Nitiprakasika (Critical Analysis)

by S. Anusha | 2016 | 34,012 words

This page relates ‘Chapter 5: Conclusion’ 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.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Evaluation of Nītiprakāśikā along with Tattvavivṛti

Nītiprakāśikā is mainly a text on war-science; of the eight chapters of the contents, except the first and last chapters, all the other six chapters deal with war and subjects related to it–weapons, four divisions of the army, army training,march, war tactics, war instructions and administrative principles of the war department. These contents of Nītiprakāśikā are studied in the light of its commentary Tattvavivṛti which provides details on each of these subjects. Undoubtedly, the study shows that the text is an exhaustive manual on arms and armaments; sincere record of war strategies and an useful catalogue on military organization. It presents the reader with graphic accounts of the ancient weapons which are hand-held or released. The Arthaśāstra and the Kāmandakīya Nītisāra deal with the foreign policies, issues relating to internal and external security but do not present expansive accounts of the weapons used. Śukranīti also does not give a complete picture of the war scenario as its predominant focus is on general affairs of state. Likewise, the tantric text Sāmrājya Lakṣmīpīṭhikā deals with dhanurvidyābhyāsa and other issues concerning state administration. Even, other encyclopaedic and digestive texts deal with diverse facets of war and not war in its entirety. So, it is seen that the place of Nītiprakāśikā as the foremost yuddhanītiśāstra texts is undisputable.

To recapitulate–The first chapter of the thesis gives glimpses of war elements from Vedas, epics, Purāṇas, Kāvyas and Nīti kāvyas.

The second chapter presents the details about the author, commentator and the contents of the text and the commentary.

The third chapter on war weapons deals with the thirty three weapons of war and the hundred missiles. These designated non-divine weapons had specific purposes as well as wielding methods. The warriors were specially trained for their usage.The missiles do not have a fixed form. Any weapon or object can be propelled by the mantric power. A parallel presentation of the astras mentioned in Rāmāyaṇa, the list provided by Oppert and that of Nītiprakāśikā is presented in the Appendix III to provide an overall picture of their availability, probably in different names. These were popular for their infallibility compared to the regular weapons.

The fourth chapter deals with war strategy under three different heads. In the first section on peace-time strategies,the six-fold policy, the four-fold upāyas are discussed as given in Tattvavivṛti and further concepts like triśaktis, trisiddhis, aṣṭakarmas and aṣṭādaśatīrthās are also presented. These could have seen further advances over the centuries.The second and third sections deal with planning and actual conduct of the war. The preparatory phase of war deals with choosing the battlefield, marching the troops to war-camps, their training during approaching war-times, their security arrangements in the camps,maintainence of vigil and instant punishments for the miscreants. The next section of this chapter concerning war-time strategy depends mainly on vyūha formations (battle-arrays). These vyūhas have proved their use by fetching victory to the side which understood the nuances of vyūharacana and vyūhabheda. Kurukṣetra war exemplifies this with its unique troop-formations. It is quite interesting to note that though many types of vyūhas were known and certain formations were used frequently. During this war, totally thirteen unique formations were designed by both Pāṇḍavas and Kauravās. The following chapter on War Administration pertains to the administrative wing of the war-office. It provides intriguing facts and facets of dealing with military personnel. It gives an abstract on the hierarchy of army officers, gradations in the army units, the earnings and monetary benefits of the warriors. It also deals with instructions for king and his men. Some of these details are found in the Śukranīti. Arthaśāstra also elucidates on wages and other benefits conferred on warriors.

 Contribution of the Author

The style of the author is simple, direct and devoid of flamboyant style, quite suitable for technical texts. The narrative style is similar to that of the Purāṇas. The text concentrates on various details about warfare and hence is quite terse in some places.In some places, the text simply gives numbers without enumerating them like aṣṭakarmāṇi (Nītiprakāśikā I. 50), aṣṭādaśatīrthās (Nītiprakāśikā I. 51) while he enumerates the triśaktis (VII. 86cd).

