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War Accessories



Following warrior accessories were used during the MB war:
  • shirastran: to protect the head. [Karna Parva]
  • kanthathrana: a shield for the neck.
  • kavacha: breast plate made of iron, covered with gold ornamentation and colors.
  • kanchuka: jacket that extended to the knees.
  • angulitrana: glove to protect fingers.
  • tolatra: used by archer to protect his arm from the blow of the string.
  • Horses backs were often covered. varieties of saddle?
  • Shields generally round and convex surface.


MB mentions chariots that were 4 / 8 wheeled. Drawn either by 2 / 3 / 4 oxen, horses or donkeys. It was driven by one person, had space for another warrior to ride (standing / sitting) with still more space to stack weapons. Its body and wheels were made of wood. Solid as well as spoked wheels were used. It could move at a speed of about 30 km/hr.

The axle might have been of tough cane-like bamboo. (requiring a narrow wheel base.) They were somewhat unstable and easily toppled by a strong man. In the MB War Bheem upsets these chariots by turning them over.

The chariot carried a staff (called as dhwaj but not to be taked as flag.) This staff hosted a symbol of the rider. Arjun's chariot carried an icon of Hanuman.

Different parts of chariot that are mentioned in MB and Rg Ved as Rath (Chariot), Rathavahan (Body of the chariot), Chakra (Spoked wheel / solid disc wheel), Nabhya (navel of the wheel), Ara (Spoke), Pavi (Tyre. Mostly made of metal), and Nemi (Felloe of a chariot wheel).

Chariot making was an industry during MB times. Driving a chariot required special skills and people of Suta class were skilled in this area. Horse breeding and looking after horses was also an occupation. Nakul(?) had taken this position during his stay with Virat.


gadaa (Mace)

Bheem, Shalya, Duryodhan were skilled mace users. The climax fight between Duryodhan and Bheem was a gada-yudha. This weapon was used in battles till Shivaji's period. (17th century) Alexander had received a blow from a mace. (300 BCE) 4 types of gada-yudha are described in MB:
  1. pRakshepa: weapon hurled at enemy
  2. vikshepa: close fight
  3. abHikshepa: hitting opponent in front (of the holder)
  4. parikshepa: all around in midst of enimies.


A weapon in the family of clubs. A mace studded with iron nails.


Stones were hurled at the enemy, either by hand, a sling or a machine. Stone throwing machines are mentioned too. Stones were used in battles until as recent times as that of Shivaji. (battle of Udagiri).

dhanushya - baan (Bow and arrows)

Bows were generally made of bamboo, cane, horn or wood. The string was made of silk, cotton, entrails of buffalo, or bamboo bark. Arjun's Gandiva was made of wood and Karna's Viajaya was made of iron. Commonor bows were about 4.5 feet tall. The Gandiva and Vijaya were about 6.5 feet long.

More the force it takes to bend the bow, more the force the bow releases, faster and farther the arrow flies, and harder it hits the target. The composite bows were built on this theory. Composite bows were made with horn for belly, wood or metal to give stiffness to the centre and sinew for back. Pinak, Shrang, Gandiva, and Vijaya were all composite bows.

Arrow heads were made of iron, and shafts were made of reed and bamboo. The name of the warrior was carved on the arrow. With a fine bow, an arrow could attain a speed of about 80 m/s. And could kill an enemy at a distance of 180 m. Poisoned arrows, and those having ignited matter wrapped at the tip, were forbiddden. Arrows have been in use in India for a long time. They were used as recently as 18th century in the third battle of Panipat. Many adivaasi tribes still use bows and arrows througout India.

At least 10 types of arrow heads were used in the MB war:

  1. aramukh: serrated, like saw
  2. ardhachandra: shaped like crescent of the moon.
  3. naracha: steeped in oil, to make sure they pierce surely and smoothly.
The use of bows and arrows required learning it from a Guru. The knowledge of archery had progressed enough to call this knowledge as Dhanurved. 10 types of archery is mentioned: aadan, saNdhaan, moKshaN, vinivaRtan, sthaan, mushThi, prayog, prayashchitta, manDal and rahasya.


  1. Chariot making - Simon Mulholland
  2. Mahabharata myth and reality - edited by S P Gupta.
  3. Chariot Parts - Vishal Agrawal.