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Ancient Indian Mythological War Formations

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posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 02:46 AM
At various times during battle, the supreme commander of either army ordered special formations

("vyuhas"). Each formation had a specific purpose; some were defensive while others were offensive. Each formation had its specific strengths and weaknesses. Mahābhārata' list the following:

Krauncha vyuha (heron formation)

the crane-shaped formation of an army; forces are distributed to form spanning wing-sides, with a formidable, penetrating center depicting the crow's head and break.


The Chakravyuh/Padmavyuh, is a multi-tier defensive lotus-like formation, used by Dronacharya, commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army after the injury of Bhishma Pitamah. The formation is likened to a blooming lotus, since when viewed from the top, the warriors at each interleaving position would be in an increasingly tough position to fight.
The various vyuhas (military formations) were studied by the Kauravas and Pandavas alike. Most of them can be beaten using a counter-measure targetted specifically against that formation. It is important to observe that in the form of battle described in the Mahabharata, it was important to position the powerful fighters in positions where they would inflict the maximum damage on the opposing force or defend against the attacks of key warriors of the opposition.

The Chakravyuha/Padmavyuha was a special formation and only a few exclusive Pandava warriors, namely, Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Krishna, Aniruddha and Pradyumna, knew how to lead an offensive against it. However to the Pandavas disappointment, Aniruddha and Pradyumna did not participate in the Mahabharata war. Additionally, Arjuna's son Abhimanyu knew how to penetrate the Padmavyuha but not how to exit the formation. He learned the techniques to enter the formation when he was still inside the womb of his mother, Subhadra since her Husband, Arjuna was discussing the formation and its conquest with her. Ironically, Subhadra fell asleep while Arjuna was explaining, and Arjuna was called away by Krishna for the Khandava forest extermination in the middle of his lesson. Thus, Arjuna could not finish explaining Subhadra how to escape the Padmavyuha.
Consequently, Abhimanyu was unaware how to escape from the Padmavyuha. He was thus killed, Kurukshetra War trying to break free from the Padmavyuha. Mahabharata also has references wherein the rules of war were broken by Kauravas to kill Abhimanyu. After Abhimanyu penetrated the sixth tier of spiral formation, all the Kaurava warriors attacked him in unison, though the main killer was Jayadratha. It was against the rules of Dharmayuddha, which stated that multiple warriors should not attack a single warrior.

Danda ( Staff like Array )

First, let us discuss the danda, or "staff-like array". According to Chankaya, this is a formation in which all the constituents of the army stand abreast. This would make it the most simple type of array.

Pradara ( Breaking )

The pradara is a variant of the danda. The purpose of this formation is to break the enemy's formation. To achieve this, the flanks are made to project forward, and generally consist of "shock" units such as war elephants, heavy chariots, and armored cavalry.

The pradara can be countered by means of the dridhaka.

Dridhaka (FIRM)

The dridhaka (which means "firm") is a defensive variant of the danda, and is meant as a counter to the pradara. The flanks and wings are stretched back, and are designed to absorb the blow of a frontal attack. The dridhaka typically consists of sturdy mail- and plate-armored infantry.

The dridhaka can be countered by the asayha.

Asayha ( Irresistable )

The next variant is the "irresistible" formation, or asayha. It conists of elongated wings designed to envelop the enemy. The wings usually conist of fast and maneuverable units like light and medium cavalry (and sometimes chariots or elephants). It is most useful against compact formations like the dridhaka.

The asayha can be countered by means of the Syena vyuha.

Syena vyuha ( Eagle like Array )

The Syena vyuha ("eagle formation") of Mahabharat lore can be dscribed as a variant of the danda as well as the asayha. The Syena vyuha consists of a projected front in addition to elongated wings. It is designed for a "comprehensive attack" by all constituents of the army; it can shatter the enemy's center while simultaneously conducting an enveloping attack on its flanks and rear. As with the asayha, it is most useful against compact formations.

The Syena vyuha can be countered by means of the sanjaya formation.

Sanjaya ( Victory )

Let us begin with the sanjaya ("victory") formation. The sanjaya has its wings arrayed in the reverse order, which means they are intended to resist the enemy's wings from conducting a flanking attack. Meanwhile, the center of the army, as well as the flanks, maintain the direct order; this general setup is also referred to as the chápa (the "bow"). This formation is useful against offensive enemy arrays that rely on using powerful wings to overwhelm and outflank the enemy.

vijaya ("the conqueror")

A formation similar to the sanjaya is the vijaya ("the conqueror"). It can be considered an offensive variant of the former. Like the sanjaya, the vijaya consists of reverse-ordered wings, but the main difference lies in the projection of the front. The vijaya concentrates shock units like war elephants and heavy cavalry in the front, while keeping the wings full of lighter units. When advancing upon the enemy, the wings will harass the enemy's wings and prevent them from attacking the flanks, while the powerful front conducts the decisive attack. This formation is useful against formations whose wings cannot be engaged directly, but whose centre can be breached; thus, the vijaya can dismember the enemy's array in half.

Sthúlakarna ( Big Ear )

Next is the sthúlakarna, or "big ear". In this formation, the flanks and wings are arrayed like a staff to make a single front. It follows the direct order, in which the army's elite troops are evenly distributed throughout the ranks. Thus, the sthúlakarna is a balanced formation, and having strengthened the extremities, it cannot succumb from a simple flanking maneuvre like other formations.

TO be continued below!!!
edit on 31-7-2013 by maddy21 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 02:54 AM
Visálavijaya ( Vast Victory )

The visálavijaya, or "vast victory", choses to bend the rules. It breaks the basic principle of even troop distrubution, and choses to concentrate two-thirds of the army's best troops in the center. Such a formation has tremendous concentrated strength, but at the obvious consequence of weakened flanks and wings. With a front that is at least twice as strong as that of most other armies, the visálavijaya, when used properly, can utterly shatter and rout an enemy force. When used improperly, however, it can be enveloped and trapped by the more dispersed and flexible enemy array

Chamúmukha ("face of the army")

Last but not least is the chamúmukha ("face of the army"). It consists of wings that are projected forward, and are intended to engage in combat with the enemy wings ahead of the rest of the army. For enemy armies with weak extremities, this can be a death sentence, as an early attack on the wings can mean devastating consequences for the core. The reverse order of this formation is known as the ghashásya, or "face of the fish"; it is intended to harass the enemy wings and extremities and wear them down before the main armies clash.

posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 04:32 AM
That is all for now..... there are more am trying to get illustrations for it

posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 05:20 AM

Originally posted by maddy21
That is all for now..... there are more am trying to get illustrations for it
grand pictures would indeed help. good luck trying to get interest in this

posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 09:31 AM
What about the war formations? They might have been useful with the war technology during that period. Can it be applied to the current war scenarios? Big difference in technological advances since the ancient times IMO. But people can comment.

posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 09:38 AM
Greeks and Romans used variations of these. I guess they were standard at some point BC. Maybe this is why Alexander backed the heck out of India. lol
edit on 31-7-2013 by Logarock because: n

posted on Aug, 2 2013 @ 01:00 PM
reply to post by maddy21

Very cool information. I have tried to understand what was explained in the Mahabharatta and could never get my head around it. But that was a lot of years ago.

These may help me when I play my Rome game at home on the PC. lol

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