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Kautilya's Arthasastra: Military Aspects

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1. Army has been regarded from time immemorial as one of the essential instruments for the maintenance of a state. Kings, not only in India but throughout the ancient world, maintained well organised and well equipped armies both for the defence and expansion of their kingdoms. History is abounds in instances that whenever any ruler or state neglected the proper maintenance of their armies, unpleasant results in the form of loss of sovereignty or territory have occurred. The study of the organisation and administration of the army of a particular country in a particular period shall always give clues of its basic fabric. The topic under study deals with the role of Kautilya's Arthasastra in organising and administrating large armies and its relevance in today's world armies.

2. Kautilya's Arthasastra had never been forgotten in India and is often mentioned in later literature, sometimes eulogistically and sometimes derisively. But the text itself was not available in modern times until, dramatically, a full text on palm leaf in the grantha script , along with a fragment of an old commentary by Bhattasvamin, came into the hands of Dr R Shamasastry of Mysore in 1904 who was then the Librarian of the Mysore Government Oriental Library. He published not only the text (1909) and an English translation (1915) but also an index Verborum in three volumes listing every word in the text. Subsequently another original manuscript and some fragments, in a variety of scripts, were discovered as well as old commentaries of the text. An another author Dr RP Kangle of the University of Bombay devoted many years of painstaking edition and comparing the various texts and translations. His monumental three volume edition of the Arthashastra was first published between 1960 and 1965 with detailed note.[1]

3. Kautilya's Arthasastra is a treatise on artha and sastra. [3]. Artha is an all- embracing word with a variety of meanings in 1.7.6-7 , it is used in the sense of material well being; in 15.1.1 livelihood; in 1.4.3, economically productive activity, particularly in agriculture, cattle rearing and trade ; and, in general, wealth as in the 'wealth of nations.' Arthashastra is thus 'the science of politics as it is used in 1.1.1 or 1.4.3 .It is the art of governance in its widest sense. The subjects covered include administration; law, order and justice; taxation, revenue and expenditure; foreign policy; defence and war.

4. Kautilya's Arthasastra contains fifteen adhikaranas or books. Of these the first five deal with 'tantra' or the internal administration of the state. The next eight deals with 'avapa' or its relation with the neighbouring states and the last two are miscellaneous in character. The eighth adhikarna or book is concerned with vyasanas, that is, the calamities ,shortcomings or weakness affecting the various prakritis. It is necessary to overcome the shortcomings before any aggressive activity can be undertaken. The ninth adhikarna deals with preparation for war and describe the kinds of troops that should be mobilised for an expedition, the proper seasons for starting an expedition, the precautions to be taken and the dangers to be guarded against before starting and so on . The tenth book deals with fighting, and describes the camping of the army, its march, various modes of fighting, types of battle arrays and other topics.[4]Thus this study shall primarily concentrate on book eight, nine and ten in particular and other books in general.

5. The Legend 'K autilya '

: This mastermind, who could write a definitive treatise on economics and government at a time when large parts of the world was steeped in intellectual darkness? All sources of Indian tradition – Brahmanical , Buddist and jain-agree that Kautilya (also refer to as Vishnugupta in a stanza included at the end of the work) destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandra Gupta Maurya in the throne of Magadha. The name 'Kautilya' denotes that he is of the Kutila gotra ; 'Chanakya' shows him to be the son of Chanaka and 'Vishnugupta was his personal name[6] Kautilya then retired from active life and reflected on all that he had learnt during the process of overthrowing Dhana-Nanda. Since he found the earlier works on statecraft unsatisfactory in many respects, he composed his own definitive work presenting his ideas concerning the ways in which a ruler should gain power and maintain his authority. He was way ahead of his times in his thinking and covered every conceivable aspect on the art of politics and warfare, which could be imagined at the time he lived. For Kautilya, military strategy was an integral part of the science of polity and he made no distinction between military techniques and statecraft. Kautilya's Arthashastra is a practical work which could have been written only by one who had implemented the tactics which he preached. How to form alliances, how to organise and administer them, how to attack a powerful king, how to deal with revolts in rear, what tricks to play on gullible people- there is plenty of evidence in the text to indicate that the author was giving real life answers to every conceivable hypothetical situation.

6. Statecraft and battle craft have changed over the centuries due to the fast changing technology and increasing requirements of human beings. Kautilya a mastermind contributed immensely to the development of the same, his extraordinary arrangement of battle groups in war and administering them during peace keeping all extraneous factors in mind still remains a masterpiece for century armies.


Statement of Problem

7. To study the military aspects as enunciated by Kautilya in Arthashastra with a specific reference to organisation and administration and analyse its relevance for today's armies.

Justification of the Study

8. The Legend Kautilya in his renowned work 'ARTHASHASTRA' has dealt with various contemporary subjects which formed the basis of Chandragupta Maurya's rule and victories, in fact there is a general view that Kautilya's Arthashastra deals only with matters of foreign policy and economy. It is seldom realised that a great portion of this book does in fact, deal extensively with matters of military, he indeed consolidated all the prevailing grand strategy and tactics of those times and gave his expert opinion on the subjects, which ultimately led to victories of Chandragupta Maurya , who never lost a single campaign. It thus emerges that the brilliance of Kautilya was not only in diplomacy but also in warfare, but the fact that strikes out is that he was able to lay down methods to organise and manage the armed forces in a vast empire. The concepts of military administration and organisation in war and peace were inadvertently covered and spread out in all the adhikaranas, thus leading for topic of research for bringing forth, integrating and analysing those sublime aspects of organisation and administration which formed the bed rock of administering and organising large armies as of Mauryan empire, and at the same time analyse its relevance for 20th century armies.


9. This study concentrates on the relevance of Kautilya's teachings with regard to military aspects in general and organisational and administrational aspects in detail including the aspects of tactics, strategy. The study aims to focus on aspects, which are still relevant for the better management of a large army like ours.

10. Methods of Data Collection.

The information has been gathered from books, journals and the internet. The bibliography of sources is appended at the end of the text.


