"Kshatra: The Tradition of Valour in India" — The Book that Must Adorn Every Hindu Home

The English adaptation of Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh's Kannada bestseller, Bharateeya Kshatra Parampare or "Kshatra: The Tradition of Valour in India" is now available for preorder. It is a seminal work on Kshatra, a fundamental value that enabled the Hindu civilisation to finally triumph after centuries of tumult and oppression. It is a work that must adorn the bookshelf of every Hindu home.
"Kshatra: The Tradition of Valour in India" — The Book that Must Adorn Every Hindu Home

SHATAVADHANI DR. R GANESH’S Bharatiya Kshatra Parampare or The Indian Tradition of Valour accomplishes a rare feat and charts a fresh course in a niche realm of the civilisational, political, social and cultural history of Bharatavarsha. It is also a woefully neglected realm, which in fact, is primarily responsible for why contemporary India remains a Hindu majority country.

As the title of the book indicates, Dr. Ganesh has selected Kshatra (valour) to delineate the Sharira (body) of our civilisation. This roughly resonates with the timeless dictum, śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharma sādhanam: the body is the only instrument we have in order to accomplish all works of Dharma. Dr. Ganesh shows in this work how the foremost duty — in fact, the raison d'être — of Kshatra is to protect, defend and uphold Dharma.

Another significant element in this work is how, like the word Dharma has no English (at any rate, non-Indian) synonym, the word Kshatra also does not have an English equivalent. Translating it as “the spirit of valour” — while it is reasonably accurate — does injustice, even injury to the profound possibilities that the term Kshatra evokes within us.

A HANDY METHOD to explore these possibilities is available in the depiction of our deities. There is no Hindu deity who is not armed with one or more weapons. When we tap into and then realise the spirit and ideal that informs these depictions, we approach the essence of Kshatra — that it is primarily a source and a practical method of upholding, protecting, and preserving all that is noble, virtuous and spiritual in the world. The same Veda that gave us the philosophy of (Advaita) Vedanta also gave us the arsenal to safeguard it.   

On the aforementioned plane of divinity (symbolised and personified by deities), the weapons serve a familiar, threefold purpose: of deterrence, punishment and freedom from fear.

A rather evocative manifestation of this precept and practice in our history is couched in a single word that has almost been forgotten and in fact, deliberately erased from our civilisational memory: Vira-Svarga. This term has typically been translated in colonial narratives as “the celestial realm or world.” But speaking in the broadest sense, every person (Hindu) who attained Vira-Svarga can be regarded as a Kshatriya — i.e., one who abided by and died for the honour of the code of Kshatra. Thus, according to this ideal, a Kshatriya was not merely a person born into the Varna of that name.

WE DERIVE GREATER CLARITY when we contrast this with the Abrahamic counterparts.

The Abrahamic Gods — i.e., the Christian God and the Islamic Allah — are jealous, faceless and malcontent males who don’t even have the palliative company of a wife. Because they are faceless, they are also formless and thus, even the possibility of depicting them doesn’t arise.

This kind of conception of Godhood has had extraordinarily devastating consequences for all of humankind for more than two millennia. This is a historical reality we are all familiar with. However, it is pertinent to mention only two significant consequences in this context.

The first is also one of the roots responsible for the aforementioned devastation. The Abrahamic prohibition against depictions of divinity aborted even the notion of beauty in these book-based, prophetic religions. Thus, what is known as Islamic and Christian art have grown in spite of, and not because of their core doctrines. This fact proves an eternal truth: that the innate human yearning for beauty and the Aesthetic is the root of freedom of expression in the practical world. The modes and instruments and vehicles of this expression may vary but the underlying impulse remains the same. From this perspective, we derive another familiar truth: beauty or art presages and leads to spiritual freedom. This in turn, echoes the Indian aesthetic aphorism that Rasananda (Aesthetic Enjoyment) is the sibling of Brahmananda (Unqualified Spiritual Joy or an Exalted State of Being).

