The old notion that the Hindus were essentially a landlocked people, lacking in a spirit of adventure and the heart to brave the seas, is now dispelled. The researches of a generation of scholars have proved that from very early times the people of India were distinguished by nautical skill and enterprise, that they went on trading voyages to distant shores across the seas, and even established settlements and colonies in numerous lands and islands.
In ancient India, owing to the geographical influence, nautical shill and enterprise seems to have been best developed in three widely separated region of the country. These were Bengal, the valley and delta of the Indus, and the extreme south of the Deccan peninsula, called Tamilagam.
Boat-making and ship-building industries were found in India since ancient times. In the Vedic period, sea was frequently used for trade purposes. The Rig Veda mentions "merchants who crowd the great waters with ships". The Ramayana speaks of merchants who crossed the sea and bought gifts for the king of Ayodhya. Manu legislates for safe carriage and freights by river and sea. In some of the earliest Buddhist literature we read of voyages ‘out of sight’ of land, some lasting six months or so.
In Kautalya Arthasastra the admiralty figures as a separate department of the War Office; and this is a striking testimony to the importance attached to it from very early times. In the Rg Veda Samhita boats and ships are frequently mentioned. The classical example often quoted by every writer on the subject is the naval expedition of Bhujya who was sent by his father with the ship which had a hundred oars (aritra). Being ship-wrecked he was rescued by the twin Asvins in their boat.
In the Shanti Parvan (59, 41) of the Mahabharata it is said that the navy is one of the angas (part) of the complete army. Examples of ships being used for military purposes are not lacking. When Vidura scented danger to Kunti’s five sons, he made them escape to the forest with their mother, crossing the Ganges in a boat equipped with weapons having the power of withstanding wind and wave.
In the Dig Vijaya portion of the Sabha parva, it is said that Sahadeva crossed the sea and brought many islands under his sway after defeating the Mlecchas and other mixed tribes inhabiting them. If this be an historical fact the inference is irresistible that he could not have effected his conquest without the use of boats and vessels. We read in the Ramayana that Durmukha, a Raksasa, who had been fired by the impulse of anger at the deeds of Hanuman, offered his services to Ravana even to fight on the sea.
This is testimony enough of the use of a fleet for war purposes. There are other references here and there to ships in the Ramayana. When Hanuman was crossing the ocean to Lanka, he is compared to a ship tossed by winds on the high seas. Sugriva speaks of Sumatra, Java and even the Red Sea, when sending forth his monkey hosts in quest of Sita.
The Amarakosa, mentions a number of nautical terms which stand for ship, anchorage (naubandhana), the helm of the ship (naukarana), the helmsman (naukaranadhara). That there were ships-building yards in different parts could be inferred from a significant term navatakseni occurring in a copper plate grant of Dharmaditya dated 531. A.D.
About 517 B.C. according to Herodotus, Darius launched a maritime expedition under Skylax of Caryanda to the Indus Delta, and during Alexander’s time, again, we read of the people of the Punjab fitting out a fleet. We have the testimony of Arrian to show that the Xathroi (Kshatri), one of the Punjab tribes, supplied Alexander during his return voyage with thirty oared galleys and transport vessels which were built by them. (source: India and Its Invasion by Alexander p. 156)
In the Manusamhita (Vii. 192), it is laid down that boats should be employed for military purposes when the theatre of hostilities abounded in water. Kamandaka (XVI, 50) alludes to naval warfare when he says:
Manavadharmasastra refers to sea fights and attests to the use of boats for naval warfare. The sailor is called naukakarmajiva. Thus in Vedic, Epic and the Dharmasastra literature we find that naval warfare is mentioned as a distinct entity, attesting a continuous naval tradition from the earliest times. Yukti-kalpataru specifies one class of ships called agramandira (because they had their cabins towards the prows), as eminently adapted for naval warfare (rane kale ghanatyaye).
Passing on to other literary evidence, we find in the Raghuvamsa frequent reference to boats and ships. Raghu in the course of his digvijaya conquered Bengal which was protected by a fleet (nausadhanotyatan). In anther place it is mentioned that Raghu marched on Persia through the land route, and not by the sea route, thereby showing that the latter was the more common route.
Historian Dr. Vincent A. Smith says that ‘the creation of the Admiralty department was an innovation due to the genius of Chandragupta.
In the following passage we have reference to a vessel with a hundred oats.
