Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Dhanurveda included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Dhanurveda

General information.

A scientific treatise on the art of warfare in ancient Bhārata. Because of the undue importance of the science the treatise is deemed and respected as a Veda. There have been innumerable books on the subject to teach Dhanurveda to the Kṣatriya youths. In the book 'Prasthānabheda' by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī he states that Dhanurveda is a branch of Yajurveda. A Sanskrit book called Dhanurvedasaṃhitā is now available. Some scholars are of opinion that not much antiquity can be attributed to this work. Many books relating to Dhanurveda have been lost to us. What details are there in Agni Purāṇa are given below:

Divisions of Dhanurveda.

This is known as Catuṣpāda (four-footed) also because of the fact that the four main constituents of an army are the chariots, elephants, horses and men. Dhanurveda has been divided into five parts (1) Yantramukta, (2) Pāṇimukta, (3) Muktasandhārita, (4) Amukta and (5) Bāhuyuddha. There is another division according to Astra and Śastra. There is yet another division of the science into two by some scholars from a different viewpoint calling them Māyā and Ṛju.


(Yantra = machine). This means a warfare where machines are used. Kṣepiṇī (sling) bow and arrow and other such machines are included in this.


(Pāṇi = hand). This is where the hand is used mainly. Stone, mace etc. are used in this.


This includes the use of weapons like a spear.


The use of a weapon like a sword which never leaves your hand.


(Bāhu = head). The fight with only bare hands without the use of a weapon. One who wishes to fight should make ready his own weapons. He should be one who will never get tired even after exertion. A war with bows and arrows is considered the best and most manly, that with a spear ranks next, a fight with a sword is bad and a fight with hands, the most mean.

The Trainees.

Only a brahmin is entitled to be a preceptor in Dhanurveda. The Kṣatriya and Vaiśya should learn from him. The Śūdra can fight of his own in danger. He is not allowed to learn military science from a preceptor. Those mixed-born are to help the king during a war.

Various postures.

There are nine different ways of standing when you give a fight, classified according to the different positions of one’s foot, heel and knee.


When you stand with your Aṅguṣṭha, Nariyāṇi (Gulpha), Pāṇi and Pāda closely joined together, it is termed Samapāda.


Keep your legs twentyseven inches apart and without bending your knees stand erect throwing your weight on the fingers of the foot. This stand is called Vaiśākha.


Keep your knees thirtysix inches apart and stand in the shape of a haṃsapaṅkti and this position is called Maṇḍala.


Bend your right knee and thigh in the shape of a plough and without any movement to that posture draw your left leg fortyfive inches apart. This stand is called Ālīḍha.


If you bend your left knee and thigh and stand like above it is called Pratyālīḍha.


Place your right foot straight and place the left one perpendicular to the right one with the heels and the ankles of the feet five fingers apart. The whole length of the posture should not exceed twelve fingers. This stand is called Jāta.


Keep the right knee bent and the left leg straight or vice versa. This posture is called Daṇḍāyata.


If for the above posture the distance between the two legs is two palm-length it is Vikaṭa.


Keep the knees viguṇas and the feet Uttāyanas for the posture of Svapuṭa.


Keep your legs sixteen fingers apart and raise your feet a little keeping the level of both the feet equal. This is Svastika.

Use of arrows.

Before a man is to make use of a bow and arrow he should first take the posture of Svastika and bow down. He should take the bow by the left hand, take the arrow by the right hand. He then should adopt a posture of either Vaiśākha or Jāta and taking the bow should sink into the earth one end of the bow and draw the bow-string up to the other end and see whether there is sufficient length for the string. He should take an arrow from his sheath and thrust the arrowhead into the ground near the bow. He should place his elbow on the top of the arrow with his forearm bent and fist clenched. If the clenched fist touches the top of the bow that bow and arrow is superior to any other. He should tie the bow-string in a way that the distance between the tied bow-string and the bow is twelve fingers. He should place the bow in front of his navel and the arrows in a quiver on his hip. Taking an arrow he should raise the bow and fix the arrow at a point on the bow-tring between his eye and ear. He should take the arrow by his left fist and fix it so that the fist touches the left nipple. The bow should not change position horizontally, vertically, laterally, face downwards or upwards. Then taking an arrow from the sheath by the thumb and forefinger fix it on the bow-string and stretch it well before sending the shot. The clue to correct aim is this. Anything that one can see with one’s eyes but can be covered by his fist is within the arrowshot. When one arrow is sent another should be taken immediately from the sheath and sent in quick succession. This is called Upaccheda.

