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Principles of Laws of War in Ancient India and the Concept of Mitigating Armed Conflicts through Controlled Fights

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While modern international humanitarian law is most directly linked to 19th and 20th century Europe and The Hague and Geneva Conventions, cultures throughout history have developed rules of warfare for the protection of non-combatants and civilian populations. This paper provides an overview of the Dharma-based Hindu and Buddhist norms for conflict in Ancient India, and then proceeds to a detailed examination of the practices of Ankam and Mamamkam on the medieval Malabar Coast from the Sangam period through the rule of the Zamorins of Calicut. Ankams were ad hoc proxy duels between professional fighters conducted to resolve inter-state disputes, while Mamamkam was a periodic contest designed to allow relatively bloodless transfer of power. Both demonstrate an understanding of modern concepts of proportionality, distinction and victims’ protection. The paper concludes by enumerating the humanitarian values carried by Ankams and Mamamkam.

Affiliations: 1: Professor, School of Law, ITM University, India,


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