War Technology, Military Engineering and Forms of Combat in Indian History


Iqtidar Alam Khan



There was the increasing tendency among human groups to capture labour power and its produce from each other.1 Such a tendency was a direct outcome of a situation where humans came to produce more than what was required for their bare existence giving rise to the institution of servitude in its different forms. Warfare among civilized human groups may be distinguished from conflicts between savages over territory. What demarcated


Harappan remains (2500-2000 BC) testify the existence of a town based ruling group appropriating the agrarian produce of a subjugated rural population in a major part of north-west India. These represent the earliest evidence of armed conflicts among human groups in India leading to a culturally advanced and more resourceful warrior community establishing themselves as a ruling elite. There has survived in Harappan sites evidence for the use of spears, bow and arrow and axe-blades in copper and bronze as weapons of war.2 Some of these like spear, bow and arrow seem to have originated as hunting instruments during the time when the use of metal was not known.3 With the introduction of copper and bronze, these were improved to make them regular weapons of war. There were also present ox-carts which possibly could also be used in battle field for dispersing resisting infantry.


town was The ‘citadel’ of a Harappan built on a large raised platform by constructing enclosing wall of dried mudbricks to retain the infills. This wall apparently provided sufficient protection against possible surprise intrusion by the primitive opponents of culturally more advanced town dwellers. Absence of any defences in the ‘citidal’ indicates that the people sought to be excluded were not considered capable of mounting an attack.4

The presence of a fortified settlement like Sutkagen-dor close to Iran-Pakistan frontier on the western fringe of the territory of Harappan civilization, however, does suggest that the ruling elite sometimes faced intrusions by equally resourceful warriors located in the west. Fortification at this spot may thus be characterised as the earliest specimen of a defensive structure built by a ruling group controlling north-west India. The purs reduced by the migrating Aryan tribes subsequently perhaps carried some of these features.