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Dhanurveda: The Ancient Indian Science of Archery
Dhanurveda is one of the four Upavedas or subsidiary sciences of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. It deals with the art and science of archery, which was considered as a sacred and noble skill in ancient India. Dhanurveda covers various aspects of archery, such as the types and qualities of bows and arrows, the techniques and postures of shooting, the training and discipline of archers, the rules and ethics of warfare, and the spiritual and philosophical dimensions of archery.
Dhanurveda is said to have originated from Lord Shiva, who taught it to his son Kartikeya, the god of war. Kartikeya then imparted it to various sages and kings, who propagated it among their disciples and subjects. The earliest references to Dhanurveda are found in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, which mentions various gods and heroes who excelled in archery. Some of the famous archers in Indian mythology are Rama, Arjuna, Karna, Bhishma, Drona, Ekalavya, Parashurama, Ravana, and Indrajit.
Dhanurveda is also mentioned in other Vedic texts, such as the Yajurveda, the Atharvaveda, the Brahmanas, and the Upanishads. It is also discussed in various epics, such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which narrate many episodes of archery battles and duels. There are also several treatises on Dhanurveda that have survived from ancient times, such as the Dhanurvedasamhita by Vasishta, the Dhanurvedaprakasha by Sarngadhara, the Dhanurvidya by Halayudha, and the Dhanurvedasara by Nagnajit.
Dhanurveda is not only a martial art but also a spiritual discipline that aims at achieving harmony between the body, mind, and soul. It teaches that archery is a way of attaining self-realization by transcending the ego and identifying with the supreme self. It also emphasizes the importance of ethics and morality in warfare, such as avoiding unnecessary violence, respecting one's opponents, protecting the innocent, and following the rules of dharma or righteousness.
Dhanurveda is a rich and fascinating part of India's cultural heritage that deserves to be studied and preserved. It reveals the wisdom and skill of ancient Indians in developing a sophisticated and holistic system of archery that integrated physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. It also reflects their values and ideals of courage, honor, duty, and devotion that inspired them to excel in this noble art.
Dhanurveda is closely related to Ayurveda, the traditional system of Indian medicine that is attributed to Dhanvantari, the physician to the gods in Hindu mythology[^1^]. Ayurveda teaches that health and wellness depend on the balance of three vital energies or doshas: vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (water). Dhanurveda applies the same principles to archery, by suggesting that different types of bows and arrows suit different types of archers according to their doshas. For example, a vata archer should use a light and flexible bow made of bamboo or reed, a pitta archer should use a medium and strong bow made of horn or wood, and a kapha archer should use a heavy and rigid bow made of iron or steel.
Dhanurveda also prescribes various methods of training and preparing for archery, such as physical exercises, breathing techniques, meditation, diet, and rituals. It emphasizes the importance of developing concentration, accuracy, speed, strength, stamina, and coordination. It also advises the archers to observe certain rules of conduct, such as being truthful, humble, generous, compassionate, and loyal. It warns against the negative effects of anger, greed, envy, pride, and fear on one's performance and character.
Dhanurveda is not only a practical guide but also a philosophical treatise that explores the deeper meaning and purpose of archery. It compares the bow to the human body, the arrow to the human mind, and the target to the human soul. It teaches that by mastering archery, one can master oneself and attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death. It also draws parallels between archery and yoga, which is another ancient Indian discipline that aims at uniting the individual self with the universal self. It states that archery is a form of yoga that involves controlling one's breath (pranayama), posture (asana), energy (prana), senses (indriya), mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), and ego (ahamkara). 061ffe29dd