INDIC LAWS OF WAR – By Vivek Agnihotri



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In Indian polity, there were two kinds of wars – Dharmayuddha and Kutayuddha. There were three kinds of victories in a war. Dharmavijay, Lobhavijay and Asuravijay. Dharma-Vijay is the outcome of Dharmayuddha. The inscription from Asoka’s XIII edict says ‘conquest by morality’. According to Kautilya (Chanakya), Dharma-Vijay meant that the conquering king would avoid war as far as possible and establish his overlordship with peaceful and diplomatic relations with other states.

In Kutayuddha, there are two kinds of victories. In Lobha-Vijay the aim was to capture some territory and the treasury of the enemy but the kingdom remained with the enemy.

In Asura-Vijay, the enemy is captured and deprived of his kingdom. Often, he was killed along with his family and ministers and his country reduced to ashes. In Asuravvijay, Maya is used as a weapon. In Ramayana, Indrajit produced maya Sita before Rama’s army and killed her so that the army might become dejected and lose enthusiasm.

In Dharmayuddha, the kingdom of the enemy should not be annexed, no body punishment should be inflicted on King or any person. Property should not be damaged and women should be treated chivalrously.

But Asura War approves of all these illegal and forbidden methods and victory is sought by deception. Thus Kautilya advises small kingdoms to offer money or land but never get engaged in an Asura War as it would wipe out the existence.

Kautilya advocates the Dharmayuddha. Even Mahabharata says “ Have your eyes on Dharma, casting off covetousness.

You should not abandon your duty (svadharma) from lust or from desire of cattle. Lobhvijaya, just like asuravijay, is an offensive war, the motive being exploitation. Envious of the welfare of other nations, jealous of their success, hating them because of their peace and liberty, their own splendour, these (kings) open out and declared their greed – the thirst of conquest for the sake of conquest. Such a war is the worst of the sins, and the men who begin, or carry on, are, though all of the world may proclaim their glory, the meanest and vilest of the sinners.”

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