Operations with a sword and a carma (shield).

There are thirtytwo different ways of putting into use a sword or a 'carma' (shield). Bhrānta, Udbhrānta, Āviddha, Āpluta, Vipluta, Sṛta, Saṃpāta, Samudīrṇa, Śvetapāta, Ākula, Savyoddhūta, Savyāvadhūta, Dakṣiṇoddhūta, Dakṣiṇavadhūta, Anālakṣita, Visphoṭa, Karāla, Indramahāsakha, Vikarāla, Nipāta, Vibhīṣaṇa, Bhayānaka, Samagrapāda, Arddhapāda, Tṛtīyāṃśapāda, Pāda, Ardhavārija, Vārija, Pratyālīḍha, Ālīḍha, Varāha and Lalita.

Operations with ropes.

There are eleven different ways of using a rope in a war. Parāvṛtta, Aparāvṛtta, Gṛhīta, Laghugṛhīta, Ūrdhvakṣipta, Adhaḥkṣipta, Sandhārita, Śyenapāta, Gajapāta and Grāhagrāhya. Adepts in this art have stated that there are five acts in the rope-operation. They are: Ṛju, Āyata, Viśāla, Tiryak and Bhrāmita.

Mode of using the weapons.

(1) Deeds with a wheel are: Chedana, Bhedana, Pātana, Bhramaṇa, Śayana and Vikartana.

Śūla (spear).

Deeds with this are: Āsphoṭana, Kṣolana, Bhedana, Trāsana, Āndolana and Āghāta.

Tomara (iron club).

Deeds with this are: Dṛṣṭighāta Pārśvāghāta, Ṛjupakṣa and Iṣṭaprāpta.

Gada (Mace).

Deeds with this are: Gomūtra, Āhata, Prabhūta, Kamalāsana, Tata, Ūrdhvagātra, Vāmanamita, Dakṣiṇamita, Āvṛtta, Parāvṛtta, Pādoddhūta, and Avapluta Haṃsamarda.

Paraśu (axe).

Deeds with this are: Karāla, Avaghāta, Daṃśa, Upapluta, Kṣiptahasta, Sthita and Śūnya,

Muḍgara (hammer).

Deeds with this are: Tāḍana. Chedana, Cūrṇana, Plavana and Ghātana.


Deeds with this are: Saṃśrānta, Viśrānta, Govisarga and Sudurdhara. Deeds with the Laguḍa are the same as these.


Deeds with this are: Antya, Madhya, Pārāvṛtta, and Nideśānta. The deeds with Paṭṭiśa are the same as there.

Kṛpāṇa (Churikā—small dagger).

Deeds with these are: Haraṇa, Chedana, Ghātana, Bhedana, Mṛṃkṣaṇa, Pātana and Sphoṭana.

Kṣepiṇī (Kaviṇa—Sling).

Deeds are Trāsana, Rakṣaṇa, Ghātana, Baloddharaṇa and Āyata.

The feats of one who fights a bludgeon or cudgel are the following:

Santyāga, Avadaṃśa, Varāhoddhūtaka, Hastāvahasta, Ālīna, Ekahasta, Avahasta, Dvihasta, Bāhupāśa, Kaṭirecitaka, Utgata, Uroghāta, Lalāṭaghāta, Bhujavidhamana, Karoddhūta, Vimāna, Pādāhati, Vipādika Gātrasaṃśleṣaṇa, Sānta, Gātraviparyaya, Ūrdhaprahāra, Ghāta, Gomūtra, Savya, Bhakṣiṇa. Pāraka, Tāraka, Daṇḍa, Ākula, Kabarībandha, Tiryagbandha, Apāmārga, Bhīmavega, Sudarśana, Siṃhākrānta, Gajākrānta and Garbhākrānta. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapters 249-252).

Dhanurveda in Mahābhārata.

Some references to Dhanurveda in Mahāhārata are given below:

(1) A sage named Śaradvān was a noted preceptor in Dhanurveda. Kṛpācārya learnt Dhanurveda from him and taught many others of his disciples. (Chapter 129, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(2) Droṇācārya learnt Dhanurveda from Paraśurāma and imparted it to many other disciples of his including the Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas. (Chapter 129, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(3) Agniveśa, a sage, learnt Dhanurveda from sage Agastya. (Śloka 9, Chapter 133, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(4) Dhanurveda has got ten aṅgas and four caraṇas. (Chapters 6 and 41, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

(5) Four-footed Dhanurveda worshipped Subrahmaṇya. (Śloka 22, Chapter 44, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

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