Nitiprakasika (Critical Analysis)

by S. Anusha | 2016 | 34,012 words

This page relates ‘Kurukshetra Vyuhas’ of the study on the Nitiprakasika by Vaisampayana which deals primarily with with Dhanurveda, i.e., the science of war, weapons and military strategies of ancient Indian society. It further contains details on Niti-shastra, i.e., the science of politics and state administration but most verses of the Nitiprakashika deal with the classification and description of different varieties of weapons, based on the four groups of Mukta, Amukta, Muktamukta and Mantramukta.

Kurukṣetra Vyūhas

Mahābhārata war presents a vivid picture of a horde of these vyūhas[1] along with their counter-arrays. On the first day, Kauravas formed the Sarvatomukha vyūha (Fig. 1) which is capable of resisting attack from any side. To counter this, Pandavas formed the Acala (Vajra) formation (Fig. 2) as their strength was comparatively less and as the formation offers scope for good visibility. Again, on day seven, Vajra vyūha (Fig. 3) was devised to defend the Maṇḍala array (Fig. 4). Krauñca formation (Fig. 5) was done on the second day by Pandavas. Here, the warriors in the front achieve vyūha-bhaṅga with ease. In addition to this, the wings simultaneously close upon the enemy ranks and attack vigorously. This vyūha (Fig. 6) was once again formed by the Kauravas on the eleventh day, but this time to counter the Śakaṭa array (Fig. 7). This formation has good scope for overall defence.

Kauravas formed Garuda vyūha (Fig. 8) on day three and on the twelfth day. On both days, the Pandavas countered using Ardhacandra formation (Fig. 9 & Fig. 10). This offers good depth and scope to observe enemy movements. On the sixth day, the Pandavas used Makara (Fig. 11) to counter Krauñca formation. This Makara vyūha is a good defensive and offensive formation. On the fifth and sixteenth days, Kauravas formed Makara vyūha. This was countered by Pandavas using Śyena (Fig. 12) and Ardhacandra vyūhas. Both these vyūhas help in attacking the front, flanks and centre.

On the eighth day, Śṛṅgaṭa vyūha (Fig. 13) was formed to defend the Samudra (Fig. 14) type of wave formation of the Kauravas.

Cakra vyūha (Fig. 15) was formed on the thirteenth day by the Kauravas. This vyūha is quite tricky as the opening closes eventhough the enemy pierces through it. Abhimanyu’s tragic end happened as he was unaware of making an exit from this concentric formation.

On the following day, to protect Jayadratha, Cakraśakaṭa vyūha (Fig. 16) was formed. It was a complex formation which combined Cakra, Śakaṭa and Sūcī vyūhas. This turned out to be a huge challenge for Arjuna as he was bound by his promise to kill Jayadratha before sunset. Since the formation was too big for winning over, Lord Kṛṣṇa’ s saved him with a strategy.

A deeper look at these arrays tells us that the Circular formations are best suited to face attack from any side; the Semi-circular Ardhacandra vyūha; the Staff-arrays like Śyena, Krauñca are best suited to defend and cover up enemy ranks from the sides. Makara effectively defends attack on the sides and is well suited to cut the enemy formations with its sharp snout. It is used to counter Krauñca.

The bird formations namely Krauñca, Garuda and Śyena vary slightly from each other with respect to the structure of the wings and beak. The Garuda formation is formed when attack from the front and back are expected. This formation has long centre with beaks, curved wings, enormous body,short tail and thus is a very secure array and is valuable to spearhead an attack. Krauñca formation has stretched wings and central portion with the head at acute angles. The body is medium-sized, has legs projecting out,has most soldiers in the front. Śyena vyūha has extended wings and a right-angled head. The body with the tail is longer. All the three are strong aggressive formations.

The semi-circular or ring formations are very useful defensive formations which fight wave-type, circular or bird-formations. The horn (Śṛṅgaṭa) formation has a very strong, acute-angled head and inclined horns. The Ardhacandra array is apt to attack the flanks and centre but is not suitable for prolonged attacks, as there are no reserve forces to pitch in when the morale of forces droops. However, with fine charioteers and high morale of soldiers, this formation does good.

Vajra vyūha, is suitable when attack from the sides are apprehended. It has a good reserve in elephantry. It requires lesser warriors compared to circular formations and was thus effective for the Pandavas” fight against the circular arrays of the Kauravas.

Cakra vyūha, the formation that made Abhimanyu immortal, has an entry which closes as soon as the enemy breaks-in. The concentric circles are in constant motion. He has to break the circle and make a way out. Arjuna was the only Pandava who knew the entry-exit strategy of Cakra-vyūha-bhaṅga. Since his son Abhimanyu knew only the entry to the vyūha, he got trapped in it.

Footnotes and references:


See Appendix IV for figures 1-16. Courtesey: Kurukshetra War: A Military study by Major P. Sensarma, Calcutta, 1960, pp. 163-78.

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