11. The subject under study shall be covered under following chapters: -

Chapter No

Chapter Heading






Organisation of Army


Organisation of Land Forces in Operations


Administration including Man Management and Welfare Aspects






12. Chandragupta maintained a large standing army , though he acquired a big army from his Nanda predecessors, he made impressive accretions to its strength, so that it stood at six lakh infantry,30000 horses,9000 elephants and 8000 chariots . An efficient war office supervised this powerful army. Its thirty members were divided into five member boards . The six boards were :

(a) Admirality.

(b) Transport.

(c) Commissariat and Army Service Infantry.

(d) Cavalry.

(e) Chariots.

(f) Elephants.

13. Kautilya had divided the army into four arms i.e Patti or Padati(Infantry), Asva(Cavalry), Ratha(Chariots) and Hast (Elephants) and hence it was named as Chaturangabala or the four limbed army headed by their respective Adyakshas or Superintendents[7]. They had Following roles to play:

(a) War Elephants. The king relied mainly on elephants for achieving victory in battles. They were the premium arm of the army and relied on their strength and shock effect to route the enemy from the battle field. They were required to destroy all arms of the service of the enemy and to break his battle formations. Kautilya has laid much emphasis on the use of elephants as a battle winning factor with following functions:

(i) Marching in front, making new roads.

(ii) Protecting the flanks.

(iii) Helping to cross water and climb and descend from mountains.

(iv) Breaking up enemy's unbroken ranks, trampling enemy's army.

(v) Causing terror, capturing battle positions.

(vi) Destroying ramparts, gates, and towers.

(b) The Cavalry. The cavalry being the most mobile arm in the army was used to influence the battle. It was tasked for the following.

(i) Reconnoitring battle grounds, camping sites, forests.

(ii) Securing level grounds, water supply sources.

(iii) Destroying enemies and protecting own supplies and reinforcements.

(iv) Extending the range of raids.

(v) Assault the enemy's battle formation.

(vi) Attack the enemy from the rear.

(vii) Cut off the enemy's line of supply.

(viii) Isolate the enemy's strong point.

(ix) Feign retreat so as to persuade the en to pursue, once the enemy lost its cohesion the cavalry was supposed to turn around and rout him.

(x) Restoration of sit by plugging gaps in own def made by enemy's assault.

(xi) Making the initial attack, penetrating or breaking through

(xii) Pursue the defeated en.

(xiii) Rallying the troops.[8]

(c) Chariots. The war chariots had lost their effectiveness particularly against well trained cavalry, Maurian army retained war chariots as an independent arm, and they were restricted to a single offensive role of launching a charge against infantry and a near static defensive role. The arm lacked versatility and was too sensitive to terrain; it could produce result only under ideal conditions. According to Kautilya the chariots were to act as the mainstay of the formation in offensive and defensive roles. Their main function was to break up the opponent's battle formation during offensive operations and repulse the enemy assault own formation and recapture lost ground by counter attack.

(d) Infantry. There were primarily two types of infantry in Mauryan times, archers and spearmen and both were employed together. Archers performed the role of close support weapons as well as artillery and spearman carried out close combat. The spearman carried a large shield for protection. Chandragupta Maurya had turned the infantry into large standing force like the other three arms in the service. Infantry was the main fighting arm as it had the ability to fight over all types of terrain during all seasons and both by day and night. They were also used to protect captured grounds. Apart from the tasks mentioned above, the infantry was also supposed to give close support to the other arms ie the Elephants and the Chariots[9].

Organizational Structure

14. Kautilya had emphasised on hierarchal system for administration of army. The structure of the defence forces at the highest levels was as shown below:

Commander -in- Chief

Senapati(Chief of Defence)

Chief Commanders of Chariot Corps Elephant Corps Cavalry Infantry

Divisional Commanders

28. The chief of the four wings were subordinates to the chief of defense. Under the Chief Commanders, there were Divisional commanders. There were other officers such as Camp Superintendents who were given specific functions during the march to battle. The structure below the level of Divisional Commanders is specific to battles.

29. Every division of the formation had its own distinguishing trumpet sound, flags and banners, these were be used to signal the commands to the division-dividing themselves in to sections, joining together ,halting, advancing, turning and attacking. Battalion commanders and Divisional Commanders were responsible for moblisation and demoblisation. Secret agents, prostitutes, artists and artisans and retired military officers were kept to watch over the loyalty or otherwise of soldiers.

Duties of Defence Officials

30. The Chief of Defence.

(a) Qualifications. The chief of defence was suppose to be an expert in the use of all kinds of weapons used in warfare, riding elephants, horses and chariots and he was conversant with the relative strength of the four wings of the army and how to deploy them in battle.

(b) Responsibilities.

(i) Discipline in armed forces.

(ii) Formations.

(iii) Strategy and Tactics.

(aa) Choose the best time to start an expedition.

(ab) Choose the best terrain and the best season for fighting.

(ac) Arrange the disposition of own forces (in the light of the enemies array).

(ad) Plan the breakup of the enemies rank.

(ae) Destroy enemies scattered troops.

(af) Besiege and destroy enemy forts.

31. The Chief Commander Of Elephant Corps. Responsibilities were:-

(a) Protection of elephants.

(b) Construction and Maintenance of stables, stalls.

(c) Training of elephants.

(d) Assigning tasks to them.

(e) Equipping them for war

32. The Chief Commanders Of Other Corps. Responsibilities Common to all were:

(a) Knowledge of different type of equipment needed for his wing and use of such equipment in war.

(b) Giving appropriate training.

(c) Keeping account of equipment and animals under his charge.

(d) Maintaining their equipment in good condition and repairing them when necessary.

(e) Supervising the work of all employed by him.

(f) Maintaining Discipline.

(g) Reporting to the king the state of readiness of his troops[10].

33. Other Commanders:-

(a) Commander of the King's Guard (Antarvamsika). This very high official, who ranked just below the seven highest paid officials including the senapati, must have been an army general, promoted after having held the appointment of director-general of his own arm. He was directly in line for promotion to senapati. He was in the pay scale of 24,000 pannas, in the same scale as the king's chamberlain and the chancellor. His importance was due to his responsibility for the security of the king and other members of the royal family in the palace. There must have been two other officers directly under his command who assisted him in ensuring the safety and security of the king and the royal family. One was the commander of the male guards who guarded the palace and the commander of the female archers who were detailed as immediate guards for the king's person and his personal quarters.

