Translated from the Sanskrit edition by Peter Peterson, Bombay, Chakravarti, M. Copyright reserved. The First Instructor 1. I have composed this work in brief by extracting the excellent utterances of God Lord Siva found in his Dhanurveda the Veda relating to the science of Archery and wise instructions of Sage Vyasa.
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Antiquity pre-Gupta [ edit ] An Indus valley civilization seal show two men spearing one another in a duel which seem to be centered on a woman. A statue of a spear thrower was also excavated from an Indus valley site. Most deities of the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon are armed with their own personal weapon, and are revered not only as master martial artists but often as originators of those systems themselves.
Stories describing Krishna report that he sometimes engaged in wrestling matches where he used knee strikes to the chest, punches to the head, hair pulling, and strangleholds. Epics often describe the duels between deities and god-like heroes as lasting a month or more. The malla-yuddha wrestling match between Bhima and Jarasandha lasts 27 days. Similarly, the dwandayuddha between Parasurama and Bhishma lasts for 30 days, while that between Krishna and Jambavan lasts for 28 days.
Likewise, the dwandwayudda between Bali and Dundubhi, a demon in the form of a water buffalo , lasts for 45 days. The Charanavyuha authored by Shaunaka mentions four upaveda applied Vedas. Included among them are archery dhanurveda and military sciences shastrashastra ,   the mastery of which was the duty dharma of the warrior class. Kings usually belonged to the kshatria warrior class and thus served as heads of the army. They typically practiced archery, wrestling, boxing, and swordsmanship as part of their education.
The Chinese monk Xuanzang writes that the emperor Harsha was light on his feet despite his advancing age and managed to dodge and seize an assailant during an assassination attempt. Arjuna , Rama and Siddhartha Gautama all won their consorts in such tournaments. In the 3rd century, elements from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali , as well as finger movements in the nata dances, were incorporated into the fighting arts.
Some of the choreographed sparring in kalaripayat can be applied to dance  and kathakali dancers who knew kalaripayat were believed to be markedly better than other performers. Until recent decades, the chhau dance was performed only by martial artists. Some traditional Indian classical dance schools still incorporate martial arts as part of their exercise regimen. The Akananuru and Purananuru describe the use of spears, swords, shields, bows and silambam in the Sangam era.
The word kalari appears in the Puram verses , , , and Akam verses 34, , to describe both a battlefield and combat arena. The word kalari tatt denoted a martial feat, while kalari kozhai meant a coward in war. They specialized in one or more of the important weapons of the period including the spear vel , sword val , shield kedaham , and bow and arrow vil ambu. The combat techniques of the Sangam period were the earliest precursors to kalaripayat.
This referred to the silambam staff which was in great demand with foreign visitors. From the 7th to the 5th centuries BC it was held in high regard as a great centre of trade and learning,  attracting students from throughout present-day Pakistan and northern India. Some measures were put into place to discourage martial activity during the Buddhist period.
The Khandhaka in particular forbids wrestling, boxing, archery, and swordsmanship. However, references to fighting arts are found in early Buddhist texts , such as the Lotus Sutra c. The Lotus Sutra makes further mention of a martial art with dance-like movements called Nara. Vajra-musti , an armed grappling style, is mentioned in sources of the early centuries AD.
This is similar to the style described in the Agni Purana. The Gurjara-Pratihara came into power during the 7th century and founded a kyshatria dynasty in northern India which exceeded the preceding Gupta Empire. During this period, Emperor Nagabhata I — AD and Mihir Bhoja I — commissioned various texts on martial arts, and were themselves practitioners of these systems.
Shiva Dhanuveda was composed in this era. The khadga, a two-handed broad-tipped heavy longsword, was given special preference. It was even used for khadga-puja, ritualised worship of the sword.
The Gurjara-Pratiharas continuously fought off Arab invasions, particularly during the Caliphate campaigns in India. The Arab chronicler Sulaiman wrote of the Gurjara ruler as the greatest foe to Islamic expansion, while at the same time praising his cavalry.
