Delhi, 20 May 2002
the media was full of reports of Indian defence scientists studying
and experimenting with the practice of Yoga and use of other
indigenous means to improve the fighting capabilities of soldiers in
adverse/extreme environments. We reproduce below two Articles, sent
to us through David Leffler, Ph.D,. which provide interesting
insight into the range and applicability of ancient Indian ‘know
how’ in modern warfare.
Gurus Turn to Yoga
military research industry is to launch experiments with yoga to
sharpen the skills of troops in modern warfare and help cope with
the stress of battling domestic insurgencies. Scientists are also
tinkering with exotic herbs in search of potions to drive away
altitude sickness and frostbite and say they have concocted a new
chemistry that can block out artillery-induced deafness in the
the first time journalists were taken on a tour today of one of the
military's top research facilities, the Defence Institute of
Physiology and Allied Sciences. It was set up after 1962 when Indian
troops were badly mauled in a border battle with China.
"We lost the war with the Chinese because we were not
prepared for high-altitude warfare," said R V Swamy, chief
controller of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation,
an umbrella organisation for 51 military laboratories.
yoga and novel cures for mountain ailments, the institute is also on
the verge of patenting a water-cooled combat suit for
high-temperature battlefields. "It is a priority," chief
scientist W Selvamurthy said. Thousands of Indian troops are
deployed on the border with Pakistan where temperatures in the
summer can rise to as high as 60C. Selvamurthy said research into
yoga had shown the ancient discipline to be more effective than
routine physical exercises as it could be practiced on a glacier, in
the confines of submarines or even a battle tank.
reduces wear and tear of the heart and on our objective scientific
scales we have seen it produce mental tranquility, greater
alertness, flexibility and enhanced tolerance to cold."
Experiments so far have been conducted on groups of 60 volunteers.
"Our objective is the soldier's survivability, efficiency and
increasing his kill-power and the spin-offs can also benefit the
civilian sector," he said.
Colonel G Hemashree, an expert in extreme cold conditions, said
she was planning a fusion of yoga with her classified research at
the New Delhi facility to find new ways to fight hypothermia.
"Very soon we will ask yoga volunteers in this specially-cooled
chamber and map their physiological changes in minus 20 degrees
Celsius," she said from inside a giant steel vault. Every year,
hypothermia kills more than 200 Indian soldiers and five out of
every 1,000 are hospitalised with life-threatening high-altitude
sicknesses. Most of the victims are among army units deployed on the
strategic Siachen glacier that straddles the Indo-Pakistan border at
an altitude of 6,363 metres.
casualties occur in the desert heat of northern India or in the
tropical marshes of the country's strife-torn northeast. Director
Selvamurthy said his scientists were experimenting with a variety of
herbs including Korean ginseng to concoct a potion to sharpen the
efficiency of India's 1.3-million army, which has fought three wars
with Pakistan since 1947. "We are on an exciting
threshold," he said, adding that initial tests with rats had
led to trials on a group of 200 soldiers and more recently the
herbal potion was given to 4,000 combat troops. "Very soon the
experiment will be large-scale," he said.
Defence Looks to Ancient Text
Shaikh Azizur Rahman
scientists are turning to an ancient Hindu text in their search for
the secrets of effective stealth warfare. They believe the book, the
Arthashastra, written more than 2,300 years ago, will give Indian
troops the edge on their enemies. The book was written in the fourth
century BC, by military strategist Kautilya, a prime minister in the
court of India's first 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 cannot be destroyed by any
external force, could be motionless in the sky and even invisible to