learnt the manufacture of gunpowder from India, and that before their Indian connection they had used arrows of naphtha.


It is also argued that though Persia possessed saltpetre in abundance, the original home of gunpowder was India. In the light of the above remarks we can trace the evolution of fire-arms in the ancient India. (source: German Indologists: Biographies of Scholars in Indian Studies writing in German - by Valentine Stache-Rosen. p.92).


Terence Dukes, author of The Boddhisattva 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.



  1. Introduction

  2. Territorial ideal of a one-State India

  3. The Laws of War

  4. Weapons of War as Gathered from Literature

  5. Martial Arts - Fighting without weapons

  6. Army and Army Divisions

  7. Aerial Warfare

  8. Naval Warfare

  9. Diplomacy and War

  10. Conclusion

  11. Articles

  12. Images of Some Weapons