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Warfare in Ancient India

Discussion in 'Military History & Tactics' started by Flintlock, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. Flintlock

    Flintlock ELITE MEMBER

    Oct 7, 2007
    +0 / 742 / -0
    Compiled by JuliaSet@tiltedmill.com/forums

    One of the historical aspects of India is that it had a shortage of local horses. A breeding program in the tropics did not provide the great numbers of them required for the chariot armies. (The Medieval period required them for cavalry) Nearly all of the horses were acquired from trading via the north or west, and for the southern kingdoms, by sea trade.

    Elephants and elephant training were also key to vast armies of Elephants during the Mahabharata, and were also key to the historical aspect of the early and Medieval eras. These two elements (horse supply and elephants) would be key to any India Mod.


    This page is mostly from "The Art of War in Ancient India" by P.C. Chackravarti. I have made direct quotes more than likely, but have also condensed and paraphrased where the book has gone into more detail than is needed. It would take me quite a long time to indicate long quotes and paraphrasing, so if there are any questions, please ask me to find a more direct quote and its context.
    Design specifics: only limits were the military units, which would not go beyond a weak cavalry..
    There were no basic warriors. The basic military unit was the (short bow) archer... and led to the longbow.

    Chariots were modeled on two patterns, either the biga with two horses, or the quadriga, with four horses. If its at all possible to get the animations made, that upgrading a 2 horse chariot would show an extra horsie... up to 4 horses.

    "In the 4th century BC, the Indians placed their chief reliance in warfare on elephants tamed and trained for the purpose, in the epics the chief strength of the army consisted in chariots, as reported by Greek writers..

    The general trend for early Indian armies was: Archer>Chariot>Elephant>Cavalry, with Chariots phasing out by early Medieval era.

    One of the principal weapons of the Ancient Hindu armies were bowmen. They went through extensive training. Skill with the bow was necessary for promotion. It was an art form for the nobility, who had to master the bow, as they were the caste of the military.

    In the Vedic period the army appears to have consisted of two divisions, the archers and the chariots. During the post-Vedic period the horse and elephant were incorporated in the corps... by the time of the Islamic kingdoms in India, there were no more chariots in the army. They had been gradually replaced by horsemen.

    Another view of the organization of the armies was the six-fold division, which consisted of the hereditary troops, mercenaries, guild levies, soldiers supplied by feudatory chiefs or allies, troops captured or won over from the enemy, and forest tribes... this came from inscriptions dated from the 6th to 11th century AD.

    Of the different classes of troops, ancient military opinion seems to have attached greatest importance to the hereditary troops. The mercenaries came next, then guild levies (drafted units), next the allied troops while the forest tribes were placed at the bottom.

    In a passage from the Mahabharata, the guild levies are considered as important as the mercenary troops... guild levies did not receive any regular wages from the royal exchequer.

    There were wild tribes in central India who were often employed for military purposes by Hindu kings, as the same manner as American Indians were employed by the English and French in the wars in North America. They brought their own war apparatus to the theater of war, but they fought for pay and plunder. Their services were considered helpful when the army had to pass through forests and defiles, morasses or mountains, or when it was the intention of the invader to ravage and devastate the enemy's country.

    Huien Tsiang, a Chinese pilgrim in the 12th century reported.... "On the even of his famous campaigns of conquest, king Harsa of Kanau, 606-647 AD possessed an army which comprised of 50,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, and 5,000 elephants. When he had finished his task, the cavalry are said to have been increased to 100,000, and the elephants to 60,000."


    They are described in the Mahabharata as a conglomerate mass. They were recruited from the lower classes, and followed the charioted knight, but at the knights death, they usually fled, or were slaughtered like sheep who had lost their shepherd. In fact, the epic foot soldiers seem to have been useful in order to secure a decorous setting for the display of knightly prowess. They suffered the greatest number of casualties, but contributed little or nothing to the decision of battles. In this respect the very early Indian infantry bears a remarkable affinity to European infantry the the feudal age.