(b) Commander of the Marches (Antapala) The antapala was responsible for guarding the borders of the State. For this purpose border posts were established; their primary purpose was a check on entry of enemy agents, undesirable elements, collection of customs duties and control over the entry of foreigners. Kautilya advocates the establishment of only four border posts, one in each direction of the compass. The siting of border posts on naturally defensible terrain is advocated so these must have served a defensive purpose as well. The antapala must have been a military officer, possibly with detachments from the army for the protection of his posts.

(c) Durgapala. Durgapala (fort commanders) must have been army officers who also commanded detachments of regular troops which acted as garrisons, Kautilya mentions' at least one fortified city or capital of the State which needed a durgapala. In the text, he refers to other forts. sited to take advantage of naturally defensible terrain. Larger States obviously had more than one fort which acted as bases for military operations and offered refuge in case of need.

Types of Troops

33. Kautilya lists six types of troops which may become available to a king and examines the relative merits. The troops are maula (standing army), bhrta (local volunteers auxiliaries), serni (organized mercenaries), mitra ( trops of an ally), amrta ( enemy deserters) and atavi ( tribal levies). [11]

(a) Maula Troops.

These are the standing army of a state composed of soldiers who may have served the kings family for several generations. They are residents of the state and their interest coincides with those of the king. Their loyalty is assured, their weapons, equipments and the animals are the best the state can provide and their motivation and state of training is high. It is however only prudent that a proportion of this force be left behind for the security of the state. Kautilya recommends that around one- fourth of the maula troops be left in the capital. The maula troops should form a large part of an expeditionary force if :

(i) The enemy's troops are well trained.

(ii) The campaign is expected to be difficult and hard.

(iii) Other available troops are unreliable.

(iv) Surplus maula troops are available after fully meeting the requirements of the capital and the rest of the state.

(b) Bhrta troops.

These are locally raised volunteers engaged for the duration of the campaign. They are either veterans or first time volunteers, usually trained in the handling of personals weapons. By profession they were either farmers or small traders who decided to take part in a campaign. As natives they have a stake in the security and welfare of the state. Such troops are reverted back to their professions after the end of the campaign. Their employment is recommended if:-

(i) The enemy is weak and a large number of volunteers are available.

(ii) The campaign is expected to be easy with little actual fighting.

(iii) Success is more or less assured by the use of other means like covert operations or diplomatic efforts.

(c) Sreni troops.

These were trained, equipped and organised bodies of mercenaries under their own leaders who were available for hire to fight for a specified period of time. Their employment is recommended when:-

(i) The opposing forces consist of primarily mercenaries.

(ii) Much hard fighting is not anticipated.

(iii) Sreni troops are available in adequate numbers for the campaign as well as for the defence of the capital.

(d) Mitra troops.

These are troops loaned for a campaign by an ally. Their utilisation is advocated if :-

(i) Such troops are available in large numbers.

(ii) A short campaign is anticipated because of good chances of early success of diplomatic moves underway.

(iii) To oblige an ally.

(iv) It is proposed to deal at first with the irregular part of enemy's army, with his allies and his population centres, prior to attacking his main forces.

(e) Amrita troops.

These comprise enemy deserters and prisoners of war. They are not to be trusted but their employment is recommended if the eventual outcome of battle is of little consequence.

(f) Atavi Levies. These were bands of tribesmen from the jungle who join the king under the command of their own chiefs with the primary purpose of collecting loot. These bands and amitra troops are unreliable and Kautilya considers both categories as dangerous as a snake. The above two categories of troops may be employed if:-

(i) If they are available in large numbers to attack the enemy's cities and irregular troops.

(ii) It is proposed to delay the employment of the main force.

(iii) It is Politic to get rid of them because their loyalty is suspect. Atavi troops may be employed as guides or to counter the use of similar to levies by the enemy both category's of troops.

34. An army composed of units recruited from diverse sources and ready to fight for plunder may be an energetic army. On the other hand, an army whose soldiers belong to the same region, caste or profession is a mighty army; it will continue to fight even if its pay is in arrears and there is shortage of food. It shows bravery even in adverse conditions and its loyalty cannot be subverted.

35. A king should make efforts to obstruct the mobilisation of his opponent. His potential recruits should be intercepted and if necessary recruited into own army. Such personnel should however be discharged at the right time but well before the commencement of actual operations.


36. A close analysis of Organisational structure propounded by Kautilya in his Arthashastra is a sterling resemblance of what is followed in Indian Army with slight modifications. And it is clearly evident that the basic finer intricacies of the organisation remained the same though the gross structure underwent a change keeping latest technological development in mind.

37. Kautilya was way ahead in his times with clear vision and military thinking thus created an organisational structure catering for civil supremacy and ensured effective coordination between various components of the army which is still relevant at large. Chandra Gupta Maurya had a large standing army to manage similar to that of Indian Army and without a sound organisational structure it would have been virtually impossible to achieve victories which he had set for himself.

38. Kautilya had clearly categorised his army into various corps i.e Cavalry, Elephants, Infantry, Chariots etc with a clear division of roles in war, which is very much akin to our present system of various line directorates in our armies.

He had also formed clear command and control structure with minimum scope for ambiguity. He had emphasised on Hierarchical system Command and control in armed forces some 2300 years ago which is still relevant in today's times.

39. The organisation of the Maruan army was little different than the one followed in our army today. Though a striking similarity is the presence of the adyakshas that can be related to our line directorate which are too led by a Lieutenant General. The rank structure is not restricted to any arm but common throughout the army. To elaborate, the pattika was a rank not belonging to a particular arm but he commanded elements of all the arms. This helped in better command and control. This also ensured of a clear demarcation of command structure which was irrespective of the arm, this practice is still followed.

40. When coming to appointment of heads of departments, Kautilya had ensured that they had requisite degree of qualifications for tenanting that kind of appointment and had a clear defined standards and roles for all of them, which is still largely relevant in our armies where selection processes ensure that the said officer had undergone necessary courses and has a requisite skills suitable for tenanting that kind of appointment.

