Saturday, 24 March 2012

A war machinery set in motion

Somewhere along the banks of the Drsadvati, a herd of deer made its way to the river for a drink. A few of the older deer, sensed something was not right. It was too quite, there we no humans, usually in a distance, there would be a few along with cattle and goats. Hesitant steps came to a halt, but the younger lot had already made their way to the water. Too late! A shower or arrows rained on the herd, killing most instantly. A few managed to pull themselves out and sped along the banks in either direction. Alas, the humans lay in wait in the river, submerged. On cue, they rose, out of the water and in one motion, let their arrows loose from outstretched bows. The hapless deer had no chance.

The hunters surveyed the deer with long and hard horns. It had been a good hunt – there were too many with useful horns. Too many to be carried. They decided to carry the ones that also had good, soft skin and would have younger meat. Without much remorse, they hacked the heads of the rest, horns being their primary interest. The rest, well, the wolves would feed on them, or perhaps if word spread quickly enough, people from surrounding settlements would scavenge.

Deer was a vital commodity of ancient wartime machinery. Deer horn was used in the making of arrow tips, sinew for cordage of the bow and body fat as a general lubricant. These raw materials were transported to the various capitals. So were hides of various animals, and fleece and eagle feathers.

With Dabhiti’s passing away, Bhumanyu had assumed his responsibilities. The ancient world had never witnessed a war of this scale. Bharadvaja has instructed the Panchalas to marshal an army with three thousand soldiers.

Bows, arrows, quivers, mails (leather based armours), shafts, spears, axes would need to be manufactured to arm this large force. Chariots and the very best of horses would carry the coursers – the commanders and princes and rajans – and there could be no compromise in the quality of manufacturing or the choice of steed.

Bhumanyu was in charge of the Panchala arsenal set up at the outskirts of Ahichhatra. A large shed was constructed to house all incoming raw material – deer and animal carcasses, a second shed where various parts were processed, horns and hoofs, skin carried outside the main city for drying.

In an adjoining shed, men and women, were entrusted with the task of making thick mails (leather armours) by stitching together hide. Stone and bone based needles with sinew based cordage as string in intricate patterns would make for first line of defense against enemy arrows. A chosen few were decorated with fleece.

Yet another group were engaged in making arrows - sharpened deer horn made up the arrow head, light wood the shaft, sometimes bound with cow-hide and eagle feathers making up the rear fletchings.

It was the day that Bhumanyu had planned to visit the facility where the chariots were being manufactured. It was several hours on horse ride to the north of the capital, closer to an area where there still was a thick forest cover. Trees were felled and the very best wood selected in making various components of a chariot. After inspection, the chariout would be ridden by an experienced charioteer all the way to the capital. The ones that made a smooth traverse, would make it to the army, the others kept aside for regular travel.

But, what is an arsenal without the human fighter and soldier. The Panchala army was only in name. Purumidha, the Panchala commander had the onerous task of enlisting and training thousands and getting them fighting fit in a matter of months. Actually, fighting fit was the minimum, they had to be capable of defeating the fierce Vrcivans. In his mind, Purumidha knew it would need the intervention of the Gods – let Bharadvaja worry about it. He had set out on horse with the Panchala ensign and would journey across the breadth of Panchala land to the north and west, bordering the Anu territories. From each settlement, he would enlist men, force enlist if he had to. Local training centres would have to be set up for those settlements far flung from the capital.

The horse with the Panchala ensign had another significance attached. Any settlement, opposing the entry of the horse would mean they were not allied or not accepting Vadhryasva as their ruler. It was important to know who was on your side and who was not, especially as one moved further away from the capital, allegiances could never be taken for granted.

The flurry of activities were not confined to North Panchala territories alone. Prastoka and Cayaman were rallying their people in similar preparations as well. And to the south, the Vrcivans were sharpening their already ready troops even more.

The ancient war machinery of early vedic times was in motion. In preparation for a war that humankind had never been witness to before.

1 comment:

  1. A good one! I wonder whether the warriors were volunteers or they had no choice!