    Evidence of the classical authors later works on politics and military science, and early Mohammedan chronicles. All point to the conclusion that the infantry in ancient India never outgrew this subsidiary position in the military organization of the country. It seems that in the 15 to 16 centuries, there was no continued or systematic attempt in any part of the country to use the infantry as the kernel of armies or develop in that solidarity and defensive power... like that of the Roman legions.

    From the foregoing remarks it must not be thought that the infantry in ancient India were mere 'residue'. As archers they seem to have been redoubtable fighters, and won the admiration of the Greeks. It is also probable that being the most numerous part of the army, they sometimes decided the fortunes of battles by sheer weight of their numbers. Moreover, in certain special forms of warfare, their services must have been of real importance.

    Hautilya, declares that the best ground for the infantry is one which contains big stones and boulders or is thickly planted with trees, green or dry. Another source declares that even ground is best, another says forest and hilly regions. Another source says "his troops are mostly infantry, because the seat of his government is among the mountains."

    In defense of forts and strongholds, foot soldiers were especially relied upon. The equipment of the infantry varied from age to age and region to region, which are difficult to document.

    Arrian says that Indian-footsoldiers in the 4th century BC. carried a bow made of equal length with the man who bore it. "This they rest upon the ground, and pressing against it their left foot, thus discharge the arrow, having drawn the string far backwards; for the shaft they use is little short of being three yards long, and there is nothing which can resist an Indian archer's shot, neither shield, nor breastplate, nor any stronger defense if such there be. In their left hand they carry bucklers made of undressed ox-hide. Some are equipped with javelins instead of bows, but all wear a sword, which is broad in the blade, but not longer than 3 cubits. And this when they engage in close fight, they do so with reluctance and wield with both hands to fetch down a lustier blow."

    It appears that the bow was the principal weapon of the infantry of 4th century BC; but the sword and the javelin were also used. Archers did not have shields, because they needed both hands to fire their bows, but the other infantry were depicted with shields.

    War Chariots:

    The use of war chariots were found in early history of Indian warfare. They were employed as early as the Vedic age. In the epics, they constitute the most important arm. The car-warrior is the main strength of the epic army. So completely does he dominate in the battle scenes, so controlling is the role that he fills, that the period represented by the epics may well be designated as the Chariot age of Indian history.

    Both Vedic and epic evidence, prove that chariots were more or less a monopoly of warriors belonging to the noble classes. The rank and file fought on foot. The chariot was followed by by two wheel guards, and attended by a retinue of foot men.

    When we come down to the age of Alexander, we are struck by a profound change in the Indian military situation. The chariots were still in use, but no longer the most important arm. Unlike the average epic knight, king Porus came to the field of battle riding, not a chariot, but an elephant. Megasthenes reports.. "No one invested with kingly power ever keeps on foot a military force without a very great number of elephants and foot and cavalry." He omits war chariots completely. (Circa 300 BC) Porus had some 300 chariots, but the elephants frightened the Macedonian horses and caused a rout. Chariots required perfect ground, or they became mired in the mud, rocks etc., and became useless, while the cavalry and elephants would be effective on most terrain. Chariots seemed to disappear after the Mauryan era.

    Vedic period saw light 2 horse chariots, and developed in time to those with 4 or more horses. Heavy Chariots could have 4 wheels or more, were drawn by at least 4 horses, and gradually supplanted the lighter ones.


    There is no satisfactory record of the use of cavalry in battles of the Vedic period. In the epics the cavalry is recognized as a separate arm, but it is of no real value and is wholly unorganized."The mounted soldiers are recognized as a body apart from others, but do not act together. They appear as concomitants of the war cars, dependent groups, but separate horsemen appear everywhere. Their employment was much influenced by that of the elephants. A body of horsemen are routed by an elephant.

    The classical chronicles show that the Indian cavalry in the age of Alexander were no longer as inefficient and unskillful as in the epic age. They were gradually outgrowing the impotence of infancy and winning recognition as an arm of real value. In the third and fourth century BC, Indian states maintained larger cavalry forces.

