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Secret Agent In Ancient India Involved In Incendiary – Agni Pranidhi

Agnipranidhi was a secret agent in ancient India who was involved in incendiary (arousing action or rebellion mainly through fire). Agni Pranidhi finds mention in chapters twelve and thirteen of the Arthashastra of Kautilya. Chapter twelve sets forth the view that the secret agents of a weaker king should take recourse to various types of hidden warfare such as use of poison, concealed arms and fire to hit the stronger enemy. They should stealthily set fire to the quarters of the chiefs of the army of the enemy. If the enemy king were to escape hiding in a desert fort, forest fort or water fort, the secret agent should destroy him with poisonous fire and smoke; and if he were to try an escape through a narrow place, or escape from his quarters, they should do away with him by the use of fire.

The next chapter deals with use of incendiary materials as one of the means of seizing a fort. Secret agent would catch hold of birds like hawks, crows, kites, parrots and pigeons that live inside the fort, and tie the fire-mixture to their tails and release them into the fort again. Also, fire can be shot from a distance into the fort of the enemy and the secret agents, serving as guards inside the fort, should tie the fire mixtures to the tails of animals inside and let them loose; they should also distribute fire mixtures hidden inside dried fish and meat.

Kautilya lists the various components of fire mixtures (Arthashastra XIII.4.26) and suggests that fire should be accidently caused by secret agents inside the enemy fort when there are festivities going on or when troops are at leisure or are sleeping.

However, the enumerating all this, Kautilya condemns incendiarism (Arthashastra XIII.4.22-3), saying that when there is possibility of a rightful fight, the use of fire is unethical as it would cause much unnecessary destruction of men, cattle and grain.