The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, how kings desirous of victory should, O bull of Bharata's race, lead their troops to battle even by offending slightly against the rules of righteousness!'
"Bhishma said: 'Some say that righteousness is made stable by truth; some, by reasoning: so me, by good behaviour; and some, by the application of means and contrivances. 1 I shall presently tell thee what the means and contrivances, productive of immediate fruit, are. Robbers, transgressing all wholesome bounds, very often become destroyers of property and religious merit. For resisting and restraining them. I shall tell thee what the contrivances are, as indicated in the scriptures. Listen to me as I speak of those means for the success of all acts. Both kinds of wisdom, straight and crooked, should be within call of the king. Though acquainted with it, he should not, however, apply that wisdom which is crooked (for injuring others). He may use it for
resisting the dangers that may overtake him. Enemies frequently injure a king by producing disunion (among his ministers or troops or allies or subjects). The king, conversant with deceit, may, by the aid of deceit, counteract those enemies. Leathern armour for protecting the bodies of elephants, armour of the same material for bovine bulls, bones, thorns, and keen-pointed weapons made of iron, coats of mail, yak-tails, sharp and well-tempered weapons, all kinds of armour, yellow and red, banners and standards of diverse hues, swords, and lances and scimitars of great sharpness and battle-axes, and spears and shields, should be manufactured and stored in abundance. The weapons should all be properly whetted. The soldiers should be inspired with courage and resolution. It is proper to set the troops in motion in the month of Chaitra or Agrahayana. The crops ripen about that time and water also does not become scarce. That time of the year, O Bharata, is neither very cold nor very hot. Troops should, therefore, be moved at that time. If the enemy, however, be overtaken by distress, troops should immediately be set in motion (without waiting for such a favourable time). These (two) are the best occasions for the motion of troops with a view to subjugate foes. That road which has abundance of water and grass along it, which is level and easy of march, should be adopted (in moving the troops). The regions lying near the road (on both its sides) should previously be well ascertained through spies possessed of skill and having an intimate knowledge of the woods. The troops must not, like animals, be marched through woody regions. Kings desirous of victory should, therefore, adopt good roads for marching their troops. In the van should be placed a division of brave men, endued with strength and high birth. As regards forts, that which has walls and a trench full of water on every side and only one entrance, is worthy of praise. In respect of invading foes, resistance may be offered from within it. In pitching the camp, a region lying near the woods is regarded as much better than one under the open sky by men conversant with war and possessed of military accomplishments. The camp should be pitched for the troops not far from such a wood. Pitching the camp at such a place, planting the foot-soldiers in a position of safety, and collision with the foe as soon as he comes, are the means for warding off danger and distress. Keeping the constellation called Ursa Major 1 behind them, the troops should fight taking up their stand like hills. By this means, one may vanquish even foes that are irresistible. The troops should be placed in such a position that the wind, the sun, and the planet Sukra 2 should blow and shine from behind them. As means for ensuing victory the wind is superior to the Sun, and the Sun is superior to Sukra, O Yudhishthira. Men conversant with war approve of a region that is not miry, not watery, not uneven, and not abounding with bricks and stone, as well-fitted for the operations of cavalry. A field that is free from mire and holes is fitted for car-warriors. A region that is overgrown with bushes and large trees and that is under water is fitted for elephant-warriors.