    The Indian cavalry could not withstand the attack of Alexander, but that was because of two reasons. First the Macedonian cavalry were better trained, better disciplined and better equipped. And, second, Alexander himself was a cavalry commander of superb genius. He understood the advantage of hurtling masses upon the enemy and breaking through with sheer momentum, using the horse and rider as projectiles.

    There is little knowledge from the Gupta period about cavalry. In the tenth century AD, Somadeva says: "the cavalry represents the mobility of the army. With a king having strong cavalry even enemies at a distance easily come within his grasp". Never the less, it must be noted that the cavalry never came to occupy the front rank in the army organization of ancient India. It never came to form the core of the Indian army. It appears that place was taken by the elephant than the horse. As in the 4th century BC, so in the 11th and 12 century AD, the superiority of foreign horsemen once again decided the fate of India There are early Mohamedan chronicles to show that their most brilliant military triumphs in India were won by the skillful use of a numerous and well trained cavalry."

    Horse Supply!

    One of the reasons that the Hindus never did or could evolve a cavalry system comparable in strength and efficiency to that of the Greeks or Mohammedans was the lack of good horses in India. Ancient writers are unanimous in regarding the horses of the north and the west as better than those of India proper. In the Mahabharata, the most famous horses come from the Sindu country ..The imported horses excelled in speed and in not being shied by noise.

    This paucity of good horses within India proper often compelled powerful monarchs both in the north and in the south to get their supply of horses from foreign countries. Kingdoms closer to the source of horses were better armed, than those at a distance.

    Southern Kingdoms even traded for horses by sea. "It was agreed that every year... should send to the Dear, 14,000 strong Arab horses obtained from the islands of Fars. Each horse is reconned at 220 dinars of red gold." Marco Polo said later.. "There is no possibility of breeding horses in this country."

    The lack of good horses of indigenous breed must have proved a serious obstacle to the development of a first rank cavalry system in ancient India, I was indeed a fatal lack.

    Bitted and bridled, unsaddled mostly, they had some kind of armour.. shields of protection. There was no proficiency in mounted archery! There were few notes of any horse archery.. And that only in the Gupta period and it did not take hold.

    Horse Training Skills:

    They were trained in: circular movement, jumping, gallop, movement following signals, tight circling, running and jumping simultaneously, kicking with forelegs, side movement.. All of which reminds me of the Spanish school in more recent history. Similar training moves were taught to the elephants.


    Elephants are mentioned in the Rig Veda as wild, terrible beasts. They were tamed and domesticated well before this time. They became the most important arm about the time of the Macedonian invasion. The classical chronicles make it clear that in his titanic struggle against Alexander, Parus pinned all his hopes on the elephants in his army. In the battle-array that he drew up on that fateful day, he posted the elephants along the front like bastions in a wall. He seems to have thought that these monsters would terrify the foreign soldiers, and reneder the Macedonian cavalry unmanageable. Alexander, a shrewder judge of military affairs, instinctively realized the grave danger involved in such extensive employment of elephants in war. Everywhere in India was the same implicit faith in the effectiveness of elephants.

    In the eastern kingdom of Magadha, there were about 4,000 trained war elephants. Shortly afterwards Candragupta Maurya increased the strength of the elephant corps to 9,000. The age of chariots had passed, that of elephants had begun.

    In the succeeding centuries, the importance of elephants went on mounting higher and higher in Indian military estimation. A medieval author goes so far as to declare that "an army without elephants is as despicable as a forest without a lion, a kingdom without a king, or as valour unaided by weapons."

    It may be pointed out here that it was not in India alone that elephants were used in war. Classical authors tell us that after his conflict with Chandragupta Maurya, Selucas Nikator ceded to the Indian emperor the three satrapies of Herat, Kandahar and Kabul and received in exchange a gift of 500 war-elephants. A few years later (301 BC), when fighting against Antigonus, the Sirian king brought these elephants into the field and it is to their instrumentality, that contemporary opinion ascribed his victory at Ipsos. Many centuries later, Sultan Mahmud carried off from India a large number of trained elephants and used them in his wars against the Turks and Tansoxiana.

