DEFENCE NOTES

 

CHANAKYA AND THE TAXILA
TRADITIONS
OF DEFENCE MANAGEMENT

GROUP CAPTAIN SULTAN M. HALI makes an exhaustive analysis of defence management from history and comes to some startling conclusions valid in the 20th century as much as they were thousands of years ago.


Takshashila, modern Taxila, was an ancient seat of learning which was much more comprehensive than the celebrated Lyceum of Aristotle and older than it by more than half a millennium. It could be called a University but for the fact that it was a cluster of a number of autonomous "lyceums" managed, maintained, and presided over by emanate teachers who partly drew upon the contribution of the local people and partly depended on the fees and presents of their rich pupils. We learn from the Buddhist scriptures that students from as far as Magadha, modern Bihar, flocked to learn at the feet of the gurus and rishis of Takshashila. Jivaka learnt the art of medicine there and became the famous physician of Bimbisara, the ruler of Magadha, and of the Buddha himself. Prasenajita, the enlightened King of Kosala in North-Eastern Gangetic valley, who was intimately associated with the events of the time of the Buddha, was yet another illustrious alumnus of Takshashila. But the most eminent of them was Panini, a native of the neighbouring Salatura, modern Lahore and Swabi Tehsil of Mardan district, a greater grammarian than whom has not yet been produced.

Among the more popular subjects taught at Takshashila was Military Science, called dhanushvidya, ‘Science of the Bow’, for the bow and arrow were the chief weapons of the ancient Indus Civilization. Jotipala came from Varanasi (Banaras) and returned home to become the senapati ( commander-in-chief) of the King of his native country. 1 The greatest exponent of this science at Takshashila was Vishnugupta, better known by his patronymic Chanakya and the nickname Kautilya, who was a native of the land, and old student of its garden-grove University and one of its celebrated savants. He was a versatile genius, well-versed in Military Science, Art of Diplomacy, Political Economy (‘Science of Wealth’), Metallurgy, Chemistry, Medicine, specializing in poisons, and of course the Vedas. Chandragupta Maurya was among his pupils. One is reminded here of the contemporary analogy of Alexander and Aristotle. But, perhaps, he excelled the better known Athenians in some respects. Commenting on his Arthashastra (Treatise on Wealth’) George Sarton, the historian of Science, writes, " In sharp contrast with the political writings of Plato and Aristotle, it is very concrete and practical". But he adds - and there is the rub - "(it) reveals a very low morality. the state-craft taught by Kautilya is extremely cynical and unscrupulous".2 Certainly not more so than the teachings of Machiavelli, the pioneer of modern Political and Military Sciences. While Aristotle was simply the preceptor of the son of King Philip of Macedonia, Chanakya taught his portage of low birth, groomed him for the Imperial role, uprooted the Brahamin dynasty of the Nandas of Magadha for him, installed him on the Patliputra (Patna) throne, and guided his meteoric empire-building career. He had to pay a price for these triumphs. The Brahmins of the Gangetic Valley gave him the nickname Kaytilya, meaning ‘Mr Crook’, and vilified his home-province, Gandhara. A great patriot that he was he laid down a fine for defaming Gandhara, as we know from his Arthashastra (Block III, chapter XVIII),3 but seems to have, in good humour, accepted the nickname which overshadowed his personal name.

The Arthashastra is well-known as the pioneering work on Political Economy. But the Arabs knew it as a treatise on the Art of War. The Fihrist of al-Nadim (or Inb Nadim), composed in A D 950, is rightly claimed by it editor and translator to be the ‘tenth century survey of Muslim culture’; it records an Arabic translation of a book written by Shanaq (Arabicized form of Chanakya) "about the administration of war".4 Chanakya himself states, in the concluding verse of his work, "This shastra (scientific work) has been composed by one who angrily and quickly rescued the science itself as well as the art of warfare and the dominion belonging to the Nanda King". 5 Here we find Clausewitz’s famous dictum ("War is nothing else than the continuation of State policy by different means".6) put in triumphant practice by Chanakya; and it goes to the credit of Arabs’ keen realism to perceive the true nature of his magnum opus.

