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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
India defence looks to ancient text
Indian soldiers
The book includes a special diet for soldiers in combat
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By Shaikh Azizur Rahman
in Bombay

Indian scientists are turning to an ancient Hindu text in their search for the secrets of effective stealth warfare.

(We) do not for a moment think that the idea is crazy

Professor SV Bhavasar

They believe the book, the Arthashastra, written more than 2,300 years ago, will give Indian troops the edge on their enemies.

India's Defence Minister George Fernandes has approved funding for the project, and told parliament recently that experiments had begun.

The research is being carried out by experts from the Defence Research and Development Organisation and scientists from the University of Pune and National Institute of Virology in western India.

The book includes the recipe for a single meal that will keep a soldier fighting for a month, methods of inducing madness in the enemy as well as advice on chemical and biological warfare.

Powders and remedies

The book was written by military strategist Kautilya, also known as Chanakya and Vishnugupta, a prime minister in the court of India's first emperor Chandragupta Maurya, in the fourth century BC.

Mural of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya
The author was an adviser to India's first emperor

"All of us are excited about the possibilities and do not for a moment think that the idea is crazy," said Professor SV Bhavasar, a space scientist who has spent many years researching the Arthashastra.

"Decoding ancient texts is not an easy task but we are very hopeful of success," he added.

According to a Pune University report, the book says that soldiers fed with a single meal of special herbs, milk and clarified butter can stay without food for an entire month.

Shoes made of camel skin smeared with a serum made from the flesh of owls and vultures can help soldiers walk hundreds of miles during a war without feeling tired.

A powder made from fireflies and the eyes of wild boar can endow soldiers with night vision.

Chemical warfare

Kautilya wrote in the Arthashastra that a ruler could use any means to attain his goal, and Book XIV touches on aspects of chemical and biological warfare.

Indian soldier
Scientists say the text can help in modern warfare

The book says that smoke from burning a powder made from the skin and excreta of certain reptiles, animals and birds can cause madness and blindness in the enemy.

The book also provides the formula to create a lethal smoke by burning certain species of snakes, insects and plant seeds in makeshift laboratories.

"Our focus at present is on how humans can control hunger for longer durations and walk for longer period without experiencing fatigue,

Project leader Dr VS Ghole, head of the environmental engineering department of Pune university, said the team was now focusing on the methods of controlling hunger and increasing stamina.

"Once we have made some headway we will go into researching Kautilya's notes on night vision and other fields," he said.

Professor SV Bhavasar said the team also had plans to research other ancient Hindu texts.

These include manuscripts which "claim to provide secrets of manufacturing planes which can not be destroyed by any external force, could be motionless in the sky and even invisible to enemy planes."

See also:

05 May 02 | South Asia
India and US plan war games
18 Apr 02 | Business
India signs 'historic' US arms deal
20 Mar 02 | Americas
US voices South Asia war fear
20 Feb 02 | Business
India woos weapon makers
26 Jan 02 | South Asia
Powell laments India missile test
28 Apr 02 | South Asia
India tests cruise missile
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