Middle Ages 11th to 15th centuries [ edit ] Kalaripayat had developed into its present form by the 11th century, during an extended period of warfare between the Chera and Chola dynasties. In response to the spread of Muslim rule,  the kingdoms of South India united in the 14th century to found the Vijayanagara Empire. Physical culture was given much attention by both royalty and commoners in the empire, with wrestling being particularly popular with both men and women.
Krishna Deva Raya is said to have arranged a duel between a champion swordsman and the prince of Odisha who was known for being an expert with both the sword and dagger. Among them were said to be both native and Mughal wrestlers , slingers from Gujarat , Hindustani athletes, boxers , stone-throwers and many others. In fighting they show much speed and agility and blend courage and skill in squatting down and rising up again. Some of them use shields in fighting, others use cudgels.
Others again use no means of defence, and fight with one hand only; these are called ek-hath. Those from the southern provinces have shields of such magnitude as to cover a man and a horse. This kind of shield is called tilwah. Another class use a shield somewhat less than the height of a man. Some again use a long sword, and seizing it with both hands they perform extraordinary feats of skill.
They have no shield but make use of a peculiar kind of sword which, though curved towards the point, is straight near the handle. They wield it with great dexterity. The skill that they exhibit passes all description.
Others are skillful in fighting with daggers and knives of various forms; of these there are upwards of a hundred thousand. Each class has a different name; they also differ in their performances. At court, there are a thousand gladiators always in readiness. While often done with arrows and later even rifles, it was considered most impressive to kill a tiger with a hand-to-hand weapon such as a sword or dagger.
In the 16th century, Madhusudana Saraswati of Bengal organised a section of the Naga tradition of armed sannyasi in order to protect Hindus from the intolerant Mughal rulers.
Such warrior-ascetics have been recorded from to as late as the 18th century,  although tradition attributes their creation to the 8th-century philosopher Sankaracharya. They began as a stratum of Rajput warriors who would gather after harvest and arm peasants into militarised units, effectively acting as a self-defense squad.
Prevalent in Rajasthan , Maharashtra and Bengal , they would give up their occupations and leave their families to live as mercenaries. Naga sadhu today rarely practice any form of fighting other than wrestling, but still carry trishula , swords, canes and spears.
To this day their retreats are called chhauni or armed camps, and they have been known to hold mock jousts among themselves. As recently as the s, it was not unusual for Naga sadhu to strike to kill someone over issues of honour. The pehlwani style of wrestling developed in the Mughal Empire by combining native malla-yuddha with influences from Persian varzesh-e bastani. Coming from a hilly region characterized by valleys and caves, the Marathas became expert horsemen who favoured light armour and highly mobile cavalry units during war.
Known especially as masters of swords and spears, their heavily martial culture and propensity for the lance is mentioned as early as the 7th century by Xuanzang. Having learned the native art of mardani khela from a young age, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a master swordsman and proficient in the use of various weapons.
Their training schools, known as paika akhada , can be traced back to ancient Kalinga and their art was at one time patronised by King Kharavela. Many government buildings were burnt down and all the officials fled. The British commander of one detachment was killed during a battle at Gangapada.
The paika managed to capture two bases at Puri and Pipli before spreading the rebellion further to Gop, Tiran, Kanika and Kujang. The revolt lasted a year and a half before being quelled by September Modern period —present [ edit ] Indian martial arts underwent a period of decline after the full establishment of British colonial rule in the 19th century.
Nevertheless, traditional fighting systems persisted, sometimes even under the patronage of enthusiastic British spectators who tended to remark on the violence of native boxing and the acrobatic movements characteristic of Indian fighting styles.
Sikhs — already known among Indians for their martial practices — were particularly valued by the colonists as soldiers and guards, and were posted throughout not only India but Southeast Asia and other parts of the British Empire[ citation needed ].
Members of the army were allowed to box as a way of settling disputes, provided that they were still able to carry out their duties as soldiers after a match. The resurgence of public interest in kalaripayat began in the s in Tellicherry as part of a wave of rediscovery of the traditional arts throughout south India which characterised the growing reaction against British colonial rule. It catalogs training into five major divisions for different types of warriors, namely charioteers, elephant-riders, horsemen, infantry, and wrestlers.