    As a matter of fact, elephants, though dangerous, were of real value in ancient and medieval warfare. Used with caution, and as a subordinate arm, they sometimes turned the scale of victory at the decisive moment. The Hindus erred not in the use of elephants, but in the emphasis they put upon that use.

    Ancient writers have valued the functions of war elephants. The most important of these functions were: acting as the vanguard of a marching army, preparing roads, camping grounds, and landing ghats in rivers, clearing away such impediments as small trees and shrubs, battering down walls, gates and towers, breaking up or scattering of trampling down the hostile force. Another writer stated that elephants were specially useful in all confused battles.

    Elephants were sometimes of more harm than benefit. If wounded, they were liable to get beyond control and escape at top speed Once taken by terror, they could turn and trample their own men.

    The elephant was usually ridden by several warriors, one of which was the mahout.. Megasthenes says that in his time the usual practice was for a war-elephant was to carry three fighting men. The elephantry fought with both missile and short-arm weapons. In the Mahabharata elephant warriors were described as armed with knives, daggers, stones and other weapons, but from the Gupta period onwards, their principal weapons appear to have been bows and arrows.

    Elephants were equipped from early times. In the Mahabharata, they are referred to as armed with spikes and iron harness, and wearing a girth about the middle, neckchains, bells, wreathes, nets, umbrellas and blankets. Adorned with ornaments and bells, they could also have a howdah on the back. In the middle ages, they were covered with iron or brass plates.

    Naval Warfare:

    The old notion that the Hindus were essentially a land locked people, lacking in spirit of adventure and the heart to brave the seas, is now dispelled. Researchers have proved that from very early times the People of India were distinguished by nautical skill and enterprise, that even in the Harappan period, they went out on trading voyages to distant shores and established settlements and colonies in numerous lands, islands skirting the Indian Ocean and Mesopotamia. The question as to whether they ever developed a navy to fight battles on rivers and seas is a baffling problem.

    Ancient writers sometimes speak of fighting galleys as constituting a part of the royal military establishment. They kept pirates from controlling the sea lanes, hiding from customs agents and protecting merchant vessels. It is agreed that these duties would be performed by armed vessels belonging to the state. There are more direct literally references to ships employed as instruments of war. One mentioned the navy as one of the 'limbs' of a complete army. Another says "by regular practice one becomes an adept in fighting from chariots, horses, elephants and boats, and a past master in archery. In describing the various classes of boats, is specified one class with a prow cabin that was useful for naval warfare. They were also shown on coins as having two masts and a rather unusual jib

    The earliest known case belongs to the time of Candragupta Maurya. Megathenes informs us that the Mauryan War Office had a naval department with an admiral at its head and a committee of five to assist him. Asoka's rock edict mentioned that he maintained diplomatic relations not only with Ceylon, but with the Hellenistic monarchies of Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia and Epirus."

    Three areas of Indian that had nautical skill and enterprise were in Bengal, the valley and delta of the Indus, and the extreme south of the Deccan Peninsula.

    The people of Bengal were famous for their nautical resources very early in history. Sources indicate that harbours and dockyards were well-known in the 6th century AD. A copper -plate grant dated 531 AD, refers to a shipbuilding harbour. When the Palas became rulers of Bengal, they built a regular fleet for fighting purposes, with an admiral in command. The naval power of Bengal long outlived the collapse of the Pala dynasty. Bengal's reputation as a naval power continued even in the medieval period.

    The Indus basin saw the state organize against piracy. Coastal pirates were known for heavy attacks of Persian forces, and trade; also inflicting heavy losses on Indian boats and coastal areas as well.

