...Dhanur-Veda was introduced by the universal creator Brahmā and later taught by Śiva Mahādeva to Parashurama or "Ram of the Axe," the fiersome warrior-brahmana of ancient times.
Dhanurveda, or the Science of Archery is a Sanskrit work authored by Vaishta Rishi and referenced in a number of ancient literatures. According to the Vishnu Purana it was one of the eighteen branches of knowledge taught by Bhrigu Muni. The Mahābhārata mentions it along with the other Vedic śastras ennumerated there and specifically describes it as having a number of sutras. The Śukranīti-śastra mentions the Dhanur-Veda as an upaveda of the Yajur-veda. The Agnipurāna and Sāmrājya-Lakshmī-Pīthikā, a Shivaite Trantric literature also reference the Dhanur-Veda in describing the various positions and postures used by archers. According to the work itself, the Dhanur-Veda was introduced by the universal creator Brahmā and later taught by Śiva Mahādeva to Parashurama or "Ram of the Axe," the fiersome warrior-brahmana of ancient times. The written version is said to have been authored by Vasishtha and taught to the kshatriya king Visvamitra.
The Dhanur-Veda is the Vedic Art of War. The original book of the Dhanur-veda is a samhita, one of the corollary texts in support of the original Vedas. Dhanur-Veda is a supplement to the Yajur-Veda, one of the oldest written books in the Sanskrit language and describes the code of war for kshatriyas or the warrior class. The word "dhanur" is derived from the word for bow, dhanisha, and means "martial arts" or the warrior's code where the word "Veda" means knowledge.
As a system of knowledge, the Vedas not only include philosophy as in ontology, metaphysics, and ethics as seen in the four Vedas and Upanishads, but also natural sciences such as medicine, as in the Ayur-Veda, and even the art of war as found in Dhanur Veda and even sex and the art of love as found in the Kama-Sutra. Where certain aspects of the Vedas tend toward spirituality and the goal of life, theDhanur Veda concentrates on such practical aspects as self-defense and the defense of the State.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Samurais and Bushido Law
Since time immemorial human beings have established a code of war to avoid the pitfalls of "total war" where there is no concern for human life, "collateral damage" such as the killing of women and children and different kinds of war atrocities such as genocide. The Chinese, for example, while they had invented gunpowder, were averse to using gunpowder in their engines of war, since they considered it to be cowardly to avoid man-to-man battle with the use of rockets and gunfire. The Japanese felt the same. Both the Chinese and the Japanese established their code of warrriors, the Chinese in the famous book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and the Japanese in their ritualized violence and the Bushido Law of the Samurai. The Dhanur-Veda establishes this code as the ancient law of kshatriyas in the Vedic India of the Mahābharata.
Balance of Spiritual and Physical Power
As such, it may be seen that the Dhanur-Veda is concerned with the proper balance of spiritual power and physical force. As Lord Shiva is god of the Nexus between matter and spirit, he is considered as the principal deity of the art of war. While the teachings of the Dhanur-Veda concentrate on the art of war and politics, the proper duties of kings and the code of the warrior, they also include different martial arts traditions. In a sense, the entire Mahābharata is a long meditation on the teachings of the Dhanur-Veda, since it demonstrates the consequences of military conflicts and contemplates their causes and effects, their karma and dharma, on personal, social and even cosmic levels. As such, Mahābharata develops the need for the proper balance of spiritual power and physical force as it is described in Dhanur-Veda.
Martial Arts Traditions
The martial arts traditions of Dhanur-Veda include the different forms of physical combat practiced by the true warriors of the kshatriya class of princes, for example wrestling, mixed martial arts, acrobatics, sword-wielding, stick-fighting, the mastery of the club, the mace, the javelin and the practice of archery.
A full course of training in dhanur-veda might take years to complete. Apart from training in the ethical and spiritual principles of dhanur-veda, the basic training would include a difficult physical regimen. A young prince or member of the warrior class would begin by practicing advanced yoga and breathing techniques. In this way the young acolyte of dhanur-veda would train his body as the perfect instrument of warfare. Under the guidance of a master, different physical exercises would be used to prepare the body for the execution of the martial arts. Having tuned his instrument, the neophyte warrior would begin his training using carved sticks made of hickory or bamboo staffs to practice defensive and agressive moves in a simulated kind of sword-fighting. Once perfecting the complex attacks and blocks, he would move on to using steel and iron, wielding swords, metal clubs. Advanced students would practice sparring with tigers or bears using bamboo staffs to repel the animals fierce attacks. Having mastered this level, students would perfect the use of different weapons. These warriors were ready to use sharpened weapons in attack and shields in defense. Different postures would be employed in attack and defense. The students would be tested in fighting from a crouching position with swords, to flying and hurling chakras, running and throwing the javelin, and even shooting arrows from horseback into small brass rings fixed as targets on posts as they rode at top speed. Soldiers would practice in full armor in the heat of India's summer sun and naked in the winter snows of the Himalayas. Having mastered the thrusts and parries of armed attack, the would-be warriors would return to master the fine points of unarmed self-defense, advanced wrestling techniques, tumbling, boxing, hand-to-hand combat, and the special training for expert archers, such as aiming only by sound or shooting in the dark.
The Vedic warriors who were masters of Dhanurveda – such as Ram, Lakshman, Arjuna, Krishna and other Vedic heroes were superior beings perfect in full spiritual potential with superior physical abilities and fearlessness through mental and emotional freedom.
A true warrior with full knowledge of Dhanurveda was considered invincible. They would be fully alert while in deep rest, completely calm and fully aware in the field of battle, all while fighting only for the highest purpose with no attachment to the outcome. They were established in being while they performed action. They were invincible on the battlefield.
Highest levels of military science
The highest levels of Dhanur-veda, or military science, were taught by Droṇācārya who understood all the confidential secrets of firing weapons and controlling by Vedic mantras. He himself had learned this science from Ram-of-the-axe. The external military science is dependent on material weapons. A higher level of vedic military science was seen in the art of shooting arrows saturated with Vedic hymns. The method of combining sound vibration with weapons technology is a science now lost to us. We can only think of it as "magic" just as those unfamiliar with our own modern technology might see it as a kind of magic. Ancient Indian history recorded in the Purānas describe weapons which act more effectively than gross material weapons like machine guns or atomic bombs.
These weapons were controlled by Vedic mantras, by the transcendental science of sound. The Rāmāyaṇa notes that Mahārāja Daśaratha, the father of Lord Śrī Rāma, used to control arrows by sound only. He could pierce his target with his arrow by only hearing the sound, without seeing the object. All these fine arts of war constituted a finer military science than contemporary weaponry. Arjuna was taught all this by Draupadi by Ācārya Droṇa. It has been argued why Droṇācārya, a strict brāhmaṇa, had no business teaching the military science. But reply brāhmaṇas may teach any department of knowledge is. A bona fide brāhmaṇa is authorized to accept such professions.