[paragraph continues] A region that has many inaccessible spots, that is overgrown with large trees and topes of cane bushes, as also a mountainous or woody tract, is well-fitted for the operations of infantry. An army, O Bharata, which has a large infantry force, is regarded very strong. An army in which cars and horsemen predominate is regarded to be very effective in a clear (unrainy) day. An army, again; in which footsoldiers and elephants predominate becomes effective in the rainy season. Having attended to these points (about the characters of the different kinds of forces and the manner of marching, quartering, and leading them), the king should turn his attention to the characteristics of place and time. That king, who having attended to all these considerations, sets out under a proper constellation and on an auspicious lunation, always succeeds in obtaining victory by properly leading his troops. No one should slay those that are asleep or thirsty or fatigued, or those whose accoutrements have fallen away, or one that has set his heart on final emancipation, 1 or one that is flying away, or one that is walking (unprepared) along a road, or one engaged in drinking or eating, or one that is mad, or one that is insane, or one that has been wounded mortally, or one that has been exceedingly weakened by his wounds, or one that is staying trustfully, or one that has begun any task without having been able to complete it, 2 or one that is skilled in some especial art (as mining, etc.), or one that is in grief, or one that goes out of the camp for procuring forage or fodder, or men who set up camps or are camp-followers, or those that wait at the gates of the king or of his ministers, or those that do menial services (unto the chiefs of the army), or those that are chiefs of such servants. Those amongst thy warriors that break the rank of foes, or rally thy retreating troops, should have their pay doubled and should be honoured by thee with food, drink, and seats equal to thy own. Those amongst such that are chiefs of ten soldiers should be made chiefs of a hundred. That heedful hero again (amongst them) who is the chief of a hundred soldiers should be made the chief of a thousand. Collecting together the principal warriors, they should be addressed, thus: 'Let us swear to conquer, and never to desert one another. Let those that are inspired with fear stay here. Let those also stay here that would cause their chiefs to be slain by themselves neglecting to act heroically in the press of battle. Let such men come as would never break away from battle or cause their own comrades to be slain. Protecting their own selves as also their comrades, they are certain to slay the enemy in fight. The consequence of flying away from battle are loss of wealth, death, infamy, and reproach. Disagreeable and cutting speeches have to be heard by that man who flies away from battle, who loses his lips and teeth, 3 who throws away all his weapons, or who suffers himself to be taken as a captive by the foe. Let such evil consequences always overtake the warriors of our foes. Those that fly away from battle are wretches among men. They simply swell the tale of
human beings on earth. For true manhood, however, they are neither here nor hereafter. Victorious foes, O sire, proceed cheerfully. Their praises recited the while by bards, in pursuit of the flying combatants. When enemies, coming to battle tarnish the fame of a person, the misery the latter feels is more poignant, I think, than that of death itself. Know that victory is the root of religious merit and of every kind of happiness. That which is regarded as the highest misery by cowards is cheerfully borne by those that are heroes. 1 Resolved upon acquiring heaven, we should fight, regardless of life itself, and determined to conquer or die, attain a blessed end in heaven. Having taken such an oath, and prepared to throwaway life itself, heroes should courageously rush against the enemy's ranks. In the van should be placed a division of men armed with swords and shields. In the rear should be placed the car-division. In the space intervening should be placed other classes of combatants. This should be the arrangement made for assailing the foe. Those combatants in the army that are veterans should fight in the van. They would protect their comrades behind them. Those amongst the army that would be regarded as foremost for strength and courage, should be placed in the van. The others should stand behind them. They that are inspired with fear should, with care, be comforted and encouraged. These weaker combatants should be placed on the field (without being withdrawn) for at least showing the number of the army (to the foe). 2 If the troops are few, they should be drawn close together for the fight. At times, if their leader wishes, the close array may be extended wide. When a small number of troops is to fight with a great army, the array called Suchimukha should be formed. 3 When a small force is engaged with a large one, the leader of the former may shake hands with his men and utter loud cries to effect, 'The enemy has broken! The enemy has broken!' Those among them that are endued with strength should resist the enemy, loudly unto their comrades, 'Fresh friends have arrived! Fearlessly strike at your foes!' Those that are in advance of the rest should utter loud shouts and make diverse kinds of noises, and should blow and beat Krakachas, cow-horns, drums, cymbals, and kettle-drums.'"
215:1 I do not understand how this is an answer to Yudhishthira's question. Nilakantha thinks that truth, in the above, means the ordinances in respect of Kshatriya duties; that Upapatti, which I understand means reasoning (or conclusion), indicates a disregard for life, for those ordinances lead to no other conclusion. Good behaviour, according to him, means encouraging the soldiers, speaking sweetly to them, and promoting the brave, etc. Means and contrivances consist in punishing desertion and cowardliness, etc. If Nilakantha be right, what Bhishma says is that battles (which, of course, are intended for the protection of righteousness) become possible in consequence of these four causes.
216:1 The seven stars of this constellation are supposed to be the seven great Rishis, viz., Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishtha.
217:1 Like Bhurisravas on the field of Kurukshetra.
217:2 Probably, one that has begun a sacrifice extending for a long period. The Yadava hero Akrura avoided challenges to battle by beginning a sacrifice. See Harivansa, the sections on the Syamantaka stone.
217:3 A form of expression meaning shameless.
218:1 This refers to death and physical pain, as explained by Nilakantha.
218:2 Skandha, Nilakantha thinks, means Samuha here.
218:3 i.e., the soldiers should be drawn up as to form a wedge-like appearance with a narrow head.
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