Further on in the Veda, this same vessel is described as a plava which was storm-proof and which presented a pleasing appearance and had wings on its sides. Another reference informs us that Tugra dispatched a fleet of four vessels (Catasro navah) among which was the one referred to above. We may infer from these passages that the Asvins were a great commercial people having their home in a far-off island, and that their ruler Tugra maintained a fleet in the interests of his State. There are also other references in the Rg Veda to show that the ancient Indians were acquainted with the art of navigation. For instance, Varuna is credited with a knowledge of the ocean routes along which vessels sailed.
The Baudhayana Dharmasastra speaks of Samudrasamyanam and interprets it as nava dvipantaragamanam, i.e. sailing to other lands by ships. This very term occurs in the navadhyaksa section of the Kautaliya Arthasastra.
The Puranas have several references to the use of ships and boats. The Markandeya Purana speaks of vessels tossing about on the sea. The Varahapurana refers to the people who sailed far into the ocean in search of pearls and oysters. The ships floated daily on the shoreless, deep and fearful waters of the ocean. We are on firmer ground when we see in the Andhra period their coins marked with ships. The ship building activities were great on the east coast, and the Coromandel coast in particular. From this period to about 15th century A.D. there was a regular intercourse with the islands of the Archipelago most of which were colonized and also with ancient America right across the Pacific as testified to us by the archaeological finds and inscriptions in those parts.
The Pali books of Sri Lanka like the Mahavamsa refers to ocean going vessels carrying 700 passengers. Such frequent intercourse and colonization through the ages could not have been effected without a powerful fleet.
Ships Landing of Prince Vijaya in Sri Lanka - 543 BC from Ajanta Frescos.
Ajanta painting of a later date depict horses and elephants aboard the ship which carried Prince Vijaya to Sri Lanka.
(source: India Through the ages - By K. M. Panikkar).
But it is in a later work, the Yuktikalpataru of Bhoja, that we have three classes of ships - the Sarvamandira, the Madhyamandira, and Agramandira. The first was called Sarvamandira because it had apartments all around. In the Sarvamandira were carried treasures, animals, and ladies of the court. This was the vessel ordinarily used by kings in times of peace. The Madhyamandira was so called because the living quarters were situated in the middle. It was a sporting vessel and generally used in the rainy season. The vessel of the third kind, the Agramandira, took its name from the circumstance that the living room was located in front or at the top of the vessel. The Agramandira was used for distant and perilous voyages and also sea-fights.
There are also in the Yuktikalpataru other references to vessels. There are 27 types of ships mentioned here, the largest having the measurement 276 ft X 36 ft X 27 ft weighing roughly 2,300 tons. The following passage points to the use of ships in warfare. The line: naukadyam vipadam jneyam makes it clear that naval expeditions were common. Under the heading of yanam or march mention is made of expeditions by land, water and air.
It is obvious that the task set forth above could only be performed by armed vessels belonging to the state.
From this we may conclude that in ancient India ships were employed in warfare at least as early as the Rig Vedic times. It is an incontrovertible fact that there was a naval department in Mauryan times. We have the testimony of Megasthenes that the navy was under a special officer called the Superintendent of Navigation. This official was in turn controlled by the Admiralty department. The officer whom Megasthenes refers to as Superintendent of Navigation is called Navadhyaksa as already seen, in the Arthasastra.
The Greek accounts bear testimony to the fact that navigation had attained a very high development at the times of Alexander's invasion, for we are told that the invader was able to secure a fleet from the Punjab at short notice. The Arthasastra lays down some healthy regulations relating to navigation. Vessels which gave trouble or were bound for the enemy's country, or transgressed the regulations of port towns were to be destroyed.
A considerable ship building activity is evident on the west coast of India also as noted in the Sangam works of the Tamils. South India carried on political and commercial activities as far as the Mediterranean in the early centuries of the Christian era and before. The great Ceran Senguttavan had a fleet under him.
Turning to the history of South India, we have evidence to show that the country had trade and culture contacts with foreign countries like Rome in the west and Malay Archipelago and South east Asia in the east. Yavana ships laden with articles of merchandise visited the west coast frequently. There was active foreign trade between Tamil Indian and the outer world at least from the time of Soloman, i.e. about 1000 B.C. Roman historians refer to the commercial intercourse that existed between Rome and South India. In the first century before Christ we hear of a Pandyan embassy to Augustus Caesar. (refer to Periplus translated by Schoff p. 46).