A short passage near the end of the text returns to the larger concerns of warfare and explains the various uses of war elephants and men. The text concludes with a description of how to appropriately send the well-trained fighter off to war.
Others[ edit ] There is an extant Dhanurveda-Samhita dating to the midth century, by Brhat Sarngadhara Paddhati ed. According to P. Chakravati in The Art of War in Ancient India, armies used standard weapons such as wooden or metal-tipped spears, swords, thatched bamboo, wooden or metal shields, axes, short and longbows in warfare as early as the 4th century BC. The Agni Purana divides weapons into thrown and unthrown classes. The thrown mukta class includes twelve weapons altogether which come under four categories, viz.
The katara , the most characteristic  of daggers in the Indian subcontinent. The most commonly taught weapons in the Indian martial arts today are types of swords, daggers, spears, staves, cudgels, and maces. Drawing a weapon without reason is forbidden and considered by Hindus to be disrespectful to the goddess Chandika. Thus the saying that a sword cannot be sheathed until it has drawn blood. In addition, she would cut her finger with the sword and make a tilak on his head from a drop of her blood.
Weapons themselves were also anointed with tilak, most often from the blood of a freshly-decapitated goat chatanga. Sword-fighting is one of the common Indian fighting arts. Varieties include the curved single-edge sword, the straight double-edge sword, the two-handed longsword, the gauntlet-sword , and the urumi or flexible sword. The flexible nature and lightweight of Indian swords allows for speed but provides little defensive ability, so that the swordsman must instead rely on body maneuvers to dodge attacks.
Stances and forms traditionally made up the early training before students progress to free sparring with sticks to simulate swords in an exercise called gatka , although this term is more often used in English when referring to the Panjabi-Sikh fighting style. A common way to practice precision-cutting is to slice cloves or lemons , eventually doing so while blindfolded. Pairing two swords of equal length, though considered impractical in some parts of the world, is common and was considered highly advantageous in the Indian subcontinent.
The stick lathi in Prakrit is typically made of bamboo with steel caps at the ends to prevent it from splintering[ citation needed ].
Vasista’s Dhanurveda Samhita
Translated from the Sanskrit edition by Peter Peterson, Bombay, Chakravarti, M. Copyright reserved. The First Instructor I have composed this work in brief by extracting the excellent utterances of God Lord Siva found in his Dhanurveda the Veda relating to the science of Archery and wise instructions of Sage Vyasa. After examining the Trainee disciple thoroughly, the preceptor will give a bow to a Brahmin disciple, who is not greedy, cunning, ungrateful or foolish. These are carried out with a bow dhanu or a circular missile cakra or a lance kunta or a sword khadga or a knife churika and mace gada and lastly by fighting with the bare hands only.
Indian martial arts
Antiquity pre-Gupta [ edit ] An Indus valley civilization seal show two men spearing one another in a duel which seem to be centered on a woman. A statue of a spear thrower was also excavated from an Indus valley site. Most deities of the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon are armed with their own personal weapon, and are revered not only as master martial artists but often as originators of those systems themselves. Stories describing Krishna report that he sometimes engaged in wrestling matches where he used knee strikes to the chest, punches to the head, hair pulling, and strangleholds. Epics often describe the duels between deities and god-like heroes as lasting a month or more. The malla-yuddha wrestling match between Bhima and Jarasandha lasts 27 days. Similarly, the dwandayuddha between Parasurama and Bhishma lasts for 30 days, while that between Krishna and Jambavan lasts for 28 days.
Kazrakasa This meant laying down of thorough instructions and formularies englisj other sages like ParaSurama, Visvamitra, Vaisampayana and Ausanas whose texts have been recovered in manuscript form from libraries of Tirupati, Nepal Darbar, Asiatic society, Bombay, Deccan College Research Institute, Pune and Oriental library of Baroda. The elephant should be made devoid of fear by putting up fire circles. Like us on Facebook to send us a private message. Needle or sharp pointed instrument. He should prove his intelligence in arranging the army in array and also provide such work to the infantry that fits ehanurveda.