    It was in the extreme south of the Deccan peninsula that naval power reached its climax. Literary evidence, both native and foreign, proves that from very early times they carried on overseas trade with Western Asia, Egypt and later with the Greek and Roman Empires. There were fewer naval operations in southern waters till later in our period of study. Tamil/Ceras were the first there to develop a naval power. The Colas seem to have begun their naval career later than the Ceras, but they attained to a much high point of achievement. Their age-long hostility with the kings of Ceylon necessitated the creation of a fleet of ships. They sailed and conquered extensive districts in the Far East.(Nakkavarum Islands, Isthmus of Kra, parts of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. The Bay of Bengal was converted into the "Lake of Cola." By the late Medieval period.

    It will thus be evident that naval warfare was not unknown in ancient India. But it was certainly not as widely practiced as land warfare. Boats were indeed used in war, but probably more often as transports than as a fighting line of ships. Naval battles were fought, but only when the theater of hostilities made it impossible to fight on land.


    Spies filled an important role in both the civil and military affairs of ancient India. They were employed as early as the Vedic age. Manu speaks of five classes of spies, and of their various disguises. They were to detect crime, keep watch on the conduct of officials in the districts, and constantly ascertain the king's and his enemy's strength.

    Spies were an important feature of government. Cipher writing was used, carrier pigeons, infiltrating enemy camps to demoralize and spread misinformation.

    Military Administration:

    Recruitment of Troops:

    In early Vedic times, the king probably maintained no standing army. His small retinue of personal attendants acted as his bodyguard served him in hall and bower, and went on his errands. When any expedition for offensive or defensive purposes was necessary, local levies were raised from the people . These brought their own arms and weapons, and probably were captained by their own chiefs.

    It is certain that in the 4th century BC, when Alexander invaded India, standing armies had become a normal feature of Indian military life. The causes which led to this development seem to have been mainly the increasing unwillingness on the part of cultivators to leave their plow for an indefinite length of time and also the ambition of rulers to conquer more territories and absorb them in their growing empires.

    Classical authors offer us a glimpse of the sort of life led by the army of Candragupta Maurya. Megathenes says that when not engaged in active service, the soldiers passed their time in idleness and drinking. "They are maintained at the king's expense, and are always ready to take the field, for they carry nothing with them but their own bodies. They have only military duties to perform. Others make their arms, others supply them with horses, and they have others to attend them in the camp, who take care of their horses, clean their arms, drive their elephants, prepare their chariots and act as their charioteers. A long as they are required to fight, they fight; and when peace returns, they abandon themselves to enjoyment, the pay which they receive from the state being so liberal that they can with ease maintain themselves and others."

    Inscriptions dated 738-739 AD. say that the rulers of the Maurya were "served by armies from afar." Indicating there were mercenaries, who were trained soldiers.

    Brahmans according to law, "any priest might serve as a soldier if unable to support himself as a priest." Many celebrated warriors and leaders were born in the priestly class. The lower classes provided the rank and file of the army, while the warrior class provided trained troops. The army was divided into sections, platoons, brigades, etc. The army in ancient India usually received its wages and rations from the state, but of the rates and pay and rations, drawn by officers and privates, we hardly know anything. Besides the salaries and wages in cash, officers and privates in the army were sometimes rewarded with exemptions from land revenue, sometimes with assignments of land. In second century AD, and inscription shows military officers holding large fiefs of land. Land grants were usually made in favour of officers who had distinguished records of service to their credit.

    Besides pay, either in the shape of salaries or land assignment., Officers and troops were occasionally give n special allowances on the eve of the expedition. It was considered a prime duty of the state to support the wife and dependents of soldiers dying while on duty.

    On the March:

    It was agreed that no foreign expedition should be taken when there were internal troubles, or an expectation of an attack from the rear. It was a profitable policy in warfare to embarrass an enemy either by inciting other powers to attack it from the rear or by fomenting internal troubles within its territory.

    Certain seasons of the year were seen to be peculiarly well suited for military operations. Spring and Autumn provided cooler weather, plentiful water, foraging possibilities and animal feed were more readily available.

    In spite of preferences, military actions were not restricted to these seasons. Different starting times were dependent on the composition of the invading army, internal strife, climate, water....