The Sangam classics point to the profession of pearl-diving and sea-fisheries on a large scale. We hear of shipwrecks of the early Tamils saved now and then by Manimekhalai, the goddess of the sea.
(Note: ancient Tamil tradition traces its origins to a submerged island or continent, Kumari Kandam, situated to the south of India. The Tamil epics Shilappadikaram and Manimekhalai provide glorious descriptions of the legendary city and port of Puhar, which the second text says was swallowed by the sea.
As in the case of Dwaraka, (please refer to chapter on Dwaraka and Aryan Invasion Theory), initial findings at and off Poompuhar, at the mouth of the Cauvery, show that there may well be a historical basis to this legend: apart from several structures excavated near the shore, such as brick walls, water reservoirs, even a wharf (all dated 200-300 B.C.), a few years ago a structure tantalizingly described as a "U-shaped stone structure" was found five kilometers offshore, at a depth of twenty-three meters; it is about forty meters long and twenty wide, and fishermen traditionally believed that a submerged temple existed at that exact spot. If the structure is confirmed to be man-made (and not a natural formation), its great depth would certainly push back the antiquity of Puhar.
Only more systematic explorations along Tamil Nadu's coast, especially at Poompuhar, Mahabalipuram, and around Kanyakumari (where fishermen have long reported submerged structures too) can throw more light on the lost cities, and on the traditions of Kumari Kandam, which some have sought to identify with the mythical Lemuria).
ancient city in India.
We have the account of a Cera King conquering the Kadamba in the midst of sea waters. The Cera King Senguttuvan had a fleet with which he defeated the Yavanas who were punished with their hands being tied behind their backs and the pouring of oil on their heads. The Cholas also maintained a strong fleet with which they not only invaded and subjugated Lanka but also undertook overseas expeditions. Among the conquests of Rajaraja, Lanka was one, and his invasion of that island finds expression in the Tiruvalangadu plates, where it is described as follows:
Rajaraja also sent an expedition against the Twelve Thousand Islands, obviously a reference to the Laccadives and Maldives. Friendly embassies were also sent by the Chola king to China.
From the evidence of the Mahvamsa as well as from a few inscriptions we are able to gather some information regarding the diplomatic relations that existed between India and Sri Lanka. We have the story of Vijaya and his followers occupying the island about 543 B.C. Vijaya was a prince of North India who was banished from the kingdom by his father. Passing through the southern Magadha country he sailed to Sri Lanka, according to the Rajavali, in a fleet carrying more than 700 soliders, defeated the Yaksas inhabiting it, and settled there permanently.
This story is illustrated in the Ajanta frescoes.
Numerous ships carried the troops of Rajendra to Sri Vijaya and its dependencies which he conquered. Among the places conquered were Pannai (Pani or Panei on the east coast of Sumatra), Malaiyur (at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula), Mappappalam ( a place in the Talaing country of Lower Burma), Mudammalingam (a place facing the gulf of Siam), Nakkavaram (the Nicobar islands. Besides, active trade was carried on between South India and China during this period.
At the end of the 10th century the Chinese emperor sent a mission to the Chola king with credentials under the imperial seal and provisions of gold and piece-goods to induce the foreign traders of the South Sea and those who went to foreign lands beyond the sea for trade to come to China.
The facts clearly show that the Cholas maintained supremacy over the sea and kept a strong and powerful navy which was useful not only for carrying on extensive commerce with foreign countries but also for conducting military expeditions. During the days of the Kakatiyas of Warangal, Motupalle (Guntur District) was the chief port, on the east coast. Ganapatideva, the Kakatiya ruler, extirpated piracy on the sea and made the sea safe for commerce with foreign countries like China and Zanzibar. This policy was pursued by Rudramba, his daughter.
Vijayanagar kingdom also claimed supremacy over the sea. Since the days of Harihara I the rulers of Vijayanagar took the title of the Lord of the Eastern, Western and Southern oceans; and there were 300 ports in the empire. The activities of the Vijayanagar fleet on the west coast are also referred to by the Portuguese in 1506.
The Vijayanagar kings sent friendly embassies to foreign courts. 'Bukka I sent an embassy through his chief explainer to the court of Taitsu, the King Emperor of China, with tributes and large presents, among which was a stone which was valuable in neutralizing poison.
