FEW SIMPLE LESSONS FROM HISTORY
Few extracts of Basic Military Operation of an Ancient Sinhala king Dutugemunu and a Medieval Sinhala King Parakramabahu I and their General[ Senpathis, Adikarins etc] are from Chapters of the Mahavansa[ called Culawansa Part II]. These little bits of very basic tactics is written as a Gata or in verse or poetry.
This is written by EME officer with limited Infantry skills ,to encourage experts in tactics to read the Mahavamsa and extract more hidden material on this subject.
The great epics Ramayanaya and Mahabaratha was studied by ancient military leaders and the tactics adopted in them would have been useful in their military oprations . The Kautiliya Arthasastra – [ Click to read more] Military sciences-was another book that had to be studied by ancient Military leader amound a few other books , which are now lost.Perhaps some day these bits of very own basic tactics will form the base for further study at our Training Centres. It would not be a shame to place few of these examples on the classroom walls, amoung those great saying of Generals of the West.
I remember an enterprising Instructor Capt Eustace Fonseka. CA, brought along his Guitar to teach Administration in the field with a song[ 1963- Officer Training Wing, ATC Diyatalawa] . Memorizing these basic principles in Verse may have been part of the training of our Ksatriya Royalty and Nobles of the past, who safe guarded our land for over 2500 years.
The tactics depend on the threat, this was mainly from India, the first mentioned was by Sena and Guttika. Who were these warriors described as horse people. Perhaps from the Assakas tribe who were over run by Mayura’s and later developed as the Satvahanas in the Deccan region-DD Kosambi. Then it was Elara.
aA LESSON LEARN,T BY PRINCE GEMUNU -1 CENT BC[ This story is related to Chandragupta who with the assistance of Kautilliya [who wrote Arthasastra] disposed last of the Nandas’ in North India\
One of the earliest lesson or strategy or tactics that was put across to Prince Gemunu by a grand old lady Muth- amma from Uru-pellalla [ Kotmale], General Lucky Algama boasted that he used the same methods to bring under the government control the Eastern province. in 1990’s. This is folk lore of the Prince Gemunu who had to flee Mahagama[ Tissamaharama] after he presented his father with females cloths and jewellary – saying he was not man enough to face King Elara. The father King Kavantissa ordered he be taken in to custody.Fleeing Mahagama he arrived in Kotmale weary and hungry. A villager’s wife Muth-amma seeing him had offered the Prince hot boiled rice served on a plantain leaf, not knowing his royal connections. The prince had prodded the hot serving with his fingers before taking the first a mouthful. This not only burnt his fingers but his mouth. On seeing this Muth-amma, had given the lad a lesson in Military Tactics. .
When the lady noticing the Prince eating from all parts of the plate of Steaming Hot Rice and placing a handfull in the mouth, commented
” Your eating hot rice is same manner that Prince Gemunu is fighting haphazardly all over the country , burning both the hand and mouth. Eat from the sides of the serving in mouth-fulls …”.
A similar strategy was adopted by King Vasabha in the 2 Cent AD
Vamsatthappakasini – A commentary of the Mahavamsa.
In his challenge to the established authority, Vasabha[126-170 AD] must have followed the policy adopted. by a much greater upstart. Namely Candragupta Maurya, who learned of its efficacy though the admonition of an old lady to a child eating a hot cake. Following the old women’s advice did not attack it at the centre. But nibbled at edges. so did Vasabha, following Chandragupta’s example , start by attacking, not the established power at the centre of authority, but the outposts hardly known to the military leader at the capital. Having, as a Rebel, gained control over one village, he extended his power from village to village, until he could rise, in Ruhuna, An army which he felt was a match for that of forces of Anuradhapura.The type of strategy were used by many through out history up to the period of King Parakramabahu I.
The King followed this advise to the letter on his campaign to rid the country of foreign invader. The father King Kavantissa has organised and mobiised the necessary forces for the future battle to drive out the invaders. Using these resources King Dutugemunu in his attempt to overcome the fortress of Ambatittha on the banks of Mahaveli river took four months[ Siege Warfare], then he exploited the stronghold commander weakness for women. The King’s mother Queen Viharamahadevi her self , is said to have agreed to play the part of decoy to ensnare the Elara’s commander.In a war that assumed the character of a holy war,the emphasis of this was a congregation of Buddhist Bhikkhus accompanying the army. Viharemahadevi who had brought up the two sons in the best tradition of Aryan Chivalry, accompanied her son Dutugemunu and shared the perils and difficulties of the campaign with the common soldiers.