    No expedition was undertaken without consulting astrologers. They decided the best starting time. It was a very important step but such blind faith in the occult must have hampered rational military operations. It also proved and obstacle to the Hindus' success in war, as it must have often prevented them from taking the most obvious advantages of the enemy.

    Religious rites and ceremonial duties were performed by the king before setting off.

    Setting out...

    In the forefront of the army were a group workmen who were to set up the destination camp. The army took a standard arrangement while traveling to its next destination. The king was in the center with his harem! That's right he took almost the whole city with him! His treasure chests and weaker troops. The flanks were occupied by the horsemen, while the chariots would be placed beside them on both sides. The elephants should march beside the chariots, and beyond the elephants should be placed the forest men. Behind the traveling army was an entire host of rabble, retainers, servants, prostitutes, all led by the marching drum and the clamor of the masses.

    A grand army could make an enormous traveling parade. A day's march was about 16 miles through the usual territory. They encamped in prepared quarters... The Royal Harem, the wives of the nobles, mistresses and and great retinue of courtesans. "According to texts, As soon as the army reached the encampment, the prostitutes pitched their tents, spread their beds, made themselves attractive and like old residents, began to receive strangers. The terrific noise and clouds of dust, produced by a marching host, became a busy, noisy encampment.

    Bullock trains, and bullock carts were used for transporting engines of war, food for the soldiers, and administered by a superintendent. Sometimes forced labour was used in difficult terrain, or where preferred transports were not available. Bridges were crossed by elephants.. Planks spread over pillars erected, rafts, or boats.

    Army in the Field:

    Great importance was given to positioning the army in the field according to the harmony of the ground. The two armies were drawn up in battle order facing each other. There are many descriptions of the numerous battle formations used in the era. War drums thundered, music was played (drum, tambourine, trumpet, conch shell, horn, and lyre)

    Another useful custom was the provision of medical aid to the wounded officers and troops. The Mahabharata refers to surgeons and physicians marching with the Bandava army to battle. The king should have not merely a rich store of medicine, but also expert physicians equipped with surgical instruments. This was regarded as an important duty of state. It was also a great expense.

    Fortification and Siegecraft:

    Prehistoric fortification consisted of sites located on hills and other easily defended locations... surrounded by a low rampart wall, a second wall much more substantial than the first, both built of stone boulders laid without mortar.

    In the post Vedic period, as the country became more thickly settled, the tendency to surround towns and cities with defensive works for protection against enemies appears to have become more marked. An archaeological report says "The faces of the walls were build of massive undressed stones between 3 and 5 feet in length, carefully fitted and bonded together without mortar, while the core between them is composed of smaller blocks carefully cut and laid with chips or fragments of stone. The walls stood to an elevation of 11 to 12 feet.

    4th century forts and strongholds:

    The classical chronicles make it evident that when Alexander invaded India in the third century, forts and strongholds held by Hindu chiefs were scattered thickly over the country. The capitol of almost every state, however small, appears to have been fortified with defensive work of varying solidity. Natural water was important.

    Gupta forts:

    The chief note in the history of military architecture of this period was the increased tendency to construct hill forts. The typical site preferred for a hill fortress was a precipitous cliff sloping to a river on one, two or even three sides and with steel slopes falling away on the other side. At the highest point was build a fort serving as a citadel. Some of there were like eagles nests on lofty cliffs, places of last refuge rather than strategical positions, But others were of real strategical strength, commanding the countryside or the approaches to a state. Of the humorous hill fortresses established in our period, the most celebrated at the time of the Mohammedan invasions were Kalanjar, Gwalior, Mandor, Ghira and Kangra. It is noteworthy that Mohammedan historians have referred to some of these forts in terms of enthusiastic admiration.


    The military science of ancient India seems to have been more skillful at defense than in attack. The fortresses of the age could usually withstand the most powerful siege weapons know to the people. Of the tools of siegecraft, little is known. It is probable that the use of scaling ladders and battering rams was know, elephants were offasionally employed to batter in the games of a fort. (a major function of war elephants) In the Mahabharata elephants have been described as 'town breakers.' Tamil writer speaks of 'brigades of war elephants, with their tusks blunted by battering the enemy's forts.

