Sunday, 30 October 2011

Time for strategy - Part II

“The Vrcivans can be defeated, but it will require a grand alliance between you Panchalas and the Anus.”

“But why would uncle Srnjaya want to ally with us? Of what possible use can we be to him without an army?” asked Vadhryasva.

“War is more than just armies. And a protracted war, which this promises to be, will need constant supply of food, clothing, weapons, and healers to nurse the wounded soldiers.”

“With the grace of Pusan, we have more than adequate supply of cereals and meat. We can deploy our craftsmen to make weapons and chariots. Our healers are the best in the Arya land and we have more of them than any of the other tribes. Indeed there is a lot we can contribute in this war”, reasoned Dabhiti.

“And will the Anus agree?” queried an unsure Vadhyrasva.

“Yes, they have no option but to do so. Once the Vrcivans overcome us, the Anus will be their next target. They have much to lose if we are defeated. Besides, did you not notice the warmth with which Cayamana’s emissary greeted us? Surely, he would know why we are visiting the Rishi and he chose an appropriate time to send us the right message of friendship”, answered Dabhiti.

“Dabhiti is right, Cayamana is wise enough to know that their best chance of thwarting an eventual Vrcivan victory is through an alliance with you Panchalas”, said Bharadvaja, seconding Dabhiti.

“But is an alliance sufficient to ensure our victory?” asked Vadhryasva. “I hate to admit that the ruthless and savage reputation of the Vrcivan army pervades all of Arya land.”

“They can be defeated, if you convert their strength into a weakness.”

“Please explain.” Dabhiti and Vadhryasva ended up saying in tandem, with much hope and expectation.

“How would you describe their style of engaging in battle?”

“Well, a ferocious band is sent to raze a small settlement. Then after a few days, a contingent of no more than hundred men on foot and horses swoop on nearby settlements and take over, with little or no resistance, because their inhabitants are too terrified to fight”, replied Dabhiti.

“Exactly. This is how they managed to subdue the Turvashas. But mind you, they have never been tested by a strong or large army. You need to dictate the rules of engagement, and they have to be very different from what they are used to.”

“Second, draw them further and further into Panchala territory, conceding easy victories on the way. Then at an appropriate time, pinch the army from its base. Cut off from their supplies and drowned by over confidence, you will have the best chance to vanquish them.”

“Draw them to the Hariyuppa (river) and victory will be yours”, proclaimed Bharadvaja.

Dabhiti and Vadhryasva looked at each other, and then at the Rishi, awe and admiration written all over their faces.

Time for strategy - Part I

On the appointed day, the royal Panchala entourage set forth on their grand journey to Rishi Bharadvaja’s ashram.

Author’s note: By any standard, a journey from present day Bareilly, Uttar Pradhesh, India to Kalesar National Park, Haryana, India, traversing nearly 400 kms, in 3500 BC using the most basic carts would have been grand.

The party travelled through lush plains that was their land, watered by the many tributaries of the mighty Saraswati and Yamuna, passing through one small settlement after another. As they passed through each settlement, it became more and more apparent to Dabhiti that the Panchala populace, though large, could hardly be expected to turn up in battle.

Around the fifth day, the entourage crossed over into what was Anu territory (modern day western Haryana, India). Abhyavartin Cayamana had arranged for an emissary to greet the Panchalas and convey his well wishes. These were good tidings, noted Dabhiti and hoped would prove critical in shaping alliances in the future.

Sometime late on day ten of the journey, the party reached the ashram and were warmly welcomed by Payu, son of the rishi. Payu made sure the visitors were well settled and informed them that the Rishi would meet them early next morning.

Just after day break the following day, Payu escorted Vadhryasva and Dabhiti to a spot close to the river where Rishi Bharadvaja awaited them. As they neared the Rishi, the two guests went down on their knees as a mark of respect.

“I have deliberately chosen this spot for our discussions, away from prying eyes and earshot of everyone. If you do need anything, food or drink, let Payu know. He will wait here with us although at a distance”, began Rishi Bharadvaja.

Dabhiti briefed the Rishi of the many serious problems the Panchalas were facing. The imminent attack by the Vrcivans, the frosty relations between Srnjaya and Vadhryasva, Bribu’s warning of the threat of the Dasa king Sambara and North Panchala not having an heir.

“So tell me, what is more important, the rajan or the janapadha?” Bharadvaja asked of Vadhryasva.

Both Dabhiti and Vadhryasva were stunned by the directness of the question. “I think you already know the answer, your question betrays that you know the answer”, replied Vadhryasva.

“How so?”

“If you were sure I would choose rajan over janapadha, you would not have asked this question.”

Bharadvaja nodded in agreement and smiled, indicating he was impressed with the rajan. After all, how many kings choose kingdom over self?

“Rajan, you do realize, that you are in a position of little or no advantage.”


“Both Mudugala, your father and you, have done much for the upliftment and well being of your people, but have completely ignored the basic need to protect them. Your army exists only in name and save for a few bravehearts such as Bhumanyu, there is none that can strike fear in the mind of your enemies.”

“It will take several years of enlisting and training before your army can be formidable once again. Till such time, North Panchala is of no strategic importance to anyone.

“Our people would be more than willing to sacrifices their lives for pride and honour, Rishivar” retorted an offended Vadhryasva.

“We are gathered here to see how the Panchalas can win the war for supremacy of the Arya. And the only way you will help me find the answers is if you detach your emotions and ego.”

“Remember, the brave win battles but it is the wise that win wars.”

Notes & ReferencesA hint of how reverence was displayed in those days is provided in the very first hymn of Mandala 6.

RV 06.001.6
Dear priest among mankind, adorable Agni hath seated him, joy-giver, skilled in worship.
Let us approach thee shining in thy dwelling, kneeling upon our knees, with adoration.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Vrcivans at the outpost - Part II

Four of the horsemen, two on either side, lit the torches they were carrying. Then the ten, galloped towards the settlement, picking more speed as they neared the outer perimeter made of dried wood and rope. The four horsemen in the centre, began to break free raising their spears and stone hammers. As they burst in through the open gate of the settlement, they swooped on anything that moved or was alive – men, cattle, dogs, fowl. They were followed by two horsemen, expert marksman, their arrows picking anyone that made an attempt to reach out for implements that could be used to retaliate or defend.

The ensuing chaos cleared the path for the torch bearing horsemen to pick those houses that could easily catch fire and they plunged the torches mercilessly, without any heed to the fact that the houses had women, children or even infants. Cattle fodder and the heat, just abetted the fire and soon the houses were in flames, with its occupants rushing out but only to fall to hammers, spears or arrows.

In a matter of minutes, the settlement was razed, its inhabitants either killed or maimed badly, unable to move or defend. For good measure, animals were not spared either, not even cattle. In a land where cattle was wealth and skirmishes took place all the time over them, this utter disregard and ruthlessness was deliberate. The Vrcivans were sending a strong message – cattle was not at stake any more. The bar had been raised, supremacy over the tribes was the ultimate and only goal, rules and ethics be dammed.

The horsemen surveyed the destruction with much satisfaction. Yes, there were a few of the wretched Panchalas still alive and they would live to recount the horror. They then turned and left the settlement, knowing well they would come back this way in a few days time.