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Naval Warfare – Jala Yuddha In Ancient Hindu World

The ancient Hindu world, being surrounded by great oceans on its east, west and southern sides, possessed knowledge in boat-making and shipbuilding since ancient times. The boats, known as nauka, which were being utilized for voyages were also used to transport the army and armaments across important rivers including Ganga River.

The history of Hindu shipping and maritime activities goes back probably to the early times of Rig Veda. The Ramayana mentions Rama Ravana Yuddham, which included naval wars, as Rama had to fight Lanka, an island situated in the Indian Ocean.

Puranas elucidate yuddha between devas (demigods) and asuras (demons) over amrita they obtained from churning the ocean. The ancient Hindus used catamarans (wooden planks tied with ropes), which evolved into boats, ships and jalayana (war ships) over the centuries.

Historically, King Vijaya (2nd century BCE) waged naval war on Lanka, and established his kingdom there to go on for many centuries. The southern Hindu kings such as Cholas and Pallavas (7th to 10th century CE) maintained supremacy both for carrying on extensive commerce and carrying out military expeditions. Several successful naval wars resulted in the expansion of the Chola and Pallava kingdoms to the Southeast Asian territories.

Besides this, Hindu pirates were also engaged in jala yuddha by using well equipped pirate ships. The ancient navy system of the bygone era has transformed today into a highly developed Indian navy, which possesses sophisticated war ships and devices.