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The Way Wars Were

Dhruv C. Katoch

By Uma Prasad Thapliyal
Manohar, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 431, Rs.1050.00


A ncient Indians, like people elsewhere in the world, fought their wars for their king and country with the weapons of those times. However, not much is known about how those wars were fought, or of the strength and organizational structures of those armies, or even of the prevalent social milieu and the attitude of the populace to war and conflict. Lack of historical evidence has perhaps acted as a deterrent to scholars to delve into the subject, as a result of which published literature on warfare in ancient India remains scanty. A lot of source material is drawn from the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as also from the Vedas of ancient times, but here too, much of what is stated has not been corroborated by other evidence. The attempt by the author to write about warfare in ancient India is thus a bold effort to look into some of these issues to present to the reader a picture of Indian military systems from earliest times. Starting with a survey of warfare in ancient India, the book delves into organizational structures of those times, the conduct of war and the strategic and tactical concepts as espoused in the Vedas, Epics, Smritis, Arthashastra and Niti Works. Thereafter the book deals with weapons and armour used in those times, the state of fortifications and siege craft and the education and training of the army. A chapter is also devoted to military symbols and ceremonials. An important aspect highlighted in the introductory portion of the book is that the large size of the country encouraged the growth of small kingdoms which were perpetually in conflict with each other. However, when a mighty ruler imposed his hegemony over the country, the frequency of wars slowed down. This has important lessons for the country in today's times to show that a strong polity backed by military might is essential to ensure peace. Strong armies are thus not the cause of conflict; they are the best bet to ensure that peace is maintained. Another important facet highlighted in the book is the concept of 'just wars'. The moral righteousness of the cause is an important war winning factor and cannot be abdicated in conflict if a lasting post-war peace is to be maintained. The subject has been dealt with in detail, drawing copiously from innumerable sources, all of which have been well documented. ...

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