Accounts of Foreign Travelers to India
Coming to later times we have the account of Hiuen Tsang who notices a fleet of 3,000 sail belonging to the King os Assam. There is inscriptional evidence of the possession of a fleet under the Kakatiyas and the Cholas in South india. Marco Polo testifies to the huge size and efficient construction of Indian vessels while Yule in his Cathey refers to Rajput ships en route to China.
Marco Polo, a famous Venetian traveler who visited India in 13th Century also visited Thane Port. The first chapter of his book which deals with India is almost devoted to shipbuilding industry in India. Friar Odoric of Pordenone, an Italian Monk who visited India in 14th Century, in his account of his voyage across the Indian Ocean, a mention is made of ships which can carry 700 people.
Ludovico di Varthema (1503 A. D) saw vessels of 1,000 tons burden built at Masulipatnam. According to Dr. Vincent, India built great sized vessels from the time of Agathareids (171 B.C.) to the 16th century. And no wonder the Portuguese, when they first landed at the west coast, were carried away by the excellent Indian vessels. Later still, the Vijayanagar Empire, which had as many as 300 ports, had a powerful fleet. The naval commander was styled Naviyadaprabhu.
India has a coastline of about 6300 km. Extensive new archaeological, epigraphical, sculptural and literary material has been added to our knowledge since the early decades of this century. Dr. Radha Kumud Mookerji's Book Indian Shipping - A History of the Sea-Borne Trade and Marine Activity of The Indians From The Earliest Times published in 1912 Orient, is the most comprehensive study of Indian Navigation up to that period.
We now know that many ports on both Eastern and Western Coast had navigational and trade links with almost all Continents of the world. There are many natural and technological reasons for this. Apart from Mathematics and Astronomy, India had excellent manufacturing skills in textile, metal works and paints. India had abundant supply of Timber. Indian - built ships were superior as they were built of Teak which resists the effect of salt water and weather for a very long time.
Lieut. Col. A.Walker's paper: "Considerations of the affairs of India" written in 1811 had excellent remarks on Bombay-built ships.
He has also further noted that Bombay-built ships are at least one-fourth cheaper than those built in the docks of England. Francois Balazar Solvyns, a Belgian/Flemish maritime painter, wrote a book titled Les Hindous in 1811.
His remarks are,
Surprisingly, many earlier western traders and travelers have expressed the same views. Madapollum was a flourishing shipping centre. Thomas Bowrey, an English traveler who visited India during 1669-79, observes,
A Venetian traveler of 16th Century Cesare de Federici, while commenting on the East Coast of India has noted that there is an abundance of material for ship building in this area and many Sultans of Constantinople found it cheaper to have their vessels built in India than at Alexandria.
Nicolo Conti who visited India in 15th century was impressed by the quality Indians had achieved in ship building. He observes:
J. Ovington, Chaplain to the British King, the seventeenth-century English traveler, who visited Surat, wrote a book A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689. He was impressed by the skill of the Indians in ship-building and found that they even outshone Europeans. The timber used by the Indians was so strong that it would not ‘crack’ even by the force of a bullet so he urged the English to use that timber ‘to help them in war’. Indian Teak stood firmer than the English Oak, remarked Ovington.
Thomas Herbert, a traveler who visited Surat in 1627, has given an interesting account of the arrival, loading and unloading of ships through small boats at Swally marine (Sohaly), a few kilometres away from Surat. He remarked that between September and March every year, the port of Sohaly presented a very busy and noisy scene for there came many ships from foreign lands. The merchants (baniyas) erected their straw huts in large numbers all along the sea coast, making the whole place thus look like a country fair. The merchants sold various commodities like calicoes, ivory, agates, etc.
Many small boys engaged by the merchants were seen running about doing odd jobs. The English found that the small boats used and constructed by the natives could be of immense use. This was a definite gain for both nations. Boats and rafts were used as a means of conveyance for loading and unloading ships. There were about 4200 big and 4400 small boats. There were large-sized boats that could carry even elephants. The boats used by kings and nobles were designed to look artistic.
Abul Fazl writes about the "wonderfully fashioned boats with delightful quarters and decks and gardens"
Among the primitive Indian boats, the cattarmaran comes first. It consisted of three logs and three spreaders and cross lashings. The centre log was the largest, and pointed towards one end. Mainly fishermen used the cattarmaran for fishing. A little more skillfully made is the musoola boat, which has no iron fastening. It was mostly used in the Coromandel coast.