    Another device occasionally employed was mining, but due to the location of most forts this was not possible in the high rocky ground.

    The use of fire, was used as well. But the most usual method employed to get over the resistance of a fortress by strict investment and starving out and cutting off its water supply. Sieges were often long and protracted.

    Repelling a siege must have varied from age to age and locality to locality. In one instance it was mentioned that all thatch covered houses within the fort should be plastered with mud as a protection against fire, all possible impediments were to be placed before the enemy to prevent a close investment grass and firewood round the fortress were set on fire and destroyed as far as 5-6 miles; and a system of secret wells, hidden pits and barbed iron cords were to be devised round the fort. It appears in writings that heavy, immovable machines, worked by mechanical power (tech machinery) were placed over the gates and walls, kept in readiness for projecting large shafts at the foe or dumping rocks on them. (Sounds like catapults permanently installed) Hilltop forts employed rolling stones to stuck down the attackers.

    Notes on bows....very early, early ones made of bamboo, cane or wood. Horn bows also, bowstrings made of silk thread,sinews of deer and buffalo, or one composed of bamboo twine with silk thread wrapped around it.

    Hindu bows usually varied from 3.25 cubits to 4.5 cubits. Horn bows were a bit shorter. Arrows made of sara reed, sometimes of wood and bamboo, with feathers from heron, goose, brown hawk, osprey, peacock vulture and wild ****. The Mahabharata mentions all of these plus feathers of flamingos besides. Number of feathers preferred to be four, fastened by means of threads and sinews. Feathers trimmed to six inches long. If they were to be flamed, a burning agent was applied. Some arrows were built entirely of iron, which only the strongest archers could shoot... were a means against elephants. Some arrows were about three feet in length. A quiver held 20 arrows.


    (A contrivance of almost any kind) most any kind of addition, but seen for the most part as balistae and catas... immobile "when rotated, throws stones in all directions... a tower situated on the top of a fort provided with a leather cover... as an archer's platform.. a crossbeam at the entrance of a city placed to fall on the arriving enemy, a water machine to put out fires, etc. These were also described in the Mahabharata


    The sword appears to have come into use comparatively later than the bow. No sword has been discovered at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. And although it was known to the Vedic Aryans, it appears to have been seldom used in battles of the period.. But as centuries elapsed, it came more and more into prominence. The Bow was first, then came the sword.. In the later centuries of our period, the sword came to rival the bow as a weapon of offense.

    Spears and Javelins:

    Developed from a sharp headed stake, the spear may be reckoned with the club as among the most ancient of weapons. The Mahabharata javelin/spear was seven cubits long, with a bamboo handle.

    The Mace:

    the club or mace is one of the most primitive weapons of India. It was in use during the time of the Macedonian invasion. It varied in materials, design and size. A battle axe was mentioned in the Rig Veda, but seldom as an instrument of war. In the Mahabharata, it is mentioned under several names and is wielded as a weapon of the nobility.

    Other parts of battle attire were shields of leather, metal, of body armour for early nobles, metal armour in Alexander's time. Armour of wadded quilts of cotton were for the rank and file.
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  2. Halaku Khan

    Halaku Khan BANNED

    Nov 14, 2008
    +0 / 327 / -0
    I think an important reason India succumbed to Islamic Invasions is the decline in the use of the bow.

    The long bow is very capable of stopping any armored cavalry charge, as the history of Europe shows. See especially the defeat of the French by the English at Crecy in 1346. (Look at the wikipedia article on the "Battle of Crecy").

    However the longbow requires considerable training, and producing a force of say 10,000 expert bowmen is not so easy. If any Indian kingdom had had such a force, they could have easily repulsed the Islamic invasions.

    It is interesting that the bow is such an important part of Indian culture (e.g. the Mahabharata and Ramayana) but by the medieval times its use had withered away. For example, I believe that even Shivaji's forces did not much use the bow.