By Michael Dolan,
B.V. Mahayogi
Vedic Art of War: Part 3
Compound Bow, The Ultimate Weapon in Ancient History.
Egypt and Cultural Cross-pollination
Since Egypt stood at the cross-roads of the ancient world and is mentioned in the Mahabharata as one of the lands conquered by Arjuna, King Ramses the II in the 12th C. B.C. may have had a trade relationship with ancient India. Was it from there that his craftsmen learned the techniques of making compound bows?
Weapons of War: The Compound Bow
The compound or complex bow was one of the most highly developed weapons of the ancient world. These weapons had been in use throughout the ancient world and examples have been found in places as disperse as ancient Mohenjo Daro to the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt. India's treasures have been plundered for thousands of years from the time of the Arabian Moghuls to the British Raj. As such it is hard to discover good archeological samples of compound bows dating from Vedic times on the sub-continent.
The Bow in Ancient Artefacts
And yet, well-preserved examples of these amazing weapons may be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. They have withstood more than 3,000 years. The Hittites as well knew this technology and these ancient rivals were to clash at the battle of Kadesh, one of the earliest recorded battles in history.
Scythia and the Compound Bow
We see the use of compound bows in ancient Scythia as well. Good examples of these bows may be found in the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine as well as the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the notable Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Composite Bows and Archeology
Composite bows have been known from archaeology and art since the second millennium BCE, but their history is not well recorded as they were developed by cultures without a written tradition with the notable exception of Vyāsa's Sanskrit version of the Mahābharata.

The compound bows used on the plains of battle at Kurukshetra were constructed to reach the greatest possible range while light-weight and compact. A composite bow is a traditional bow made from horn, wood, and sinews laminated together to make a bow. The horn is on the "belly," or central axis of the bow, facing the archer, and sinew is glued on the outer side of a wooden core. When the bow is drawn, the sinew stretches on the outside and the horn compresses on the inside to release more energy than an ordinary wooden construction for the same length of bow.

Technology of Bow-making and the difficulty of constructing a fine compound cow in the ancient world.

With a heart of bone and wood, tied with sinews and fiber and held in place with special glues, compound bows employed a series of difficult, expensive, and time-consuming techniques. This composite structure gave extreme strength to the ancient bows used at the battle of Kurukshetra.

It would take almost eighteen months for an expert weapons-maker to perfect a single bow--but the resulting weapons was stronger and more flexible than even today's bows made of fiberglass and carbon.

The composite bow was one of the most incredibly powerful weapons of the ancient world. Its design took thousands of years to perfect. While the exact antiquity of ancient compound bows as used in India, Scythia and Egypt cannot be reliably established, we can say with certainty that the bow was the deadly weapon of primary importance in Vyāsa's Mahabharata. The compound bow is described in detail in practically every chapter.

The antiquity of the Mahabhatrata may also be disputed, but Vyāsa's intimate knowledge of this ancient weaponry argues for an early date, perhaps as much as 4,400 years ago, if we consider that the armies of Ramses II had borrowed their technology from the Indian Subcontinent.

The time, care, and difficulty in craftsmanship involved in creating such a sophisticated weapon in the ancient world made the compound bow a revered and precious instrument of war. Arjuna's bow--the Gandiva--was one such. Vedic warriors were armed with compound bows with armor piercing arrowheads made of bronze, copper and tin crafted by expert blacksmiths and empowered with the magic of Vedic mantras.
The Bow as Meditation
While the Dhanur-Veda makes provision for different kinds of warfare, it is the bow that has the most prominent place in its consideration. The great heroes of the bow are mentioned, from Parashurama, or "Ram-of-the-Axe" to Lord Rām, Vishnu, and Satyaki, the great bow-warrior of the Mahābharata.

And in contrast to other weapons, the bow, demands a peculiar form of meditation from the archer. The famous example is when Drona demands focus and purpose from his student Arjuna. He is not to see the tree, the branches, or the bird that is his target, but only "the eye of the bird." The archer's focus on his target is a metaphor for our need to focus on our spiritual self-interest.

To draw the bow requires strength. This represents the spiritual strength and discipline needed for a steady life aimed at a proper spiritual objective. You must hold and establish that arrow and bowstring into a state perfect meditation similar to samādhi. A trembling hand means a misaimed arrow. A true archer must establish himself in the proper spirit with proper meditation before entering into action and firing his missile. These are all metaphors for proper spiritual practice. The true archer is not a practitoner of violence but an instrument of truth.
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