IRRC No. 271

Written and customary provisions relating to the conduct of hostilities and treatment of victims of armed conflicts in ancient India

Reading time 4 min read
Download PDF

Two thousand years before Grotius, Rachel, or Ayala recalled Europe to humanitarianism, ancient Indians had a body of rules for governing the relations between the States of the sub-continent in the event of armed conflicts. According to Professor A. L. Basham:“…in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane… No other ancient law-giver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants. The ghastly sadism of the Kings of Assyria, who flayed their captives alive, is completely without parallel in ancient India. There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but in comparison with conditions in other cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilization is its humanity.”

Continue reading #IRRC No. 271