|Saturday, November 18, 2000||
THE article "Invincible warriors" (November 4) made interesting reading. Perpetual threat of invasions from the north-west compelled Indian kings to maintain strong standing armies.
Greek records of Alexander’s Indian campaign say that one reason for his going back after the conquest of Punjab was the dread of Chandragupta Maurya’s armies which included thousands of elephants.
Major Alfred David says that the result of Indian battles was decided by the fate of leaders. Generals or military commanders mounted elephants so that they may be seen from a distance. Nadir Shah, the conqueror, found this a very strange practice. He said, "On the day of the battle, the rulers of Hind ride on an elephant, thus making them a conspicuous target".
Exaggerations have distorted the historical truth of various military campaigns. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Nizam of Hyderabad had two battalions of women sepoys of 1,000 each. Dressed in sepoys’ uniforms, they guarded palaces and royal ladies on travels. They were called the Zafar Paltan (Amazons).
It is said that the primary importance of infantry was overlooked in the past and in Kautilya’s Arthshastra, infantry finds but a brief mention. However, this is not correct.
Megasthenese, a Greek historian who was sent to the court of Chandragupta Maurya (322 B.C. to 298 B.C.) by Alexander and remained there for about 5 years, noted that the army of the king consisted of 6,00,000 infantrymen, 9,000 elephants, 30,000 cavalry, and about 8,000 chariots. During the Gupta period, the Gupta rulers had organised a very powerful army to protect the country against foreign invaders. There were three wings of the army — infantry, cavalry and elephants. Hieun Tsang, a Chinese pilgrim, who was in India and left the country in 645 AD has stated that Harsha had a mighty army which consisted of infantry, cavalry and elephants.
From the above, it is clear that even in past, the necessity of infantry to fight more decisively in wars was never overlooked in India.
It was nice to read "Heaven and hell, creations of our mind" (October 21) by S.S. Negi. It underscores the importance of being positive and mentally tough. We know our thoughts shape our lives. So we should try to think positive. The mantra seems to be quite simple. We should guard ourselves against self-doubt, fear of failure and evil thoughts. These keep us down, corrode our self-confidence and shake the very foundation on which we want to build the structure of our success. We should work with sincerity towards achieving our goals. However we must remember that while it is important to be positive it is equally important to be realistic about our own potential. Frequent encounters with failure may lead to frustration, depression and ultimately giving up of efforts.
‘Poet monk’ of Punjab
An internationally known person of his times who played a pivotal role in establishing the spiritual supremacy of India at the global level after Swami Vivekananda was none else but a young Punjabi ascetic and poet-philosopher Swami Ram Tirtha, as rightly described by Mohinder Pal Kohli in his article "Poet monk of Punjab", (November 4). It is a pity that the old maxim: Whom gods love die young, was literally true in his case. Swamiji was barely 32 when the cruel hands of death snatched him. However, by that time he had done a lot for spreading the divine message of ancient sages that had travelled to him from luminaries like Swami Shankaracharya, Rama Krishna Parmahansa and Swami Vivekananda.
He brought home to the so-called ultra-modernists of America the very concept of life beyond materialism to which India was wedded. It was because of the teachings of the Swami that India’s supreme contribution to the cause of spiritual learning was recognised in different parts of the western world. The outstanding poetic quality that he had, helped him to convey his message of love and universal brotherhood more effectively.
The Swami was a practical Vedantist. His teachings are universal. Nationality, race, caste, creed and all other man-made barriers carry no significance for him. Whatever he has given to us in the short span of his life is more relevant today when the world is faced with growing militancy, tensions, the murder of democracy and elimination of human values.