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INTERESTING FACTS: PADMAVYUHA & CHAKRAVYUHA

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    Padmavyuha and Chakravyuha are strategies and tactics of war. What we in Hindi call Padmavyuha or Chakravyuha is a military formation used to surround enemies, depicted in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. It resembles a labyrinth of multiple defensive walls.

    Ancient Indians had perfected the art of arraying, displaying, arranging, and lining of troops, called the ‘vyuha.’ In the Rig Veda, there are many references to substantiate this. A war hymn says that Maruts (ie soldiers) moved in linear formation like birds. Another hymn says, they assumed the shape of a man, a horse, or a pigeon at different times. There are references to battle formations in the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

    The Mahabharata has the most detailed description of the ‘vyuhas’ (ie. the battle arrays). Two great acharyas—Shukra and Brahaspati—had propounded many of these vyuhas. During the eighteen day war, Pandava and Kaurava commanders formed as many as thirty vyuhas, including Vajra, Krauncaruna, Ardhacandra, Syena, Makara, Garuda, Vyala, Sakata, Cakra, Suci, etc. While deciding to form a particular vyuha, they considered their own objective, and the deployment of the enemy’s forces.

    On the 13th day of the Mahabharata war, the Kaurava commander deployed his army in ‘Chakravyuha’ to trap and kill the Pandava commander ‘Abhimanyu.’ On the fourteenth day of war, the Kauravas combined Cakra-Sakata-Padma and Suci vyuhas to repel and beat the attack launched by Arjuna. There are references to vyuhas in the Ramayana and the Buddhist Jatakas (Buddhist literature) also.

    Vyuhas are described in far greater detail in the Arthashastra. In the sama-vyuha (even array) the five constituents—centre (ura) two flanks (kaksas) and two wings (paksas) were provided with an equal number of troops. In the visamavyuha (uneven army) the number of troops deployed at the centre, the flanks and the wings were not the same. In misravyuha (mixed array), the chariot, elephants, horses and foot soldiers were deployed together at the centre, and at the flanks and wings, while in suddhavyuha (unmixed array) only one of these arms was deployed.

    This four-fold classification of the vyuhas relates to the strategic deployment of various arms. But the most significant contribution of the Arthashastra relates to the tactical deployment of units, according to the code of Brahaspati. Kautilya has classified the tactical deployment of troops in four basic arrays, namely danda-vyuha (staff array), bhoga-vyuha (snake array), mandala-vyuha (circle array) and asamhata-vyuha (diffused array). Each of these types had many variations, as danda alone, could be formed in seventeen ways, bhoga in four ways, and both mandala and asamhata in three ways. Kautilya has also described some miscellaneous arrays.

    It is notable that a detailed description of battle arrays is also available in works such as the Manusmriti, Kamandaka Niti, Agni Purana and Sukraniti. Later works like the Sisupalavadha and Prithiviraja Raso also refer to the use of some of these vyuhas.

    Chakravyahu is something that we even use in terms of strategy in our day to day lives.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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