41. Kautilya had imposed various degrees of confidence in terms of loyalty and integrity depending upon the community of troops, probably a relevant thing in those times, but in present times it is debatable whether it is relevant or not as for some community specific armies it may hold good but in Indian context, though the Indian army still have pure regiments based on caste system but the pedestal of loyalty and integrity attributed to each community is the same thus this particular thing is not relevant to Indian Army of present times.

42. Kautilya proposed to have a standing core army consisting of officials down to the Pattika and the regular soldiers to be recruited for the period of war. Specialists like elephant riders archers etc were also recommended to be retained as permanent soldiers. Though India has a large standing army which is used both for protection of its borders and for launching offensive. There is no differentiation in the kind of troops used for both the tasks as envisaged by Kautilya. Probably We can have smaller standing army which can be well trained and equipped with the best of the equipment. On the other hand we can have a larger component of Territorial Army that can be mobilised before an operation. The defensive formation can have Territorial Army and some of the regular troops where as the strike formations can be composed of regular troops. This will help in reducing the defence expenditure and the money saved could be better used for equipping and training of the regular troops.


"Brave men, giving up their lives in good battles, reach in one moment even beyond those (worlds), which Brahmins, desirous of heaven, reach by a large number of sacrifices, by penance and by many gifts to worthy persons"- Kautilya

43. Kauilya gives an exhaustive description of how to arrange the land forces for a set piece of battle, starting with positioning various kinds of forces at various echelons of battle field after giving due considerations to planning parameters. War fighting as propounded by Kautilya has an uncanny resemblance to the methodology in practice today. He was a believer of a strong central force along with two wings which can manoeuvre and the importance of reserves. He is perhaps one of the first thinkers to suggest a tactical grouping of forces with a clear cut commander. This helped in easier organisation of the forces as well as downsizing the army when not in need.

Tactical Grouping.

44. Grouping of arms for battle at the lowest level has been practised in ancient India since epic times. Kautilya suggested a standard form of grouping of all arms, for the first time ever. The suggested groups corresponds to a remarkable degree with the current practice in modern armies adopted well after WW II . The lowest grouping was at platoon level, a group now referred to as combat team. Because of this remarkable similarity, the modern designations of combat team, combat group and combat command.[12] Each horse was supported by six foot soldiers three of which were archers (Pratiyodhas) and the remaining three were armed with a sword, spear and a shield (Pratigopas) Initially the archers were placed in front so that they could exploit the range of their weapons and as the battle came to close contact, they would recede and the pratigopas would come in front.

45. Patti. Each elephant or a chariot enjoyed the support of five horse groups. This entire group including an elephant / chariot, five horses, 15 Pratiyodhas and 15 Pratigopas formed the lowest tactically grouped sub unit called the Patti. The patti was commanded by a Pattika.

46. Sena. Consisted of ten patties and was commanded by a Senapati or a battle group under a battalion/regimental commander and ten or less senas formed a brigade commanded by a Nayaka.

47. Intervals .There are two sets of intervals or gaps between the files and ranks laid down by Kautilya, one is a narrow gap with the proviso to increase it by double or three times and the other is a larger gap between archers which extends to other arms. It is possible that smaller gaps are for forming up on ceremonial and drill purposes (close order) were archers do not need extended space and larger intervals (open order) for battle information. In a battle formation adopted in an open order the minimum gap between two files of archers was one dhanu(bow) of five hastas(forearm) or 2.5 mtrs, between horses it was three dhanu(7.5 mtrs) and between elephants or Chariots it was five dhanus(12.5 mtrs). The interval between the centre and a wing as well as a wing and its flank was also 12.5 mtr. Kautilya does not indicate the gap to be maintained between ranks but it may safely be assumed that the interval between sub ranks,ie. Within a rank of elephant or chariots, i.e between a sub rank of patiyodhas and a horse would be three dhanus and between ranks, i.e the rare sub rank or padagopas of the front rank and the front sub rank of patiyodhas of the second or centre rank would be five dhanus(12.5 mtrs). These intervals could be increased in accordance with the ground available for battle and the size of the force to be deployed.

48. Reserves. Reserves held an important place in the battle formations as per Kautilya, reserves were directly involved in shaping of the battle field and were placed directly under the control of the king. A firm base was to be established on a suitable terrain approximately 600 -700 m behind the army and it was here that the reserves were placed. The reserve consisted of about one third of the best available troops. The king was advised to be stationed at this firm base after the actual fighting commenced and be in a position to influence the battle by sending reinforcement when and where needed and to make the firm base as a rallying point in case of a reverse.[13]

49. Standard battle formation (vyuha). A standard brigade group was formed for battle is referred to as a standard battle formation or array. Additions and alterations were made to it, according to a formula, in order to accommodate additional troops available for deployment. The standard brigade group deployed five senas each which contained nine to ten pattis; total troops deployed were:

(a) Elephants or Chariots : 45

(b) Horses : 225

(c) Patiyodhas(archers) : 675

(d) Padagopas(foot soldiers) : 675

This force of five senas formed up in five groups i.e centre (urasysa) in middle, the right wing (kaksa) and the left wing (kaksa) after an interval of 12.5 mtrs on both sides and after another similar interval the right flank and the left flank (paksa). Each of these groups or senas formed up for battle in three ranks of three elephants each (three patti). Each elephant had three horse groups in front and two behind it with standard deployment as illustrated earlier. Thus making a total of 27 archers a head of each sena. The archers could effectively utilise their long range capability before close contact was made with the enemy and the change over placed them with the spearmen behind the horses, just prior to the two sides engaged in close combat. However in such a deployment the interval between elephants was at around nine dhanus or 22 mtrs which is tactically unsound and out of supporting range of neighbouring elephants , in any case Kautilya places the suitable gap between elephants at 12.5 mtrs. The only solution seems to be to form up the three horses in front of each elephant in two ranks or one up, i.e one horse group advanced to a sub rank ahead of two horse groups. This would reduce the interval between elephants to five dhanus but the new front rank of the battle formation would have only nine archers in the front rank; the other 18 archers continue to have clear field of fire and can engage the enemy before close contact. An added advantage is that when the archers and the spearmen in the front rank are changing places, they do so under supporting fire of the second rank. The basic or standard battle formation, adopted by a nayaka's command, occupied a frontage of 275 mtrs with a depth of around 200 mtrs. Each nayaka left two senas from his command as reserve behind the battle field and another two in the capital. Thus each sena of ten pattis was expected to field nine full strength senas in battle. This was absolutely sensible and practical The deployment is as shown under schematically :-

50. Platoon /Patti

Patiyodhas (3 x Archers)


Padagopas (3 x Spearman)

Total strength of platoon: 38 Soldiers

Archer - 15, Spear man -15, Horses-5, Elephants -1(3 soldiers)

51. Battalion/ Combat Group- Commanded by Senapati

Combat Team (3 x Platoons)

Combat Team (3 x platoons)

Combat Team(3x platoons)

Total strength of Battalion: 342 Soldiers

Archer - 135, Spear man -135, Horses-45, Elephants -9.