After the victory at Vijithapura,in the battle of Mahelnagara, which was was defended by a triple trench and hedges of thorny creepers, Dutgemunu failed to make any progress. Here he had to adopt methods other than Military in bringing the place under his control. The measure adopted though not described is referred to in the Mahavansa [ Ch XXV – v 9] as Manta-yuddha or diplomatic warfare.
One of the options in ancient warfare was to identify and kill the opposing King, King Elara had planned to have his famous Commander Dhiga juntu to attack Dutugemunu. But Dutugemunu anticipating this had placed 32 groups of troops, each with a effigy of himself under Royal Parasols to confuse and tire this great warrior. Dhigajuntu with his sword and shield had destroyed all of them, perhaps to the merriment of the Sinhala troops when he finally came to the King, Senpathi Suranimala sprang to his to his defense and killed him.
The battle formations or Arrays as described in Arthsastra of Kautilliya is discussed in the organisation of four fold army of ancient sinhala kings.
CONDUCT OF BATTLES – PARAKRAMBHU I. 1156-1183 AD
Mahavansa – Parakramabahu I Chapter 74 Para 42. When Queen Sugula rebel’ed and refused to hand over the Sacred Relics and Bowl, the King summoned his war tried General Rakkha and spake
“Arise in haste , quench thoroughly the forest fire of the hostile army which has broken out with a rain shower of arrows, appoint people whom it is necessary to appoint to keep the country in order and come again quickly’
The Kings there after sent his Commander -in- Chief Rakkha with a strong forces. With this four member Army and train and he marched to battle.
Ch 74Para 94;-The hostile army[ Queen Sugula] had erected fortifications near a locality called Hihobo, had dug trenches and spread thorn bushes–
Ch 74 para 87.- With the hostile army which after laying down fortifications, had taken up positions, there they fought a severe action, blew up fortifications along with their gates , destroyed many of the enemy and took up positions in that village to equip and train anew.-
In the many battle that followed the hostile army always laid down fortifications and inflicted newly trained and equipped troops into battle. General of Parakramabhu had destroy these and their gates, Then they too established camps with fortifications etc.
General Rakkha sent out an order
Ch 74 Para 114……………”Of the enemy who have invaded our country we shall not let a single foe escape. On the road which would be the line of retreat of the foe, we shall place barricades and make the roads to an extent of two to three gavutas impassable and round about the territory occupied the enemy cut off the supply of food .Then when the whole hostile army is weakened we shall an action with it in which because of our rain of arrows they will have difficulty in approaching us, and destroy them”..
The following Factors are covered.
a. The Aim : We shall not allow any one to escape.
b. Field Engineer tasks- Barricades etc
c. Cut of Food Supplies to the Enemy.
d.Getting the Archers to send a rain of arrows at 150-200 feet to impede the enemy movements.
These Battle Orders and other important documents were written on Talipot- leafs and these were sent by messengers. They were sealed by the signet ring of the Kings and Senpathies etc. The only evidence of this practice is the remains of the sealing’s with the impression of the Signet ring on the obverse and the impression of the strings and the Talipot leaf is still clearly seen. It is interesting that many such seals with Kings and perhaps General have been found. There is an interesting a Intaglio of inscribed in Nagari as “Sakaya” or Sa ka ra with a Chank has been found , there were a few Army Generals of that name during this period to which the type of script belong, One was the General that was killed by Parakramabahu I, an other is mentioned below.
STRATEGY ADOPTED BY KINGS OF DAMBEDENIYA PERIOD.
Hatthavangallaviharavamsa a , states that, being oppressed by enemy forces, the ministers and such other important Personages and the people left their villages and townships in thousands in search of places of protection the rocky mountains (Giri-dugga) and forest strongholds (Vana-dugga),
Few examples of Giri-dugga from text of the period,from the book ” Decline of Pollonnaruwa and Rise of Dambedeniya “-A. Liyanagamage.
a. A General (Senapati) named Subha established himself on the ” summit of the Subha-pabbata and founded a town as Vessavana the town of Alakamanda and dwelling there and fending off the -Kerala devils. Subha pabbata is now known as Yapahuva and was well fortified in about 50 years later.Yapahuva near Maho in the Kurunagala District
b.In Rohana a chieftain of this type, named Bhuvanekabahu established himself on the rock Govindamala or Govindisela, identified with the place -now known as Govindahela or Westminster Abbey, hard to reach by the rebels Like Yapahu Govindahera is a prominent rock rising to a considerable elevation, located 20 miles to the west of Tirukkovil in the Mahavadirata Kora1e.
c.Culavamsa mentions one more ruler, viz,, Commander (camupati) Sankha, who set himself up ‘on the lofty mountain Gangadoni’ in the district of Manimekhala[ Minipe]. He gave as little heed to the infamous army of the Ruler Magha though it was but two yojnanas away as to a blade of grass and protected without fear that district and the Order.
For a comparison of Battle orders of the present Sri Lankan Army , a brief of a Battle Orders of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa from 1990 era is below
Please note this was a limited operation to expand the own areas .
TRIVIDA BALAYA II
1After the success of Trivida-balaya I- though SF suffered a considerable numbers of casualties, the very effect of the rescue of troops and recovery of large Qty of Arms and Ammo and more than Rs 1 Billion worth of cash and Jewellery form the Jaffna Fort…
2.The threat of LTTE on Security Force bases in Jaffna, ie Karinagar Naval Base. Palaly Army Camp and Air field and Elephant Pass Amy Camp.
3. The SF at Kyts Island and KGR naval base is under threat and the people in these areas are been oppressed .
4. Enemy Forces has drawn large number of their cadre from the Eastern Province of the Island and threatening all above Camps and Installation in the North.
CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS. ;
OPs TRIVIDA BALA – It is planned to achieve the higher aim, that is to prevent LTTE to achieve any of their aims as mentioned above. Two BDEs will be inducted………… etc, etc ………. along with the Navy and Airforce.[ The Trivida bala]?
MISSION ; To expand the the Kyts/ KGR/ KKS SF bases and to prevent En interfering with long range weapons while disabling the enemy to fight an effective battle in general area Jaffna .
LIMITATIONS; The Civilian living in that area will be safe-guarded at all costs.
EXECUTION .The operation will be conducted in 5 phases etc
How the Sinhala Kings fought a Guerilla warfare.Ch 74 Para 170-180. The procedure adopted to enter a earmark general Area set up fortifications clear the area , leave sufficient forces to dominate the area and then move on to the next area. These would have had come in handy in our battles plans of the last 30 years.
…….” Our foe knows their own country. When we come near them they disperse on every-side, penetrate again into the territory that we have brought into our power, in order to conquer it, and Vex the people, but our King….he who knows the course of war, therefore will we honour the command of our illustrious Monarch and in order that the foe may not be able to return to the territory already subdued by us, post there at different places a strong force with Officers and when thus our enemies have roots cut off by us..
……………..” set off forthwith a vast army ready for battle they deprive many a foe of their life, they set forth there and built fortifications. Having posted Lankapura Kitti and a large army consisting of the four members[ The Elephant, Chariots, Cavalry and Foot], all dignitaries and leaders set forth at the head of the main army with a large force to subdue from One strip of the country to the other –
Ch 75.96 The enemy lurked here and there in the district.
Ch75 para 88 The brave warriors went forth with a rain of arrows which they let rain; with the rattle of the drums and the clash of the swords they were like to the flashing march of a storm cloud that appears out of season…..
Ch 74 Para 72.Read this passage which was a Gata or a Poem, the protection against arrows. The Concentration of force to break through fortifications etc.
Hereupon Bhuta[ a General] marched forth from the superb Pulatthinagara[ Pollonnaruva] and joined the strong force the Commander in Chief Rakkha. With out in any way departing from the order of the illustrious Lord of Men, they both had doublets of Buffalo hide made for his men for protection against Arrows,made the great army ready for battle, offered a sharp encounter, slew numerous warriors, many Hundreds in number broke through the seven strongholds, laid down as they were one behind the other, started again from there and came to the village of Kimsukavattaka.
Compare the above reporting by a Buddhist Monk of what happened in 12 Cent AD and then translated by a German Historian into English, with a SITREP of the Ministry of Defense placed on the MOD web site of 2009.
MULLAITTIVU: THE 574 Brigade troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonel SENAKA WIJESOORIYA of the 57 Division under the command of Major General JAGATH DIAS entered the west of KURAVILKULAM build-up this afternoon (10).
Troops of the 8 SLLI (Sri Lanka Light Infantry) commanded by Lieutenant Colonel IPSITHA DISSANAYAKE successfully facing the LTTE resistance for two days moved southwards from the A-35 road and captured the KURAVILKULAM intersection from where a few roads branch out to different directions.
This area is the main LTTE stronghold to the immediate west of PUTHUKUDIYIRIPPU.
One container full of MPMG (Multi Purpose Machine Gun) and T-56 ammunition was also recovered by the troops from the area.
Fighting between the 574 Brigade troops and terrorists is still going on