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Exploring Vedas, Puranas, Mahabharata to be future-ready: Army chief

By, New Delhi
May 22, 2024 04:54 AM IST

Indian Army's Project Udbhav explores Mahabharata battles & ancient texts like Arthashastra to shape a progressive force, drawing on India's military heritage.

The Indian army has “explored epic battles of the Mahabharata” and also the “strategic brilliance” of the “Mauryas, Guptas, and Marathas” that have shaped “India’s rich military heritage” as part of an initiative called Project Udbhav (evolution) that aims to make the force “progressive and future-ready, by drawing insights from the nation’s historical military wisdom”, army chief Manoj Pande said on Tuesday.

Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande (ANI)
Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande (ANI)

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He was speaking at a conference titled “Historical Patterns in Indian Strategic Culture“ organised by India’s oldest think-tank founded in 1870, United Service Institution (USI), and spoke about the Indian Army’s Project Udbhav launched by defence minister Rajnath Singh last year that aimed to incorporate learnings from the Mahabharata, Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, and Arthashastra.

The project, he added, “has revealed substantial intellectual convergences between eminent Indian and Western scholars”.

Udbhav was launched at the Indian Military Heritage festival in October 2023 by Singh in a collaboration between the army and USI.

“The project has delved deep into ancient texts such as Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and Arthashastra, which are rooted in inter-connectedness, righteousness and ethical values,” the army chief said.

The Udbhav compendium is a compilation of the deliberations that have thus far taken place under the project, said a senior official asking not to be named.

“It will be uploaded on the USI website soon,” he added.

India has a rich history of great warrior kings, from Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who displayed brilliant leadership and warfighting skills, said strategic affairs expert Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd).

“For long, India has been studying warfighting concepts proposed by the West and those may not most relevant in our region and context. Our rich legacy will play a great role in guiding us and strategising for the future,” Chopra added.

The Indian Army, the world’s second largest, is drawing on treatises such as Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Kamandaka’s Nitisara and Tamil poet-saint Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural for lessons on statecraft, strategy, diplomacy and warfare from ancient Indian philosophy.

“The ancient Indian wisdom is rooted in a 5,000-year-old civilizational legacy, where immense value is attached to knowledge. This legacy is exemplified by a vast repository of intellectual literature, the world’s largest collection of manuscripts and nurturing of multitude of thinkers and schools, across various domains,” said Pande.

The project has delved deep into ancient texts such as Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and Arthashastra, which are rooted in inter-connectedness, righteousness and ethical values, he added. “Furthermore, it has explored the epic battles of the Mahabharata and the strategic brilliance during the reigns of Mauryas, Guptas and Marathas, which has shaped India’s rich military heritage.”

Speaking at the same event, minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt lauded the army and USI for the initiative.

“The geopolitical landscape is ever evolving, and it is imperative for our armed forces to be adaptive and innovative in their approach. By delving into our ancient texts and traditions, projects like Udbhav not only enrich our understanding of strategic culture, but also provide valuable insights into unconventional warfare strategies, diplomatic practices and ethical considerations in warfare,” Bhatt added.

The move comes against the backdrop of a flurry of efforts by the government to encourage “Indianisation” in areas, including education, health and science.

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The army earlier supported a project related to the compilation of Indian stratagems based on ancient texts. This resulted in a book on 75 aphorisms, and another publication, Paramparik Bhartiya Darshan — Ranniti aur Netritva ke Shashwat Niyam, or Traditional Indian Philosophy — Eternal Rules of Warfare and Leadership. The army is encouraging all ranks to read this book.

The move also comes at a time when the armed forces are focussed on the indigenisation of military customs, and have taken some steps to erase colonial traditions.

These include the navy adopting a new ensign with the flag drawing inspiration from the seal of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Cross of St George being dropped, it also ended the practice of senior officers carrying batons, and the defence ministry has launched a drive to rename British-era cantonments as military stations.

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