By Swami Harshananda
Dharmayuddha literally means ‘war in conformity with the principles of Dharma’. Though the people of world want to live in peace, wars have existed from times immemorial. Recognizing it as a fact of life and even approving of it in certain circumstances, the great sages of India have evolved some general rules to be observed during the course of a battle. A war fought under these rules is referred to as ‘dharmayuddha’ and the rules themselves are described in the Manusmṛti.
Rules of Dharmayuddha
Rules of dharmayuddha are:
- One should not use poisonous arms or deceitful means.
- A foe in a disadvantageous position must not be struck
- One who has surrendered must be protected
- One should not attack the persons who are fleeing, unarmed or non-combatants.
- One should not attack people who are fighting with others
- When Rāvaṇa was injured in his very first encounter with Rāma, Rāma let him return alive to his place and asked him to come back for other round after recovering. This is a glorious example of dharmayuddha
- In the Kurukṣetra, the battle began after sunrise and stopped at sunset. In the night the combatants moved freely in each other's camps inquiring about the health and welfare of their enemies or expressing their condolences for the dead! This was a part of the dharmayuddha tradition
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore