Ancient Stor-keepers



[This is as laid down in ancient text of Indian Kautiliya Arthasastra , which was a Text books  [ click to read more] available the our Kings].


Over a thousand battle fought for the last 2500 years, they needed Ordnance support for the provision and maintenance of the army equipment. This paper has a collection of facts from the ancient text available to us.A few definitions from these text is relevant.

There are two functions


  1. To Establish factories and staff them expert craftsmen in the manufacture of all military equipment.
  2. To Manufacture all weapons and Machines  used by 4 fold force in Battle, in Storming of Forts, Defending the Forts established by his king.
  3. To Manufacture Armour and Accoutrements for horses and elephants
  4. To Manufacture and Supply these equipment at the correct time.
  5. For Proper payment and accounting of all of the above ventures.



  1. Labeling the  equipment brought in, having them  be stamped with the King’s seal.They be stored in suitable locations.
  2. Maintenance by exposing the weapons to sun and wind to prevent deterioration.
  3. Maintenance of equipment which is susceptible for deterioration  by heat, moisture or insects.
  4. Ensure safety and accounting of all  equipment and shall be fined double the value of equipment lost or damaged through negligence..
  5. Record keeping the weapon destroyed.
  6. To periodically inspect all equipment for Quality, Serviceability, Quantity, place of manufacture. cost of manufacture and to ensure proper storage method  are adopted.
  7. He should estimate the demand for each type of  weapon,and ensure  the supply is met adequately.
  8. He shall ensure the distribution of weapons to the correct place at the correct time.
  9. He should estimate the cost of replenishment of all weapons depending the wear and tear and losses in Battle.

A very interesting list of items is given in the book, which the head of Ordnance responsible to supply the four fold armies is made available in Arthasastra.The names and the type of weapon described by modern writers can be compared with the list of weapons[ most the similar names ] found is the Sri Lankan ancient texts such as Mahavansa.[]

But what of the history in Sri Lanka.Just as we had Government Stores etc under the treasury which was responsible for the money or the wealth etc. There fore the ancient Master General of Ordanance  perhaps one of the Treasurers holding the treasury of weapons etc in a separate store house.

The Mahavansa[ Culavamsa ] in Chapter 70 paragraph 56 describing war preparations of Parakramabahu I[1153-1186 AD].
” With careful consideration of the work profitable for the carrying out the war, such as the text books Koatalla[ Kautalaya] the Yuddhannava and others, He versed in the procedures of war, worked out with ingenuity in way according with the locality and the time, the plan of campaign [ Yuddhopaya] , wrote it down, had it handed out to the officers and gave the order.
The books Yuddhannava and others are now lost, but we have the copy of Arthsastra mentioned above. The procedures to plan the war campaign from the Arthasastra clearly mentions the Organizational Structure of an Ancient Armies
“In additions to Commander of the Foot, Elephant, Cavalry and Chariots [all Combatants] , a Chief of Ordnance all coming under the ovrall commander or chief of Defence the Senapati. In addition there was a Contingent that accompanied the army to do support jobs.
The functions of the Contingent were maintaining camps, Roads, embankments or fortifications , well and fording places, carrying machines, weapons, armour, implements , provisions, removing weapons, armour and the wounded from the Battle field.

