The whole of ‘Bharat’ and Sanatan followers all across the globe are chanting “Jai Shree Ram” as we are approaching the consecration of Bhagwan Shree Ram at Ayodhya, on January 22, 2024. Shree Ram has been an ideal incarnation of God, as he lived the life of a human in ‘Treta Yug’. After thousands of years, he is still worshipped and idolised as an ideal son, brother, husband, ruler, and also a great military leader.
To instill and learn from the story of Ramayana, one has to embark on a lifetime journey, decoding and understanding the words written in this legendary epic story. Everybody looks at Ramayan from their angle and derives their lessons to emulate in life. The Indian epic tale of Ramayana has innumerable lessons to teach; it has leadership, entrepreneurship, governance, philosophy, spiritual significance and management. From a soldier’s perspective, I have tried to find some very good lessons that our military leaders across the globe can imbibe and practice in war.
Justification for War: Lord Rama was the embodiment of righteousness. He defeated a very powerful opponent with meagre resources only because he was fighting a just war. Shree Ram is considered the epitome of dharma and righteous conduct. Ravan was a very learned person, very powerful with an abundance of wealth and backed by a strong Army. He lacked character and justification to fight the war and hence lost it. Shree Ram was fighting a legitimate war. That’s why Ramayan is called the victory of GOOD over EVIL. Even today, the one fighting a just war is ultimately the winner. Therefore, all nation states look for ‘Justification for War’ to legitimise their aggression against another country. Ramayan teaches us that the one fighting the ‘just war’, finally, wins.
Never Underestimate Your Enemy: Ravan was very powerful and hence he became egoistic and arrogant. In his narcissistic ego, he underestimated the might of his opponent, Shree Ram, and finally lost the epic battle. So, knowing your opponent’s strengths and one’s limits is equally important. Thousands of years later, similar views were echoed by the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in his famous book‘The Art of War’. Sun Tzu says:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Take Time to Prepare and Train: Shree Ram was very furious and stressed when Sita ji was in the captivity of Ravan but he did not take any hasty decision. He kept patience (“Dheeraj dhareu kuavsar jani”) in the adverse situation and prepared well for the war before launching the attack. He took time to ascertain the inputs about Ravan and win over the locals, tribals and Adivasis. He arranged adequate resources for the war, trained his Army well and built adequate infrastructure like ‘Ram Setu’ before he launched the campaign with full might, to ensure success. Ramayan gives a very important lesson to our military leaders even today. For guaranteed success against a stronger opponent, have clarity of vision, plan in detail and prepare well before you launch the offensive. The success will be assured. Taking lessons from Ramayan, Bangladesh War (1971) was an ideal campaign by the Indian Armed Forces, which was well planned and executed to perfection.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle,” says Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in his book ‘The Art of War’
‘Recce By Force’ is Essential: It’s an apt saying in military parlance that ‘Time spent on Reconnaissance is not wasted’. Ramayan provided an outstanding example of ‘Reconnaissance in Force’ when Shree Ram launched Hanuman, his most trusted and powerful aide (Force) to go to Lanka and carry out Reconnaissance. Hanuman ji provoked Ravan Sena to catch him and resultantly, he ran around the entire Lanka to know the layout in detail. Destruction of their resources in a pre-emptive strike by putting the Lanka to flames was ‘aim plus’, which was well achieved.
Use Local Resources: Shree Ram was cautious of his new status as ‘vanvasi’ and thus adapted to a completely new atmosphere. He did not take help from other friends and kings but he chose to raise his army and train them well to fight alone. He made excellent use of local resources. He created an army of local tribals (vanaras). The local tribals were well aware of the ground situation, routes and art of jungle warfare. They could survive off the land and did not require a long logistics tail. He also created war infrastructure like ‘Ram Setu’ – a land bridge up to Lanka using locally available floating coral reefs. Usage of the available local resources efficiently is something every military leader must know and practice in war.
