|19 ‘Dhanurveda’ (The Science of Archery and Weaponry) and Rules of Battle|
‘Dhanurveda’ or the knowledge of Archery and Weaponry is an important aspect covered in Agni Purana. Mainly five categories of weaponry are stated to have been used in the days of yore, viz. ‘Yantramukta’ launched from Yantra (machinery/ engines), including arrows released from bows; ‘Pani Mukta’ or thrown by hands, like stones or spears; ‘mukta sandharita’ ie. flung or withdrawn by hands; the weapons like swords invariably used by hands; and ‘amukta’ used by brute force such as duels/wrestling. The use of bow and arrows is an art by itself: the bow (‘dhanush’) with a tightly fitted strong string, making an arch form and the arrow drawn back as far as possible to be released while chanting a prayer to the respective Gods like ‘Agni’ (Fire), ‘Vayu’ (Wind), ‘Indra’ (Chief of Devas), ‘Varuna’ (God of Rain), Serpent (‘Naga’) etc. appropriate to an occasion. The opponent would naturally retalliate and the initiator should have the knowledge to anticipate an opposite action and the fight keeps going depending the tolerance and attacking power of an archer.In addition to the set of bows and arrows, a warrior is also equipped with an arrow-hive to store the arrows to be hung behind in the back, armoury protecting the chest, neck, hands, legs, feet, groins, back and of course the head, a belt to accommodate a sword, a dagger, a noose, a mace, an iron chain, and most of all a shield. The charioteer, the horses and a strong chariot are to be suitably equipped too.The art of handling each item of defence and offence to one’s own advantage is an integral part of ‘Dhanurveda’ training and skill management, which alone is the answer for the success of the battle discipline.Agni Purana prescribes the Rules of ‘Dharma Yuddha’ or a Battle for Justice. Once a battle is decided mutually, there should be a lead time for the preliminaries,- a week’s time- to offer prayers to ‘Ganesha’ viz. the very First God to worship and the ‘Trimurthies’ ( Triumverate) viz. Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Eswar, the Destroyer; to ‘Dikpalas’ ( the Gods of Four Directions); ‘Rudras’the Gods of Killings; the ‘Nava Grahas’(Gods of Planets) as also of Stars; and Aswini Devatas and Rivers. The Army assembles at the eastern point of the Capital City before the departure and at the start off of the March should be rejoiced by Victory Slogans and reverberation of musical instruments. There would not be a recall or a faltering step once the march is flagged off. After covering a good distance of a couple of miles, there might be a brief stop over for rest/ regrouping/ prayers. The King (Chief) should not intervene in the battle directly till the very end.But, he should be behind at a distance to keep up the morale of the Army. There should be formations of an elephant each in the center, defended by four chariots of four horses each, each horse defended by four infantrymen, who should be in the forefront, defended behind by archers and horses and behind them be ‘Yantramuktas’ or mehanically propelled explosives. The attacking men should have the pride of place- be it in the infantry, or on horses or chariots or ‘Yantramuktas’ and comparatively less courageous and defensive forces should be in the rear.A person killed in a war deserves ‘Veera Swarga’, equivalent to performing ‘Yagnas’ and a soldier who runs away or shows his back or wantonly avoids confrontation would be considered not only as a criminal in the eyes of Law but as a sinner or murderer of a Brahmin in the eyes of God. At the same time, the defeated soldiers are to be let back honourably by the victorious side with grace.It would be a sin to maltreat the defeated soldiers, slay the persons unarmed, perpetrate revenge of any kind to the citizens of the defeated kingdom, especially the spectators, scribes, women and children and take advantage of any kind to the defenceless.
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