Dr John Fryer says,
Another boat made in an indigenous manner was known as dingy. It was hollowed out from a single trunk. Lower down the Ganga, the name was applied to boats half-decked, half wagon-roofed and built of planks.
Purqoo was another type of boat described by Thomas Bowery. It plied between the Hooghly and Balasore. These boats were made very strong to carry ‘sufficient load’. They were also used for loading ships. they could remain in water for a long time without getting damaged. As compared to the purqoo, boora was a ‘lighter boat’ which rowed with 29 or 30 oars. These boats were also used for carrying saltpeter and other commodities. (source: Coastal trade flourished with Europeans - By Pramod Sangar).
Sir John Malcolm (1769 - 1833) was a Scottish soldier, statesman, and historian entered the service of the East India Company wrote about Indian vessels that they:
In the middle of the 18th century, John Grose noted that at Surat the Indian ship-building industry was very well established, indeed, “They built incomparably the best ships in the world for duration”, and of all sizes with a capacity of over a thousand tons. Their design appeared to him to be a “a bit clumsy” but their durability soundly impressed him. They lasted “for a century”.
Lord Grenville mentions, in this connection, a ship built in Surat which continued to navigate up the Red Sea from 1702 when it was first mentioned in Dutch letters as “the old ships” up to the year 1700.” Grenville also noted that ships of war and merchandise “not exceeding 500 tons” were being built” with facility, convenience and cheapness” at the ports of Coringa and Narsapore.
Dr. H. Scott sent samples of dammer to London, as this vegetable substance was used by the Indians to line the bottom of their ships; he thought it would be a good substitute,
Alain Danielou (1907- 1994) son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India has written:
India became the first power to defeat a European power in a naval battle - The Battle of Colachel in 1742 CE.
A dramatic and virtually unknown past, in an area of bucolic calm surrounded by spectacular hills: that is Colachel, a name that should be better known to us. For this is where, in 1741, an extraordinary event took place -- the Battle of Colachel. For the first, and perhaps the only time in Indian history, an Indian kingdom defeated a European naval force.
The ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, routed an invading Dutch fleet; the Dutch commander, Delannoy, joined the Travancore army and served for decades; the Dutch never recovered from this debacle and were never again a colonial threat to India.
The ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, routed an invading Dutch fleet;
the Dutch commander, Delannoy, joined the Travancore army and served for decades;
the Dutch never recovered from this debacle and were never again a colonial threat to India.
The Battle of Colachel in 1742 CE, where Marthanda Varma of Travancore crushed a Dutch expeditionary fleet near Kanyakumari. The defeat was so total that the Dutch captain, Delannoy, joined the Travancore forces and served loyally for 35 years--and his tomb is still in a coastal fort there. So it wasn't the Japanese in the Yellow Sea in 1905 under Admiral Tojo who were the first Asian power to defeat a European power in a naval battle--it was little Travancore.
The Portuguese and the Dutch were trying to gain political power in India at that time. Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch in 1741. He was an able ruler. He established peace in his country - Travancore. It was a remarkable achievement for a small princely state. (source: The Battle of Colachel: In remembrance of things past - By Rajeev Srinivasan - rediff.com and http://www.kerala.com/kera/culture1.htm).
Diplomacy and War
Not withstanding the elaborate rule of war laid down in the epics and the law-books, insisting in the main that to wage war was the duty and privilege of every true Ksatriya, in several cases the horrors of war made the belligerent think of the consequences and avoid outbreak of hostilities by a well calculated policy which we now term diplomacy.
King seeking counsel.
Negotiation, persuasion and conciliation were cardinal points of the ancient Indian diplomatic system, and were effective instruments in averting many a war, which would otherwise have realized in much bloodshed and economic distress.
The political term for diplomacy is naya, and the opinion of Kautalya, the eminent politician of the 4th century B.C., a king who understands the true implications of diplomacy conquers the whole earth.
The history of diplomacy in ancient India commences with the Rig Veda Samhita, and the date of its composition may be taken as far back as the Chalcolithic period. In the battles the help of Agni is invoked to overcome enemies. He is to be the deceiver of foes. In pursuing his mission to a successful end, the use of spies is mentioned. This bears eloquent testimony to the system of espionage prevalent so early as the time of the Rig Veda Samhita. In the battle of the Ten Kings described in the seventh mandala, we find diplomacy of rulers getting supplemented by its association with priestly diplomacy, which exercised a healthy influence on the constitutional evolution.
