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Dandapala – Important Army Commander In Ancient Hinduism

Dandapala, an important army commander in ancient Hinduism, commanded an Akshauhini Sainya defined as an army of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot soldiers. He was one of the 18 chief officers of the administrative department of the state as prescribed by Kautilya in his Arthashastra (I.12).

As the entire war office with all its departments was placed under his supreme control and command, he could be called the commander in chief. Dandapala was expected to possess all military qualifications and proficiency in sarvayuddha (all modes of warfare) and in the use of praharana (all kinds of weapons). He was a man of high general education and capable of controlling all the four divisions of the army, each with its own chief. He was expected to maintain the discipline of the army in peace, on the march and on attack.

According Arthashastra, Dandapala was also to divide the army into vyuha or formations with their distinctive marks in regard to trumpets and ensigns (II.33).

Dandapala, being the highest army officer equal in status to the queen, the crown prince and the prime ministers, was recommended a high salary.

Above all, Dandapala was expected to be loyal to the king and kingdom and instill the same feeling among his subordinates. It is said that “a soldier is destined to go to hell and shall not receive the privilege of proper funeral rites at his death, if he does not fight in return for the subsistence he owes to his master, i.e. the king.