Kautilya to the front!

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed May 15 12:29:32 UTC 2002

BBC reports:         Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK

         India defence
         looks to
         ancient text

         The book includes a special diet for soldiers in combat

         By Shaikh Azizur Rahman
         in Bombay

         Indian scientists are turning to an ancient
         Hindu text in their search for the secrets of
         effective stealth warfare.

         They believe the book,
         the Arthashastra,
         written more than
         2,300 years ago, will
         give Indian troops the
         edge on their enemies.

         India's Defence
         Minister George Fernandes has approved
         funding for the project, and told parliament
         recently that experiments had begun.

         The research is being carried out by experts
         from the Defence Research and
         Development Organisation and scientists
         from the University of Pune and National
         Institute of Virology in western India.

         The book includes the recipe for a single
         meal that will keep a soldier fighting for a
         month, methods of inducing madness in the
         enemy as well as advice on chemical and
         biological warfare.

         Powders and remedies

         The book was written by military strategist
         Kautilya, also known as Chanakya and
         Vishnugupta, a prime minister in the court
         of India's first emperor Chandragupta
         Maurya, in the fourth century BC.

         "All of us are excited
         about the
         possibilities and do
         not for a moment
         think that the idea is
         crazy," said Professor
         SV Bhavasar, a space
         scientist who has
         spent many years
         researching the

         "Decoding ancient
         texts is not an easy
         task but we are very hopeful of success," he

         According to a Pune University report, the
         book says that soldiers fed with a single
         meal of special herbs, milk and clarified
         butter can stay without food for an entire

         Shoes made of camel skin smeared with a
         serum made from the flesh of owls and
         vultures can help soldiers walk hundreds of
         miles during a war without feeling tired.

         A powder made from fireflies and the eyes
         of wild boar can endow soldiers with night

         Chemical warfare

         Kautilya wrote in the Arthashastra that a
         ruler could use any means to attain his goal,
         and Book XIV touches on aspects of
         chemical and biological warfare.

         The book says that
         smoke from burning
         a powder made from
         the skin and excreta
         of certain reptiles,
         animals and birds can
         cause madness and
         blindness in the

         The book also
         provides the formula
         to create a lethal
         smoke by burning
         certain species of
         snakes, insects and plant seeds in makeshift

         "Our focus at present is on how humans
         can control hunger for longer durations and
         walk for longer period without experiencing

         Project leader Dr VS Ghole, head of the
         environmental engineering department of
         Pune university, said the team was now
         focusing on the methods of controlling
         hunger and increasing stamina.

         "Once we have made some headway we will
         go into researching Kautilya's notes on
         night vision and other fields," he said.

         Professor SV Bhavasar said the team also
         had plans to research other ancient Hindu

         These include manuscripts which "claim to
         provide secrets of manufacturing planes
         which can not be destroyed by any external
         force, could be motionless in the sky and
         even invisible to enemy planes."

Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138, USA

ph. 1- 617-496 2990 (also messages)
home page:  http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwpage.htm

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