52. Brigade/Combat Command – Commanded by Nayaka

5 Dhanush

12.5 M

5 X Battalions

Each Battalion with 9 Platoons/Pattis

Total Strength of brigade /Combat command

(a) Archers – 675

(b) Spearmen – 675

(c) Horses – 225

(d) Elephants – 45

53. Mixed Formations. In a battle formation, the infantry was not employed as an independent arm but the cavalry could be so employed. When employed independently then, the six infantry escorts for each horse were passed to the elephants or chariots concerned for its protection. A mixed formation may have only chariots combat teams holding the centre chariot teams may be deployed as the two wings and the cavalry placed on the two flanks.


54. In his inimitable way Kautilya warned against missing the wood for the trees and winning the battles at the cost of war. In books VIII to XIV all important facets of warfare have been deliberated upon by Kautilya. He has suggested ways and means of outwitting, outreaching and outmanoeuvring the enemy at both strategic and tactical levels in offensive as well as defensive operations.

55. Strategy. Strategy should be evolved after appreciating all important factors to include territory (terrain), army (relative strength), season (time), build up, likely loss/ gain and finally the overall objective. According to Kautilya power, time and place are interdependent and no one factor can be assumed to be more important than the other. He, therefore, suggests, "Having ascertained power, place, time, profit and danger of loss of men and material, march with full force; otherwise he (king) should keep quiet".[14]

56. Of enthusiasm and power, Kautilya clearly votes for power because as per him, "He who is possessed of power, by the sheer force of his power, overpowers another who is merely enthusiastic".[15] In other words he simply tells us that wars cannot be won without sheer power.

57. Equally apt are his recommendations for preferable terrain for manoeuvre and time of invasion. Basically he stressed that the time of invasion and terrain of operation should accrue to you freedom of manoeuvre and maximum advantage while denying the same to the enemy. In other words you should fight battles at a place and time of your choosing and not that of the enemy. A strategy which applies in its entirety even today.

58. Types and Techniques of Warfare. Kautilya advocates three types of warfares viz Prakash, Tusnim and Kuta Yudha [16].

(a) Prakash Yudha. It is the open warfare fought during the day light hours in fixed positions at prefixed time . It is to be resorted to when the conqueror has clear superiority of strength and terrain and seasons are favourable. It is considered righteous.

(b) Tusnim Yudha. It is silent fighting or war by propaganda, subversion and sabotage; in other word equivalent of psychological warfare of modern day.

(c) Kuta Yudha. It is concealed fighting with no holds barred; quite akin to what happens these days .

59. Planning Consideration for Military Expedition.

(a) Terrain. Due considerations was to be given to this ever important factor especially from the point of view of employment of infantry, horses, elephants and chariots. For defensive operations he recommends enhancing the defence potential by judicious use of a mountain or river at the back.32 He advises that even, uneven, complex nature of ground in the front, sides and rear should be examined.[17]

(b) Season and Time. Kautilya lays great stress on selection of season and timing of an expedition. He recommends that the monsoon season should be avoided so as to enable seizure of ripe but un harvested crops. But the season must agree with the terrain where fighting is expected. He is probably the first person to advocate a campaign in the rainy season if the terrain is suitable for manoeuvre of his own army and which is of reverse nature for his enemy army[18] . His recommendations tally uncannily with our likely campaigning seasons as given below:-

(i) Dec- Jan. Long duration campaign can be undertaken.

(ii) Feb. Campaign of small duration.

(iii) Mar. Short duration campaign.

(c) Strengthof Enemy. The aggressor must be superior to the enemy in all fields before he undertakes an expedition. It is, therefore, essential that he knows the strength and weaknesses of the enemy. The attacker must have an overwhelming superiority; equally true today too.

(d) Balanced Disposition. Kautilya has given detailed instruction for deploying troops and for ensuring balance disposition. He recommends that after detaching troops earmarked as reserve, one third of the best infantry, cavalry and elephants should be kept in front and two thirds on the flanks. Weak troops should be located in such a manner that they do not face the brunt of initial assaults. An advise being followed in letter and spirit even today.

(e) Protection of Rear and Base. He recommends one third of the force for the protection of rear[19]. He enjoins, "He who captures the rear areas gains a crucial advantage" He also states, "one whose base is undefended is easy to be subdued". And lastly his concern for the security of rear is manifest in his warning, "of the two things, slight annoyance in the rear and considerable profit in the front, slight annoyance in the rear is serious." No commander can ignore this advice even in the present day context.

60. Manoeuvre. By better Manoeuvre and mobility, the enemy should be harassed at night and attacked during day when he is tired or vice versa. When frontal attack is unfavourable , he should strike it from behind[20]. Enemy troops should be ambushed in desert, marshes, mountains, valleys and when they are in unsuitable formations. Suitable formations viz cart, pin, crocodile, diamond should be adopted depending on the necessity and ground so as to ensure high mobility and protection. He recommends that a fit and well organised army can march two yojnas (approx 11 miles) in one day; a trifle slow as compared to today's Army. Hence AL Basham is right in saying, "Mauryan Army was slow and ponderous". If the enemy is denying a river crossing , by rapid movements, crossing can be effected elsewhere and the enemy ambushed.