But the Arthashastra is more than that. By integrating the

discussions on State Policy, civil administration, financial resources and their management, and the art of war in a highly systematic manner Chanakya presaged the concept of Defence Management. The canvas of the present study restrains us from going into further details of this greatly provocative but sadly neglected subject. Therefore, we confine ourselves to the listing of the headings of those chapters of Arthashastra which are explicitly related to the military subjects; others dealing with Politics, Political Economy and Civil Administration are not so unfamiliar.

The above mentioned chapters are as follows :

a. Book Two, ch.3, Construction of Forts;
b. Ch. 4, Buildings within the Fort;
c. Ch. 18, The Superintendent of the Armoury;
d. Ch. 28, The Superintendent of Ships;
e. Ch. 30, The Superintendent of Horses;
f. Ch. 31, The Superintendent of Elephants;
g. Ch. 32, The Training of Elephants;
h. Ch. 33, The Superintendent of Chariots;
j. Ch. 34, The Superintendent of Infantry; (Cavalry, Elephants, Chariots and Infantry were the four Arms of   the Indus Valley forces , called Chaturanga ‘Four Arms’, from which is derived the Arabic shatranj, ‘chess’ the ‘war game’, whose earliest evidence has been found at Mohenjo daro); and
k. Ch.35, The Duties of the Commander -in-Chief.
l. Book Seven, Ch. 4, Neutrality After Proclaiming War or After Concluding a Treaty of Peace, Marching After Proclaiming War or After Making Peace; and the March of Combined Powers;
m. Ch. 5, Considerations about Marching Against an Assailable Enemy and a Strong Enemy; Causes Leading to the Dwindling, Greed and Disloyalty of the Army; and Consideration About the Combination of Powers;
n. Ch. 6, The March of Combined Powers; and
p. Ch. 13, Considerations about and Enemy in the Rear.
q. Book Nine Ch. 1, The knowledge of Power, Place, Time Strength and Weakness; the time of Invasion;
r. Ch. 2, The Time of Recruiting the Army; the Form of Equipment; and the Work of Arraying a Rival Force;
s. Ch.3, Consideration of Annoyance in the Rear, and Remedies Against Internal and External Troubles;
and
t. Ch. 6, Persons Associated with Traitors and Enemies.
u. Book Ten, Ch. 1, Encampment;
v. Ch. 2, March of the Camp; and Protection of the Army in Times of Distress and Attack;
w. Ch. 3, Forms of Treacherous Fights; Encouragement to One’s Own Army, and Fight between one’s Own and Enemy’s Armies;
x. Ch. 4, Battlefields; the Work of Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots, and Elephants;
y. Ch. 5, the Distinctive Array of Troops in Respect of Wings, Flanks, and Front; Distinction between Strong and Weak Troops; and Battle with Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots, and Elephants; and
z. Ch. 6, The Array of the army like a Staff, a Snake, a Circle, or in a Detached Order; the Array of an Army Against that of an Enemy.
aa. Book Twelve, Ch. 2, Battle of Intrigue;
ab. Ch. 3, Slaying the commander-in-Chief and inciting a Circle of States;
ac. Ch. 4, Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison; and Destruction of Supply, Stores and Granaries; and
ad. Ch. 5, Capture of the Enemy by Means of Secret Contrivances or by Means of  the Army; and Complete Victory.
ae. Book Thirteen, Ch.1, Sowing the Seeds of Dissension;
af. Ch. 2, Enticement of King by Secret Contrivances;
ag. Ch.3, The Work of Spies in a Siege; and
ah. Ch.4, The Operation of a Siege.
aj. Book Fourteen, Ch. 1, Means to Injure an Enemy;
ak. Ch. 2, Wonderful and Delusive Contrivances;
al. Ch. 3, the Application of Medicines, and Mantras; and
am. Ch.4, Remedies Against the Injuries of One’s Own Army.

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