Mahabharata Battle, Rules Of War

There are adequate references in the Ramayana,Mahabharata and Manusmriti,  the Purana and the Artha Sastra of Kautilya.

The first requisite is to fight with out anticipation of Victory and performance of the Duty.

Note the word duty.(Bhagavad Gita ‘Karmaneva..)

War Rules.
Rules of War

War is to be engaged in these cases,

Appropriation of other’s property,

Appropriation of Wife

Raping of women,

Harassment of the citizens by Unjust King.

Apart from this the appropriation Cattle is also a ground for War as Cattle represent the Wealth of a King.

Note the a war was waged by Duryodhana against Drupada by Duryodhana appropriating Drupada’s Cattle.( During the Ajnatha Vasa or Incognito  Living by the Pandavas)

Before the Declaration of War an Emissary is to be sent for negotiations or Warning.

Mutually agreed date of engagement is to be fixed for the War.

 The Rules of War

  • Fighting must begin no earlier than sunrise and end exactly at sunset.
  • Multiple warriors may not attack a single warrior.
  • Two warriors may duel, or engage in prolonged personal combat,only if they carry the same weapons and they are on the same mount (no mount, a horse, an elephant, or a chariot).
  • No warrior may kill or injure a warrior who has surrendered.
  • One who surrenders becomes a prisoner of war and will then be subject to the protections of a prisoner of war.
  • No warrior may kill or injure an unarmed warrior.
  • No warrior may kill or injure an unconscious warrior.
  • No warrior may kill or injure a person or animal not taking part in the war.
  • No warrior may kill or injure a warrior whose back is turned away.
  • No warrior may strike an animal not considered a direct threat.
  • The rules specific to each weapon must be followed. For example, it is prohibited to strike below the waist in mace warfare.
  • Warriors may not engage in any ‘unfair’ warfare whatsoever.
  • The lives of women, prisoners of war, and farmers are sacred.
  • Pillaging the land is forbidden.

Unjust War.

Sukra in his Nitisara provides this information.

‘He points out that a weak king has always had problems
in maintaining the State. To cope with this situation, Sukra suggests three possible courses of action: a weak king should enter into a peace treaty (sandhi)
with his enemy, or resort to Mantra Yuddha (a war of intrigues) or Kutta Yuddha
(unrighteous war).
h e Mantra Yuddha and Kutta Yuddha were adopted to harass the enemy from the rear and all sides so as to devastate his armed forces.
Kautilya, in his Arthasastra, mentions three types of war for the benei t of the
State: open war; concealed war; and silent war.
Although Kautilya acknowledged

that open warfare is the most righteous war, he did not speak against waging
any of these types of war for the consolidation and expansion of the kingdom;
in Adharma Yudda (unrighteous war) a declaration of war was not possible,
because it was a secret war.”

However a Dharma Yuddha or A righteous War is one that is waged for any or all of the reasons mentioned,not withstanding what Sukra says.

Kautilya’s Views.

Kautilya in his Artha sastra advocates at time war for personal gain.

This does not have the sanction of the Sastras.

Nor do the practices followed by Krishna during the Mahabharata War, on various occasions are approved by the sastras, though Krishna justifies them ‘in the interest of Dhrama’






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Author: ramanan50

Retired Senior Management Professional. Lectures on Indian Philosophy,Hinduism, Comparative Religions. Researching Philosophy, Religion. Free lance Writer.Blogger

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