61. The organisation of land forces as proposed by Kautilya has an uncanny resemblance to the methodology in practice today with slight modifications due to tremendous progress in the field of technology and its profound effect in bringing in revolution in military affairs , but the basic fabric of organising or forming forces for war with tactical deliberations in mind remain the same .

62. Kautilya's belief in a strong central force along with two wings which can manoeuvre is still the basic tactics with many strike formations and it holds good in today's battle field. He is perhaps one of the first thinkers to suggest a tactical grouping of forces with a clear cut commander. And he is one of the first ones to propagate downsizing the army when not in need is exactly what is being followed by some of the modern armies.

63. Kautilya suggested a standard form of grouping of all arms, for the first time ever. The suggested grouping corresponds to a remarkable degree with the current practice in modern armies especially with reference to mechanised formations. The lowest grouping was at platoon level, a group now referred to as combat team. Because of this remarkable similarity, the modern designations of combat team, combat group and combat command. The advantage gained by a modular organisation of army helped in easy augmentation of the forces easily with minimum change in command and control structure. However due to the small range of weapons, the frontages covered by the formations were small and the forces lacked the mobility of today's forces. Because of these reasons, the nature of war was more of attritionist in nature. But kautilya did not appreciate use of independent manoeuvre arm in battle field, he deliberated upon composite arms as was in practice till WW I at large. Though he appreciated the importance of manoeuvre and relentlessly followed it, but application of arm specific roles he did not deliberate. He had allotted the primary offensive role to the elephant corps which was slow and vulnerable rather than making use of cavalry which was much more agile and could have brought in greater psychological distress to enemy, if employed concentrated. Though the cavalry was sometimes employed in independent task but unfortunately in penny packets this prevented it from utilising its mobility or shock action.

64. Kautilya's organisation of forces in form of pattis, sena etc are still the basis of modern armies organisation in form of platoons, battalions, brigades etc. and the basic intricacies of their occupation of battle space in terms of area remains the same. He has emphasised on the importance of reserves to win battles and to restore situations which no commander of today's forces can still afford to overlook.

65. The standard battle formations as propounded by kautilya is a starkling resemblance of today's practice in vogue with various grouping and regrouping options in terms of combat teams, groups and commands with its various other entities and the kind of deliberations which kautilya had done in terms of employment of each arm and their positioning in a formation and their intervals keeping their effective range are still the basis of any operational planning in any kind of formation in battle field with their clear cut command and control structure .

66. Kautilya was way ahead in strategic thinking he has rightly brought out that the Strategy should be evolved after appreciating all important factors such as terrain, relative strength, time, build up, likely loss/ gain and finally the overall objective. He has rightly evolved the relationship between power, time and place and for any campaign planning which are still very much relevant in any kind of operational planning without which no successful operational plans can be conceived.

67. Maj Gen Sandhu in his book "Military History of Ancient India" has been critical to the tactical approach of arthashastra. He says that the mauryan fascination for elephants as a battle winning arm caused neglect to the use of cavalry which was subsequently used in penny packets thus not utilising their mobility and manoeuvre capability.[21] The dominance of elephants started declining when the foreign invaders used the mobility of the cavalry to the hilt and started dominating the battle scene. The elephant dominance finally died with the emergence of the gun powder which caused such panic among elephants that they caused more panic to own troops.

68. As regards to type of warfare he had advocated open, silent and concealed warfare which are still relevant depending upon the foreign policy of the government


"The secret task of a king is to strive for the welfare of his people incessantly. The administration of the kingdom is his religious duty. His greatest gift would be to treat all as equals." -Kautilya

69. Only efficient administrative machinery can maintain a strong and vigilant army. Much of its striking power and upkeep depends on the proper and prompt feeding of its immediate requirements, and the capability of the concerned authorities to visualize its future needs.

70. Kautilya in his Arthashastra gave an excellent and a detailed account of administering forces both in war and in peace keeping both tangible and intangible factors in mind which ultimately led to flawless administration of a large Mauriyan during Chandragupta Mauryan era where the empire reigned from the Bengal in the East till the present day Afghanistan in the West.

71. War Office. The formidable Mauryan force was efficiently managed by a war office. It consisted of 30 members, divided into six boards of five each. The six departments were: Admiralty, Commissariat which comprised transport and Army Service including provision of drummers, mechanics, foragers and camp followers, infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants. The Military Department was the most important department. The expenditure on the armed forces was as high as 50% of the central revenue. Consequently there was a separate department dealing with war finances also. Of the seven limbs of the state viz; the king, ministers, territory, forts, treasury, the army and the allies – the army was regarded as the most important. Army was, therefore, organized on the most scientific lines. The Sachiva (war secretary) controlled the entire, organisation which included the Navy also under Navadhyaksa (Superintendent of ships). All policy decisions preceded a detailed debate in the war office[22]

72. The administrative support was provided to the army by departments of the state whose primary functions pertained to civil administration. Thus weapons and equipment for the army were provided by a chief of ordnance under the director of manufacturing. And under the command of a hastiadyaksha a director for elephant forests performed the task of conservation of forests and provided elephants for military and non military purposes. The labour corps arranged for the evacuation of causalities, retrieval of weapons and equipment, supply of rations, fodder and fuel and possibly provides medical cover. But this was not a department of the army.

73. Labour Corps (Prasastr). The Mauryas were the first to raise a separate labour corps. Chandragupta removed from the infantry those personnel who performed non-military tasks this department functioned under the civil administration. They met requirements for the army as well as other departments of the government; perhaps they met the need of public as well. A labour corps, whose primary task was to provide labour for all civil and military needs, also acted as a carrying agency for the army during campaigns. It carried spare weapons, equipment, accoutrement, rations and fodder. The actual carrying agency was the bullock carts of the commissariat. Military requirement and weapons were drawn from stores of the civil administration and probably stocked in the advanced base or the nearest fort. From there the carry forward was co-ordinated between the commanders of the bullock trains and the labour corps they were also tasked for making of roads and erection of camps. In order to raise that arm's standards of efficiency and morale and placed them into a separate labour corps. Kautilya allots responsibility to this corps for performing administrative services for the army. The prasastr must have been made responsible for drawing military requirements like weapons, equipment, rations, fodder and fuel for the army from stores held by the civil administration and their transport to the advance base. Rations for men and animals were issued by the labour corps on a monthly basis but fresh supplies must have been collected and delivered more frequently. The corps also provided physicians and surgeons behind the battlefield and evacuated casualties. The prasastr was also responsible for the retrieval of weapons and equipment from the battlefield and construction on camps, roads, bridges and water supply from water sources.[23]