Generally the funding and logistic support for the army was not separated from those of civilian affairs. This is apparent from the statement of Parakramabahu the Great in 12 Cent AD in chapter 69 strope 29 where he created two chief ministers one Ministry of War and another for Internal Administration. The earlier Kings perhaps maintained the duties of the administration of warfare under the Chief Treasurer or Badagarika. The treasury was the Royal Store house. He had many types of store houses. Other than those to store money and high value items, the Chief Treasurer had the responsibility of maintaining warehouses for as the Granary, Forest Products, an Armoury etc. This was a very important position in the ancient Sri Lanka. The fact that Prince Gotabaya held. The stores were in charge of Kostagarika, many of them appear of Rock Inscriptions of ancient Sri lanaka.
This post during Sirisambabodi I rule, Gotabaya was his treasurer ,challenged the power while holding this position and captured power.
The War materials including rations for soldiers were stocked and maintained by various Superintendent of Stores [ Kostagarikas], as mentioned in Chanaka or Kuatilliya’s , ancient Indian book Arthasastra. The Mahavansa states that Wijeyabahu I, too used this book in their Military preparations. Arthasastra names the duties of the Army Commander, those of the Superintendents [Commanders] of the Cavalry, the Elephant Corp , the Chariots and the Infantry. Along side them is the duties of the Superintendent or perhaps the then equivalent of Master General of Ordinance.The same practice prevailed into the 1950’s or still prevails on paper, where the Government Stores were and is still under the Treasury. The Ordanance was dependent of the Government Stores, until their function slowly taken over by the Army and the other departments.
Earlier to this period during late Anuradhapura period the term badagarika is not mentioned but those doing the fuction of was known as maha-lekhaka or Mahela who was in charge of the two treasuries Kulatsam – arub and Pittasam arub[ Inner and Outer treasuries].The Mahelas as mentioned in chronicles, have functioned as Commanding officers of the army and have led troops in to battle. The Mahela Arakamanas that figures in Pillar Inscriptions may have had to full-fill both treasury duties as well as leading troops during times of war. The Kundasala was a building in which Kings store houses were in the 17th Cent.
During Parakramabahu period he ordered his Lekhaka vagga to make an estimate of the Kings revenue, of his stocks of grain, of his troops, of his various war materials and so on CV Chapter 66 verse 154-155.During Polonnaruva period the Royal treasurer was known as bhandara=pot.




 Names  used in the ancient world for Weapons of the Foot soldiers     [ Click to read more about weapons of Sinhala  Soldier]

It may be interesting to consider the type of weapons and machines of war used in the Indian sub continent from the very early period, then  look for any evidence if such innovations  or weapon were used by Sri Lankan armies or those armies that invaded us from India or by the mercenary troops employed by our ancient kings, and tactics adopted in the employment or defense of such weapon.

Some remnants of ancient weapons.

Some remnants of ancient weapons.

Fixed Machines  according to LN Rangarjan

Saratobhadra,A machine using a wheel  principle for hurling stone at enemy. Evidence of stone throwing machine in the Island.

YanakaA similar machine as above to throw Logs.

Jamadgnya,- A Machine to shoot arrows- Distance ? or rate of fire?

Bahumukha,A fixed tower with protection for Many Archers to fire at enemy.

Visvasaghatin, A Preset Beam with release mechanism to fall on enemy

Bahu,- Two beams released to block passage or kill animals

Urdhvababahu-Heavy Pillar released by mechanism.

Arahabahu- Half size of above

samghati- ,A machine used to set fire to Mobile Turrets of enemy.

Parjanyaka, .A fire extinguisher- a machine to pump water


Mobile Machines of War

Pancalika, A Nial studded planks used as obstacle in Moats.

Devadanda,-A beam projectile placed on fortress wall, with nails or without nils..

Sukarika, A leather bag filled with cotton o wool placed on ferret???

Musalayasti,- A machine to hurl a pike

Hastivaraka, A multiple point Pike -a defense against elephants.

Talavrnta,A Machine to blow dust – Perhaps a smoke screen or blind the enemy.

Mudgara- A machine that throws a Hammer,

Gada- A machine that hurl a Mace,

Sprktala, A machine that hurl a Mace with sharp nails.,

Kuddala-  Spade ?.,

Asphatima,A catapult

Utpatima,  A machine to pull down pillars

Udghatia, A machine to pull down Towers.

Sataghni  A mobile pillar studded with spikes.

Trisula – A Trident,

Chakra–  a Discuss

Catapults Yantamutte

The Chapter and verse number in the ancient Text  Mahawansa  given below , refers to the use of these weapon in battles etc.