The second consequence is invisibly interlinked with the first. In general, although the Abrahamic God is formless, he curiously commands and compels — by instilling fear — his followers to constantly wage war against the world till an alleged Day of Judgement “arrives.” Even more curiously, this God himself does not carry any weapon but for some inexplicable reason, wages this ceaseless war through his human proxies. Thus, his truest followers are also the purest bigots. History has repeatedly shown us that the bigot first kills (or converts) the alleged infidel and then kills his fellow-bigots. We can understand how this phenomenon continues to play out in Islamic countries even in the contemporary age with a straightforward observation: nearly every Islamic “revolution” in the last seven decades began from the marbled pulpit of a mosque or church. From Iran and Iraq to Egypt. From France and Spain to Italy.  The promise and the premise have remained intact since 1400 years — the followers of Islam and Christianity shall inherit the earth, and every warrior who dies in the effort shall attain Jannat or the Kingdom of Heaven/God.

FROM THE FOREGOING DISCUSSION, it becomes clear that God or Allah is only a Nimitta — an excuse, a pretext. It is the human inventors of these Gods that actually hold the weapon in this mortal world. Thus, we see scores of pictures and paintings of an Aurangzeb holding the sword but none of Allah.

In sharp contrast, the discus of Vishnu and the mace of Hanuman and the spear of Subramhanya also deliver a soothing message. In Indian languages, it is known by a single word: Abhaya, or the absence or removal of fear.

The second contrast that emerges from the prevenient discussion is the fact that the warrior who attains Vira-Svarga is one who has died protecting Dharma. The Islamic Shaheed or the Christian martyr who attains Jannat or Heaven has actually died in a bigoted war to expand the earthly boundaries of an imperialism cloaked as religion.

Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh
Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

THIS LONGISH BACKDROP is merely one important slice of the infinite possibilities and countless insights that The Indian Tradition of Valour holds in its breast. This slice was selected because its full understanding is vital for the survival and continuity of the Hindu civilisation. This book brilliantly explores almost all dimensions of this sphere.

The Indian Tradition of Valour is also a unique work. In fact, in the present time, it is the only work of its kind in a virgin sub-genre, which can roughly be called the military history of India.

It is noteworthy that the title in the Kannada original uses the word, Parampare, meaning “tradition.” From what we have seen so far, it is evident that the militaristic aspect forms just one of the major elements in the all-encompassing conception and practical application of the philosophy of Kshatra. Thus, while The Indian Tradition of Valour is also a military history of India, it rises above and transcends the genre.

Truly excellent works on the military history of India have been published over the last century. In no particular order, these include V.R.R. Dikshitar’s War in Ancient India, Jadunath Sarkar’s Military History of India, U.P. Thapliyal’s Warfare in Ancient India and War and War-Tactics in Ancient India. These are solid works backed by academic rigour and exhibit an impressive command over primary sources. However, they are also notable for a pronounced lack of a philosophical core. Additionally, their purely academic nature inhibits these works from ascending to profundity. All this is not to criticise such books but to merely offer a fundamental contrast. They contain an intrinsic value which is indispensable for anybody seeking to work in this area. 

The Indian Tradition of Valour supplies the aforementioned philosophical kernel which only an author and cultural treasure of Shatavadhani Dr. Ganesh’s stature can bestow. He lucidly delineates the manner in which the philosophy of Kshatra guided its manifestation as war in the physical realm — wars fought both to uphold and defend Dharma. The Indian Tradition of Valour is the best available treatise on the subject evaluated on the planes of scope, scale, treatment and clarity of exposition. Anything said further will not only ruin the suspense but is also a futile attempt.

The acclaimed Kannada original, Bharatiya Kshatra Parampare remains a bestseller, now in its second edition. But given the pervasive spread and growth of middle class Hindus who are either comfortable or acquainted only with English, a translation was an urgent and sore need.

Needless, translating the work has been an exhilarating, enjoyable, ennobling and emotional experience for both Hari Ravikumar and myself.

The Indian Tradition of Valour is not only eye-opening but pathbreaking and highly potent. Some of the major themes and spheres that it delves into have the potential to generate multiple, independent research volumes. Even if a fraction of that outcome is achieved, the ideals that impelled The Indian Tradition of Valour would be fulfilled.


The official launch of Kshatra: The Tradition of Valour in India, is scheduled on 22 July, 2023 at the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore at 10:30 A.M. The original author, Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh will be present to grace the occasion. All are invited.

Click the button below for directions to the venue.

Copies of the book are available for purchase at the venue. Alternatively, you can preorder them from Subbu Books at a generous discount. To order, click the button below.

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