International Relations - The picture presented in the epics and the Arthasastra literature seems to be confined to the four corners of Bharatkhanda. The intercourse as envisaged in the literature, shows relations to be more commerical than political in character.
Strabo quotes Megasthenes and says that Indians were not engaged in wars with foreigners outside India nor was their country invaded by foreign power except by Hercules and Dionsysius and lately by the Macedonians. There were friendly relations of Chandragupta with Seleukos Nikator, of Bindusara with Antiochus, of Asoka and Samadragupta with Lanka, of Pulaskesi with Persians, of Harsha with Nepal and China, of the Cholas with Sri Vijaya.
This ambition was legitimate and had no narrow outlook about it. It was a fruit to be sought after by every one of the monarchs comprising the mandala. If the king is not actuated by this idea, he falls short of an ideal king according to the Hindu Rajadharma.
Diplomatic agents - ambassadors
Bhisma mentions seven qualifications as essential in an ambassador: he should come from a noble line, belong to a high family, be skilful, eloquent of speech, true in delivering the mission, and of excellent memory.
Espionage in War
Spies filled an important role in both the civil and military affairs of ancient India. The institution of spies had a greater utility, as the king could take action on the report of the spies. Spies were engaged to look after the home officials, including those of the royal household as well as to report on the doings in the enemy kingdoms. The Rig Veda Samhita, often speaks of spies (spasah) of Varuna.
Only men of wisdom and purity were sent on this errand, thus suggesting that they should be persons above corruption and temptation of any sort. In the epics and post-epic literature in general, spies have been described as the 'eyes of the king'. In the Udyoga-parva (33, 34) of Mahabharata, it is stated that "cows see by smell, priests by knowledge, kings by spies, and others through eyes."
Spies roamed about in foreign states under various disguises to collect reliable information. In the Ramayana, a king mentions the wise adage that "the enemy, whose secrets have been known through espionage, can be conquered without much effort." The Arthashastra, which predates Christ by centuries, dwells at length on the importance of espionage and the creation of an effective spy network.
Such details may indicate the high development of the science of diplomacy in ancient India. It was the famous Indian strategist of the fourth-century B.C, Kautilya in the Arthasastra, who gave the world the dictum:
Attitude to war
The Sangam age of the Tamils was the heroic age of the Tamil Indians. If the men of the Tamil land were heroes, then their women were heroines. A certain mother was asked where her son was, and she replied, that she was sure that the tiger that had lain in her womb would be found in the field of battle. War was the pabulum on which our ancient warriors were great in name and fame.
A certain lady who gave birth to only one son and who sent him to the field of battle when there was the country's call for it. Okkurmasattiyar, a poetess, praises a certain lady dresses the hair of her only son and gives him the armor to get ready for action in the field of battle. This may be contrasted with another where a heroic mother heard the disquieting news that her son lost his courage in action and had fled in fear.
If it were true, she expressed that she would cut off her breasts that had fed him with milk. With this determination she entered the battle-field with sword in her hand and went on searching for her fallen son. When she saw her son's body cut in twain, she felt much more happy than when she gave birth to him. (source: Puram 277 and 279 - in Tamil ).
Flags - The origin and use of flags can be traced to the earliest Indian literature, the Rig Veda Samhita. The term deaja occurs twice in the Veda. Besides, dhvaja, we meet with a good number of expressions for a banner in Vedic literature. These are Akra, Krtadhvaja, Ketu, Brhatketu, Sahasraketu. It appears that the Vedic host aimed their arrows at the banners of the enemy.
The idea was that once the banner was captured, or struck, a claim was made for success in the battle over the enemy. Ketu was a small flag as contrasted with Brhatketu or the big flag. Sahasraketu may be a thousand flag, or as the knight who brought under control a thousand flags of enemies. We are told that banners and drums were counted among the insignia of ancient Vedic kings. In the Mahabharata war, every leader had his own insignia to distinguish one division from the other.
Arjuna had the Kapidhvaja or the flag with the figure of Hanuman, Bhisma, Taladhvaja, cognizance of a palmyra tree etc..
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