Chapter 72. verse 251; King Parakramabhu In  the attack of Pollonnaruva Fortifications “ There followed a Hail of Stones which were hurled by engines, flew here and there vast in size.

Ch 83.  V.44- Parakramabahu II , his Nephew  Virabahu battles and defeats the Chandabanus of the Javaka army

“ The good Sinhala warriors, sure in aim, the Archers, shattered in pieces with sharply pointed arrows, in the battle the countless numbers of arrow whizzing against them with their poisoned tips which were  shot swiftly one after the other by the  Javaka soldiers from a machine’.

WEAPONS with piercing points


Sakti, A  leaf shaped Tip.  on a long pole[ 4 Hastas= 21 x 4 = 84 inches]]

 Prasa, A weapon about Two feet in length  wielded by both arms.

Trasika- A weapon like the above with a tail.

Kunta-    A Long sharp weapon used by Cavalry.

Hattaka- A Three pointed weapon

Bhindipala,-A Broad bladed weapon of Cavalrymen.

Sula- A Spear

TomaraA Weapon 4-5 hastas long with arrow shaped tip. ,

Varahakarna – A weapon with a tip like Pigs ear,

Karpana – A throwing weapon with triangular tip at the two ends with a grip in the middle,

Kanaya –  Arrow like throwing weapon.,


A few these weapon names are mentioned in the following verses in the Mahawansa


SpearsSome reference to weapons in the Mahawansa, which may be useful to students of Military History. Mahavansa is available for reading on the web . Plase click and go to the relevant Chapter and read more.

Kunta or Spear:

Chapter 25. verse 1;  King Dutugemunu places a relic in his Spear and uses it as a Royal Standard.

Chapter 25, verse 9 ; Places same  engaging in water sports, place where Mirisavetiya stands.

Chapter36.  verse 47;

Chapter 96.v 14; Rajasinghe II

Ch 99.v 49.

Satti, sattha 

Ch 69.  v 20;

Ch 70. v 116; 

Ch 90. v 7.



Ch 24. v 35;

Ch 70. v 116

Salla Ch 70.  v 307 –


Ch 7. v 20;

Ch 10.  v 55.

Bows  &  Arrowsarchers

 According to the Arthasatra the manufacture of these bow and arrows are described below, these could be compared with reference fro Sinhala text of the Island. Read Weapons of the Sinhalese. and

Bows are made of Tala, Capa, Wood and Horn and known as Karmuka, Kodanda and Druna.

Bow Strings. are of Murva, Arka, Sana, Gavedha, Venu and Sinews of animals .

The type of Arrows are Venu, Sara, Salaka, Dandasana and Naraca

Bow and Arrows  are mentioned in  Mahavansa  The references are

bow arrows

Chapter 6.verse 16.

Chapter 29 ; v. 7and  19 ;

Ch 25.v 89,  99 and  33;

Ch 63.v 65 ;

Ch35. v 31;

Ch 55. 6;


Ch 66.v27;

Ch 70. 114;

Ch 72.134;

Ch 72v.246.

Ch 72.250;

Ch74. 96,

Ch74.117 ;

Ch83. 44 ;

Ch 96. 14

Poisoned arrows  Ch 76. v49

;Ch 83.38,83and 45.

Gokanna arrows Ch 76. 48.

Archers – Ch 25v.82;

Ch 69.v19; Of one thousand  he made moonlight archers, versed in night fighting.

Ch 70. 116;


Ch 72.322.

The Tips for cutting, piercing and striking are made of Iron, bone or hard wood.


Swords are according to Arthasastra

  1. Nistrimsa are Swords with curved tip

  2. Mandalagra are straight blade with rounded tip.

  3. Asi-yasti are swords with long thin blades .




Sword of Pollonaruwa Period.

The Hilts for Swords  are made of Horn of Rhinoceros and Buffalo, the Tusk of Elephants, Wood and Bamboo  Root.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s