The text makes an interesting reading with–the mythical legends about the origin of śastras and astras in sargas I and II, the physical description of the weapons in sargas III and IV; the details of the various ways in which the śastras can be included in sarga V, the vyūha details, the details of the army divisions, the preparation for the war,marching towards the enemy and the list of various things that are to be carried to the war-front in sarga VI and the financial implementation of the war dealing with permanent expenses of maintaining an army and the rewards and awards to the soldiers who come victorious in the war in sarga VII. The author shows a keen interest in narrating all these detail in a coherent manner. He is also quite successful in this endeavour. Still, there are some details that are missed by the author like the vyūha constructions which is supllemented with details from Kāmandakīya-nītisāra in chapter V of this dissertation.

Highlights of Tattvavivṛti

The commentary Tattvavivṛti upholds the quality of the text and furnishes lot of supplementary details to understand the text. It cites nīti texts and quotes profusely from Kośas like Amara, Medini, Vaijayanti, Halāyudha, Nirukta, Keśava, Trikāṇḍaśeṣa and the Nānārthakośa; Uktis like the Nyāyas, Parāśarokti, Nītiśāstroktis, Nītiviveka and

Bhārataśāstrokti; Kāmandakīya and Rāmāyaṇa, Dhanurveda and Manusmṛti and also cites from Kāvyas and Śruti texts. The commentator Sītārāma is verily a scholar of high standard as he explains the knotty portions of the text clearly citing proper authorities to prove his point. The etymological derivation of the names of the śastras and astras is quite interesting.

Lakṣyāṇi trayodaśa is an instance which proves that the commentator Sītārāma was well-versed in the Epic and Purāṇic literature from where he draws illustrations for the thirteen types of lakṣyas. He elaborates one verse (I. 38) of the text to bring out the type of the targets with epic and purāṇic instances.

Tattvavivṛti says:


In this, thirteen different type of lakṣyas are discussed. And Sītārāma illustrates them with suitable literary evidences. Some illustrations are not clear; there is a probability of lacuna in some places which makes it difficult to understand:

(i) Śabda–[...]–Daśaratha killing the munikumāra unintentionally because of śābdavedhibāṇa.

(ii) Sparśa–[...]–Arjuna saving his guru Droṇa from the clutches of an alligator.

(iii) Gandha–[...]–The fragrant bāṇas of Manmatha that causes lovers to pine for each other

(iv) Rasa–[...]–possibly refers to use of some lepa in the bāṇa; Babhruvāhana attacking Arjuna using madhvastra, probably honey (or poison ?) tipped arrows

(v) Dūra–[...]–attacking a target afar; Arjuna’s cutting of the head of Jayadratha and sending it to fall on the lap of his father Vṛddhakṣatra who was doing penance in a place far away from the battle-field.

(vi) Cala–[...]–moving target; Arjuna killing birds probably during Khāṇḍavadahana

(vii) Adarśana–[...]–attacking without seeing the taget; Tattvavivṛti refers to some asura in the pātāla getting killed by Rāma, though not seen by him.

(viii) Pṛṣṭha–[...]–attack a target stationed behind; Arjuna severing the hand of Bhūriśravas who was behind him in the battle-field.

(ix) Sthita–a target that is stationary–no suitable example is found in Tattvavivṛti

(x) Sthira–an immovable target–bhitti-bhedana

(xi) Bhramaṇa–could be an unsteady target like a fluttering patra or flag -patrabhedana

(xii) Pratibimba–[...] -attacking traget looking at its reflection; this possibly refers to Arjuna’s feat in Draupadi’s svayamvara of hitting the eye of fish seeing its reflection in the water below.

(xiii) Uddeśa–no illustration in Tattvavivṛti -might refer to the practice of hitting lakṣya for training sessions; the sthita, sthira and bhramaṇa could refer to different modes of dhanurvedābhyāsa that the warrior receives.

Mānasollāsa, in the Kārmukavinoda of the section on śastravidyāvinoda speaks of such different types of targets which the king enthralls the audience by the display of his expertise in the amphitheatre. It mentions about feats like śabdhavedha, matsyayantra, rādhāvedha, kharjūrivedana, patraccheda, yamalārjuna and malāvidyādhara. These echo the above mentioned trayodaśa lakṣyāṇi.

Scope of Future Research

Further research could be done in the direction of analysing the present and ancient military systems. A parallel presentation of the theories and practices could be attempted to scrutinise the journey of war-science to the 21st century from the hoary past. This might positively give distinct pointers to hone capabilities associated with the assessment, planning and implementation of war.

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