74. Chief of Ordnance (Ayudhagaradhyaksha). The chief of ordnance was required to establish and run factories for the manufacture of offensive and defensive machines (yantras) for warfare. He arranged the manufacture of weapons for all four arms, body armour for their personnel and armour for war elephant, war horses and chariot horses. Armour for animals was manufactured for only a proportion of the authorised establishment. Workers manufactured weapons on a contract basis, so the adhyaksha was required to fix the amount to be paid for each item and the time that was to be taken in its manufacture. Each item was inspected and stamped with the king's seal before its acceptance into stores. The provision of training devices, equipment and accoutrement for all four arms was also his responsibility.

75. He was responsible for the proper storage and preservation of stores as well as for their regular cleaning, airing and exposure to the sun to prevent deterioration and damage. A regular inventory of item in storage was required to be kept showing demands, issues, and balances. He was also required to work out wastage rates in battle, life in storage and average life of the weapon issued as well as the cost of its, replacement. He was required to carry out periodic inspection of store rooms and their contents and ensure their security.

76. The adhyaksha was expected to be personally familiar with each class and type of weapon in use in the service so that he could identify it by its appearance and characteristics. He was required to maintain a central record of the numbers of weapons by types held in storage, their sources of supply, cost in each case and where it was stored.

77. It is difficult to say whether there was a separate peace organisation applicable to the standing army. All officials of the army - adhyakshas, nayaks, senapatis and possibly even pattikas were employed in the standing army which was not a large organisation. It consisted of war elephants and their administrative staff under the command and control of the hastadhyaksha, all horses which belonged to the state were on the establishment of the department including riders and administrative staff were held under the asvadhyaksha. War chariots with only its administrative component were under the rathadyakha. With regard to the infantry its regular component in the army was small. It consisted of the king's guard and probably a small cadre of pattikas and senapatis. The commander of the king's guards was however a very important and high ranking official, ranking below the chief of staff and above the directors general of arms. His duties combined those of the commander of a body guard, with comptroller – general of the palace.[24]

78. Nayakas and senapatis were responsible for mobilising their command before a campaign and demobilising them after its conclusion. While on service the senapati was primarily responsible for ensuring correct and timely payment of dues to the men under his command. He was also responsible for properly equipping them with weapons and other authorised equipment prior to a campaign. He arranged to withdraw the equipment on demobilisation and it to the stores of director general of ordnance. The proper issue of rations from the labour corps was also his responsibility. The dry rations were issued on a monthly basis and fresh rations probably on a daily basis. The prescribed rations appear to have been based on different work months i.e. 32 days for infantry ,35 for horses, and 40 for elephants[25]. The nayakas were responsible to ensure that the senapatis under their command worked properly. Thus these two levels of command were entrusted with recruitment, training, welfare, discipline and the conduct of men under their command. Other necessities like clothing and armour were provided by the men themselves; for this purpose the king's agents sold goods on credit to the men on enrolment on the condition that they paid back twice the cost of the items purchased at the end of the campaign. This practice enabled the king to recover a small part of his cost of the campaign.

Man Management Aspects

79. Recruitment. Kautilya advises that only men of tested loyalty should be taken into the army. He adds that Kshatriyas, with inherited loyalty to the king, are to be preferred but their numbers are likely to be insufficient to meet the full requirement. An army, larger in numbers, from the other three classes, would be equally effective. Recruits from all classes should be strong, obedient, tough and sturdy, used to hardship and skilled at arms. Should veterans of earlier campaigns be available, they are to be preferred to raw recruits. Native soldiers should be given preference over volunteers from outside the State.[26]

80. Kautilya's discussion of the types of troops available indicates that rarely did regular soldiers (maula troops) form the major part of a campaigning army. A large part of the infantry in a campaign was volunteers on a short term engagement (bhrta troops), only the king's guards and a few other infantry units needed for permanent duties were maula troops. In Kautilya's lists of personnel (authorised establishment tables) for looking after elephants and horses, elephant warriors and cavalry sowars do not figure, nor do chariot warriors. It is likely that, apart from the cavalry where a large proportion of sowars may have belonged to the regular army, many of the chariot warriors and elephant warriors were volunteers engaged for the campaign (bhrta troops) and received little additional training apart from proficiency with their weapons which they were expected to possess on enrolment. At best these arms had a small cadre of seasoned fighters in the maula army they were retained to supervise irregulars when inducted. Sreni and mitra troops joined the campaign in already formed units under their own commanders. Thus bhrta troops enrolled prior to a campaign formed the major part of an army on 'active service'. Sreni troops were taken into service to make up shortfalls but the others - mitra, amitra and atavi troops were considered a bonus which swelled numbers and helped make a brave show.

81. Another source for recruitment is indicated through ayudhiya villages which were obliged to provide a fixed number of recruits or trained soldiers to the army in lieu of land revenue. This was, even by Kautilya' time, an old practice. Soldiers on retirement were settled on newly reclaimed land. They were exempt from all tax but were obliged to send a fixes quota of recruits annually to the army. A practice which helped defray a small part of the cost of keeping a regular army was senabhathan. This was a tax levied on citizens of an area or locality where troops were stationed for a special purpose. This was usually a punitive tax imposed because of a criminal act like looting of a caravan. The purpose was to prevent recurrence, and the temporary stationing of a detachment of troops served as a warning and a deterrent.

82. Ideal Army.

Kautilya refers to a word 'Calamity'[27] which means anything that weakens a constituent of a state and army. Kautilya identifies 34 such different calamities which affect adversely the fighting capacity of army and they are:

(a) Not given due honours

(b) Not paid

(c) Not healthy

(d) Tired after a long march.

(e) Exhausted after a battle.

(f) Depleted in strength.

(g) Having suffered a setback.

(h) After defeat in a frontal battle.

(i) Having to fight in an unsuitable terrain.