Leadership and Teamwork: Bhagwan Ram was a perfect military leader. He had clarity of vision, an eye for detailed planning, perseverance to execute his plans and also to stay calm in adversity. He was a charismatic leader who believed in teamwork, empowerment of field commanders and delegation of responsibilities. His military Leadership was all about impact, influence, and inspiration to achieve the aim of the campaign. He made his team part of the decision-making process and delegated powers to act independently when required.
Invoke God’s Blessings before War: Defeating Ravan, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, was not an easy task, even for ‘God’ in the human incarnation. So Shree Ram worshiped Lord Shiva to seek his blessings. Such practice of worship before the battle at ‘Sarv Dharm Sthal’ is done by the Indian army even today, to seek blessings of God. The teachings of Ramayan are in vogue even after thousands of years.
Don’t Damage the Country: India idolises the principles of war given by Lord Shree Ram wherein he did not destroy the rich nation of Lanka after the defeat of Ravan. Lanka was supposed to be of ‘Gold’ implying that it was a very rich country. History is replete with examples of kings and raiders who ravaged and looted the countries which were defeated. Post-war devastation takes ages to be recouped and hence Shree Ram did not damage any property or harm women, children and elders. It was a Dharmyudh fought with a purpose, strictly as per the rules of the war. Even today, the ‘Principles of War’ given out to Indian Armed Forces strictly lay down that no damage to property or population will be done in the enemy territory.
Instead of taking help from other kings, Lord Ram chose to raise his army and train them well to fight. He made excellent use of local resources. He created an army of local tribals who were well aware of the ground situation, routes and art of jungle warfare. Usage of the available local resources efficiently is something every military leader must know and practice in war
Respect the Enemy: With Ravan’s death at his hands imminent, Ram had no animosity left for him. After Ravan was defeated and he was lying injured, on the battlefield, Shree Ram sent his brother Laxman to meet Ravan and gain some knowledge about statecraft and spirituality. He also told him to be humble when you want to be a pupil and learn from others. In death, Ram honoured his enemy as an equal human. Ravan was also given a proper funeral. Following the ethos of Shree Ram, the Indian Army treated the Pak POWs from Bangladesh with equal dignity and gave them all facilities as per the Geneva Convention.
Be Friendly Power (Geopolitics): Shree Ram never included the captured Lankan territory in his kingdom. He installed a popular Government under the local leader – Vibhishan. These are the ethos taught to us by Ramayan and India follows the Ramayan teachings even today. In 1971, India liberated Bangladesh but did not make it a part of India but installed a popular government under Sheikh Mujib, respecting the ethos enshrined in Ramayan. India is always known as a benign friendly power, which could be trusted in the hour of need, by friendly neighbours. Indian peacekeeping mission (1986) in Sri Lanka and action against the coup in Maldives (1988) are also reflections of Ramayan teachings.
India idolises Lord Ram’s principles of war. He did not damage any property or harm women, children and elders in the rich nation of Lanka after the defeat of Ravan. History is replete with examples of kings who ravaged and looted the countries which were defeated. However, the ‘Principles of War’ given out to the Indian Armed Forces strictly lay down that no damage to property or population will be done in the enemy territory
Indians have idealised Shree Ram as an incarnation of God for many centuries now. It’s across all religions since all other present-day religions came into existence after ‘Ram-yug’. Hence, it is ‘Sabke Ram’. The teachings and practices of Shree Ram are etched in the hearts and minds of all Indians. The Indian Armed Forces draw great inspiration from the epic Ramayan and follow the teachings of Shree Ram in War and Peace. Amongst many deeds of greatness, Shree Ram will also be remembered as a great military leader who fought a Just war, played by the rules and won over the powerful evil. Even after centuries, he is still the most respected and loved military leader, whom each one of us would love to emulate.
JAI SHREE RAM!
-The writer is an avid reader and prolific writer. Post retirement, he is a Social Activist, Career Consultant and a Motivational Speaker of repute. He can be contacted at www.majgencpsingh.com