Blog By: Aishwarya Ghumekar
Indian martial arts refers to the fighting systems of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. This includes what are now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and sometimes Sri Lanka and Nepal. Although South Asian martial arts is occasionally preferred for neutrality, the fighting styles of all the aforementioned countries are generally accepted as “Indian” due to shared history and culture.
A variety of terms are used for the English phrases “Indian martial arts” or “South Asian martial arts”, usually deriving from Sanskrit or Dravidian sources. While they may seem to imply specific disciplines (e.g. archery, armed combat), by Classical times they were used generically for all fighting systems.
Among the most common terms today, śastra-vidyā, is a compound of the words śastra (weapon) and vidyā (knowledge). Dhanurveda derives from the words for bow (dhanushya) and knowledge (veda), the “science of archery” in Puranic literature, later applied to martial arts in general. The Vishnu Purana text describes dhanuveda as one of the traditional eighteen branches of “applied knowledge” or upaveda, along with shastrashastra or military science. A later term, yuddha kalā, comes from the words yuddha meaning fight or combat and kalā meaning art or skill. The related term śastra kalā (lit. weapon art) usually refers specifically to armed disciplines. Another term, yuddha-vidyā or “combat knowledge”, refers to the skills used on the battlefield, encompassing not only actual fighting but also battle formations and strategy.