The existence of Dhanuryeda or Science of Archery can
be traced back to ancient time as is evident from references
in several ancient literatures. Visnu Purina! refers it as one
of the eighteen branches of knowledge taught by Bhreu,
while the Mahabharata mentious it as having sutras like
other vedas. Sukraniti? describes it as that ‘upaveda of
yajurveda’ which has five arts or practical aspects—use and
employment of arms by the proper arrangement of legs,
duelling by the various artifices, throwing arms towards the aim
formation of battle arrays according to the signals, arrangement
of horses, elephants, chariots, etc. Agnipurana and Samrajya-
Lakshmi-Pithika a Saiva Tantra, contain separate chapters
on Science of archery and describe in detail the correct posture
in shooting. position of drawing the bows, measurement of
1. Visnupurana tr. by H.H. wilson. Calcutta, Punthi
Pustak, 1961, Book III Chapter VI.
2. "DhanuVerdasya sutra ch yatrasutram naagram" |
— Mahabharata (Sabhaparva 5.1,0) ed. by Belvalkar,
3. Sukraniti, tr. by B.K, Sarkar. New Delhi, Oriental
Books, 1975 Chapter [V Sec, III (152-164).
4. Agnipurana tr. and annotated by N. Gangadharan.
Delhi, Motilal Banarasidass, 198: Pt. £1 Chapter 249
5. Samrajya Lakshmi Pithika, ed. by V. Sastri, Tanjore,
1932, Chapter 135, 136.
bows, etc, According to Visnudharmottara’, god Satakrata.
(Indra) represents Dhanurveda or the knowledge of warfare.
Another representative of Dhanurveda in a personified form
and his worship as god is found in the book ‘History of
Punjab’ by Syad Muhammad Latif ? (originally published in
1889). Here the deity who rides on a bull posses four feet,
eight arms and three eyes. His weapons are bow, sword,
thunderbolt, discus, sataghni, club, spear, battle axe.
The present translation work is based on the book
Vasistha’s Dhanurveda Samhita (Bengali ed.) by Pandit
Iswar Chandra Sastri and Arun Chandra Sinha. The book
was published in 1922 from Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh.
In the introduction of his book, Sastri referred Brahma
as an introducer of Dhanurveda and about Lord Mahideva
who preached the Science of Archery to ParaSurdma. He
also had mentioned the names of great sages Visvimitra
and Vaisampayana as authors of several treatises on
Dhanurveda, Unlike the Puranas, Vasistha associated
Dhanurveda with both Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.
Besides providing the account of the training of the
archers, Vasisyha’s Dhanurveda describes different types of
bows and arrows, process of making them, different steps in
practice teaching. Adoption of tantric ways for wining the
battle, worship of different gods for victory, application of
herbs, charms as preventive measures in war, formation of
arrays, duties of kings and army commanders, training of
the elephants, horses have also been dealt with.
Dhanurveda Samhita of Vasistha, according to Sri P.C,
Chakravarti? can not be dated before 17th century A.D. as it
mentions "Chatrapati’’, the title which came into vogue
only during maratha hero Shivaji’s time (AD 1630-1680).
It has got a number of verses identical with Samrajya
Lakshmi Pithiké and Brhat-Sérngadhara Paddhati.?
which testifies the presence of one common and earlier
source. This is probably Siva Dhanurveda which Vasistha’s
Dhanurveda had quoted often.
The sanskrit version and the illustrations given in this
book have been reproduced from the original, The terms and
words have been explained in the footnote wherever possible
and necessary. Inspite of my best efforts, errors might have
crept in and I stand responsible for all these omissions.
The present treatise Vasistha’s Dhanurveda Samhita isa
faithful rendering of the original composition of sage Vasigtha
who had it transmitted through a tradition of sages being
traced back to gods Siva and Brahma and described in the
Sukraniti as upaveda of the Yajurveda. The entire tradition
permeates provocative material with different levels of interests
and interpretations. Previously, largely unfamiliar to modern
scholarship the subjects delineated here were compulsorily
taught to such who wanted to acquire excellence in the skill.
This meant laying down of thorough instructions and
formularies by other sages like ParaSuréma, Visvamitra,
VaiSampayana and Ausdnas whose texts have been recovered
in manuscript form from libraries of Tirupati, Nepal Darbar,
Asiatic society, Bombay, Deccan College Research Institute,
Pune and Oriental library of Baroda.
It is a richly textured work which has brought forth
mé«ticulously researched data for assessing the tradition of
craftsmanship and a basic weaponry of war which cardinally
affected the fabric of human society. The work provides
interesting and scientific reading in regard to both
physical and mystical implecations ranging from craftsmanship
of the weaponry including measurements and qualities of bows
and arrows, methods of teaching, shooting techniques to the
use of medicines and charms and general war practices.
I appreciate Mrs. Ray’s attempt to revise interest in the
ancillary sciences of the past through this evocative work on
archerly, which is rare, indeed, and has been made accessible
to scholars after much genuine and wakeful efforts of her. The
translation is precisely lucid and connotative of intense
**Contents and Sample Pages**