(j) Having to fight in an unsuitable season.

(k) Low in morale.

(l) Abandoned by its commander.

(m) Having women in it.

(n) With traitor in it.

(o) An angry one.

(p) A disunited one.

(q) One which has run away from battle.

(r) A dispersed one.

(s) One fighting alongside another.

(t) One absorbed in another force.

(u) One obstructed.

(v) One encircled.

(w) One cut off from supplies.

(x) One cut off from reinforcements.

(y) One demobilised and dispersed.

(z) One threatened by an army in rear.

(aa) One whose base has been weakened.

(bb) One without leaders.

83. Military Intelligence Council

. The king maintained control over the army by a variety of means. The Chiefs of the army were paid well so that they could not be tempted by the bribes of the enemy and could afford to pay their men well. Their integrity was tested particularly to weed out the cowardly. They were kept under constant surveillance through clandestine agents, Kautilya classified these agents in two groups samathas(local agents)and sancaris(wandering spies),[29]

84. Pay and Allowances

Kautilya attaches great importance to the necessity for regular and liberal scales of pay for the army. According to him, an army must feel that it enjoyed an honourable place in society otherwise its morale would suffer and it could not become an efficient army. It was the duty of nayakas (brigade commanders) to ensure that the men were being paid regularly and that correct scales of rations for the men and rations and fodder for the animals were being drawn and correctly utilised. The actual disbursement of dues was carried out under the supervision of senapatis (battalion commanders). Men and animals were issued 32 days rations every month in order to make up minor shortfalls and give senapatis a little reserve to be used at their discretion for extra issues when and where needed.[30]

85. Scales of Pay. Kautilya suggested various scales of pay for officials in the state in which few grades of the army are included, keeping into account the level of knowledge and expertise in the field allotted. He further divided the pay scales into the Higher Grades, the Middle Grades and the Lower Grades. The pay scales and their rationale are as listed below[31].

(a) The Senapati (Dandpala) was in the highest scale which was paid to the queen and the crown prince - 48,000 pannas a year.

(b) Antarvamsika (Commander of the king's guards) second highest scale 24,000 pannas a year.

(c) The commandant of the capital and antapala (commander of the marches) ­-12,000 pannas a year.

(d) Directors-General (of each arm) - 8,000 pannas a year.

(e) Nayakas (commander of brigades) - 4,000 pannas a year.

(f) Senapati (battalion commander) - 2,000 pannas a year.

(g) Junior officer, commander of a patti (pattipati) - 1,000 pannas a year.

(h) Instructors in each arm and specialist soldiers (possibly cavalry soldiers) ­- 500 pannas a year.

(j) Soldiers - 200 pannas a year.

86. A part of the salary could be paid in produce. Personnel were also, at times, allotted land in lieu of a part of the salary. Land was to be farmed under arrangements of the employee, it was a personal allotment which could neither be sold 'nor inherited. It reverted to the State on the demise of the alloTtee.

87. Death Benefits. The wife of a soldier who died on duty continued to draw his full pay and allowances. She received presents from the state on special occasions. Her children received assistance until they attained their majority or began to earn a living.[32]

88. Awards. Before joining the battle the Chief of Staff would announce cash awards for killing enemy personnel. This would vary from 100,000 pannas for killing the enemy king, prince Chief of staff or a Nayak to 20 pannas for killing an enemy soldier. Recommendations of special awards by the Pattika, nayakas who witnessed an act of bravery was also in vogue.


89. It is clearly evident from the above proposition that without efficient administrative machinery in place it would have been virtually impossible to administer such a huge army as of Chandra Gupta Maurya. Kautilya had gone into great detail on aspects of administration of forces both in peace & in war with clear cut departmentalisation and with clear responsibility. He had kept all tangible and intangible factors in mind before forming an administrative mechanism which affects the war fighting capabilities of field forces which holds good even in today.

90. The establishment of the war office in that era shows the remarkable vision which Kautilya had for administering forces. Kautilya realised that war waging was a state effort and not of the army alone, thus the formation of a war office for planning and coordination on military matters and ensured that all the organisation including civil organisations work in perfect harmony to ensure the success. It is interesting to note that Kautilya had the foresight to have a department of military finance which is a requirement even today considering the huge amount of money and the urgency required especially in times of war.

91. The credit of forming a labour corps goes to Kautilya who removed those personnel from the infantry who performed non-military tasks (fighting) and converted them into labour corps. Probably this is the genesis of an idea of creating various services departments in defence forces to support field forces in war though in those times these departments functioned under the civil administration. The labour corps was on the first of its kind in the country and in fact one with a few parallels in the world. The labour corps was a combination of the Corps of Engineer, the Army Services Corps, the Army Medical Corps and the Pioneers, rolled into one, however with one major difference that they were all part of the civilian government. To draw a parallel it would be a combination of the, the Food Cooperation of India, Ministry of surface transport, the Ministry of Health and the Labour ministry actively participating in the war while looking after their civil work as well. At the same time the above mentioned corps of the Indian army would have been reduced thus reducing the size of the army.

92. The services branch was a lot different than ours because as opposed to ours they had the services being led by the civilian department. Now these were not civilians which were a part of the ministry of defence, but civilian who formed part of the civilian government and assisted the military in times of operations. This arrangement ensured a cut in the size of the army as opposed to ours which has very big teeth to tail ratio. It is also pertinent to note that never did the civil organisation fail the army as war was seen as a national effort rather than a job for the army. Such services departments are still relevant today though with various names and roles.

93. Kautilya had rightly envisaged the administrative functions under the particular adyakshas who are responsible for their particular arms administration which is akin to today's line directorates. Then line directorates were responsible for the recruitment, equipping and training of their particular arm. Today in the Indian army we have the line directorate looking after the policy and the manpower related issues. The advantages of Kautilya's arrangement should be taken in view of the fact that the Mauryans did not have a large standing army, thus it was the adyakshas who were responsible for drawing of the stores from the ordnance and storing it for issue to the troops as and when they are mustered. As far as their training is concerned, probably the line directorate would have only concentrated on the aspect of personal skills while the joint training was conducted under the aegis of the commander ie the pattika. And for material requirements creation of separate dep

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