Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Hindu concept of war

Why dharma yuddha is different from jehad and inquisition
Are Hindus pacifist or martian? Now there is a new argument in the mainstream media. They say that Hindu nationalists are not really Hindus. Hinduism is tolerant and a religion of peace and brotherhood, while those in the Hindutva camp are intolerant warmongers. That is the crux of the arguments.
It seems as if there are two sides of Hinduism. One talks of pacifism (Sarve Bhavanthu Sukhinaha May all sentient beings live in peace) and the other talks of war (Arise Arjuna, Fight for the sake of dharma).
What are the codes of dharmayuddha that was followed by almost all Hindu warriors from the ancient to the medieval age? Is it similar to jehad or inquisition in any way?It must be said that dharmayuddha (the Hindu concept of war) is radically different from Jehad or Inquisition or even the modern wars.
The ancient Hindus viewed war as a means to protect dharma and resorted to war only as a last resort when all other efforts to secure peace failed. Dharma Yuddha is more a code of chivalry. It entails that women, children, weak and infirm should not be attacked. No subterfuge is employed. No backstabbing and no fights during the night. It was more of a tournament where warriors showcased their strength.
At the same time, Jehad and Inquisitions are quite different. Both advocate subterfuge and pre-emptive strikes and are waged in the form of religious expansionism. Both the Christian and Muslim warriors attacked with sword in one hand the Bible/Koran in the other. The Koranic concept of war – authored by Malik – justifies pre-emptive attacks and barbarism as it says that the best way to defeat the enemy is to demoralize him and scaring him to the best possible extent. However, this is not the case with dharmayuddha.
The Hindus were forced to change their tactics after the Muslim invasions as most of the Muslims resorted to subterfuge. Prithviraj Chauhan had almost defeated Mohammed Ghori when he feigned surrender and escaped. This generosity on the part of Prithviraj proved too costly and cost him his kingdom.The first Hindu King who employed subterfuge as a part of his war was Shivaji. Shivaji was an expert at guierella warfare. He broke all the rules of the Hindu war book and even attacked at night. This, many say, was necessitated as his adversaries cared little for dharmayuddha. Anyway Shivaji is still remembered as one of the forerunners of Hindu nationalism as his army combated the Muslim army’s warcry of “Allah Hu Akbar” with “Har Har Mahadev”. It was Shivaji who gave the Hindu nationalists a new concept of war where everything was justified as long as the Hindu interests are served.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What Shivaji did was right. It is not the first time, we can see these exceptions. Even in Mahabharata, what Krishna taught was also a kind of similar teachings. Bheema violated the rules of Gadayuddha byb hitting Duryodhana below his waist. Arjuna hit Karna when was not on Ratha and trying to lift the wheels of Ratha.

I think, it is right to violate the rules, if the opponent is not caring about the rules. This is what Krishna and Shivaji did. It is still dharmik, I believe. As long as the objective is holy, ways should not matter much, provided such steps are inevitable. We should not hang ourselves to the rigid interpretation of Dharma / rules of war. What do you say?

DEEPAK KAMAT said...

Agreed about this one.

DEEPAK KAMAT said...

However, I didn't quote it since in the book, I was referring to modern verifiable history. Of course, I personally believe that Mahabharata was real and not mythic as made out to be by the westerners. If I brought out the issue in this article, it would have obfuscated the issue. That is why I preferred to take the modern verifiable history and the context of Hindu nationalism. Remember I started from Dahir.

DEEPAK KAMAT said...

However, I didn't quote it since in the book, I was referring to modern verifiable history. Of course, I personally believe that Mahabharata was real and not mythic as made out to be by the westerners. If I brought out the issue in this article, it would have obfuscated the issue. That is why I preferred to take the modern verifiable history and the context of Hindu nationalism. Remember I started from Dahir.

Prahalad said...

Hi Sorry for the late comment I've just come across your blog.

It's a shame that the war tactics employed by Lord Krishna and the Kauravas which were way ahead of their time have been misinterpreted as treachery/cowardness.

If Hindus had acknowledged these tactics as superior military strategies and developed them further then I'm sure South Asian history would have been different.

JAZ Z said...

It doesn't suit you talk about war and it's strategies when you can't logicalize the sense of Hannan that for the need of single herb he can carry thousands of miles a mountain from Himalaya to Kanykumari over his shoulders, but can't think of to carry few thousand soldiers directly in to the palace of Ravana to save Seeta Mayya instead of building much laborious and time consuming Ram setu, which also caused poor Seeta to attempt bhumi-samarpan due to accusations of distrust on her character.