Peaceful Development And Methods Of Warfare


A brief account of repeated “invasions and of empire succeeding empire is likely to convey a very wrong idea of what was taking place in India. It must be remembered that the period dealt with covers 1,000 years or more and the country enjoyed long stretches of peaceful and orderly government.

The Mauryas, the Kushans, the Guptas, and, in the south, the Andhras, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and others, each lasted for two or three hundred years—longer, as a rule, than the British Empire has so far lasted in India. Nearly all these were indigenous dynasties and even those, like the Kushans, who came from across the northern border, soon adapted themselves to this country and its cultural traditions and functioned as Indian rulers with their roots in India. There were frontier forays and occasional conflicts between adjoining states, but the general conditions of the country was one of peaceful government, and the rulers took especial pride in encouraging artistic and cultural activities. These activities crossed state boundaries, for the cultural and literary background was the same throughout India. Every religious or philosophic controversy immediately spread and was debated all over the north and south.

Even when there was war between two states, or there was an internal political revolution, there was relatively little interference with the activities of the mass of the people. Records have been found of agreements between the warring rulers and the heads of village self-governing communities, promising not to injure the harvests in any way and to give compensation for any injury unintentionally caused to the land. This could not apply, of course, to invading armies from abroad, nor probably could it apply to any real struggle for power.

The old Indo-Aryan theory of warfare strictly laid down that no illegitimate methods were to be employed and a war for a righteous cause must be righteously conducted. How far the practice fitted in with the theory is another matter. The use of poisoned arrows was forbidden, so also concealed weapons, or the killing of those who were asleep or who came as fugitives or suppliants. It was declared that there should be no destruction of fine buildings. But this view was already undergoing a change in Chanakya’s time and he approves of more destructive and deceptive methods, if these are considered essential for the defeat of the enemy.

It is interesting to note that Chanakya in his Arthashastra, in discussing weapons of warfare, mentions machines which can destroy a hundred persons at one time and also some kind of explosives. He also refers to trench warfare. What all this meant it is not possible to say now. Probably the reference is to some traditional stories of magical exploits. There is no ground for thinking that gunpowder is meant.

India has had many distressful periods in the course of her long history, when she was ravaged by fire and sword or by famine, and internal order collapsed. Yet a broad survey of this history appears to indicate that she had a far more peaceful and orderly existence for long periods of time at a stretch than Europe has had. And this applies also to the centuries following the Turkish and Afghan invasions, right up to the time when the Moghul Empire was breaking up. The notion that the Pax Britannica brought peace and order for the first time to India is one of the most extraordinary of delusions. It is true that when British rule was established in India the country was at her lowest ebb and there was a break-up of the political and economic structure. That indeed was one of the reasons why that rule was established.

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

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